A Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 18
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray’” (Mk 14:32). On Maundy Thursday night pilgrims in Jerusalem make their way to the Church of All Nations in the Kidron Valley. Feet are washed and Mass is celebrated, with the overflow crowd watching on large screens outside. Nearby is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray before he was arrested. From the garden Jesus could have seen the very height of the temple itself, his Father’s house. He has eaten his final meal with his friends, interpreting the bread and wine to signify his death. On his way from the Upper Room to the garden he passed monumental tombs in the Kidron Valley, with more modest tombs above. Did he think of his impending death? There are still olive groves on the Mount of Olives. It is possible to pray on Maundy Thursday night in the Garden of Gethsemane-the only night of the year it is open-or in another orchard, the full Passover moon giving its warm light. The old trees speak silently of the intensity of Jesus’ prayer that night, and the scandal of Judas’ betrayal. This pandemic year we cannot have our feet washed or gather for the Lord’s Supper in Jerusalem and so many other places under restrictions. But we can watch with Our Lord in prayer, giving thanks that he was obedient to his Father’s will. Stay awake with Christ.