At the Monastery of the Flagellation and in Bethany: two stop on the Lenten journey

With a little more than two weeks left before Easter, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, along with local faithful and pilgrims, gathered at the monastery of the Flagellation, for a new stop for the Lenten pilgrimages. On Wednesday, March 14, the moment when Jesus was tortured by soldiers and a crown of thorns was put on him, was commemorated. The exact place where this episode occurred, according to tradition, is the location of the Franciscan monastery of the Flagellation. The church, where the mass was celebrated, stands tall in the area formerly occupied by the Antonia Fortress and finds its origins in the one built by the Crusaders in the 12th century that was then abandoned for many centuries. The ruins were purchased by the Franciscans in 1838, but the church was only restored in 1929 by the architect Barluzzi.

After singing the Psalms for Vespers, the readings were proclaimed. Once again, Fr. Luigi Epicoco, professor of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, said the homily, as he had on previous pilgrimages. The priest recalled that the pilgrimage took place in commemoration of the experience of Jesus’ torture, in which he truly experienced physical pain. “A pain that leaves no room for explanations,” he said. “A pain that obscures everything and seems to make everything meaningless.” We know that when we have this kind of experience, Jesus can understand us: “it is believable because he also experienced this suffering.” Despite all of this, the only thing we can do is fulfill one word: “offering.” Offering up one’s own suffering, “from being a wasted act, as it was seen, suffering can become an opportunity for growth,” explained Fr. Luigi Epicoco.

On March 14, the Franciscans went on pilgrimage to Bethany in order to commemorate the biblical episode of Lazarus’ resurrection. “It is a fundamental episode in understanding Jesus’ resurrection,” he said in his homily. The key to understanding the place of this Lenten pilgrimage is “friendship,” that sincere and fraternal relationship that Jesus had with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. The priest said that “here in Bethany, Jesus shows [us] that there is no greater love than giving one’s life for one’s friends” and in resurrecting [Lazarus], it is as if he were giving his life in the place of Lazarus’. Behind Lazarus is the whole of humanity,” said Fr. Epicoco. The mass was celebrated by the Secretary of the Holy Land, Br. David Grenier, in the presence of the guardian of Bethany Br. Michael Sarquah.

After a quick breakfast, the friars processed to the tomb of Lazarus. It is tradition that on the same day of the Lenten pilgrimage to Bethany, other stops are also made: one at the place where Jesus ascended into heaven and one where he taught [people about] the Our Father.

Where the church of the Pater Noster stands today, the friars read the Gospel related to the episode of Jesus’ prayer, while at the place of the Ascension, now under Muslim control, the procession made their entrance by singing the Te Deum. It was therefore a morning of intense prayer, with a single objective in mind: preparing for the “passage” of Easter.

Beatrice Guarrera

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