We carried a wooden cross from Herod’s Gate through the narrow streets of Jerusalem in pairs. Old food scraps and trash were scattered on the stones. A putrid smell occasionally wafted up to our sniffling noses. The walkway was uneven, with plenty of places to trip and fall. We were not being driven from behind with whips and shouts, but were followed by the eyes of soldiers stationed on corners, guns tucked under their uniformed arms.
The dark grew into morning, and we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Click for pictures.) Our group of 40 crowded into the Tomb of Christ, which has two chambers: an outer chamber, where family members would mourn the dead (about a 10 foot diameter) and an inner chamber, with only enough room for about 7 people standing close together. In the inner chamber lies the stone slab on which the body of Jesus was placed after his death. Over it, an altar has been erected. In front of that altar, Fr. Valentine, Deacon Pedro and Deacon Valentine stood. Behind them, three to four people. Since we had only 30 minutes for the Mass of the Resurrection, we took turns rotating a few minutes in the inner chamber with the priest and deacons.
What an awesome experience: to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in His tomb. Because I’m the blogger and we wanted to share this with you, I was given a few seconds alone in the inner chamber, and it was enough to create an indelible mark on my mind and heart. I wept after crawling into the inner chamber, realizing where I was.
In a way, our experience was ironic. Jesus’ body is no longer in the Tomb – He has ascended into Heaven. Yet, He has remained with us always (see Matt. 28:20) in the Eucharist. We experienced both the death and the resurrection of the Lord during that Mass, such that I’m sure Mass can never be the same for me again.
Life, death and life after death is all a beautiful mystery. How often do we take it for granted? The life, death and resurrection of Christ is hope for each of us. How often do we take it for granted?
Think about this: It is holier to visit Jesus in the Eucharist than to travel thousands of miles to see his Tomb in Jerusalem. His tomb is empty. He is alive. Have you visited Him? (Click for pictures from the rest of the day.)