Red petals fell on the rock of Gethsemane, like the drops of Christ’s blood, when he prayed with his whole heart and soul on the night of Passion. This is how the celebration began at the Basilica of the Agony, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, on the day of the solemnity of the Most Precious Blood of Christ. For this feast, every year, on July 1, the Basilica of Gethsemane is filled with faithful and this year as well many pilgrims from all over the world, together with the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, gathered around the Rock of the Olive Garden.
The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, spoke about Jesus’ prayer as necessary in his struggle to be in sync with the will of the Father. “We are not even able to imagine what Jesus felt,” Fr. Patton said. “at the moment in which he perceived that his chalice, that is, his vocation and his mission, went through the darkest experiences of our human existence: solitude, abandonment, failure, physical and inner suffering, distance from God, violent, painful, unjust death.” Despite all of this, Jesus prayed to fulfill the will of the Father and to offer himself as a sacrifice for the world. “It is the most precious Blood of Jesus, that is, his life given in virtue of infinite love, to free us from death, once we we experience it,” said the Custos.
“Before the Council, the feast of the Corpus Christi and the solemnity of the Christ’s Blood were celebrated separately. After the Council, they were united as one feast, but we continue to celebrate that of the Most Precious Blood here, because this is the place where Jesus poured out his blood,” explained Br. Benito José Choque, guardian of the Getsemani fraternity. “In this mass, we also asked for the gift of peace in the Holy Land, Jesus’ land and our land.”
After the celebration, many faithful bent down on the sacred rock under the altar of the basilica, where the red petals were scattered. With their hands on the stone and their forehead resting on the rough surface of the rock, their prayer deepened and became a plea, just like that of Jesus. “I love praying in Gethsemane,” said a nun. “It is as if I were next to Jesus who is suffering. And we become similar in prayer.”
After mass, the celebration continued with some refreshments offered in front of the friars’ Monastery. “That rock is a witness, a living memory of his Blood. The shedding of Jesus’ blood redeems humanity. It is a great gift,”said Fr. Diego Dalla Gassa, director of the Gethsemane Hermitage. “Therefore, the celebration of this solemnity here today represents the celebration of the mystery of redemption.”