Still in the Basilica, the members of the group were lead to the Tomb of Christ which is found in the Aedicule [diminutive of Latin aedes and means a ‘small shrine’], with the marble decoration of the Tomb which dates mainly to the 1555 restorations. In the small place around the tomb [in the Aedicule] two masses were said for two different groups.
At 8.00 the Franciscan Fathers gave up the guard to the Armenian Christians [according to the status quo], and our group was admitted into the Holy Place – the tomb where Jesus was laid after his death on the cross.
Even if you do not believe, the blood that runs in you makes you shiver. Living as a Catholic … you bend down and kiss the marble that covers the ground on which the lifeless body of the Son of God lay for three days … and hold your breath and weep in silence, with great reverence, with deep respect, in absolute adoration!
I was there.
We participated in the [daily]
which went round the Aedicule. It was during this event that I observed the iron framework which surrounds the marble walls of this shrine, supporting it from falling here two moments from the Passion of Jesus: the flagellation and the condemnation to death.
In the floor of the Condemnation church are conserved several Roman pavement stones of the Lithostrotos [Greek »¹¸ÌÃÄÁÉÄ¿Â ‘a paved or mosaic-laid floor’. This is believed to be the place of the trail of Jesus before Crucifixion c. 30/33 A.D.] There are also two beautiful life-size bass-relieves of Christ being condemned by Pontius Pilate, and of St John trying to hide the sight of the suffering Christ from his mother Mary, on his way to Calvary.
On the floor of this church there is the design – made up of squares and triangles, chiseled by game-playing Roman soldiers – similar, perhaps, to the ‘game’ which could have been played for the robe of Jesus before he was nailed to the cross.
We followed the route stopping at several places marked as Stations where Jesus passed through on his way to Golgotha. It was a little difficult to keep recollected in prayer and contemplation; the narrow street is full of bars and shops on both sides and, people and tourists throng the space all along.
However, we managed to pay a visit and stop at most of the other 7 Stations [3 – 9]; the remaining 5 Stations [10 – 14] are found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Station 3 commemorates where Jesus fell for the first time under the weight of the cross; Station 4 – where Mary watched her son go by carrying the cross; Station 5 – where Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the cross; Station 6 – where St Veronica wiped Jesus’ face with her handkerchief and an image of his face remained imprinted on the cloth; Station 7 – where Jesus fell for a second time; Station 8 – marked with a cross and the Greek inscription ‘NIKA’ on the wall of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St Charalambos – this is where Jesus consoled the lamenting women of Jerusalem; and Station 9 – where Jesus fell the third time.
Is it true that all the places related to the birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ in the Holy Land, which we have visited with reverence and devotion, are the real ones mentioned in the Gospels?
In his first lecture about the pilgrimage – in the yard in front of St Joseph’s church – Fr Anthony had emphasized that most of the places are ‘memorials’ [objects that serve as a focus for the memory of something – in the case of the Holy Land, events from the life of Christ]. He had also insisted that tradition played a great part in the establishment of the association of the particular sites with ‘events’ in the life of Christ. He had, moreover, stated that sometimes archeology provided proof of what had been held as tradition to very probably be ‘the real place/s’ related with the evangelical narrative.
Whatever the personal inclinations, all along the pilgrimage, the resigned participant is engulfed in seeing, admiring, praying, contemplating, and living a holy journey. The experience is fundamental and memorable. The pilgrimage is a spiritual encounter with what the Christian believes in: the ‘precious’ land – ‘the much-trampled prize for conquering armies’ – which has been drenched with the blood of men fighting to own it, because it is ‘Holy’, because it is the place where the Son of God entered into a relationship with Man.
Yes, it is an extraordinary and unforgettable experience, so relaxing for our ever Truth searching Soul.
All photos reproduced with this article were taken by the author. © Joe Zammit Ciantar firstname.lastname@example.org