Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday in Fourth Century Jerusalem According to Nun Egeria


Egeria was a nun who authored a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the early 380s, making it the earliest of the kind. Regarding the Thursday of Holy Week, she writes:

Thursday of Holy Week 

Two Liturgies.

On the fifth weekday everything that is customary is done from the first cockcrow until morning at the Anastasis,* and also at the third and at the sixth hours. But at the eighth hour all the people gather together at the Martyrium** according to custom, only earlier than on other days, because the dismissal must be made sooner. Then, when the people are gathered together, all that should be done is done, and the oblation is made on that day at the Martyrium, the dismissal taking place about the tenth hour. But before the dismissal is made there, the archdeacon raises his voice and says: "Let us all assemble at the first hour of the night in the church which is in Eleona,*** for great toil awaits us today, in this very night."

Then, after the dismissal at the Martyrium, they arrive behind the Cross,**** where only one hymn is said and prayer is made, and the bishop offers the oblation there, and all communicate. Nor is the oblation ever offered behind the Cross on any day throughout the year, except on this one day. And after the dismissal there they go to the Anastasis, where prayer is made, the catechumens and the faithful are blessed according to custom, and the dismissal is made.

Night Station on the Mount of Olives.

And so every one hastens back to his house to eat, because immediately after they have eaten, all go to Eleona to the church wherein is the cave where the Lord was with His Apostles on this very day.

There then, until about the fifth hour of the night, hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, lessons, too, are read in like manner, with prayers interspersed, and the passages from the Gospel are read where the Lord addressed His disciples on that same day as He sat in the same cave which is in that church.

And they go thence at about the sixth hour of the night with hymns up to the Imbomon, the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven, where again lessons are read, hymns and antiphons suitable to the day are said, and all the prayers which are made by the bishop are also suitable both to the day and to the place.

Stations at Gethsemane.

XXXVI And at the first cockcrow they come down from the Imbomon***** with hymns, and arrive at the place where the Lord prayed, as it is written in the Gospel: "And He was withdrawn (from them) about a stone's cast, and prayed," and the rest. There is in that place a graceful church. The bishop and all the people enter, a prayer suitable to the place and to the day is said, with one suitable hymn, and the passage from the Gospel is read where He said to His disciples: "Watch, that ye enter not into temptation;" the whole passage is read through and prayer is made.

And then all, even to the smallest child, go down with the Bishop, on foot, with hymns to Gethsemane; where, on account of the great number of people in the crowd, who are wearied owing to the vigils and weak through the daily fasts, and because they have so great a hill to descend, they come very slowly with hymns to Gethsemane. And over two hundred church candles are made ready to give light to all the people.

On their arrival at Gethsemane, first a suitable prayer is made, then a hymn is said, then the passage of the Gospel is read where the Lord was taken. And when this passage has been read there is so great a moaning and groaning of all the people, together with weeping, that their lamentation may be heard perhaps as far as the city.

Return to Jerusalem.

From that hour they go with hymns to the city on foot, reaching the gate about the time when one man begins to be able to recognize another, and thence right on through the midst of the city; all, to a man, both great and small, rich and poor, all are ready there, for on that special day not a soul withdraws from the vigils until morning. Thus the bishop is escorted from Gethsemane to the gate, and thence through the whole of the city to the Cross.

Notes:

* The Anastasis is the Rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the tomb of Christ is located.

** The Martyrium is the main church within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

*** Eleona refers to the Mount of Olives.

**** The Cross is the location in the Holy Sepulchre where Christ was crucified, on Golgotha.

***** Imbomon is the location of the Ascension of Christ. 


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