From the Holy Sepulcher to Gethsemane: Holy Thursday in Jerusalem

On the morning of Holy Thursday in Jerusalem, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher welcomed both friars and faithful. The Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa presided over the mass at the Coena Domini and the Chrism Mass in front of the Edicule, which coincided for reasons connected to the location. During the celebration in which the institution of the priesthood was commemorated, along with the gesture made by Jesus at the Last Supper of the washing of the feet, each priest renewed his priestly vows and the holy chrismal oils were blessed. Repeating Jesus’ gesture, Pizzaballa washed the feet of six seminarians from the Latin Patriarchate and six Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land.

In his homily, Mons. Pizzaballa spoke about Jesus’ last night—the night of betrayal and denial—which then became the “prelude to Easter.” “Sometimes even our priestly ministry and our efforts as pastors seem to be going through a sort of nighttime,” said Pizzaballa. Before all of this, Jesus, who accepted the suffering, comes to help us with his example. Thus, Pizzaballa encouraged the congregation: “There is no night that love cannot light up; there is no failure that the Cross cannot transform; there is no wound that Easter cannot transfigure!” The procession then went around the Edicule three times, carrying the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

In the afternoon, took place a ritual that happens every year as established by the Status Quo: the Muslim guardian of the keys of the Holy Sepulcher comes to the friars of the Custody at St. Savior to symbolically hand them the keys to the Sepulcher and then takes them back.

Immediately afterwards, one of the most moving celebrations took place: the washing of the feet in the Upper Room. In the place recognized as the room where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the disciples and showed his love for them to the point of washing their feet, the Custos of the Holy Land presided over the liturgy. Among a huge crowd, 12 children from the Jerusalem parish prepared to have their feet washed and to receive confirmation. From there, the friars’ pilgrimage continued until it reached St. James’ Armenian Church, the Church of the the Holy Archangels, where the Franciscans were guests when they were expelled by the Muslims from the Upper Room, and then the Orthodox Church of St. Mark..

At 9 a.m., Jesus’ Holy Hour was celebrated in Gethsemane. During the Holy Hour, the faithful were invited to watch, pray and meditate on three moments: Christ’s prediction of Peter’s denial and the flight of the disciples, Christ’s agony in the garden, and his arrest. So as to commemorate Peter’s denial, a procession started from Gethsemane up to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Many youth and groups from Palestine participated with joy and emotion. They were all in deep prayer, waiting to re-live Jesus’ Passion and then his Resurrection.

Beatrice Guarrera

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