BISHOP DON SPROXTON: Following the footsteps of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection
Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton spent some three weeks in Israel during April visiting the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, during which time he wrote to The Record to talk about his experience.
Arriving in Israel just before the start of Holy Week, Bishop Sproxton recalled day-by-day his thoughts as he followed the footsteps of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
In this short summary of a moving and detailed four-part first-hand account, The Record Magazine takes a look at some of the highlights of Bishop Sproxton’s journey.
Holy Week began with the Divine Liturgy at the Syrian Catholic Church with Bishop Boulos, the Patriarchal Exarch for 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 5000 pilgrims and local Christians walked together in solidarity and faith.
On Holy Thursday, we celebrated the Mass of the Last Supper in the late afternoon in the Church of Ecce Homo. This place is significant as it is believed that here is the Pavement, the Lithostrotos, where Jesus was made to sit on the Seat of Judgement and was condemned to be crucified by Pilate.
Very early on Good Friday, we left for the Old City to walk the ‘Via Dolorosa’. We had prepared for this a few days previously by our small groups composing the text for each Station of the Cross.
The first Station began at the Monastery of the Flagellation and we finished at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Being so early, we avoided the enormous crowds that were expected this year because of the coinciding Orthodox and Catholic Easter celebrations.
Nevertheless, it was deeply moving to pray the Way of the Cross as the city was waking.
We returned to Ecce Homo in the afternoon and celebrated the Good Friday Liturgy with a big number of other English speaking pilgrims and residents of Jerusalem in the crypt over the Pavement.
The celebration was simple and reverent, and touched each of us, despite our tiredness.
Our Easter Celebrations began with the journey to Beit Jala for the reception of the Holy Fire from the Holy Sepulchre.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch entered the Tomb of Jesus and came out with a large flaming torch. The crowd in the Church rushed towards him to light their torches. It did not matter who you were, everyone rushed forward.
This tradition is very ancient. The Greeks see the new flames as the miracle that signals the resurrection of Jesus. They become very excited and you can so easily be caught up in the joy and enthusiasm of the moment.
A light from the Holy Fire is sent to the great Churches in the Orthodox tradition, even as far away as Russia. Of course the Churches in Jerusalem and throughout Israel wait in the afternoon for the fire to arrive.
In Beit Jala we joined the expectant crowd. The excitement grew as the bands of bagpipers and drummers approached with the priest who carried the great lantern. The flame was taken into the Church to the sanctuary and the doors closed while the flame was prepared to be distributed to the faithful.
The scene that had occurred in the Holy Sepulchre was repeated: the crowds of people rushed to receive the light of the Risen Christ. There was excitement, joy and shouts of acclamation.
We left to prepare for the Easter Vigil at Ecce Homo. Admittedly, our Service of the Fire was quite reserved by comparison to the Holy Fire ceremony, yet moving, as we blessed the New Fire on the terrace overlooking the Old City, the Dome of the Rock in the distance and the Sepulchre Church which is so near.
We descended to the Chapel for the vigil of readings and the Baptismal Renewal. We were united once more in the Eucharist, celebrated for the first time since Holy Thursday.
Following some coffee and refreshments provided by the Sisters, we set out for the Holy Sepulchre. We knew it would be crowded, but that did not matter. Where better to be on the great night of the Resurrection feast!
So we joined the great line of pilgrims from all parts of the world as they moved steadily to the tomb. The crowd was noisy. But this was so because of the excitement in the hearts of each pilgrim to be in the place where God raised Jesus to the new life of the Resurrection.
Early on Easter Tuesday, we began our journey to Galilee. The Evening Prayer of Easter Sunday had included the words of the Risen Christ to the disciples: Go to Galilee where you will see me. It was with this in mind that we set off.
Our last Sunday saw us travel to Tel Aviv to celebrate Mass with Fr David Neuhaus SJ at the pastoral centre for migrant workers and asylum seekers.
And so we arrived at our final day. We set out for Emmaus. There we found the roofless crusader Church built next to the ruins of a Byzantine church.
We celebrated Mass with the Gospel account of the two disciples who were walking away from Jerusalem, but were joined by the Risen Lord.
A beautiful icon is there of the disciples seated at the table at the moment they recognise Jesus as he breaks the bread. It was such a special moment for us too. We were to begin our journey back to Australia having walked along the roads that Jesus walked. We feel so privileged to have walked with Him this Easter in Jerusalem.”
Read the full story at www.therecord.com.au
From pages 6 to 7 from Issue 8: ‘Aboriginal’ of The Record Magazine