The third peregrination at the Flagellation: the silence of those who are abandoned

The third peregrination at the Flagellation: the silence of those who are abandoned

On Wednesday 13th March, the third Franciscan peregrination of Lent took place at the  Church of the Flagellation.

The “peregrinations” are weekly liturgical appointments that take place in the places of the Holy City where the events linked to the Passion of Jesus took place. 

After the peregrinations to the  Dominus Flevit  and the  Basilica of Gethsemane, the Franciscan community gathered in this Shrine at the start of the Via Dolorosa, where tradition has it that two episodes in the Passion of Jesus took place: the flagellation and the condemnation to death. On the basis of the account in the Gospels and archaeological evidence, the Antonia Fortress, the home of Pontius Pilate, was believed to have stood here: here there was the Praetorium, in the inner atrium of which Christ was undressed and whipped.

The present-day church of the Flagellation

The Church of the Flagellation was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century and was left abandoned for many centuries  until 1838, when it was bought by the Franciscans and reopened for worship. The chapel was then restored in 1927-29 by the Franciscan architect Antonio Barluzzi in a medieval style. The three stained glass windows portray the flagellation of Christ, Pilate washing his hands (Matthew 27,24) and the victory of Barabbas in the choice of the prisoner to be released (Matthew 27,15-21).

A crown of thorns, in which crystal roses are interwoven,  is suspended in the dome above the altar. The light shines on the church through this crown: even in the pain of death, the believer keeps hope in Light.

Vespers and the celebration of the Eucharist

Despite the difficulties for pilgrims all over the world to reach the holy places at this historical time, there was a large participation in the event by the religious present in the holy city, local faithful and all the friars of the Custody,  especially those of the large Franciscan community of the Flagellation, the seat of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum , which this year celebrates the   centenary of its foundation.

Holy Mass, preceded by the prayer of vespers, was presided over by fr. Giuseppe Maria Gaffurini, Guardian of the   Flagellation: beside him was fr. Paolo Messina, a lecturer at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, chosen to guide the Franciscans during Lent through his reflections on the Scriptures (you can find all his homilies in full here).

That bridge which is called abandonment

“Jesus here finds himself having to face a series of physical, psychological and spiritual sufferings,” fr. Paolo said ( you can find his meditation in full here ) “and welcomes this suffering in a silence which fills the whole of the account. John describes him as totally abandoned, at the mercy of the decisions of others: Pilate’s first and lastly the soldiers’.”

The silent suffering of Jesus,” the Franciscan continues, “ places humanity in front of a complex question “Why does the just man suffer?” “It is about,” he resumes, “understanding not the “why” of suffering but the “how” to experience it.  We can decide to go through it knowing that we are sharing in Christ’s suffering, not abandoned by the Father but supported by Him. The silence of those who are abandoned, is that of those who have had the courage to trust and confide in the Father in their suffering. Abandoned by men, but not by God because His son. We also take that bridge which unites solitude and salvation. That bridge which is called abandon, which means letting yourself fall into the arms of the Father, always, no matter what and forever his children.” 

Silvia Giuliano

*** Download the brochure of the Sanctuary of the Flagellation here