The feasts which are celebrated in the Basilica of the Resurrection, or Holy Sepulchre, fall under the responsibility of the Franciscan fraternity which lives within the precincts of the same basilica. Many of the celebrations, however, are enriched with a large presence of Franciscan friars from the nearby Saint Saviour Monastery, which is situated in the upper part of the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and which is the headquarters of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscan friars keep the age-long tradition of coming down the steps from Saint Saviour to the Holy Sepulchre, preceded by the kawas.
On 14 September, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the celebration was organized by the Franciscan fraternity resident in the basilica, but with the presence of the Franciscans of Saint Saviour, led by Fr. Artemio Vitores Gonzales, the Custodial Vicar.
The friars arrived a the Basilica at 9 a.m. After vesting in the chapel of the Appariton of Christ to the Virgin the friars left in solemn procession towards Calvary, passing in front of the Edicule of the Resurrection.
The Custodial Vicar carried the relic of the True Cross. Upon arrival on Calvary he and all the concelebrants celebrated the solemn Mass for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The chapel upon Calvary was packed with pilgrims, just like on Friday of the Passion.
The relic of the Holy Cross was placed at the centre of the altar of the Franciscans, which marks the place of Christ's crucifixion, and was duly incensed by Fr. Artemio, who then proceeded to sing Mass with the participation of all present.
During the homily Fr. Artemio spoke about the significance of the Cross in the life of the Christian, and referred to its importance in the local Christian setting of Jerusalem, both for the local Christians as well as for the pilgrims. He also prayed that the Cross of Christ would bring peace in this divided Holy Land, and bring down all physical and spiritual barriers of hatred and division.
Among the concelebrants there was one auxiliary bishop from the diocese of Madrid. At the end of the Mass all returned in solemn procession to the chapel of the Apparition of Christ to Mary Magdalen, singing the hymn of the Cross, "Vexilla Regis prodeunt". The Custodial Vicar then incensed the relic of the Cross and imparted benediction with the relic of the True Cross and all the priests, friars and pilgrims proceeded to show an act of veneration to the relic.
Fr. Enrique Bermejo Cabrera
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, as it was in the beginning