Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, who is currently in Israel visiting the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, wrote to The eRecord just before Easter to speak about his experience.
In this first part of Bishop Sproxton’s experience, he tells us about his journey in the lead up to Easter. Part Two will be published next week.
“We are preparing for the celebration of the Last Supper which will be at the Sisters of Zion. There are two Australian Sisters in the community from Melbourne.
Following the Mass, we will walk to the Church of St Peter Gallicantu, thought to be on the site of Caiaphas’ house. There is a service to be held there until midnight, recalling the triple denial by Peter.
Holy Week began with the Divine Liturgy at the Syrian Catholic Church with Bishop Boulos, the Patriarchal Exarch for Jerusalem.
They have only 100 families spread through Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Gaza. So many have left Israel for new prospects in other countries. The exarch spoke of the role of the little community of Catholics to be the ones who work for peace and reconciliation between the religious communities. We experienced great hospitality from the community, including wonderful spiced coffee!
We have bonded well as a group. On the first evening, we were joined by Bishop Brian Finnegan, former Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane. We have others with us in the program from England, France and the United States.
There have been plenty of opportunities to go into Bethlehem and the old city of Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday we joined the procession of the palms from Bethany to the Church of St Anne just inside the Lion Gate. Around five thousand pilgrims and local Christians walked together in solidarity and faith. The Muslim families along the way waved from their balconies.
It is thought that the entrance into Jerusalem by Jesus with his disciples may have been caught up in a demonstration that might have been organised, as the opportunity presented itself, as there were many visitors in the Holy City on that Passover.
Some scholars think that the palms were symbols of the Maccabean Uprising some 200 years before the birth of Jesus.
The crowds carried palms, they think, to recall the uprising and to encourage resistance against the Roman occupation. They shouted, “Hosanna”, which means, “Freedom Now”, and would likely have been the cry for revolution and emancipation. If this is so, the freedom won after the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem was not what the crowd was hoping for, but was the freedom that they and every person on earth needs: freedom from the spirit that oppresses the world.
We visited Gethsemane yesterday. It was very moving. The church is built over the rock where Jesus prayed about the dread he felt for what was about to happen.
His prayer brought the strength and courage he needed to follow this last part of the plan for the redemption of humanity by the Father. Later, we visited the Holy Sepulchre. It was very crowded and noisy, and we could enter the chapels on Calvary but the chapel of the Tomb was closed for a ceremony that was to commence for a group of Catholic pilgrims. We will return on Holy Saturday to pray at the tomb. The recently renovated chapel of the Tomb is very beautiful and has been possible due to the cooperation of the Greek Orthodox, Copts, Armenians and Catholics.
This morning we have had a wonderful presentation on the Passover and the celebration of the Seder Meal. It has set the scene for what we are to celebrate this evening in the Mass of the Institution of the Eucharist.”