At the foot of the Mount of Olives sits the Church of All Nations, completed in 1924 with financing from 16 countries. The Friars Minor began working at this shrine in 1392 and acquired the property in 1663. A 12thcentury Crusader church was built over a fourth-century Byzantine church. A grotto nearby has been a place of prayer for centuries.
The central feature of the present church (also known as the Basilica of the Agony) is a large rock where Christ is said to have prayed on Holy Thursday evening as 11 of his apostles slept nearby. According to Matthew 26:48-49, this is where Judas identified Jesus for the guards at the Temple (now the site of Jerusalem’s famous Dome of the Rock shrine).
According to arborists from the University of California, two of the olive trees in the attached garden may date to the time of Christ. Nine hermitages are available in the garden for guests who make reservations for a private retreat or an extended visit. They are welcome to join the Franciscan community as guests for morning and evening prayer, Mass, and a daily holy hour.
Photos, accounts of Jesus praying there, a brochure about the hermitages, and information about shorter visits are all available at gethsemane-en.custodia.org.
This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger. To subscribe to this award-winning publication, click here.
Photo: Richard Kane/PhotoXpress