Saturday, July 05, 2008

Holy Sepulcher Part Two

I'm sorry to say that the following pictures are in no particular order. And, unfortunately, they are not very good because the flash on my camera was being difficult and the church was so dark that even when it did work, it wasn't amazing. I'm sure that there are better pictures of this online. I would go searching myself but then I would never actually post.

So here, first are two not very good pictures of the tomb, as it has been covered over. There was a long line to go in to the tomb and see where his body lay, but neither of us, for whatever reason, got in line. All the more reason to go back, just to make sure its empty.

The outside is this sort of wood structure on the front of which are many many candles and little icons. The floor is very uneven, and, I would say, dirty. The walls are black with insense and a thousand and more years of pilgrims.

I am sorry that the pictures are out of focus. You can't really see How covered over the outside is. Very ornamented. At this point, after seeing the stone slab, and now the tomb, I went into a solidly depressed daze. After the light soaring immensity of the temple, the holy holy worship of the conference, the carnival like impact of the Mount of Olives, to come into the place where Jesus died, was buried and then rose and to find that it looked like This, well. I lost my faith in the Church. As Matt said, going out, its like the church got together and deliberately did what Jesus commanded them not to do in his High Priestly Prayer. Which, of course, is the point. We, the church have been doing what Jesus said not to do for all these years. Its so interesting to me that the church all over the world is light, filled, growing, and this church is so dark. I was discouraged that we couldn't do something nicer with this place, and then I despaired over all of humanity. Jesus gave all himself, did the must humbling thing imaginable, and this was the human response.

Here is the Rock of Golgatha. Under the Rock is a little chapel and altar. You walk up stairs to see where the cross stood.

And here is a section of the rock covered over in glass as you walk along a corridor from all the individual chapels to the stone slab.

Much of the art all over the whole building is beautiful and decaying. This was painted on the wall up in an archway leading in to see where the cross stood.

Here is the altar over the place of the cross. There is a gold (it looked liked gold) encrusted statue of Jesus looming over the altar, flanked by gold encrusted Marys. There is an unnerving statue of Mary in a glass case with a sword sticking out of her chest next to the altar. And then, all over are thousands of candles and gold of every kind. My protestant soul came up into my throat at this vision.

Looking out the window, away from Golgatha, towards the city.

Here is where the cross stood. You walk by, kneel under the altar, and put your hand into the hole.

Leaving the church, we saw a bishop.

These were propped up at the entrance to the church, probably for processions. A fitting parting image.

I, obviously, have more pictures. So eventually, perhaps, there will be a Part Three. In the meantime I am going to hustle my children into bed. Tomorrow is a big day. Everybody, of course, wants to know about the trip, 'How was it!?' being the operative question. How, in a sentence or a word, or even a look can I communicate any of this. As for the past week, forefront in my mind is the Incomparable Mercy of God in taking on the humiliation, not just of the cross, but of the Incarnation itself. That God would choose to create, would choose to reveal himself, would choose to come down here, to be rejected, despised, all for what? Me. He would have done it even if I was the only one. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. I cannot attain to it.


Joyce Carlson said...

If this is indeed where the tomb was, your pictures and description make me think of the scene in the Prince Caspian movie (which I just got to see before ccoming to Cameroun) where the Stone Table was. The Pevensie Four didn't recognize where they were, and were amazed at how old the place was, so encrusted with time, and ancient drawings, and caverns. The simplicity of the Table, broken in two in a wide glade (as I think I recall from the first story) was now deep underground and covered with time and accoutrements. What we all do, I guess.
Lots of Love from ME and I hope you're praying that I get safely back to Nairobi -- leaving here tomorrow night and arriving there Tuesday morning!!

Bob Maxwell+ said...

Do you know the witness of the Greek and Armenian Archbishops that go into the tomb without fire on Orthodox Easter Eve and emerge with the lighted Paschal Candle that is used to supply the fire for a flame that is flown to Istanbul and thence throughout Greece?

Monks from the other Ab's Church search each Ab and the toomb. The miracle happens every year. It made the secular press this last spring, well hidden inside the newspapers.

Our group was the first non archaeological ream to be shown what was to be revealed as the Chapel of St. Helena with the Latin carving in the wall.

Next year Jerusalem!

. . .stil ridin' for the brand.