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reconcile us with his father. But it became more and more difficult to hear him : the crowd, already powerfully moved by what had preceded, was attentive only to what it saw, and it could scarcely catch the words of the speaker for cries, sobs, sighs, and tears.
After an interval of a quarter of an hour had been allowed for their grief to subside, one of the Fathers, provided with hammer and pincers, ascended to the top of the cross, took off the crown of thorns, and, while some of his brethren supported the body by means of white scarfs passed under the arms, extracted the nails from the hands and the feet; and presently the image was taken down, nearly in the same manner as Christ himself was. The officiating Father, and all the monks in turn, advanced in silence, knelt down, and kissed respectfully the crown and the nails, which were immediately presented to the veneration of the multitude.
The procession soon moved away, in the same order as it had come to Calvary. The crown and the nails were carried in a silver basin by a monk, and the image by four others, in the same manner as a corpse is borne to the grave. They paused at the stone of the Unction, to imitate, on that spot, the pious action of Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the holy women. All the requisite materials had been prepared; the stone was covered with a very fine white sheet; on the corners were vases of perfumés. The body, wrapped in a shroud, was laid upon it, with the head resting upon a pillow. The officiating priest sprinkled it with essences, caused some aromatics to be burned, and, having prayed a few moments in silence, explained, in a brief exhor
tation, the motive of this station. The procession then continued its course to the church; the image was laid upon the marble slab of the Holy Sepulchre, and another discourse concluded the ceremony.
On the following day, Saturday, the Fathers performed the service with solemnity. The benediction of the fire and of the tapers, the reading of the prophecies, the blessing of the baptismal fonts, the mass, and all the ceremonies which accompany it, differ but little from what is practised in our churches in the West. But what I cannot help noticing, because it is to me a subject of ever new admiration, is that piety, that modesty, that gravity of the good Fathers, which at all times, and especially on holy Saturday, present so extraordinary, so striking a contrast with the worship, demeanour, and manners of the Greek bishops and priests. Holy Saturday is the day on which the latter take advantage, most grossly and most beneficially for themselves, of the simplicity and ignorance of their adherents. Turning into derision the ancient custom of the Latin church, to extract the new fire on that day from a flint, they give out that to them, the particular objects of divine favour, Heaven itself takes care to send the paschal fire, and that, by a special privilege, their bishops are the only happy mortals chosen to receive it in their hands.
After the procession has gone thrice round the Holy Sepulchre, a bishop and two priests, whom he takes for his assistants, shut themselves up in it, and there stay till, as they say, the Lord has granted their prayers. Meanwhile, the priests and the deacons, crowding around the door, continue singing lustily amidst the noise and
THE SACRED FIRE.
clamour of the people, impatient to learn the accomplishment of the prodigy. Presently it is announced that the heavenly fire has descended; all the lamps in the Sepulchre are quickly lighted; the doors are thrown open; the bishop appears, holding in his hand a few small tapers, lighted at the divine flame; and the amazed multitude, not doubting the miracle, hasten with torches to participate in it. Having witnessed these ridiculous tricks, the vociferations and the uproar amidst which they are performed, I am obliged to confess that, if any thing appeared to me really miraculous, it was the inconceivable stupidity of those who were their dupes.
On that day, the governor of Jerusalem, accompanied by his principal officers, attended the service; it is a right which is reserved for him; he may even go to it, when he pleases, with the women of his harem. He came to see the different ceremonies, and, among others, that of the distribution of the fire by the Greeks. It is a remarkable thing that the marvellous operation never commences till he is present and has given the signal for it. As soon as he had spoken, Heaven obeyed him, and it was evident that, before it sent down the paschal fire to the objects of its especial favour, it had condescended to wait till a Turk had given permission for it.
At midnight, the Fathers return to the service. I am no longer young: I have travelled much; I have seen many fine sights in my life, but never do I recollect to have beheld a more magnificent, a more imposing scene than that presented by the church of the Holy Sepulchre in the night between Saturday and Easter-Sunday.
NIGHT BEFORE EASTER DAY.
Figure to yourself, my friend, a nave of immense magnitude, illuminated in every part with extraordinary taste and profusion, ten thousand pilgrims, arrayed in their best apparel, carrying torches in their hands, the women and children filling the vast extent of the galleries, also holding torches, and all making the sacred vaults ring with glorious Hallelujahs; while bishops, covered with gold and precious stones, preceded by censerbearers, perfuming their 'passage with incense, and followed by a considerable number of priests in white copes richly embroidered with gold, walk in procession round the tomb, in the order assigned to each nation, singing psalms and hymns in honour of Him, who by his resurrection triumphed over death : imagine, I say, such a scene, and calculate, if you can, the impression which it must produce upon the soul of every one who has eyes. From my mind it banished even the recol. lection of the painful things which had so recently afflicted me. “Hallelujah! hallelujah!” I cried, in the transports of a joy, whose vehemence I could not moderate; “hallelujah! hallelujah!” and I blessed the God of mercy for having guided my steps to Jerusalem, and for having granted me the favour to mingle my cries of gladness with the cries of the pious Christians who had the happiness to celebrate the victory of his divine Son on the very spot where that Son had triumphed.
A night so soothing, so consolatory for the heart, was followed by the light of the greatest of days, of that day, par excellence, “which the Lord hath made." I attended the different services, and I there saw displayed all the most magnificent gifts sent thither in better times
by Christian Europe. The tapestries with which the church was adorned, the crosses, the chandeliers, the lamps, the pontifical ornaments, those of the simple priests, were so many memorials of the antique piety and beneficence of sovereigns. An altar, pompously decked out with every thing that could heighten the splendour of the festival, was placed at the door of the Holy Sepulchre. There the Father Warden performed mass pontifically. He himself administered the communion to the numerous Catholics and to the pilgrims, who, two by two, and with deep devotion, presented themselves at the holy table; and the service concluded with a solemn benediction.
The evening, like the morning, passed in prayer, in sacred joy; and, when night came, the church still resounded with hymns, with psalms, and, above all, with the song of glory—“ Hallelujah !"
Farewell, my dear friend. To-morrow, according to all appearance, I shall return to the monastery of St. Saviour; I shall visit that of St. John as soon as possible, and, when I have finished the business that still detains me, I shall set out for Galilee.
EXCURSION TO St. John's IN THE DESERT - CONTENT OF THE HOLY
CROSS — VILLAGE OF ST. JOHN - MONASTERY - BEAUTIFUL CHURCH BELONGING TO THE FRANCISCAN FATHERS - SANCTUARY — Place op THE VISITATION–GROTTO OP St. John BAPTIST-Desert — TOMB OF ST. ELIZABETH.
Jerasalem, April 28, 1832. I have taken advantage of my first leisure since Easter to make a short excursion in the mountains of Judea.