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While I was in Jerusalem during Holy Week in 1997, I tried to follow in Christ’s footsteps as much as possible. I wrote about the Palm Sunday procession last week.
On Holy Thursday, my wife and I began our pilgrimage at the Cenacle, the Upper Room commemorating where Jesus ate his Last Supper with the Apostles. The word “cenacle” is a derivative of the Latin word ceno, which means “dinner.” It must be emphasized, though, that the present building did not exist at the time of Christ, so, try as one might, it’s impossible to visualize exactly what it might have been like.
Then we went to the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus and the Apostles did. The Church of All Nations there is purposely dark to symbolize the night when Jesus suffered his agony there, light being filtered through alabaster windows. The rock of agony is in front of the main altar. A mosaic over the altar shows Christ in agony, another on the left side depicts Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss, and another on the right side shows Christ’s arrest.
After his arrest, Jesus was taken to the home of the high priest Caiaphas. Today the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (“Cock Crow”) sits over Caiaphas’ home. Built in 1931 and renovated in 1997, it’s the most beautiful church in Jerusalem. I wish I had room to describe the sculptures and mosaics that describe what happened to Jesus in this location.
On Good Friday, we naturally joined the Franciscans in the Via Dolorosa. The Franciscans lead this every Friday except Good Friday at 3 p.m. It begins at
11:30 a.m. on Good Friday in the courtyard of the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, where there are two chapels commemorating Jesus’ scourging and condemnation to death. These sites are considered to be where Pontius Pilate’s private interrogation of Jesus took place.
The sisters’ convent is also noted for its Lithostratus, a Greek word meaning pavement. The stones in the pavement are striated to prevent horses from slipping, and carved into the pavement are drawings for dice games played by the Roman soldiers.
The Good Friday Via Dolorosa procession is large as it passes through the streets, stopping at each of the 14 stations. It ends in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the last five stations are located. The church is built over Calvary and Christ’s tomb, and is considered the holiest site on Earth.
After we walked the Via Dolorosa, my wife and I went to the Notre Dame Center, owned by the Vatican, for Good Friday services.
On Holy Saturday evening, we returned to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the Easter Vigil services, which are truly inspiring.
On Easter itself, we gathered on the roof of the Tantur Ecumenical Center, where I studied for three months, for an ecumenical sunrise service just as the sun was rising over the hills of Moab. We then joined one of my classmates, an Anglican priest from England, and his wife at Mass in the Anglican church in Jerusalem. †