And so, as it gets to be the seventh hour, everyone comes to the Lazarium, which is at Bethany, approximately two miles from the city. On the way from Jerusalem to the Lazarium, at about half a mile from that place, there is a church along the road at the very place where Mary, the sister of Lazarus, came forth to meet the Lord. When the bishop reaches this place, all the monks come forth to meet him, and the people go into the church, where a hymn and an antiphon are sung and the proper passage from the Gospel is read, describing how Lazarus’ sister met the Lord.
When a prayer has been said and a blessing given to all, everyone continues on to the Lazarium, chanting hymns; and by the time they have come to the Lazarium, such a multitude has gathered that not only the place itself, but all the surrounding fields are filled with people. Jymns are sung as well as antiphons appropriate to the day and the place; various scriptural readings, also fitting to the day, are read. Just before the dismissal is given, the Pasch is proclaimed, that is to say, a priest mounts to an elevated spot and reads the passage from Scripture where it is written: When Jesus came into Bethany six days before the Pasch. When this has been read and the Pasch has been proclaimed, the dismissal is given. Because it is written in Scripture that six days before the Pasch this was done in Bethany, therefore on this day this ceremony takes place. There are six days from Saturday to the following Thursday, when after supper the Lord was arrested in the night. Everyone then returns directly to the city and to the Anastasis, were vespers is celebrated as customary.Egeria. Diary of a Pilgrimage. Ancient Christian Writers 38. Newman Press, 1970. Pp 102-103.
No more will pilgrims be able to participate in the roughly two mile walk from Bethany to Jerusalem on Lazarus Saturday. The more than 1600 year old practice will be impossible for an indefinite period due to the erection of a massive security wall, cutting off the footpath leading over the Mount of Olives and down into Jerusalem. It will remain in place as long as Israel is threatened by Palestinian suicide bombers. That wall will only come down upon the renunciation of “armed resistance” on the part of the Palestinians. That will be a long time coming.
So, Christians throughout the world may now thank Palestinian terrorism for the end of one of its oldest traditional processions. That’s okay, you know. Other Palestinians have prevented this procession from happening before, and Christians managed well enough. For nearly the entire period of Muslim rulership over the Holy Land, all Christian public religious processions were banned, as were public displays of the Cross, even as jewelry, the ringing of bells, celebration of saints days in cemeteries and shrines, and even funerals (see translations of primary documentation relating to all of this in the remarkable book by Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Chrisitianity under Islam [Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996]). So things are really just getting back to normal from the Muslim perspective. And that’s something to think about, people.