Sunday, 22 January 2012

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

One of our first visits to anywhere in Jerusalem was to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, otherwise known as the Church of the Resurrection. This covers the site of Calvary and also the site of the Garden Tomb. It’s a complex place, the site of probably the earliest church in Jerusalem and yet now a place where different parts of the Christian Church vie to have control and different parts of the whole building are controlled by different factions within the Church.  We were told how the key is held by a Muslim who opens the church each day.   Indeed the same family has provided this service for several generations.  There was an interesting sense of spirituality there too and yet challenged by the noise, the flash of cameras, even the ringing of mobile phones.

However it was moving to go to the place where the tomb was, although now decorated in such an ornate way that it would contrast strongly with any picture that might arise from the Gospels.  It is also important to be reminded, as we were, that a church has existed on this site for so long and that is a telling reminder of the power of God down through the ages and that He will keep His church even when it is not doing what it should.

We visited the church again towards the end of our visit.  After walking the Via Dolorosa early in the morning we ended up outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre a little before 7.30am, and so were able to go in and be there when there were relatively few people.

A particularly powerful possibility rising from this was to climb the stairs to the location within the church that marks the site of Calvary.  It is fascinating that Calvary and the site of the tomb are just so close.  As we reached the top of those stairs, we could see that the Eucharist was being celebrated and I was able to sit quietly and just reflect on the huge significance of this particular place.

This is a massive place of pilgrimage and it was an enormous priviledge to be there when there were so few folk - to reflect on the love demonstrated in Jesus going to the Cross, on all the things that happened in that last week which contributed to his being there and then on the power and glory of the resurrection.  God is great in so many ways.

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