A few days before the beginning of Holy Week, one of the last Lenten pilgrimages to Jerusalem took place on Wednesday, March 16, in the evening, in the chapel of the Condemnation, at the convent of the Flagellation.
A reverent atmosphere surrounded the celebration. The mass was presided over by Br. Alessandro, of the Convent of the Flagellation, in the presence of many Franciscans and faithful. The audience was such that many people had to follow the mass from outside the chapel due to lack of space. The chapel, despite the fact that it is small, has great significance for Christianity. It is indeed part of the Monastery of the Flagellation, the second station of the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem.
Thirty concelebrants participated in the ceremony and they were not dressed in purple, the liturgical color of Lent, but rather in red, the color used during the celebrations of the Passion. In this chapel, the solemnity of the Lord’s death sentence is celebrated. This is again a Jerusalemite exception, allowing pilgrims to a very unique Lenten experience like no other in the world.
The mass was preceded by vespers. Br. Artemio Vittores, OFM, emphasized in his homily that pilgrimages are carried out in Jerusalem, “in Jesus’ footsteps.”
“Today we are in the sanctuary of Lithostrotos [note: the name in the Gospels of the place where Jesus is condemned], so as to remember the death sentence of the Lord and his way to Calvary,” he explained. Br. Artemio stressed the importance of the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem, despite its sometimes disputed authenticity. He emphasized that even if “only nine out of the 14 stations have a concrete foundation in the Gospels, it does not mean that the others do not have any meaning.” In fact, citing the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, he stressed that the path of the Cross is “still relevant” because it is an exercise of piety that is “at the confluence of various expressions, which are characteristics of Christian spirituality”: the pilgrimage, the mystery of the Cross, the desire to be one with Christ’s Passion, among others.
Since 1880, the Franciscans have been taking the Via Dolorosa every Friday, starting at three in the afternoon. At the end of the homily, Br. Artemio highlighted the connection between the Stations of the Cross and Easter, “The path ends before the empty tomb, which leads us to the joy of the Resurrection.”
The homily was a great opportunity to remind everyone about the opening of Terra Sancta Museum on Thursday, March 17, at the Monastery of the Flagellation. This section of the new multimedia museum can help prepare pilgrims for the Via Dolorosa, by telling the story of the Holy City and the Via, from Jesus’ footsteps to the present day.