Tag Archives: tomb of Jesus

Sunday Vespers: A Chip off the Old Block



You are my rock

Upon the rock You built Your Church

At Your death the rock was split in two

They laid You lifeless in the rocky tomb

And rolled the rock to seal the light of day

I am Your rock

Upon me You build Your Church

At Your death I split in two

You lay lifeless in my lifeless tomb

My rocky heart seals the light of day

In secret to Father we do pray

Our stillness knows that He is God

No longer statues we arise

And throw aside what we once wore

Total darkness and yet we see

Clearly only one way to go

Your promise lights the way

To restore what You foretold

Same as in the beginning

God and in His image

His creation

His masterpiece

His Son and His brother

The One known as The Word and the one called man

We both enter the garden

As the rock is rolled away


—Howard Hain


* Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “The Resurrection of Christ”, ca. 1562


Easter Sunday

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

Many followers of Jesus saw him risen after he came from the tomb, the New Testament writers say, but Mary Magdalene’s witness is especially significant. She was a key witness to his death as well as his resurrection. We remember her testimony on Easter Sunday.

First, she was a witness to the death of Jesus. She was among those who saw him die, the gospels say. She witnessed his last excruciating hours on the cross. She saw the soldier pierce his side with a lance. She was with Mary his mother, standing there looking on. She helped them in the grim ritual of taking his body down from the cross. She was one of the women who brought some ointments and  cloths for his burial. That was a woman’s role then, to bury the dead. She watched them lay him in a tomb, about a stone’s throw from where he was crucified. There would be no doubt in her mind that Jesus was dead.

She waited till the Jewish feast was over to come to the tomb. She came early in the morning, not hoping to see him alive, but just to complete his burial. What was done when he died was done hurriedly, the gospels tell us. Like Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene believed in the resurrection on the last day. It was important for her that the body of Jesus be properly anointed with perfumed oil, because he had been someone most pleasing to God. He would certainly be among those God would raise up on the Last Day.

Mary would not be at the tomb alone. Other women would be with her. The question they had coming to the tomb was: Can we get some help moving the stone away from the entrance to the tomb? It was large. Maybe the guards who were stationed there, maybe some workers, some people passing by. The tomb was not far from the road going into the city.

But Mary saw that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty, the burial cloths were there, the cloth that covered his head, but his body was not there. (John 20,1-9) She ran to tell Peter, who came with John and found it as she had said.

In our first reading today we hear Peter’s description of what happened next. “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10, 37)

John’s gospel goes on to tell Mary’s story of her meeting with Jesus in the garden where he was buried. She thought he was the gardener until she heard him speak her name, “Mary.” He was alive. He told her he was going to his Father and her Father, his God and her God. On that dark morning she came to finish burying him. Now he was alive, risen, and the world was changed.

“Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?” the church asks her in our liturgy today. “
’I saw the tomb of the now living Christ.
I saw the glory of Christ, now risen.
I saw angels who gave witness;
the cloths, too, which once covered head and limbs.
Christ my hope had indeed arisen.
He will go before his own into Galilee.'”

He is risen from the dead, the witnesses say. He died and he rose again. Believe in him, follow him, they tell us. He lives and promises life to those who follow him. He is God’s Son, believe in him.




Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jersusalem

Holy sepul
The ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, constructed over the places where Jesus was crucified and buried, has been the focus of Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land since the 4th century. Built by the Emperor Constantine at the urging of Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, the church has suffered earthquakes, fires, and devastation; it’s authenticity has been questioned, especially since the Enlightenment; it has been fought over by competing Christian churches, yet it still has the best claim to be the place where the greatest of all Christian mysteries happened.
Holy Sepulcher - 28

The church received its worst blow when the calif Hakim began demolishing the church in 1009, an action leading to the Crusades. Once Jerusalem was conquered, the crusaders rebuilt the church, but only to half its former proportions.Calvary

Reliable historians weigh in positively today on the claims of the Church of the Holy Sepucher “Is this the place where Christ died and was buried?” Jerome Murphy-O’Connor asks in his solidly researched “The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide” (New York, 2008). “Yes, very probably,” he answers.
Calvary 2

The Finding of the Cross

When Constantine in the 4th century looked for Calvary and Jesus’ tomb, he had no difficulty finding their location. They were buried beneath a Roman temple built in 138 AD by the Emperor Hadrian, in the new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, which he erected over the ruins of devastated Jewish Jerusalem. Christians since the time of Jesus knew the place and could point it out to Constantine’s builders.

Early witnesses report that, which tearing down the Roman temple and digging the foundations for the new church, the emperor’s workmen came upon an ancient cistern filled with debris from the old Roman execution site, including three upright beams and the title that Pontius Pilate had attached to the Cross of Jesus. The discovery caused a sensation in the Christian world.

Constantine’s 80 year old mother, Helena, had come the Holy Land as a devout pilgrim, “old in years, but young in spirit. She wanted to know this land… and walk in the footsteps of the Savior….”(Eusebius)
She took the precious remains from Calvary and distributed them, one part to the new church on Golgotha, another part to her son, Constantine, in Constantinople; the rest she placed in the chapel of her private residence at the Sessorian Palace in Rome, where they remain till this day, in the Church of the Holy Cross. She covered the floor of her Roman chapel with soil from the Jerusalem excavations.

Christians rejoiced at the discovery. Less than 25 years before, they had experienced the worst of all persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian, who tortured and killed great numbers, confiscating Christian homes and property. Their religion was on the verge of extermination. Now a new day had dawned; Christianity was triumphant.

The pieces of scarred wood buried in the earth for so long, became reflections of God’s triumphant power. They were placed in settings of gold and precious stones; signs that, like Jesus, the church also had tasted death but was now raised up.

Besides wood from Calvary, Constantine’s builders made another great discovery as they dug the foundations for the new basilica. They discovered the tomb of Jesus, and immediately constructed a splendid rotunda around it. The tomb survives today in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City. Nearby one can still see and touch the rock of Calvary. Holy Sep

These early discoveries inspired a powerful movement of Christian devotion. Crowds of pilgrims made their way to the holy places. “The whole world is making its way to an empty tomb,” St. John Chrysostom said. Pilgrims returned home with reminders of their visit: small vials of oil from lamps at the tomb of Jesus, small handfuls of soil. Some even carried back tiny precious portions of the Cross itself.

A feast to celebrate the dedication of this church in 325 AD is found in various church calendars for September 14.