Since we will be leaving Egeria soon, I thought to provide a few interesting excerpts from her writing about Good Friday of the Great Week I could not wedge into a longer Reflection above. So, Bonus Egeria this Good Friday morning for you! From her journal….
The Bishop’s Chair is placed on Golgotha Behind the Cross [Cyril therefore is sitting on top of the still exposed rock of Calvary] and he takes his seat. A table is placed before him with a cloth on it, the deacons stand round, and there is brought to him a gold and silver box containing the holy Wood of the [True] Cross. It is opened, and the Wood of the Cross and the Title are taken out and placed on the table…the bishop sits with his hands resting on either end of it and holds it down, and the deacons round him keep watch over it. They guard it like this because what happens now is that all the people…come up one by one to the table. They stoop down over it, kiss the Wood and move on. But on one occasion (I don’t know exactly when) one of the pilgrims bit off a piece of the holy Wood and stole it away, and for this reason the deacons stand round and keep watch in case anyone dares to try that again!
At midday they go Before the Cross—rain or fine, because it is out of doors—in the very spacious and beautiful courtyard…there is not even room to open a door, the place is so crammed with pilgrims….It is impressive to see the way all the people are moved by these readings, and how they mourn. You could hardly believe how every single one of them weeps during the three hours [from 12 PM to 3 PM, the hours Jesus was crucified], old and young alike, because of the manner in which the Lord suffered for us.
This young, intrepid Iberian, perhaps a nun and perhaps a wealthy patroness, is like many of us completely unprepared for the pietistic intensity of Jerusalem. Her enthusiasm is palpable as she writes what she sees and hears, wedged in the crowds for hours at a time through these marathon vigils, meditations and teaching moments. Thank you Egeria for capturing a young Christianity blooming in native soil before the world’s very eyes! For some small sense of what she is narrating watch this and that.