Friday on Mount Golgotha
JERUSALEM – During the Easter Triduum, the Church relives the trial, crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ. At Golgotha, the crowd gathers en masse to be closer to the location of the Cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Three major celebrations punctuate Friday at the Holy Sepulchre. In the early morning, the Liturgy of the Passion is celebrated. At Calvary, the faithful come in large numbers eager to listen to the singing of the Passion according to St. John. This celebration is not much different from the Liturgy of Good Friday as it unfolds in the parishes.
The middle of the day is marked by the Stations of the Cross. The crowd is so overwhelming that the police and Kawas are not of much help to aid a clear pass for the procession of the Franciscans who try to break through at any cost. From the beginning of the Via Dolorosa to the Holy Sepulchre, the procession continues undiminished over several tens of meters. Some sing, others pray in silence, still others “walking” overwhelmed by the crowd and away from any audible speaker that could explain their approach. But all are walking under the rare gaze of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem who are overwhelmed by the presence of Christians in every corner of the city.
It is rather the other Liturgies which leave their mark for their uniqueness. There is the Office of Tenebrae, at 4:00pm. The Franciscans of the Custody, the Patriarchate and those who wish, participate in singing psalms and reading passages of the Sacred Scriptures for three hours.
The day ends with a specific Jerusalem Service, the burial of Christ. It is mentioned in the various accounts of the Passion: when the time Shabbat approached, the body of Jesus was taken down from the Cross, perfumed and quickly placed in a tomb until the end of the Sabbath rest of the Jews. Taking a liturgical tradition which dates from the Middle Ages, the Custos of the Holy Land who presided over the service that began with a procession. Arriving at Calvary, the actual service begins: the crown of thorns and the nails are removed. Christ is taken down from the Cross. Then taken to the stone of unction, at the entrance of the Basilica, it is coated with perfume and incense. Placed in a large sheet, the statue is taken to the tomb where it is deposited.
This procession is not folklore of an outdated tradition. It allows one, in a sense, to live the Passion up to the burial. Of all the Latin Catholic rite celebrations that take place at the Holy Sepulchre, this is probably the one that brings the most people. It reflects the importance that local Christians place at each stage of the life of Christ. This service is the re-enactment of Christ’s entombment. The joy of seeing the empty tomb on Easter Day is only much greater!
Pierre Loup de Raucourt