Just before my diaconate ordination about 12 years ago, I went with a seminary professor and about 50 older adults to the Holy Land. I was just a layman and I paid for myself via donors, not the seminary. My seminary professor wanted nothing to do with me (yes, even back then!) so I ended up wandering the streets of Jerusalem one evening. (Earlier that week, I had hoped for really cool graces at the location where Jesus was executed, but felt little consolation.)
However, that evening of wandering old Jerususalem, I came into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and inside that Church is both the location where Christ died and where he rose. Where Christ rose is a now a chapel inside a Church (as seen in the above photo.) I went in there as the Church was closing. Now, normally, the line is so long that you only get 5 minutes in there. However, even the Orthodox running that place lost track of me and I got to spend 30 minutes in there.
What I received in there was the greatest non-sacramental grace of my life. The reason I know it wasn’t my imagination just projecting consolation onto my emotions is because I expected all the graces at the altar of Calvary (see first paragraph above) and had got nothing. By this point, I had given up on any consolation from God or man. But what happened next, I wrote in my journal about 10 years ago, maybe two years after it happened. I usually don’t share things from my journal, but this internal experience at the tomb of the Resurrection is worth sharing here:
In 2007 I went to the Holy Land with [seminary professor] and 40 others. [Seminary professor] couldn’t even look at me or bare the sound of me talking. One woman on our group started a fight with me for arguing against the modernism of our Palestinian tour group leader. I expected all kinds of grace at the foot of Calvary and felt nothing. So, one night I snuck away to the same Church but a different location: The Holy Sepulchre, but this time I went to the tomb where Jesus rose. Normally, the lines are so long, that each person only gets 30 seconds, since only two people fit in there at a time. But, I happened to show up 30 minutes before they were closing, so almost everyone was ushered out. Somehow I was able to go into the tomb for 20 minutes. I was neither seen nor sneaky but I just went in, alone. Within 10 minutes, I can say that the power of God I felt in there was greater than my ordination day (a year later.) God literally changed the orientation or size or brightness of my soul or something in there that day, making me as sure as the nose of my face not only that Jesus rose from the dead, but that He rose there. Right there. And I felt the power of this Resurrection as the most powerful thing in my life. My soul changed that day like when Jesus breathed on the Apostles after his Resurrection to turn them from cowards into those inebriated with the Holy Spirit. I left, just that way, so on fire that even my Muslim barber was fascinated by my on-fire evangelization. Janet later saw me and said I was walking on air and looked different as I returned to the hotel that night. Objectively, besides my baptism (and ordination) it had to have been the single greatest supernatural Grace that God has ever given me. But subjectively, it was definitely the greatest grace I’ve ever received.