Last year, about a month before Holy Week, I visited Jerusalem for the first time and stood at the site of Golgotha where Jesus was said to be crucified. From the Gospels we know that the Aramaic Golgotha translates to "place of the skull," and that it was a hill located immediately outside Jerusalem's walls. Helena, the mother of Constantine, identified the location, and her son then built the Holy Sepulcher Church around the whole site. As you can see in the picture above, an altar and glass enclosure have been built around the Rock of Calvary. Beneath the altar there is a hole in the rock said to be the place where the cross was raised.
Religion is passé for many of my generation, and most Christians of my acquaintance do not attend services for Holy Week. Raised Roman Catholic, I do not claim a deep or steadfast faith, but during this time I like to reflect on the Passion narrative and the significance of the events that transpired from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. On Good Friday, I used to attend midday services with my parents, and I remember well -- likely because I was judging their pronunciation of the transliteration -- every priest who read Christ's words from the cross in Matthew 27:46, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’" If you're interested, here are the readings for Good Friday, Holy Saturday Easter Vigil, and the Mass of Easter Day.
This year, the first day of Passover coincides with Good Friday, and as is the tradition, I will be attending my friend's Seder in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (I wrote about it briefly before). The Passover meal retells the story of the Exodus -- how God brought the Israelite people out from slavery in Egypt. The Jewish significance of Passover has less meaning for me as a Catholic, but since my friend and I began this tradition, the coming of spring is wound up with the worthy goal of freeing ourselves from whatever holds us in bondage.
I suppose "reflecting" on Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum, and drawing secular themes from the Passover Seder, is a rather feeble way to celebrate these important religious holy days. I should get some credit, however, for dragging Episcopalian friends to Easter Sunday mass in Southampton! For those who celebrate, I hope the coming days are meaningful, prayerful, and joyful.
P.S. Did you ever notice how much bread was on the table of Da Vinci's The Last Supper?