Holy Land Pilgrimage

Will You Be Ready to Run to the Tomb?

March 6, 2019

As we start the season of Lent I want to reflect on the incredible experience that some of my classmates and I were able to experience over the last week and a half. We were given the special opportunity to be locked inside the Holy Sepulcher. Those who were interested in spending the night were split between three nights to ensure that everyone could have some quiet alone time in the empty tomb by themselves. As soon as classes ended for the day I began to prepare so that I would be ready to spend the night in prayer. After eating an early dinner I began the journey towards the church. While walking to the church I began to think of Christ talking with the disciples outside of the garden while he prayed. The soul was willing but the flesh is weak. Would I be able to stay awake this whole night I wondered to myself?

As I entered the church, we had approximately twenty minutes before the doors were to be locked for the night. Even with the small amount of time left to see everything in the church, the church was still full of pilgrims. These pilgrims had come from all around the world to see the three important sites that are all located under the roof of this large church. They were there to see Calvary, the stone where Jesus was anointed, and the empty tomb. However, the empty tomb was the most important out of all the sites.

As the time approached to lock the doors a representative from each of the two Muslim families appeared at the church. One family is responsible for holding onto the key while the other family uses the key to lock the church. As the two family members exited the church the Franciscan Friar closed the large door behind them. We then waited for them to lock the doors from the outside before handing the small ladder back inside the church through a small door in the main door. After the door was locked the church became very quiet as the pilgrims and tourists who were on the other side of the door could no longer be heard.

The Franciscan friar told us that if we wanted to visit the tomb we should do so in the next four hours before the Greek Orthodox start preparing for their liturgy. We then made our way to the tomb. While walking to the tomb I began to think of the women who went to the tomb with spices only to find that Christ had risen from the dead and was no longer there. Each one of us was able to spend some time alone in the tomb. This was the tomb that Christ was laid in before He rose on the third day.

The four quiet hours moved by very quickly. Soon the Greek Orthodox monks waited by the door so that pilgrims could enter for the liturgy. It was surprising when they opened the door to not see anyone waiting to get into the church. However, soon there were people running across the courtyard in the front of the church so that they could be one of the first to enter the church. Once inside they ran towards the tomb and began lining up to be able to go inside of the tomb.

I pray that for the next forty days, we are able to prepare our hearts so that we too may be ready to run to the tomb to find it empty just as Peter did and as pilgrims do today. Let us be ready to announce to the world that Christ is truly risen today, Alleluia!!

James Flattery
Diocese of Davenport

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