By Admiral de Maupeou
THE time has now come to bring to light the full significance of the Mount of Olives in the life and mystery of Christ in the Church.
From its heights Our Lord left the earth. From it His promise was given that one day He would return. The Mount may therefore be regarded as the earthly symbol of the visible meeting the invisible in the everliving mystery of the Messiah,
From Olivet Our Lord gave to man His last discourses, and the Gospel shows it as the starting point of Palm Sunday's triumphant procession prefiguring the glory of the Second Advent.
EZECHIEL foretold that " the bright presence of the Lord, withdrawn from the city's midst, came to rest upon the mountain height eastwards of it (11.23). Zacharias foretold that " there on the Mount of Olives, that faces Jerusalem On the east, the Lord's feet shall be set " (14.4).
Hence it was that Constantine and St. Helena chose the three major sacred sites for their three great basilicas: Bethlehem for Christ's birth; the Holy Sepulchre for His Passion and Rising; and Mount Olivet, the "Eleona", a name derived from the Greek for olive tree.
Yet while Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulchre still stand, Eleona Is no more.
Destroyed by the Persians in the seventh century nothing of the main structure was left visible by the year 1000. It has even ceased to be remembered. All that stands today is the Ascension Mosque, enclosing the "Imbomon Oetogon" the stone at the summit of the mountain where Christ stood on earth for the last time, which became a holy place of Islam in the time of Saladin (1198).
WHY this oblivion of the third of the major sacred sites of Christendom? Many believe that events which have taken place during the last hundred years give the answer to the mystery. The "Eleona " was meant to rise again as the symbol of the Second Advent in times when so much suggests that we
should again be thinking forward to the "Second Coming".
In 1856, Fr, Ratisbonne, convert from Judaism and founder of the Congregation of Our Lady of Zion, persuaded the Duchess of Bouillon to buy land on the Mount of Olives, Sixteen years later, the Duchess built the Carmelite convent where the Our Father is engraved in 32 languages. With Russian Orthodox and French Benedictine nuns building convents nearby, contemplation had returned to Olivet,
The White Fathers arrived in 1910 and under their land the complete foundations of St. Helena's "Eleona " were discovered.
Independently of all this, it was decided during the first world war in France to organise a subscription for a world basilica in honour of the Sacred Heart, and Pope Benedict decided that it should be built on the site of rediscovered Eleona, In 1923, Pius XI dedicated the new building to " Peace among Nations and Peoples" and 17 years later Pius XII, asking that the
work should be completed referred to it "this sanctuary of Peace".
THESE events appear to A dovetail, as it were, into the era within which we are
living today—the era of atomic and nuclear conflict, of world divided against world, in which the only hope is the hope of peace through prayer.
We seem to be carried back to the state of mind of the early Christians—a state of tension between the two comings of the Lord; His birth at Bethlehem and His return on the Last Day. And here creeps into the medieval conception of a Last Judgment of terror the hope of a Judgment of love through prayer to the compassionate Heart of Christ Already much has been done to restore the symbolism of the triple basilicas.
The crypt of the new Eleona has been finished. But when a quarter of the rest of the building was up, the last war and the Palestine troubles prevented completion. But today conditions in Jordan (where the Mount of Olives stands) make the completing of the task possible.
The basilica will be built in good white cut stone from Jemsalem and rose-hued from Bethlehem.
The site will, however, be its greatest claim to beauty. From the heights of the hill, between the olive trees, Eleona commands the world-famed view of the Temple and City of Jerusalem unfolding at his feet bicycled the valley of Kedron.
The shrine when completed will comprise three parts, dedicated to contemplation, to worship, to charity. The contemplative part exists already. i.e. the Carmelite convent enclosing the apse. The charitable side, serving the neighbouring population, as well as the pilgrims, has been entrusted to the Order of Malta. Its temporary form is a small dispensary kept by the Daughters of Charity in a village house.
The place of Worship or the central part of the basilica will be open to celebrations of all Rites, provided they are in communion with the Holy See, under whose authority the whole undertaking lies. The Greek Uniate Mellote rite may take precedence owing to its Oriental character and its language; Arabic, spoken in the country. The White Fathers of St. Anne's in Jerusalem are the Presents custodians of the edifice.