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I have only been to the Holy Land once and I went with a Catholic travel group just before being ordained a deacon in seminary.  Rifling through the travel itinerary before arriving in Tel Aviv, I was very confused that we were going to visit the “Church of the Holy Sepulcher” (see above picture) but there was no indication on our travel list that we would visit Golgotha or a Church of the Resurrection.

Perhaps it was for the best that I was so obtuse on something that many people figure out before they get to Jerusalem.  Much to my surprise, I found out upon entering the “Church of the Holy Sepulcher” that under that one single roof is two different Churches—one where Christ died and one where He rose from the dead!  Upstairs, a priest can offer Mass upon an altar under which a hole exists— the location where the cross of Christ stood, and where one can even place one’s fist.  (This proves that the Eucharist and the sacrifice of Calvary are one single sacrifice.)

But in that same “Church of the Holy Sepulcher” is found the “Chapel of the Resurrection” just a ten or twenty second walk from the altar of Calvary.  Last year I blogged here about how the greatest non-sacramental grace of my life happened in this chapel.

One thing I didn’t mention in that blog is that many heretical modern Biblical scholars teach Christ was buried inside the walls of old Jerusalem, where the Bible says Christ was buried outside the walls of Jerusalem, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies.  One of the sacristans at that Church told us that 100 years ago, two Orthodox priests got in a fight in the sacristy and busted through a wall only to find the old walls of old Jerusalem.  Their fist-fight or wrestling-match uncovered a stunning archaeological find:  In the ruins of their fight, they found the old walls of Jerusalem.  Lo and behold, it turned out (just as the Old Testament prophesied of the suffering servant) that Christ was indeed buried outside the walls of old Jerusalem.  (As I always say, true modern Biblical archaeology always vindicates traditional Christian assertions on the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture.)

But the main thing I want to point out today in this Easter Octave is that I realized there was a great theological reality I discovered by the fact that under the one roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is both the Chapel of Calvary and the Chapel of the Resurrection.  It’s a pretty simple insight but it is summed up in the Geography of the Holy Sepulcher:  The death and resurrection of Jesus (in some sense) is one single event that can not be separated.  Frequently, the Western Latin Church meditates on the death of Christ all year long, whereas the Eastern Churches meditate year-long on the Resurrection.  The geography of this Church shows us that we should never see the death of Jesus without the light of the resurrection, nor revel in the resurrection as separated from the tremendous pain of Jesus.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher shows us upstairs as we stick our fist into the hole of the cross the true weight of our sins and human death.  And as we go downstairs into the tomb of the burial and Resurrection of Christ we immediately experience death as the very thing Christ triumphed over for all humans who would one be baptized into His death and new life.  Perhaps this Church shows us that we should be meditating on the death and resurrection of Jesus for every day the rest of our life to understand the greatest moment of love and the greatest moment of glory in Our Savior’s life as one event.