“It was night,” writes the Evangelist in the gospel passage we hear on Tuesday of Holy Week.
I am haunted by that night.
This is because a couple of years ago, I had the chance to visit the place in Jerusalem where the cock crowed in the darkness – at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.
In the courtyard outside the church, there’s a sculpture memorializing Peter’s descent into dissembling – his sinful weakness. But it’s the inside of the structure that haunts me most deeply.
There, carved into the stone below the artful fixtures of the modern-day church are a series of much more ancient passageways—and a dungeon.
In Jesus’ day, it is said, this site housed the palace of the high priest Caiaphas.
The palace above…and the dungeon below. A holding cell, the only entrance to which would have been a hole in the ceiling. Prisoners awaiting trial were lowered into the cell by a rough sling fashioned of rope.
Seeing the cell…seeing the hole…my spirit sank into darkness, imagining what it must have been like for Jesus on that night of betrayal. Surely, he would have heard the festive Passover celebration taking place in the sumptuous rooms overhead. His arms and shoulders would have chafed under the weight of his body, as the rope sling lowered him into the dungeon.
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,” Jesus tells Peter in today’s gospel passage. And I am moved to whisper, “Thank you, Lord – for not asking us to follow you there…into this degrading, dispiriting hole beneath the palace.”
I notice my prayer today – noting how it is not unlike the infamous words, spoken by Peter just outside in the courtyard.
I notice how hard it is to follow Jesus into the dungeon…and all the way to the cross.
And so, I am haunted by that night.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.