2013
custodia.org

Good Friday: It is done.

It is not yet eight o’clock and pilgrims crowd the courtyard in front of the Holy Sepulcher, waiting for the doors, closed since the previous evening, to open. Someone uses a loudspeaker to explain that whoever enters the basilica will have to stay for the entire service because a few minutes after the entrance of the procession of Franciscans accompanying the patriarch, the doors will close.

At eight o’clock, the doors finally open. Numerous believers pour into the basilica. Everyone hopes to be able to reach Calvary, but not everyone can.

It is there, at Golgotha, the place where Jesus was nailed to the cross, that the patriarch arrives bearing a relic of the True Cross. It is there that once again the narrative of Jesus’ sacrifice is chanted, this time in Latin from the Gospel of Saint John, with the choir of the Magnificat playing the role of the crowd.

“One by one, they bow, they touch the cross with their forehead and then their eyes, then they kiss the cross and go,” described a fourth century pilgrim.
After the singing of the Passion, in fidelity to a long tradition first the priests then some of the faithful were also able to venerate the cross in this way. The liturgy finishes with communion after the patriarch, accompanied by many priests, goes to bring the Holy Sacrament from where it had been placed inside the tomb.

But the day is not yet finished for the Christians of Jerusalem. At the end of the morning a large number of pilgrims as well as faithful from the Holy Land, join the Franciscans of the Custody for the ceremony of the Way of the Cross. Passing through the narrow, twisting streets of the Old City, the procession stops fourteen times to commemorate the Passion of Christ along the length of the Via Dolorosa and inside the Holy Sepulcher.

They are not alone. Many groups are following the Way of the Cross along the same route. Throughout the afternoon, the various groups succeed one another – parishes, scout troops, pilgrim groups…

Back at Saint Savior Monastery after the Way of the Cross, everyone lives the silence of the death of Jesus in his own way, preparing to return to the Holy Sepulcher in the evening for the rite of the Funeral of Christ.

The Arab parish celebrated this rite earlier in the afternoon, but at the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus was brought down from the cross, where the holy women prepared his body for burial, where he was laid on the bare rock, where the stone was rolled back — there, the rite is vested with particular solemnity.

This most typical of the rites of Holy Week, is the most striking, the most poignant. The Custos of the Holy Land presides, and it is followed by an impressive crowd, to the point that not everyone can follow each of the steps, but all are united in the same prayer.

The last steps are the most impressive. Jesus is taken down from the cross on Calvary. He is anointed on the Stone of Anointing. He is carried to the tomb. The doors of the tomb are closed. We remember that it was not always empty, that an ineffable mystery took place within.

But the hour has not yet come.

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