One of the most bizarre places in the world is also one of the holiest places in the world, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jeru- salem, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
Sometimes when you know too much about a place, it will mess with your perceptions. I know too much of the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There are things that I will let you discover on your own. One of the most bizarre things that I will tell you about is that outside on a ledge of a window of the structure, there is an old wooden lad- der. It has been out on a second story ledge since 1850 or so, and it is a symbol of how no one wants to upset the status quo of that building, no one wants to change or alter an- ything in there and risk the turmoil that will inevitably follow any change. (Apparently, people used the ladder to throw food to the pilgrims inside so that they could keep their prime positions inside the church.)
There are many other things that make that particular church a rather peculiar location. It does not look like any church you have ever seen. It has crosses cut into the stone, fashioned by the crusaders who swept down from Europe to do whatever crusaders did back in the day. It can be dark and scary.
But, thankfully, it can also be an incredibly inspiring place as well. The Hill of Calvary inside the Church, is very ornate and even gaudy, but the fact that the hill is encased in glass reminds you of what took place here and how that moment changed every- thing in human history (and mine).
The tomb of Jesus is obviously not the same structure that Jesus was buried in and it is similarly gaudy and unwieldy. And yet early one morning in 2012, after I stayed up all night watching the Super Bowl (it ended at 5:30 am Jerusalem time) I got to concele- brate Mass there and it is a moment that I will never forget. For the Eucharistic Prayer, the four of us priests got to go into the inner- most sanctum of the structure and as I was in there I thought about my mom and dad, my sister Lorrie (my brother Tom had not passed on yet) and all those who died trust- ing in what that structure represented: the resurrection of Christ from the dead, what we celebrate this weekend. And as I mentioned, even though the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a strange and even exotic place, it was powerful to recall what that place meant to the world, meant to my family, meant to my life.
This Easter as you gather with your fam- ilies do not fail to recall the great gift that we celebrate and try to call to mind all those family and friends who went before us in the sure and certain hope of that resurrection.