When I First Kissed the Empty Tomb

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Three Marys at the Tomb, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

We are in the middle of the Easter Season – the Catholic Church’s 50-day liturgical season. It’s a time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and it’s my favorite season in the Church’s calendar year. The scripture readings proclaimed every day during Mass are about Jesus’ Resurrection, His apparitions before His ascension to Heaven, His Promises and the beginning of the early Church. It also reminds me of the Holy Land.

When Tom and I first traveled to Jerusalem several years ago, we were searching to learn more about the land of the Bible, about the land where Jesus walked. While in Jerusalem, we were able to attend Mass in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher that is built over the Tomb of Christ, Calvary and the surrounding area. After Mass, we had the opportunity to enter a large marble edifice built over the ancient tomb of Jesus. Upon entering, there is a small chamber called the Chamber of the Angel, where the Angel stood and addressed Mary Magdalene and the others, “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6). Then you must bow very low to enter a smaller area where five persons can fit in tightly. To your right, you see the place where the body of Jesus was placed, wrapped in linen cloth.

Edifice surrounding the Tomb of Christ

Here is where Jesus was raised from the dead, where the Resurrection occurred! You can imagine the feelings we felt as we touched this place, and recalled the Gospel stories in our minds. We knelt and kissed where His body laid, we placed our arms on this stone slab and thanked God for this moment! We thanked God for allowing us to kiss His empty tomb. I remember thinking, “Lord, you know we are here!” It was as if time stood still for us both, recalling what occurred there 2,000 years ago! And what indeed occurred there affected us and millions of others.

Even after visiting the Holy Land numerous times, leading pilgrims on pilgrimages; our time spent in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher is always a highlight, as it would be for any Christian! Our pilgrim groups have Mass in the Tomb, we read the Resurrection story from the Gospels, we pray, and we receive Eucharist in the Tomb. After leaving the Tomb, we are filled with great joy, with peace. Does it remain with us? Yes! If we continue to follow Him in our daily lives.

When I am distraught, or experiencing a trial; I remember my time in the empty Tomb! Today, April 23rd, I will have major hip surgery. Before going under anesthesia, I will certainly call upon the Risen Lord and recall my time in His empty tomb and other sites in the Holy Land where He lived.

Whenever you need to be reminded of His presence under dire circumstances, think about your favorite scripture story, or a spiritual experience that reminds you of His presence.

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