Words from the Center of the Earth

Mount Zion, true pole of the earth, the Great King’s city! –Psalm 48

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Some reflections on our visit to the empty tomb:

That Jesus Christ rose from the dead in the Holy Sepulcher is one of the most solidly established facts of ancient history.

It is not just that there are no bones in the tomb. (We pilgrims can say that we have seen this with our own eyes.)

It is also that there are multiple, independent eye-witness accounts of people who saw and spoke with Christ after He had been crucified and died.

History cannot be an exact science. The smarter bet is: Jesus Christ rose and walked out of the Holy Sepulcher. It is more likely that He did than that He didn’t.

The historical fact that Jesus came back from the dead is not itself an article of faith. We did not go on pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher just because Jesus rose from the dead there. We—and countless pilgrims before us—went to the empty tomb because of what the resurrection of Christ has to do with us.

Other people besides Jesus Christ have come back from the dead. We read in the gospels that Lazarus came back from the dead, the son of the widow of Nain came back from the dead, Jairus’ daughter came back from the dead.

But the man who rose from the dead in the Holy Sepulcher is the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world. The man who came back from the dead in the Holy Sepulcher is the Head of the Body of the Church. The man who came back from the dead in the Holy Sepulcher rose to everlasting life, the first fruits of the final resurrection.

This man’s coming back from the dead has everything to do with us. It is the most important fact of all the facts of life. We believe that because He walked out of the tomb, we can hope for every good thing from God.

Here is how Pope Benedict put it when he visited the Holy Sepulcher in May:

Here the history of humanity was decisively changed. The long reign of sin and death was shattered by the triumph of obedience and life.

Here Christ, the new Adam, taught us that evil never has the last word, that love is stronger than death, that our future, and the future of all humanity, lies in the hands of a faithful and provident God.

The Holy Sepulcher is the center of the world. All time, all history, revolve around it. The entire universe revolves around this little cave.

We do not live in a chaos of darkness careening towards nothing. No: We live in the loving hands of the God who raised His Son from the dead in the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Pope Benedict at the Holy Sepulcher

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