Good Friday, from the Tomb

Two weeks ago, I found myself walking the sites of Holy Week, from the cave-chapel of Gethsemane to the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. Of all that I was able to see and hear on my nine-day pilgrimage to Israel and the West Bank right in the middle of Lent, the sites surrounding the Easter Triduum have the tightest hold on my memory and my imagination.

Few have quite the grip on me as the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre. The church contains several holy sites, such as the traditional site of the Crucifixion and the stone where Christ’s body was anointed for burial. Of all the veneration sites throughout the Holy Land, this is one that attracts throngs comparable to the site of the Nativity. The Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre is as close to the traditional tomb of Jesus as most pilgrims will get in their lifetimes.

The group I traveled with had the fortunate privilege of celebrating Mass in the Aedicule of the Sepulchre, a small chapel within the larger church. The Aedicule contains two separate rooms, connected by a three-foot-tall door. The only way to pass from the tiny room for the entire congregation to the altar space is by kneeling or bowing. The Holy Rock is nestled right beneath the altar… and right above the Tomb itself.

Eighteen of us crowded into the first room, rotating through the little door during the Liturgy of the Word so we could use our twenty-five minutes in the space to the best of our ability. Twenty-five minutes to celebrate Mass, venerate the stone above the Tomb of Christ, and take any photos we may have wanted! The tension between staying present to the Mass while also counting the minutes built every time two new pilgrims swapped in and out of the altar space to venerate. Even after all had seen and touched the stone before the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the minutes ticking by continued to play with our nerves until the moment of the Consecration.

As bread and wine became Body and Blood, the tension dissipated. His presence placated us, and for the first time since entering just fifteen or so minutes prior, it dawned on me: here was Jesus, present to us mere meters from where His body was laid to rest millennia earlier. He had been laid here after suffering immensely for us, and here He was again, further sanctifying the space by His presence in it once more.

I can’t stop thinking about that moment as Good Friday dawns, how even in an intense, humiliating, and painful experience, Christ unceasingly took loving care for us, suffering for us so we might be redeemed. Even as He laid in His tomb, His love for us was still spelled clearly in the quiet days that followed.

In that moment in the Sepulcher, I had no clue what would happen next, that day or beyond. But it was clear that God would take care of it – just as today, thousands of years ago, He took care of our salvation through His death and Resurrection.

Colleen R. Schena serves as the Junior Copywriter for Relevant Radio. She is a graduate of Marian University Indianapolis with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. Colleen has a deep passion for writing fiction and nonfiction, hiking, and nature photography.