Santo Sepolcro: la prima veglia di Quaresima

The Holy Sepulchre. The first vigil of Lent

Solemn entrance at the Holy Sepulchre of the Latin Patriarch and the Franciscan procession on the first Saturday of Lent
Solemn entrance at the Holy Sepulchre of the Latin Patriarch and the Franciscan procession on the first Saturday of Lent

The Latin Patriarch solemnly enters the Holy Sepulchre

The first Saturday of Lent in Jerusalem opened with the traditional solemn entrance by the Latin Patriarch into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Accompanied by two lines of Franciscan friars, Mons.Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Patriarch of the Latins, crossed the threshold of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday, 25th February at 2.00 p.m., anticipating by half an hour the representative of the Armenian Church, according to the timetable of the Status Quo which regulates the life of the Christian confessions in the Holy Places.
The solemn entrance is followed by the ritual sung procession which from the Chapel of the Apparition of Jesus covers the traditional itinerary that the Franciscans have followed every day in the Basilica since long ago in 1336.

Office of the Readings and vigil celebrations

In the night between Saturday and Sunday, the Franciscans gathered at the Holy Sepulchre for the solemn Office of the Readings and the vigil mass presided by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton. This tradition has been repeated since at least 1754  on the Sundays during Lent, from the first one to Palm Sunday. According to the Status Quo, the Office of the Readings is celebrated with the three canticles of the Old Testament in the Chapel of the Apparition. The words and the rites highlight the Easter character of the vigil celebration which has as its climax the proclamation of the Gospel of the Resurrection. A particularity of this special vigil liturgy is that during the procession around the empty tomb, the Benedictusis sung, interrupted by the antiphon in Latin which says,  "the Angel of the Lord descended from heaven and turned over the stone and sat down on it," followed by Hallelujah. The fact that "Hallelujah" is said in the liturgical time awaiting the resurrection is linked to the prevalence of the place where the Easter of the Resurrection took place over the time of Lent.Ever since the days of Egeria, who gives us an account of it, it is the place in the Holy Land that has a greater influences over the liturgy than the time of reference.

In the heart of the night and at the end of the Office of the Readings, the Father Custos celebrated the Sunday mass in the Chapel of the Crucifixion, on Calvary. The Gospel, which narrated the episode of the temptations of Jesus in the desert, inspired the words of  Fr. Francesco’s homily: "the best way to defeat temptation is, on the one hand, to be nourished by the word of God and, on the other, to trust in Him rather than to challenge Him, forcing Him to do miracles. In the third place, we heard that to defeat temptation, it is God who has to be adored, who must be at the centre of our thoughts, of our affections and our person, because when we stop adoring Him, we will become slaves to other realities.". Urging the faithful to live through this time of Lent with trust, Father Patton concluded, "Lent puts us in front of a situation of fragility, but it also gives us the instruments not to be victims or slaves to it.We want to walk with trust in these forty days towards Easter and towards that day when we will remember the gift of new life that we received in our baptism.Let us begin this path here, on Calvary, the place where Jesus’s obedience to his Father went as far as him giving his own life."


Filippo De Grazia