Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!

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
After Mass we returned to the hotel for breakfast, then I had the entire morning and early afternoon to explore.  I took advantage of every minute and walked to Zion's gate; to the Upper Room (the traditional place of the Last Supper), David's Tomb, to the Western Wall, to the Chapel of St. Veronica; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the chapels of Adam (directly underneath Calvary), of St. Helena and I entered the Tomb and spent some time in prayer), ending at a part of the Via Dolorosa.

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
I also discovered a tour of the excavations within the Western Wall (which have been a source of great controversy in the never-ending political conflict of the region).  I decided to take the tour - along an ancient bridge which led from the Old City of Jerusalem to the gate of the Temple mount - to the very base of the temple walls - built by Herod (the stone revealing the signature "Herodian" markings) - and along the Wall to an ancient cistern built by the Romans.  It was really a fascinating tour.  The guide shared why this place is so sacred - Mount Moriah is here - the place that tradition holds, was the very first thing God created on earth - THE spot of creation's beginning.  This is why the Temple stood on top of this mount - because it was the first spark of God's creation - and the Temple stood right on top of it.  Many significant events of Jewish history happened here: most significantly the Sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.  (By the way, this is why Jews use the shofar - the ram's horn - Isaac being replaced by the ram with its horns caught in a thorn bush.)  It was a fascinating tour!

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.
Here at this Mass, I remembered so many... my family, my brother priests, my friends, my former parishes and her people, the Order (who are centered around this very place)... so many were in my thoughts and prayers at that Mass.

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!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Taiwan and Philippine Investitures

Well, our long journey comes to an end and we begin our long trip back to Rome.  But some reflections, and photos, from the week.

It was quite an experience of the Universal Church.  No matter where we are in the world, the Faith is the same.  It is that Faith that unites us - and in particular, as members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, unite us in a very special way with the Church of Jerusalem.

Photos from Taipei, Taiwan:  It was a city MUCH larger than I had imagined.
A welcome pot of tea 
The City of Taipei from the roof of our hotel

The Investiture Mass begins with a procession 

Knights and Ladies are Invested as members of the Order

The reception: Lieutenant James Laio, Archbishop John Hung, Cardinal O'Brien
We met the Vice President of Taiwan (and member of the Order) Chen Chien-jen .
We had dinner at the Nunciature in Taipei - my name card & the sisters 

Manila, Philippines

Well, Manila surprised me a bit (just as Taipei did) - HUGE city - and TRAFFIC like you've never seen.  I'll never complain about traffic again...

The Cathedral in Manila

Mass in the Cathedral Crypt (with the deceased Cardinal Archbishops all around us) on the Feast of the Holy Cross
We visited the Santuario and museum de San Antonio - the oldest church in Manila

El Santo Nino

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

The Investiture Ceremony

We also visited University Santo Tomas
The Cardinal signs the guestbook - same one Pope Francis signed
Gathered with students at the University

Cardinal O'Brien gives some remarks and receives several gifts (books) from the University Rector