Holy Thursday: True love comes at a price.

This is their feast that celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, serving others, which has become their priority, and God’s Mercy, of which they must be living witnesses. Since it is their celebration, more than 150 priests gathered around Latin Patriarch H.B. Fouad Twal, surrounded by his auxiliary bishops and patriarchal vicars, the Apostolic Delegate and canons. They came here “just meters from Golgotha, where the Holy Body of Jesus was slain and where his blood was shed for the forgiveness for our sins, and it is still His same Body and Blood that we take in each Eucharist. We make ourselves present during this same unique and eternal moment, in the same place where Christ gave his life as a sacrifice for us,” concluded the Patriarch in his homily. “What a privilege and a responsibility! What a responsibility to be ‘in Jesus’ place,” he insisted.

During the celebration, the patriarch washed the feet of 12 seminarians and priests who renewed their priestly vows. Afterwards, the Patriarch blessed the holy oils.

After communion, the priests’ striking procession around Christ’s empty tomb was a highlight for everyone present.

In the Basilica of the Resurrection, some local faithful and a few pilgrims came together and took communion at this intense moment where the Living One declares his victory over death.
The Paschal triduum began.

After that the key to the basilica was symbolically given to the Custodial Vicar, Br. Dobromir Jazstal, most seminarians led the prayer to the Blessed Sacrament before the empty tomb.

In the Upper Room: The washing of the feet for the children of Jerusalem

At the same time, other Franciscan friars, accompanied by pilgrims and Christian families in the Old City, went on pilgrimage to the Upper Room.

On site, the story of the washing of feet was read in Arabic. The Father Custos, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, re-created the Savior’s gestures, and he knelt down and washed the feet of twelve children from the Latin parish of Jerusalem. The hall was already packed, and the children, along with Fr. Firas Hijazin, their parish priest, had already arrived, in addition to many other pilgrims.

“I am very very happy,” said Issa, 10, one of twelve children, and “me too!” added Daniel by adjusting red ribbon to take a “selfie” with his friends.

From the Upper Room, everyone went to the Armenians’ church. The tradition includes two prayer stops: the first was at the recently restored St. James’ Cathedral, the second was at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel. Br. Arthemio Vitores emphasized the ties between the Franciscans and the Armenian community, who welcomed them first after their expulsion from the Cenacle in 1551.

From there, the procession went to the Syriac church of St. Mark, where made one last prayer stop.
However, the Holy Thursday celebrations in Jerusalem were not over yet.

In Gethsemane: Holy Hour

The day continued with the traditional Holy Hour at the Basilica of Gethsemane, which was recorded and broadcast live by the Christian Media Center (link: http://cmc-terrasanta.com/fr). Local and international Christians all gathered to “watch and pray” for an hour with Jesus on the eve of his Passion. The Custos began by covering the stone of the agony in front of the altar with red rose petals. These are a symbol of the drops of Christ’s blood that he sweat on the night of his agony on the same Mount of Olives, where the Basilica now stands. It is with eagerness and devotion that the faithful leaned on the stone, at the end of prayer, so as to kiss it and take the petals with them.

“There are 85 of us coming from Taybeh in the West Bank to celebrate Holy Thursday with the Catholics of Jerusalem,” said Amin and Nihed, two young Christians. However, in Taybeh, they will celebrate Easter at the same time as the Orthodox, on May 1. When asked why it is important for them to be in the holy city on this day, the answer was simple and clear: “Because we are Christians.”

The evening continued with a procession to St. Peter in Gallicantu under the light of the full moon and the candles that the Christians were holding. It is their privilege to sing and pray each year on the path walked by Jesus after his arrest.

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