It has been an awe-inspiring, faith-filled several days...
On Tuesday (still getting over some jet lag from our Asia trip) we traveled to Jerusalem for a very important event. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, reached the retirement age of 75. His replacement is Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the former Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land. But he was not named Patriarch, but rather, Apostolic Administrator. Regardless, he is now the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Jerusalem (which includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus). This was the reason for our quick trip to Jerusalem.
Our flight from Rome to Tel Aviv was a typical flight - except that I was reflecting the entire journey about where we were going: Jerusalem. I thought of Saints Peter and Paul, both of whom made the same trip (albeit in the opposite direction) - but their journey was much more difficult and didn't include in-flight food service. They both journeyed from Jerusalem to Rome - where both were martyred for the Faith. Then, once we arrived and were met by our driver, we made the fairly quick 1-hour trip to Jerusalem. As we approached Jerusalem, Cardinal O'Brien said to me, "My ears just popped. We must be pretty high." Yes, Jerusalem is "up." "Up to Jerusalem..." the familiar song goes - a song my family would often sing... "Up to Jerusalem, the Lord goes to die... but he will rise again! He will rise again! On the third day rejoice! Be glad!" And my brother and I would jump on our beds with excitement as we sang of the resurrection.
Jerusalem - Mother Church - the place of the many, MANY significant events in the life of Christ, of the Apostles, and of the infant Church. It is also the place of the Holy Sepulchre... and I reflected on my new role - working with the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. This Tomb is the entire reason for the Order - to protect the tomb (originally) and to protect all those whose faith comes from what happened at that tomb.
As we drove into the city, I reflected on how many times Jesus had made this journey from Galilee to Jerusalem - how many times he had come for the Passover, had taught in the Temple, how His parents had brought Him to the Temple for circumcision - and lost Him there when He was a young boy (only to find Him teaching the elders). So many thoughts as we entered into the Holy City.
The official ceremonies didn't begin until Wednesday afternoon, so our Tuesday evening arrival gave us some time in Jerusalem - and began our first day with Mass at the altar of Calvary.
|Sorry - the camera strap is in the way of the photo...|
Oh my... We were standing just FEET away from the very spot - preserved for centuries - where Jesus gave His life for us - where His blood poured onto the ground - where He entrusted Mary to John; and John to Mary. Even that thought was significant for me - as I am now renewing my Marian consecration of St. Louis de Montfort (and in fact, drawing close to the end). Jesus entrusted Mary to John - and I, John, in this consecration, am entrusting myself to Mary... the parallels were overwhelming...
Here at this altar, as we celebrated Mass, we said, "This is my body, given for you" - at the very spot where it all happened. We offered His Precious Blood - the same blood that had spilled upon the rocks - that came gushing out of His side as the soldier pierced it with the lance... There, as we received Holy Communion, we ate His very Body and Blood - in the spot where it was first offered. The non-bloody re-presentation of this Mystery at the very place where it happened.
After Mass and after un-vesting, we returned to the top of Calvary to the very place of the Crucifixion - where we could literally crawl under an altar, reach into a hole, and touch the stone of calvary where the Lord's Cross once stood. And this just after holding in my hand the Body of Him who died upon that cross...
|That's my feet sticking out as I reach down to touch the stones of Calvary|
|The Upper Room|
|King David's Tomb|
|Views of the Temple Mount|
|And with the Western Wall|
|The tiny streets of Jerusalem|
|St. Veronica's Church|
|The Chapel of Adam|
|Chapel of St. Helena|
|The Holy Tomb|
|The Anointing Stone|
|The Church of the Holy Sepulchre|
|What the suspect the Temple looked like. Note the long bridge - this is where our journey begin - |
then turned left at the wall of the Temple.
Then, in the afternoon, we went to the Latin Patriarchate for the grand entry of the new Archbishop into his city. "Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" was sung as Archbishop Pizzaballa stepped out of his car and begin his walk from the Jaffa gate to the Patriarchate and the co-Cathedral of Jerusalem. A great crowd had gathered. Some waved olive branches as we walked and sang. I don't think Palm Sunday will ever be the same for me...
Here is a VIDEO of the entry...
And some photos:
Then Evening Prayer in the co-Cathedral, where the new Archbishop officially took his place at the Cathedra - and a reception in his honor.
As if that had not been a high-light, the next morning we again celebrated Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but this time RIGHT OVER THE TOMB OF JESUS! I was speechless as we were led from the sacristy, toward the tomb, INTO the tomb - where a wooden altar had been placed just a foot over the stone on which the Lord lay and rose. YIKES!
The Mass celebrated there is ALWAYS the Mass of Easter Sunday. So the readings were those of Sunday. I was handed the book to read the Gospel - from St. John - the two disciples (John and Peter) run to the tomb... but the text says, "ran to THIS tomb..." GULP! As I read, I had to pause a moment because I was being overwhelmed with emotion... tears welling n my eyes. I managed to regain my composure and continue with the reading... "He stooped down and entered THIS tomb..." Again... I needed a moment.
|Cardinal O'Brien with Sr. Monica and Sr. Naomi who helped coordinate our visit to the Holy Sepulchre.|
Following Mass we had a moment to pause - I placed my head on the marble slab from which the body of Jesus Rose - and prayed: Lord, as this was the place of your resurrection by which you give us new life, so may I begin a new life... serving you alone, loving you alone, following you alone." It was a profound moment.
Then I had the chance to walk the entire Via Dolorosa and pray the Stations before heading back to the hotel to prepare for our flight to France for an Investiture.
But a few final thoughts. The Holy Tomb. A place that for 2 millennium has been held sacred. It was destroyed by Muslim forces in order to eliminate all traces of Christ - but Christian memory runs long - and the place was never forgotten. Church built on church - chapel within church - until we have the Holy Sepulchre Church of today. It was an amazing 2 days in Jerusalem.
If you can ever make a pilgrimage there - DO IT! Don't be afraid of all the talk of security and danger. The Old City itself is very safe. And the journey there will change your life!