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Pentecost in Jerusalem: the celebration in the Upper Room

Two thousand years ago, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples in the Upper Room, where they were gathered. Right there in the Upper Room, after two millennia, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land led a celebration on the occasion of the feast of Pentecost.

Catholics are allowed to say official prayers in the Upper Room only twice a year because it is a place that is still at the center of a controversy with the State of Israel regarding the recognition of property rights. The property is in fact claimed by the Franciscans, who acquired it in 1333, as a gift from the sovereigns of Naples, and who were kicked out in 1552 by the Ottomans. Masses cannot be celebrated there today, but the Franciscans go there to pray on Holy Thursday, where they remember the Last Supper, and on the feast of Pentecost, the day of Holy Spirit’s descent on the disciples.

As per tradition, the friars of the Custody met in the morning with faithful and pilgrims, for mass in the parish church of St. Savior in Jerusalem. “Today is the feast of the parish of Jerusalem: Pentecost, in fact, reminds us of the growth of the first Christian community, which happened right here in Jerusalem,” said Fr. Nerwan Al-Bana, parish priest at St. Savior. During the homily, the priest spoke about the meaning of Pentecost, reflecting on three aspects: “The first is that, immediately after the Ascension, the first disciples began to share their witnesses about Jesus’ life. The second is that when people heard Peter’s preaching, they began to wonder what to do: his answer was ‘repent and baptize.’ The third is that all of the disciples, after receiving the Spirit, became witnesses to announce the word until the end of time.”

In the afternoon, it was time for Vespers in the Upper Room, presided over by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton. While they were singing, the friars processed into the small room adjoining the large cross-shaped chamber of the Upper Room, where tradition says the episode of Pentecost took place.
“Being able to celebrate Pentecost Vespers here in the Upper Room is very significant because it represents [our] connection with the place where the descent of the Spirit took place,” said Fr. Patton. The Custos of the Holy Land focused on the power of the Holy Spirit: “The gift of the Holy Spirit made them courageous, capable of proclaiming Jesus’ death and resurrection.” The image of the Spirit that descended as tongues of fire is particularly significant for Fr. Patton: “He is the light that illumines our minds and enables us to accept the proclamation of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection,” he said. “He is the flame that inflates our hearts so as to introduce us to a relationship of love with God and our siblings.” The Custos prayed that during this difficult time, the Holy Spirit could come down to create dialogue and reconciliation, in spite of the conflicts and divisions in the Holy Land and in the world.

Beatrice Guarrera

2018-05-20 Part 01

2018-05-20 Part 02

2018-05-20 Part 03

2018-05-20 Part 04

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