Canons Regular of St. John Cantius

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Canons Regular and pilgrims, with Bishop William Hanna Shomali, auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem. The meeting took place in the audience hall of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem on Monday, June 9.

From June 3rd through 14th, Fr. Dennis Koliński, SJC led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his ordination. He was joined by Brothers Nathan Ford and Andrew Panzer, as well as by parishioners and friends from St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago and St. Peter Parish in Volo. The pilgrims first visited the major sites in Galilee connected with Our Lord’s life and ministry: Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of Beatitudes and Mount Tabor. The remainder of the pilgrimage included all of the major sites connected with Our Lord’s Passion and the life of the Blessed Mother in Jerusalem, as well as other nearby sites, such as Bethlehem, Bethany, Ein Karem, Jericho and Qumran.


Fr. Dennis Koliński leads pilgrims, carrying the cross along the ‘Via Dolorosa’ with parishioners David and Dorothy Carollo.

For six of the ten days, the pilgrims resided within the Old City of Jerusalem in close proximity to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This turned out to be one of the greatest spiritual gifts of the pilgrimage because it gave the pilgrims the opportunity to walk to the church early each morning for its opening at 5:00 a.m. in order to spend precious time in prayer and reflection without the sometimes oppressive crowds that come later in the day. The entire trip was a spiritually life-changing experience but it was, in particular, this daily watch at the rock of Calvary and at the Holy Tomb, enveloped in incense and the chants of divine liturgy in the hushed shadows of this sacred site that will remain most vividly in their memory.


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A Holy Land Reflection by Br. Andrew Panzer, SJC


Br. Andrew Panzer standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
On June 3rd of this year, I was privileged to travel with Br. Nathan Ford and Fr. Dennis Kolinski to the birth-place of Christianity, The Holy Land. The experience can best be described as joyfully overwhelming, as we journeyed to over 25 holy sites in the course of 10 days. Among the more notable were the Basilica of the Annunciation, the site of the visitation, the mount of beatitudes, and the tomb of Lazarus, to name just a few. Each destination had its own unique character, and Fr. Denis did a fantastic job setting the landscape in perspective with excerpts from the Bible pertaining to each site we visited. I think, though, at least for us three canons on the trip, the highlight was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This church is really a marvel to behold, and its size speaks to the importance of the holy sites which it enfolds within its walls. Many holy shrines find their home inside, the three main ones being: the Stone of Anointing, the site of the Crucifixion, and of course The Sepulchre itself.

The current structure dates back to the time just after the First Crucade 1148 AD, and the building makes no attempts to hide its age as it proudly displays its imperfections ranging from cracks in the stone to graffiti crosses made by zealous pilgrims of the Middle Ages. One noteworthy blemish is the large split in a column at the entrance to the church which, according to historical accounts, miraculously ignited with the Holy Fire after the Greek Patriarch was prevented from entering The Sepulchre, the place where the Fire traditionally appears.

Entering the church is an overwhelming experience in itself. As soon as the eyes become adjusted to the darkness, they gaze upon the first holy site, the Stone of Anointing. Directly to the right, a steep staircase shrouded in darkness forebodingly invites the pilgrim to ascend the dark hill of Calvary. Curiously this staircase is easily overlooked, and through the course of my visit several pilgrims came up to me asking me how to get to the site of The Crucifixion – an eerie reminder of how easy it is to walk away from the cross in our daily lives. A short walk to the left of the Stone of Anointing brings one to the Rotunda or Anastasis – the large open area which surrounds the Holy Sepulchre. The site is situated underneath the large dome of the church which lets in just enough daylight to give the aedicule (the “little house” which contains the Sepulchre) a misty shimmer; one can’t help but think that Mary Magdalene must have seen this same shimmer in the early morning just before Our Lord appeared to her. Incidentally, this spot too is located within the church and is marked on the floor only a few feet away from the aedicule.


Obviously the Church of the Holy Sepulchre holds importance for all Christians as it contains the locations upon which the central mysteries of the Faith came to fruition, but, for us Canons, The Holy Sepulchre held an extra layer of importance due to the liturgical dynamics that take place there on a daily basis. For many, it’s probably easy to think of the Holy Sepulchre as simply the magnificent building which houses these sacred sites of Our Lord, but what might not be so apparent is that this Church also houses the active liturgical life of the Orthodox, Armenians and Latins (Roman Catholics) under the same roof. It is an arrangement that practically begs for unity of the East and West. What could be more fitting than that the most sacred places on earth be bathed daily with the rich expression of both Eastern and Western traditions united as the two lungs of the one true Church?

During our 6 day stay in the old walled city of Jerusalem we were privileged to stay at a hotel not more than a 5 minute walk from this magnificent church. This allowed us to wake up early every morning to be some of the first ones inside the church. These mornings were always reflective and peaceful as the dimly lighted church practically breathed with the sonorous chant of the Armenians as they finished the last part of their liturgy. It was on one of these mornings that Fr. Dennis was able to con-celebrate Mass with the Franciscans at the tomb of Our Lord, the spiritual high-point for many of the pilgrims from our group who were able to attend.

One of the most rewarding experiences for all of the pilgrims but for the Canons especially was participating in the daily procession at the church. As religious in habit, we were able to take a part in leading the procession “in choir.”

The procession is sung entirely in Latin and is a modified stations of the cross. Everything is sung recto tono (on the same pitch) until the ascent to Calvary where Jesus was nailed to the cross; then the cantor intones the “Vexila Regis” and the entire choir vociferously joins in the powerful Gregorian chant melody. Everything from that point on is sung in Gregorian chant, except for the prayers at the site of the death of Jesus. All the chants are exceedingly beautiful.

The most powerful moment for me was processing from the Stone of Anointing to the Lord’s tomb, the place of the resurrection. As we entered the Rotunda the organ burst out to accompany the chant hymn “Aurora Caelum Purpurat” a hymn recounting the Resurrection of Our Lord – A melody so beautiful and triumphant that if I hadn’t been so focused on hitting the right notes and had looked at the translation, I surely would have burst into tears of joy. Two more stations follow and the procession ends with benediction.

After the procession we had a chance to talk with the Franciscan friars who told us that it was rare to find people who not only knew Latin but were also able to join in singing the chant.

We were able to participate in three processions while we were in Jerusalem and, after our last one, we told the friars that we were leaving the next day. I received a big hug from one of the friars; I think they were sad to see us go, and we were sad to be leaving.


Panoramic Image of the Holy Land