palm sunday and Triduum
March 25, 2018
Ok first of all, after the Retreat in Assisi, and the Orvieto experience, we went back to Rome to prepare for Holy Week. Palm Sunday our group of priests was invited to attend Mass at the Vatican with the Pope. It was a three-hour long Mass in multilingual, but main Italian language. It was not very crowded but there were plenty of people in the plaza di san Pietro on a beautiful Sunday morning day. At the time of the offertory our group was moved near the altar where the Pope was (sorry no selfies). After Sunday Mass, our group of priests suffered another loss or disintegration as sixteen of us prepared to go to Holy Land. The other sixteen opted from the beginning of the arrangements not to do it for different reasons, but instead, they flew in many directions like fireworks. Very good and excellent priests companions on the journey.
For those of us that took the Holy Land Pilgrimage, we were ready to celebrate Holy week, especially the Triduum there.
March 29, 2018
Well, for Holy Thursday it was very special for us because we went to the Holy Sepulcher Church where we celebrated the Chrism Mass (blessing of oils and we, all priests renewed our priesthood there) and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the same time. It was quite interesting how it is celebrated. It was the earliest service of the day, because the Armenians were second followed by the Coptics, who all share the same space (Now I understand why the prayers and efforts for Christian Unity), because although we are all Christians, we are so different and each one needs their space in the same space but at different time. It was a beautiful Celebration. We the priests were seated at the right side of the Holy Sepulcher and could not see what was going on at the washing of the feet nor hear the “microphoneless” Bishop Patriarch of the Latin Rite in Jerusalem (Bishop Pietrobaptisa). Then I think, that we complain about other things at home, but it was all good. All people were allowed in the place which became packed, then attendants to the service were tightened against the walls of the temple to make way for the procession Bishop, priests and seminarians with the blessed sacrament and incense, making three rounds about the Holy Sepulcher while singing adoration hymns accompanied by the beautiful sound of the Organ, which adds so much beauty to the liturgy and fills the ancient space with its majestic tune.
March 30, 2018
For Good Friday, our group of priests went out to do the stations of the Cross following the Via Dolorosa beginning at the praetorium where Jesus was condemned to death. It was supposed to begin at three, but it took a lot longer. In the meanwhile, rain was in the making and sure indeed, drizzles fell on all of us with umbrellas as we processed the Via Dolorosa. Soldiers armed with weapons guarded us all and people pushing against each other to make their way though. Again, It was all good, Fr. Douglas (in his cassock) from Ohio and I under my umbrella made it through the end and prayed as much as we could in the river of people,. It was unforgettable and awesome (and interesting). After the beautiful and chaotic Way of the Cross, we celebrated Good Friday Liturgy at the Notre Dame Pontificial Center there in Jerusalem (where we were staying) in a big and beautiful “buttressed domed” Chapel incorporated into the building. It was also a beautiful Liturgy that gathered all the groups staying at the Center, all of us in the group were there and other priests and a Bishop from the Nuncio (in Rome) who was the main celebrant. After this Good Friday celebration, and by 8pm only Fr. Douglas, Fr. Arbel and I went back to the Holy Sepulcher to witness and be part of the anointing and burial of the Body of Christ taken down from the cross. Again, even though we could not see anything from our location within the Holy Sepulcher Church, except what the eye could reach, the Funeral of Jesus was another thing that I will treasure in my memories and the meaning of it: sounds of chanting, organ playing, people crunching, procession through, me hushing people, they obeying and the whole chaotic ordered within that sacred space. Maybe that is what is meant to be, we just need to appreciate and become part of it.
March 31, 2018
For Easter Vigil, our group of Priests concelebrated at the same Chapel in the Notre Dame Center’s Chapel. The lighting and blessing of the fire happened outside the front of the Canter. It was a beautiful night (10:30pm) under the full moon. People gatherer round the fire and there were two young Italian younger Italian girls who were confirmed in the during the liturgy. It was an awesome celebration as we did what the church does on that holy night. By 1:15 am we were done with the Easter Vigil. As we celebrated it and did other celebrations, I always thought of St. Bart’ s and how they would be celebrating it 8 hours later or so, depending on the time.
April 1, 2018
On Easter Sunday, we celebrated Easter Sunday morning (25 minutes long) Mass at the Holy Sepulcher at the upper chapel that belongs to the Catholics. Other English-speaking faithful were there with us. Very small place…. and others (I think they were Armenians) they were processing in a quietly manner to the side chapel by us to venerate their traditional relics. It was all good. After Mass there at the Holy Sepulcher, we got our bags and traveled little bit over 100 miles in bus to the north, Galilee. There were some places that we traveled and visited while our stay in Jerusalem, like: Mount of Olives (and the Gethsemane Church in Jerusalem) which is called Church of all nations, and where the rock where Jesus wept is (located, next to the Gethsemane Garden). Then we walked down the hill to the Church of Flagellation (Scourging) where Jesus was scourged tied to a pillar. We traveled to the Dead Sea, and I got into it (only three of us got in it, sorry no pics, I was covered all in clay). Visited caves of Qumram by Dead Sea and saw Cave #4 where the Isaiah parchment scrolls where found in 1947 in clay pots. We went to Bethlehem and visited the Annunciation Church and prayed there with the people the Angelus. Other holy place we visited was the Church of the Nativity (where the Star of David is at the spot where Jesus was born). We visited the Cenacle or Upper Room of the Last Supper. Stepping into Bethlehem through bus is like crossing the border, because there is so much security, since it has been backlashed by the political forces and outcast it from the rest of Israel. It is doing well now, but it has had a sad story of political misfortunes and economic sanctions. It is very friendly city. It is somehow Americanized in some ways.
Galilee and Mt. Tabor
April 2, 2018
Galilee is a whole different story. It is quite a relaxed area. We stayed there at the Beatitudes Center Stay which was hosting another group during our time there. There we lasted from Sunday evening through Friday morning. While our stay there we visited Magdala, town which is in its beginning of archeological exploration by the experts. It is truly a work in progress. We traveled by bus to the Mount Hermon where Prophet Elijah made presence and false prophets met their demise. This location as well as Caesaria in Philppi share their border with Syria in the north (complicated geography, now called Baniyas). Now in Caesaria in Philippi there was a temple dedicated to pagan gods. This place is where Jesus asks disciples: “who do people say that I am?” … and he declared Peter as the rock for church. Capernaum is an interesting place to see at the archeological site, since you can see the early centuries’ foundation walls of city, including the synagogue and the modern church built on the air on top of archeological site of what was Peter’s house. Stopped by at the Church of the Transfiguration on mount Tabor’s beautiful Church. The little bus had to snake up the road as we held on to our seats. Visiting the Church of multiplication of loaves and fishes at Tabgha, also made quite an impression on us by visiting this holy site. Jordan River was a memorable experience as one of our older priests asked for a blessing from Fr. Sullivan our director, to do it for him. We stopped at Mary’s Well place where Mary believed to bathe Jesus and got water for daily use. There are so many good memories that I have taken with me to this moment, and as I relived them with no material on hand, except my memories, am able to carry on the prayers for St. Bart’s and all who have invested their faith through it for the continuous salvation of our souls. May God continue to bless all St. Bart’s faithful and benefactors. Fr. Ric