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Holy Places

by Carlos L. Rodriguez Zía

Thank God, Christians have many places we call Holy Places. They are spaces where the Love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have been expressed.

In this Holy Week, along these lines, we invite you to know the main holy places where Jesus Christ carried out his work. If you had the joy of being able to visit Holy Land, a meeting place for Jews, Christians, Muslims and all men of good will, you can search all necessary information on the page of the Franciscan Missionaries at the service of the Holy Land.


El Cenáculo
The Cenacle

“Where do you want us to go to prepare your Easter dinner? (Mk 14, 12), the disciples had asked. “Go into the city, answered the Lord,” and a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he goes in, tell the owner of the house: “The Master says: ‘Where do I have the living room, where can I eat Easter with my disciples?'” And he will show you a large room upstairs, ready and set. Prepare it for us there ”(Mk 14: 13-15). The building identified as Cenacle is a small two-story structure within a large complex of buildings on top of Mount Sion. In order to remember the place where Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples, the Franciscans built the upper floor in the 14th century. The lower floor room below the Cenacle contains a cenotaph which has been known as ‘King David’s Tomb’ since the 12th century, although the place mentioned as the King’s Tomb was in the ‘City of David’ in the Ofel’s hillside (I Kings 2:10). The current Chapel of the Coenaculum or Cenacle was built by the Franciscans on their return to the city in 1335.
But the Cenacle is not just the place where the Last Supper took place. It is the place where the institution of the Eucharist and of the Apostles as priests of the New Alliance takes place; the washing of the feet; it is the place where the risen Lord appears twice to the Apostles. Meanwhile, we got to know by the Acts of the Apostles that the Church, in its origins, used to meet in the Upper Room, where Peter, John, Saint James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, Saint James of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealots, and Judas the one from Santiago lived. It is in that room, on the day we call Pentecost, where they received the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit to leave the protection of their walls and go out into the world to preach the good news (Acts 2: 2-3).


El Monte de los Olivos
El Monte de los Olivos

It is located east of Jerusalem and separates the Holy City from the desert of Judah. It takes the name everyone knows it for from the olive trees that grow on its slopes. Jewish people, our older brothers in the faith as Saint John Paul II called them, gave this place the name of Mount of Anointing, since there kings and the high priests used to be anointed with the oil obtained from their olive trees. Also, the Arabs call it a mountain par excellence or a holy mountain. This holy place has played a prominent role in biblical history. According to the prophets’ testimony, the Mount of Olives will be the place designated by God for Judgement Day and the resurrection of righteous men (Jl 3,4-5).
In addition, the Mount of Olives was a compulsory passage way for those who were going from the village of Bethany to Jerusalem; so would Jesus, guest of Lazarus and the sisters Martha and Mary.
The mount was distant enough from Jerusalem as allowed to walk on Saturday, that is, the number of steps allowed by Jewish law (Acts 1.12). It is noteworthy that Saint Luke emphasizes in a special way the habit Jesus had of frequenting the Mount or the Garden of Olives, where he retired to spend the night or teach his disciples (Lk 21,37; 22,39). Finally, the Mount of Olives is the setting for several of the most important passages in Jesus’ pastoral life. It is there where he teaches his disciples the Our Father; where he prays before being arrested to be crucified, showing the greatest demonstration love for his people, the people dear to his Father. And it is where His Ascension to heaven occurs, at the top, in the aedicule of Ascension. At present, it is very common that visitors who come to the Holy Land expect to find a huge plot of land, full of olive groves and away from the noise of a big city. Far from it, The Garden of Olives, in charge of the Franciscan Fathers since 1681, is located east of the Cedrón Valley, flanked by the paved path that goes up to the Mount and Jericho Highway. Located at the entrance of the property of the sanctuary of Gethsemane, it is around 1200 square meters.


The Via Dolorosa

Named The “Via Dolorosa”, the Via Crucis begins at the place called from “Litóstrotos” (which in Greek means paved). It is believed that in this place Jesus was judged by Pontius Pilate since the cobblestone resembles the one John describes, but according to historians it is more likely that he was tried in the palace of Herod the great. The exact location of each station is not known, except for the first and the last two. A pious legend tells that the Virgin Mary used to do this tour remembering what Her Son, out of fidelity and love to the Father and to his brothers, had suffered. According to later testimonies, the path by which Jesus passed through the streets of Jerusalem was gradually defined. At the same time the stations were determined, that is, the places where the faithful stopped to contemplate each episode of the Passion.
The Crusaders — in the eleventh and twelfth centuries — and the Franciscans —from the fourteenth onwards— contributed greatly to fixing those traditions. This way, in the Holy City, during the 16th century the same itinerary that is currently visited was followed, known as Via Dolorosa, with the division into fourteen stations. I read this and ask myself: is it vital to know the exact place where Jesus, for example, fell and rose three times? The important thing when making the Way of the Cross (which is a Latin expression that means the Way of the Cross), of walking the Via Dolorosa, in the Holy Land or in any temple, is to keep in mind why Jesus did it. It was for love.


The Holy Tomb

Considered the holiest place in Christianity, it is today a Romanesque Church from the time of the Crusaders (12th century), which was built on the ruins of the first Basilica, that of Santa Elena. Inside, the Calvary and Jesus’ Holy Sepulcher are found and preserved according to a well-founded tradition. But, although today the Church is inside the modern Turkish wall, we know that the place, in Jesus’ time, was outside the second Roman wall, next to one of its doors. It was then an old abandoned quarry that had been covered with dirt and sediment giving way to a garden. In the center, there was a cracked rock jetty that was used by the Romans for executions, and on the north wall of the rock there were excavated caves that were used as tombs. Many people, who have been blessed to be there, say that one of the great surprises is to see how close the Holy Sepulchre is from Calvary. So much so that it can be said that they fit under one roof. And they comment that it is reason of uncertainty for the pilgrim. “One does not know what to choose: stay on Calvary or go down to the Holy Sepulcher. So one runs from one side to the other without knowing where to land. “

Side view of The Holy Tomb

Death and resurrection are so close. Pain and joy are so contiguous. But always remember that Jesus rose again. And He is alive. As a Pope knew how to say: “On Easter Sunday let’s not look like Good Friday.”

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