This diary entry is a day late because Holy Thursday was so busy.
I am finally getting a proper night’s sleep which meant I was able to get up at six–which is my usual time–have some breakfast, say some prayers and head down to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 8 am. You are right to wonder why that Mass, which is usually celebrated on Thursday evening was celebrated early in the morning. It’s because of something out here called the status quo. This was a ruling by the Turkish authorities in 1757 to end the constant rivalry between the Latin Catholics and Greek Orthodox and Armenians over control of the church.
Each group has a defined territory, but there are some areas where there is devotional overlap. The three groups also have designated times to hold liturgies in the church. The Latin Catholic have the morning–thus all our liturgies will be in the morning. When we went on parish pilgrimage we got up early to walk the stations of the cross and ended up at the Holy Sepulcher for an early morning Mass.
So on Thursday morning we celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. How moving for me to join priests from all over the world in the sacristy as we vested for Mass. Loads of Franciscan brothers were there handing out albs, chasubes and liturgy booklets. Eventually we processed out and found our seats. There must have been 300 of us. An altar was set up in front of the Aedicule (that’s the marble “little house” that enshrines the Lord’s tomb.) hundreds more of the faithful gathered around–most of them standing as we celebrated the full liturgy in Latin (with translations in the booklets into about six different languages. This Mass includes the foot washing and Mass that we are used to, but it also included the Chrism Mass which is usually celebrated on Holy Thursday morning (but in many dioceses is shifted to Monday or Tuesday of Holy Week.) This is the Mass in which priests renew their vows and the Bishop blesses the Holy Oils.
After my stroke in January 2021 I have still not regained full strength so by the time I had risen early, walked 20 minutes to the church, stood for most of the three hours it was with weary steps that I trudged back to the monastery and took a nap. I read in the monastery garden in the afternoon–beautiful Spring day–and by the evening was ready for round two. Around 8 pm I left with some of the friars and other visiting students and scholars to hike around the city walls to the Church of the Agony in Gethsemane. The Church was packed for another hour long prayer service led by Franciscans. This was followed by a torchlight procession down the Kidron Valley and back up the other side to the Church of St Peter Gallicantu–built on the site of Jesus’ night time trial before the Sanhedrin.
By then it was nearly 11 pm and I was exhausted, but still had to get across the Old City back to the monastery..so onward I trudged wishing I had brought my the walking stick I still have from my pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1987. I got back in time to do my one hour’s prayer at the monastery’s altar of repose before finally finding a pillow at 1 am.