The practice of the holy Hour
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, I beg of You two graces before I die: to experience in myself, in all possible fullness, the pains of Your cruel Passion, sweet Jesus; and to feel in my heart the same immeasurable love that enkindled You, the Son of God, to willingly endure such sufferings in your Passion for our salvation.”
(Franciscan Sources: 1919)
Each year, on Holy Thursday evening, the Franciscan Community gathers, together with the local worshippers and the pilgrims who arrive in Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, in order to “hold a vigil and pray” for one hour with Jesus.
During that holy night the same passages of the Gospel are recited in Arabic, Hebrew, English, French, Spanish, Italian and many other languages in the exact site where Jesus, before being arrested, and sweating blood, gave himself over to the will of his Father and to his destiny of suffering and humiliation in order to redeem mankind.
The celebration commemorates the three crucial points narrated in the Gospels, to which the three sanctuaries in the garden of Gethsemane refer, namely the Garden of Olives, the Stone of Agony and the Grotto of the Betrayal:
- The announcing by Jesus of Peter’s disavowal
(Mt 26,30-35; Mc 14,26-31; Lc 22,31-37);
- Jesus Christ’s agony and his prayer in the Garden of Olives
(Lc 22,39-46; Mt 26,36-46; Mc 14,32-42);
- His arrest by the soldiers
(Mt 26,47-56; Mc 14,43-52; Lc 22,47-54).
Such three points, regularly punctuated by short moments of silence, are introduced by the reading of the Psalms, which helps entering into the very spirit of the Gospel passage. The recitation of the Gospel is followed by a supplication to the Lord by the Custodian.
In memory of the drops of blood sweat by Jesus, which fell on the rock in the Garden the night before his arrest, when he spent all the remaining hours praying fervently, the Custodian spreads red rose petals all over the bare rock displayed in front of the altar and bends down to kiss and venerate it. After him, all the worshippers bow down before it to touch and kiss the rock that silently received Jesus’ agony and his most precious blood.
A similar ceremony takes place on 1st July each year during the Festival of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Most Precious Blood.
In resonance with that the events of that night and in commemoration of that highly dramatic moment lived by the Son of God in the Garden of Olives, the practice of the Holy Hour in front of the stone of agony continues to take place as an established custom every first Thursday of the month at 04.00 pm (local time).
The Gethsemane Votive Mass is celebrated every Thursday and the groups of pilgrims who make an express request can celebrate the Holy Hour or the Eucharist in the Church of the Agony or in the Hermitage during their pilgrimage in the Holy Land.
The Holy Hour at the Hermitage
Father Giorgio Colombini’s inspired choice was to increase the frequency of the practice of the Holy Hour, which had previously been only monthly or weekly like in the Basilica in front of the Stone of Agony. He therefore changed such high moment of prayer, here at the Hermitage, to a fundamentally important and meaningful every-day event, where worshippers could experience their closeness to the Lord, who, especially Here, asks us all to “stay and pray with Him” (cf. Mt 26,38). An occurrence of particular significance is the Holy Hour, which is practiced every Thursday in the night hours, in commemoration of the event.