In the early morning of 5th April, in the Basilica of the Agony, the hymn Vexilla Regis marked the start of the Eucharistic celebration, presided by the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, fr. Ibrahim Faltas. The solemn hymn of the Holy Cross introduced the day of reflection on the mystery of the Passion of Jesus, in preparation for the Paschal Triduum and Easter. The friars of the Custody reached the foot of the Mount of Olives, the place where Jesus prayed to God, from St Saviour’s Convent: with many other religious and faithful they followed the proclamation of the Passion according to Luke, sung in three voices.
The proclamation of all four canonical Gospels during Holy Week characterizes the liturgy of the Passion in Jerusalem: in addition to the gospel of Palm Sunday, which changes and alternates depending on the liturgical year of reference and the fixed one of John on Holy Saturday, it is only in the Holy City that the remaining two gospels are proclaimed, respectively on the Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week,
During the proclamation of the Gospel, when the time of the decisive battle of Jesus is described, when his sweat is transformed “into drops of blood that fall to the ground,” the cantor stops reading and, bending down, kisses the Rock of the Agony placed in front of the altar.
“The story of the passion by Luke is the conclusive stage of the path of Jesus which, crossing Galilee, led him as far as Jerusalem,” commented fr. Faltas .”A contradiction is recounted in the passion. The crowd welcoming Jesus triumphantly and enthusiastically, crying “Blessed he who comes, the king, in the name of the Lord,” is the same one that a few days later cries out “Crucifix him!” Why do we mention this contradiction? Because the Passion is driven by contradictions. We are the disciples who choose to be on his side, but at times, at the very height of it, we run away and we betray. it is only if we embrace this contradiction that we can experience Easter well, because the celebration of the Passion is the celebration of a great failure, which then became a great victory.”
In the second part of the morning, the faithful and the friars went to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre for the traditional veneration of the Column of Christ’s Flagellation: today the precious relic is preserved in the Chapel of the Apparition.
The liturgical connection between the rock of Gethsemane and the Column of the Flagellation lies in the blood of the Lord, which was spilt on both during his passion. As early as the 4th century, the pilgrim Egeria informs us of the veneration of this column which, at that time however, was in the Cenacle and was adored at dawn on Good Friday. It was only in the 14th century that the column was taken to the Holy Sepulchre.
The assembly then intoned the hymn “Columna nobilis” and the friars, the faithful and pilgrims went up to the venerated column one by one to pay tribute to it.