Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Holy Week with Jesus

We share with you, our readers, the Holy Week spiritual journey of one who walked the streets of Jerusalem during Holy Week less than one full year ago. Please come back to this daily and be a part of "The Holy Week experience Live from the Holy Land."

If you have ever had a strong experience, you know that every time you talk about it you say, "I remember it like it was yesterday." Eleven months ago I made a daily report back from the Holy week celebration in Jerusalem. It is just like yesterday. I am going to share it all with you again because God is truly present in these experiences. You can follow me through the entire experience by clicking here. If you have the desire to visit the Holy Land and want some information about our September Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, you may click here.



Up and at 'em! 9;00 AM, we fill a bus and leave for a place about 7 miles away that is reputed to be the place near Bethany the Jesus would have broken bread with the disciples from Emmaus. It is here that the Crusaders built a church to commemorate the event of the meeting and the travelling of Jesus with the two disciples. The story comes to us from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, verses 13 to 35.

The church is massive and it is beautiful in its own way. Some time in the distant past the property was given to some French Benedictine monks who occupy it and maintain it to his day. The monastery property is also occupied by a community of Benedictine nuns. Our director took us there to give us a sense of history about the place and also to allow us to appreciate a very high quality Palm Sunday liturgy. The liturgy was conducted in Latin and in French.

The music was mostly Plain Chant (Gregorian Chant) but there was some modern music as well. It was all "a cappella" since it was the beginning of Holy Week, the organ was muted. There were very few lay people there, mostly French people living in the Jerusalem area. The monks are not that numerous, so the liturgy was very intimate and very well done.

Those of you who are familiar with my blog know that I am not a fan of Latin in the liturgy when lay people are in attendance. I think that Latin Liturgy should be reserved for those who understand Latin. Latin in a monastery is understandable because the inhabitants of the monastery understand Latin. Since the monastery is their territory, they have Mass in the language of their territory. (You, dear reader are hereby informed that I understand Latin) To that last nasty remark I have to add that I also understand French fluently. In sum, the liturgy, outside of the chant was conducted in French for the sake of the audience.

My story is this. During the chanting of the Passion Story at the Gospel time (in French) I was very engrossed by the beauty of my mother tongue as the foundation for the chanted gospel story. When it came time for the episode concerning Peter's denial of Jesus, I was no longer hearing the cantor. I was listening to my maternal grandfather telling me the story, just as he so often did.

I got through the first two denials in good shape. I was starting to tremble a bit during the third one. I lost it completely when my grandfather said, "and immediately after Peter said that, the cock crowed." I'm full of goose bumps now, remembering the moment. Jesus hammered me with that one. The son of David got to me there, in David's town, by letting my grandfather tell me the story in my own mother tongue. That's one thing about God, he doesn't play fair. You can ask anyone, Noah, Jonah, Amos, Moses, Paul, anyone. God always gets His way. I know that He was letting me know that` this morning. Why is it taking me so long to learn?


Back to the Institute for a quick lunch and back out at 1:30 PM to join the procession from Bethany/Betphage to Jerusalem along the route that Jesus took on His triumphal trek into the City just before His condemnation. It was a real liturgy. Why, even the police and the military were there to see to it that the crowd didn't get unruly. Just like it says in the Bible, "Lord, reprimand your disciples. They're getting out of hand."

But you know what? We were "truly, ruly". We were loud too. Flashy too. International too. French, Italian, Nigerian, German, Polish, Spanish, USA, Croatian, Russian, Israeli Christians, priests, sisters, monks, Isabel and I. Three kilometers, up hills, down hills, up steps, down steps, across a main road that was closed even though it is a workday in Israel. But for one day, the Christians had them outnumbered. This was the day of King David's blood line. It seems that "they" know better than to mess with Him. Along the way there were some things that were notable. As usual, the Polish were singing most of the way. When they would sing an internationally famous hymn, we would all join in. Well, not all, after all the line was at least 1 and one-half kilometers long.

Several thousand people. All of them at peace. All of them wondering why the military was there. All of them pushing, shoving, shrugging, stepping, slipping, sliding and squeezing to get closer to the front of the line for the final blessing by the patriarch of Jerusalem in the garden of St. Anne's Church. If Jesus had shown up in person today, He would have felt right at home. We were ready. We were behaving just as everyone
else did in His time. We were having fun. The Poles were doing the praying, so the rest of us could do the celebrating.

On a final note. There was never any doubt that we were in Jerusalem today. But there is one powerful memory that will never leave me. The cadenced chant of the crowd that would break through and continue for about 15 or 20 minutes at a time during this 2 hour pilgrimage...Yup, you guessed it, "JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM!"
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