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The Jesus’ condemnation and sacrifice: the pilgrimage to the Lithostrotos

After having recalled Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem, the prayer at Gethsemane, the moment of his scourging and after the pilgrimage to Bethany, the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land led the celebration for the last stop along the Lenten journey. On March 21 in Jerusalem, a mass took place in the Church of the Lithostrotos to commemorate the Jesus’ condemnation. For the second Wednesday in a row, people gathered in the complex of the Flagellation Monastery, which is located where the Antonia fortress once stood.

The sanctuary of the Lord’s condemnation was built in 1904 by Br. Wendelin Hinterkeuser on the ruins of a medieval church that were discovered a few years earlier. The name of the former church is not known, but we do know that the new one got its name because of the large slab floor that also can be found under the nearby sanctuary of the Ecce Homo—which is considered part of the Lithostrotos—and is the location where Pilate sat for Jesus’ judgment. It is from this place that Jesus came out carrying the cross and that is why all of the pilgrims who retrace Jesus’ steps, begin the Way of the Cross there.

The mass for this Lenten pilgrimage was presided over by Br. Alessandro Coniglio, lecturer at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco, also a professor at the SBF, said the homily, as he usually does, having been chosen as the preacher for this 2018 Lenten season. “This is the place of Jesus’ condemnation, but also of his dialogue with Pilate,” explained Fr. Epicoco. “Jesus does not get defensive, but offers himself in our place, and he becomes the guilty party and pays for us. This is the place where Jesus totally places himself on man’s side to the point of becoming one with man.” Everything that man has to pay for, Jesus will pay for,” said the preacher. “When we sin, we force Jesus to fall into sin with us,” concluded Don Epicoco. “The Lord did not go up on the cross to make us feel guilty, but to pay our sins and completely free us from guilt.”

The Lithostrotos was the last Lenten stop for the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land. In the meantime, Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims day after day: Easter is fast approaching in the Holy City.

Beatrice Guarrera

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