The streets of the Old City in Jerusalem are quiet in the morning. As you wind you way inside the wall through the narrow corridors you may see a cat or two but may not see another soul. Early before sunrise we seminarian pilgrims make our way to the Holy Sepulchre for adoration and prayer in the holiest sites of all Christianity. Counted among these are the ground (Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified, the slab where his body lay after coming down from the cross and the holiest of all, the sacred tomb where he lay for 3 days before rising. These three places are within the Basilica, about 100 yards distance apart. Today our day began and ended at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the Tomb of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.
We had a magnificent privilege today, as we had a private Mass in the Tomb at 6.30 this morning. The Tomb is small, only 3 grown adults can fit in the burial chamber. This is where Monsignors Swiader and Vaccari along with Deacon Alonzo Cox stood while the rest of us were just through the low archway in the ante chamber, still within the small building erected by St Helena 1700 years ago.
The holy Mass was celebrated directly above the burial place of the Christ. Here his resurrected body, in the form of the Eucharist, came alive once again as it did on this spot 2000 years ago. To put this into context, we were in the same space where Mary Magdalene found two Angels on Easter Sunday when she came looking for the Lord, only to find him just outside. And the same space where Peter and John raced moments later upon hearing the news from the Magdalene, the place Peter went in to inspect.
The magnanimity of this gift, this blessing of Our Lord bringing us to these sacred sites is and was this morning, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Because in the moment of consecration, he is alive and resurrected and giving himself to us in that moment, for all time. As we shared his body and blood today at the Holy Sepulchre, you too joined in this same timeless celebration when you attended Mass on Sunday; that, in a nutshell, is the great beauty and depth of our Catholic faith.
Later we journeyed to Masada, Qumran and waded in the Dead Sea before arriving back in Jerusalem. Some of us went back to the Basilca for a 4PM procession to all the sacred places within led by the Franciscans, the custodians of the Holy Land. The places we visited outside Jerusalem were great, and deserve some consideration, but I will leave that to the others.
Today, for me and my brethren, it was that special moment that was over before the sun came up. The same one that you and I will celebrate again by participating in the holy sacrifice of the Mass again soon. This is where it happens every time: Jesus Christ is resurrected and lives and he gives us the bread of life, his body and blood, so that we too may join him forever in glory! Jesu Christe Resurrexit Dixit, Alleluia!