Rev. Charles Allen, S.J. — Good Friday Reflection
In the year 325 A.D., St. Helena, mother of Constantine and a devout Christian, travelled to the Holy Land. Her son had just recently stopped the persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire and now Helena wanted to begin preserving those artifacts which were a part of the life of Jesus and which meant so much to the early Christians.
Her two biggest accomplishments were building great churches over the place where Jesus was born in Bethlehem and over Calvary and the site of the Resurrection outside of Jerusalem. These two Churches, the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, are a place for worshippers to visit to this day. On a somewhat lesser scale, Helena located the Praetorium, seat of power of the Roman Empire in Jerusalem, and from the Praetorium had shipped back to Rome the stone stairs which Jesus would have climbed for his final judgement by Pilate and which he descended to begin his Way of the Cross.
These stairs, La Scala Sancta, are still preserved in a handsome building just to the side of Rome’s Cathedral, St. John in the Lateran.
In March, 2016 a group of 80 members of the Fairfield University Glee Club along with 30 parents, various relatives and school administrators visited Rome. The Glee Club sang at Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and would later sing at the Church of St. Ignatius, The Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi and at the University of Florence.
One of the highlights of the trip for five of us was visiting the Scala Sancta late in the afternoon of a perfect Roman March day. The truly pious ascend the 28 steps on their knees. One of our students – somewhat more agile than I – did so. The rest of us watched and prayed.
The death and resurrection of Jesus seems to have happened so many centuries ago and so many miles away. Standing at the bottom of the Scala Sancta and imagining Christ ascending and descending these steps brings home just how close we still are to the saving events of Holy Week.
A Blessed Easter to you all ….