Today I spent the morning in the library, and in the afternoon donned my cassock and hiked over to the Latin Patriarchate (see JD 6) to participate in “The Solemn Entrance”. This entailed a procession through the streets of the old city with at least 100 Franciscan friars (and this poor sinner) to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The procession is preceded by Arabs in fancy costumes with scimitars and heavy staffs who lead the procession (along with a cross born by a seminarian). As they go they beat the ground making a great racket and getting everyone out of the way. The Patriarch comes last splendid in his crimson’s archbishop’s robes. (pics at Twitter and Instagram – in future diaries: T&I)

Once at the church, the piazza crowded with onlookers, the friars line up and the great doors are opened to welcome the Patriarch. He then blesses the crowd and proceeds to the tomb where is admitted (I’m guessing) by the Greek patriarch as (I think) the Greeks have control of the tomb itself. He then leads the friars (and other clergy) to the Latin chapel of the Blessed Sacrament where tradition has it the Lord met the Blessed Virgin after the Resurrection. It’s not in the Bible, but is it possible that he did NOT meet her? After prayers there we went on the daily procession I described before–all around the Church of the holy Sepulcher–down into the crypt of St Helena, up to the place of crucifixion, down to the anointing stone and then back to the tomb–all hundred or more of us with crowds of onlookers holding candles and praying best they could. I wish I could have taken some pictures of the Coptic clergy standing around waiting their turn, but taking pictures was discourged. Nevertheless I did get some and posted them on my Twitter feed and at instagram. (My Instagram name is longeneckerdwight)

Everything was in Latin and the Gregorian chant was bellowed out by the Franciscans in hearty, manly voices. Not like the ethereal chanting one is likely to hear in a Benedictine monastery! The Franciscan army out here seem to be mostly young and international.

Me: Where are you from Brother?

South India. Nigeria. Philippines, Argentina, Italy, Poland, Bosnia,

I wonder if the Greek Orthodox, Copts and other groups are ever envious of the large numbers of Latin Catholics–and it is not just the Greeks, the Latins and the Copts. As you leave the precincts of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you can’t miss the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, and across from that is the Russian Orthodox Church of St Alexander Nevsky. When that church was being built in the 19th century they did the necessary archeological dig first and found the original gateway from the old city wall that Jesus would have gone through on the way to Calvary. They have it set up there for you to see. Very cool!

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday so I will celebrate the Mass with the brothers here at the priory and after lunch some of will go out to Bethphage where the Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem begins.