The new Pope Francis and the Vatican gear up for Holy Week Celebrations and ancient traditions in and around Rome. These events commemorate the last week of the life of Jesus Christ before his painful death on the cross and ultimate Resurrection.
The Tiburtine Sybil named Albunea, told Emperor Augustus (27 BC-AD 14) in a mystic meeting, that the first-born of God would one day rule his empire: “Haec est ara primogeniti Dei”-This is the altar of the first-born of God.
Augustus commemorated the spot by erecting an altar. The church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli (altar of Heaven) now crowns the highest point of the Campidoglio in Rome with 124 steps that lead to the entrance of the church. In the church, the figures of Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl are painted on either side of the arch above the high altar.
Inside this church are the relics of St. Helen in a porphyry urn. Saint Helena was the mother of Emperor Constantine who ultimately decreed the Christianization of pagan Rome. Inside the church, there is a chapel of the Santo Bambino. The Bambino is carved from olive wood from Jerusalem using wood from the Garden of Gethsemane. It was created by a Franciscan monk in the 15th century.
Furthermore, the Tiburtine Sibyl prophesied a final Emperor named Constan who would “vanquish the foes of Christianity and end paganism.” Michelangelo portrayed the Sibyls in the frescos of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The Easter story of the “Passion of Christ” is depicted in the 14 “Stations of the Cross.” The “INRI” on the cross is the abbreviation of “King of the Jews” in Hebrew. During his lifetime, Jesus encountered the same type of pain that normal people excounter. He endured physical pain, mental anguish, rejection, abandonment and betrayal. Holy Week allows us to recall the great sacrifice that Jesus made for all of us and signifies new beginnings.
Holy Week is one of the most religious and exciting times of the year to visit Rome and many other towns in Italy and Spain http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZl_Ab29id4&NR=1. Holy Week events begin on Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday. On this day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was welcomed as royalty with the path paved with branches and palms. The ceremonies during the week revolve around the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Palm Sunday, Holy Week begins with the Pope‘s blessing of the palms in St. Peter’s Square.
The three days before Easter are called the Paschal Triduum of Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Lord http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcNFTNu1I4M. The Easter Vigil is the high point of the Triduum: “The night Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.” The church empties the Holy Water from the fonts on the days of the Sacred Paschal Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil. The Passion is read three times during Holy Week: Passion Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The words of Jesus are always read by a priest.
On Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), the Pope performs a rare morning mass. “The Mass of the Chrism” is held in St. Peter’s Square when the oils are blessed and the Chrism is consecrated. Chrism is a combination of balsam and oil and is used for annointing for occasions like confirmation and ordinations.
In the evening after sun-down, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and the Last Supper of Jesus with the Apostles. This event includes a reading of Matthew’s account of the “Passion of Christ”; the narration of Jesus’ capture, suffering and death. It includes the representation of Jesus Christ washing the feet of his Disciples which was carried out by Pope Benedict at the Cathedral of St. John Lateran where he washed the feet of 12 priests http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngIUmGhwwqs.
On Good Friday, the day of Christ’s brutal crucufixion in AD33, choirs sing St. John’s version of Christ’s crucifixion. Peter Paul Rubens’ “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man) portrays Christ with his “Crown of Thorns” before his Crucifixion. After his crucifixion, he was covered with a shroud http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dVQnkKlphY&feature=relmfu.
On this day in Catholic churches around the world, Christians glorify the cross in their individual parishes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubkiKyjo9WU. The cross is venerated as a symbol of our faith by kneeling in front of the cross and kissing it. In this way, we honor the Lord’s Cross as an instrument of our salvation. The cross was the means of Jesus Christ’s execution and as a sign of victory over sin and death. The church does not celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist on Good Friday, rather the Church commemorates the Lord’s Passion.
In Rome on Good Friday, a solemn “Via Crucis Procession” (The Way of the Cross) involves an evening torch-lit procession that follows the Pope as he traces the Stations of the Cross from the Colosseum to Palatine Hill http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2qwjLTFcwQ. The church in Rome adopted the practice of “Adoration of the Cross” from the Church in Jerusalem where a fragment of wood believed to be the Lord’s cross has been venerated every year on Good Friday since the fouth century http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8eDPyXYv50.
St. Helen, the mother of emperor Constantine, discovered this fragment of wood on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326. Pope Alexander VII had the top of the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square adorned with his insignia. There is a relic of Christ’s “True Cross” encased in this emblem of Pope Alexander that crowns the Obelisk.
Jesus had 12 disciples. They were pupils or followers of Christ. The Passion of Christ was initiated when the Temple Guards, guided by Judas Iscario, captured Jesus. Judas was a Disciple of Jesus who betrayed him by telling the guards that whomever he kisses, they should arrest. Judas was paid in silver for his betrayal which is portrayed in “The Kiss of Judas.” The trial and painful crucifixion of Jesus ensued. Judas ended up returning the silver and committing suicide.
On the Joseph Maria Subirachs “Magic Square” on the facade of Gaudi’s Sagada Familia in Barcelona (Quadrato magico di Sagrada Familia) next to “The Kiss of Judas” in the picture below, notice that all colums, diagonals and rows add up to 33, the year of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Pictured above is Caravaggio’s famous portrayal of “The Kiss of Judas.”
On Holy Saturday, Jesus’ lifeless body was cradled in the arms of Mary, as portrayed in Michelangelo’s “Pieta.” He was then laid to rest in the borrowed grave of a friend. Churches around the world conduct an Easter Vigil where we celebrate Jesus Christ; our light who drives away the darkness of our lives http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3d9LTi_U2w&feature=relmfu. At the beginning of the Easter Vigil, the church is darkened and gradually springs to life with the Ressurection of the Lord as faithful parishoners light candles inside the church. The Easter Vigil service includes the Service of Light, the Blessing of the Fire and the Preparation of the Paschal Candle and Procession.
The gloomy darkness of Good Friday is followed by the joyful celebration of trumpets at Easter which “dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride” (Paschal Praeconium, the Exsultet). Easter Sunday celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. His Ascension into Heaven is the 40th day after Easter. On Easter Sunday, Pope Benedict delivers his blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and to the world) in St. Peter’s Square http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5axrSsEU_U0&feature=related.
In the picture below, Jesus Christ is ascending into Heaven above the altar of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain. The term apostle came into use after the Ascension of Jesus Christ when the disciples (followers) who had witnessed his resurrection, became apostles (ambassadors of the Gospel: evangelists and teachers). The true apostolic age ended when the last apostle died in about 100AD.
The Pope delivers several messages to faithful pilgrims between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBwIefKXY0s.
Here was the 2011 Easter Message in Italian http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0mEEVTPU2I
Happy Easter and have a wonderful Vino con Vista celebration with your family and friends!
Dr. Eveann Lovero writes Travel Guide Books to Italy and Vino Con Vista Travel Guides can be purchased at these sites
Learn more about Rome @ www.vino-con-vista.com.
- Easter and Holy Week Rituals in Enna Sicily: Buona Pasqua (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Holy Week in Majestic Madrid: Semana Santa (vinoconvistablog.me)