During Holy Week, we are given the opportunity to enter into the Passion of Our Lord through the various liturgies on all the holy days. We welcome Him with palm branches and shouts of Hosanna on Palm Sunday. We pray with Him in makeshift gardens in our parishes after commemorating the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday. We mourn our sins that led to His crucifixion on Good Friday. We wait in anticipation on Holy Saturday and rejoice with the women who discovered His empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
Though these events took place seemingly long ago and far away, we are invited to make them present in our own lives this week.
While on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, pilgrims have the opportunity to bridge this gap between space and time.
One of our recent pilgrims shared upon her return:
Reading the Scriptures for me has changed dramatically. In the past, I've often thought about how Biblical events took place a long time ago and far away. The pilgrimage closed the far away gap. (The long time ago gap is closed through the Eucharist.) I was in the place where the Incarnation took place. That's a lot to process.
We say seemingly long ago because God exists outside of time.
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years-and a thousand years like one day. 2 Peter 3:8
Though this is often beyond our own human comprehension, these events are actually just as present now as they were nearly 2000 years ago. The Lord truly is present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which we can experience every day at Mass or in any adoration chapel.
Entering the Garden
Many churches offer extra opportunities for adoration this week on Holy Thursday. This correlates with Jesus taking His disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper.
Praying in the actual Garden of Gethsemane is very impactful for our pilgrims. All of our groups tour and pray in this location and most are able to celebrate Mass here. In addition, many are also able to return one evening of their pilgrimage for a group holy hour. As Jesus asked of His disciples then, and of us today, “could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).
It is during this time of prayer that people repeatedly feel close to the Lord. We are blessed that they share their impactful experiences with us and you.
I had an amazing spiritual experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. We were at adoration and while in prayer, I was being bombarded with lots of old memories that I know I had released years ago.... but all I heard was how I was useless and a disappointment to God. That I was a failure, and everyone knows it...I opened my eyes--tears streaming down and ran to confession. I sputtered out all kinds of nonsense and wept openly. The priest grabbed my hands and told me we are in the Garden where Jesus Himself was tested and tormented by Satan. He assured me that Jesus loves me and that I need to hold onto the truth that He has bigger plans for me. I dried my tears realizing he was right. I ended my confession with a decade of the rosary ---offering up all who suffer. It was quite an experience! Very powerful.
Our pilgrims pray on or near the very rock where Jesus sweat blood in agony. It was through His suffering that we are saved. Here’s what another person was shown through the Holy Spirit at this site about suffering and redemption in her life:
I was struck by praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have recently been wrestling with what to do with suffering (both my own and the suffering of those in my life) and I was reminded of the beauty of Jesus' heart in the Garden of Gethsemane. We learned on our pilgrimage that Gethsemane actually means olive press and what the reality of that process entails. Not only was I reminded of the comfort that comes from the reality that Jesus understands my suffering in a way no one else can, but also the beauty that is often the result of a crushing process. As with the olives so with our own hearts - feeling crushed and poured out in the way that suffering tends to bring can lead to love if we allow it. Beautiful!
While praying in the actual spots our Lord touched can bring immeasurable graces, His presence transcends time and space. Whether you cry out to Him while in the Garden of Gethsemane, or in your local church, or even in the stillness of your heart alone, He is there.
Let us all pray this Holy Week for ourselves, our fellow pilgrims on this earthly journey, and all others who yearn to feel close to Jesus this Easter.