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The Altar of the Crucifixion, where
according to  tradition, Jesus was crucified.
Beneath the Altar is the hole into which the
cross was affixed in the ground
The Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre
(The Tomb of Christ) with the dome of
the Anastasia Rotunda visible at top.
The Tomb of Christ of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Ladder reaching the upper right window has been there since 1852,
evidence of the rivalry between church denominations
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was
dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see
the tomb.   And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for
an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and
rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was
like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  For fear of
him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the
angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you
are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for
he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where
he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has
been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead
of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my
message for you.’  So they left the tomb quickly with fear
and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.   Suddenly
Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to
him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus
said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to
go to Galilee; there they will see me.’  
Matthew 28:1-10.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the
mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they
might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of
the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  
They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away
the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’  When they
looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large,
had already been rolled back.  As they entered the tomb,
they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on
the right side; and they were alarmed.  But he said to them,
‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,
who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look,
there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and
Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will
see him, just as he told you.’  So they went out and fled
from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them;
and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  [The
Short Ending]  And all that had been commanded them they
told briefly to those around Peter. And afterwards Jesus
himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred
and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. [The
Long Ending]  
Mark 16:1-8.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came
to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  They
found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they
went in, they did not find the body.  While they were
perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes
stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed
their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why
do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here,
but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was
still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to
sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’  
Then they remembered his words, and returning from the
tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  
Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of
James, and the other women with them who told this to the
apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and
they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the
tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by
themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had
Luke 24:1-12
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone
had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to
Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus
loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of
the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’  
Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards
the tomb. The two were running together, but the other
disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent
down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there,
but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following
him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings
lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not
lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by
itself Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first,
also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did
not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the
dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.  Jesus
Appears to Mary Magdalene.  But Mary stood weeping
outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the
tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the
body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other
at the feet.  They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you
weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my
Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When
she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing
there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to
her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you
looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to
him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you
have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her,
‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’
(which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to
me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go
to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my
Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’   Mary
Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have
seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these
things to her.  
John 20:1-18.
Vigilant Monks
Damascus Gate

BUT A WAY FOR INSPIRATION IS ALSO PRESENT.  The photographs on the left column show the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also known
as the Church of the Resurrection) and the right column show the Garden Tomb (except last 2 which shows Jewish tombs on the Mount of
Olives and ossuaries/bone boxes at Dominus Flevit Church).

Today, a delicate and uneasy compromise exists between the denominations over the tradition bound Church of the Holy Sepulchre located
inside the Old City of Jerusalem.   Agreement was achieved over stages, starting centuries ago with the mediation of the Ottoman empire and
European powers (for a long time a Muslim doorkeeper was present to prevent disputes between Christians but this provision has been
discontinued).  As a result, the control of the eclectic premises is shared by six primary custodians: the Greek Orthodox (largest share),
Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic Churches, with lesser duties alloted to the Coptic, Ethiopian and Syriac Orthodox Churches. The edifice
is carefully partitioned into sections, some are shared while others remain under the exclusive control of a particular denomination.   Byzantine
(meaning complex) rules govern access rights of the other groups through each specific section on any given day, and especially during the
holidays.  Today, common areas of the church are open to all visitors without any entrance charge.  Perhaps, because Jerusalem throughout
history has been a City coveted by many, a certain defensiveness of place and the urge to delineate territory can be expected.

Some areas of the church are still disputed, sometimes with great enthusiasm - during November 2008 videos posted on the internet showed a
fistfight between Armenian and Greek monks in one such encounter.   A small section of the roof of the church is contested between the Copts
and Ethiopians. At least one Coptic monk constantly sits on a chair and keeps watch at a particular spot to emphasize this claim. On a torrid
summer day he moved his chair less than a foot into the shade. This was construed as an encroachment and a severe breach of rules. Eleven
were sent  to hospital from the brawl which followed.  

The infamous not-to-be-moved ladder is another prominent example of this inflexibility.  Some time in the first half of the 1800's, unknown
person(s) placed a ladder up against the wall of the church reaching up to the right upper window above the main entrance.  Since the identity
and denomination could not be determined, no authority dare take responsibility for moving the ladder down for fear of triggering a major
confrontation.  So the ladder remains there on the ledge to this day to be seen and marveled by all.

Perhaps motivated by distress of the rivalry of the denominations over the Holy Sepulchre and the exclusion of Protestants, Major-General
Charles G. Gordon, when he was in Jerusalem in 1883, was inspired to search for another tomb of Jesus after he spied what appeared to be the
likeness of a human skull (Golgotha) on the side of the hill just outside and north of the Old City Wall near the Damascus Gate.  Further
exploring the foothills sometimes known as Jeremiah's Grotto, next to a cistern below skull hill, he found a cave fitting the description of a
tomb, i.e. there was a track along the opening on which a large stone could be rolled and anchored.  It was here that Gordon made and touted
his claim for the real Tomb of Jesus (so headstrong was Gordon's passion that he would later defy orders from London and die in 1885
defending Khartoum, Sudan against the massed armies of the Mahdi).  Today this beautiful garden and beguiling hillside are located across the
street from the main Palestinian bus terminal serving the Old City and is known as Gordon's Calvary or the Garden Tomb.  Upon buying an
admission ticket, the Garden Tomb is open without restrictions to all comers.  However, most scholars dismiss this site in favor of the Holy
Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb Association also will routinely remind visitors that the risen Jesus takes precedence over the exact location of
an empty tomb that once over two thousand years ago held his crucified body for a short time of only three days.

On Sunday April 25, 2010, we were able to enter many areas of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and solemnly hear lectures on its history,
thanks to the good offices of St. George's Cathedral.  Even so, I could sense the tension, particularly in one instance when we had completed a
lecture and tour of a venerated room (the church is a labyrinth of rooms and niches) and as we turned to leave, a very stern, even incensed
looking priest rushed in with his swinging thurible (or more correctly a censer in the Eastern liturgy) bellowing aromatic smoke, ostensibly to
purify the place in the wake after us.   Maybe he had a good reason to be on edge because
on April 23, a visitor had wielded a knife inside the church and was shot and seriously
wounded by police.   
St. Helena's Chapel
Armenian Authority

Notwithstanding the strident reminders of the hurly-burly of reality of the moment, it is very
much possible to experience the sublime, the eternal, and the divine here.   One such
experience is hearing the proclaiming of the Gospel by an elderly Ethiopian clergy from a
Bible in the shape of a cross.  Another would be stepping into the coolness of the Garden
Tomb on a hot spring day in Jerusalem.  Yet another is meditating at the Chapel of St.
Helena, mother of Constantine I and patron saint of new discoveries (archaeology).   Finally,
Stations X through XIV of the Way of the Cross of Jerusalem are located inside the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre (the remaining nine are along the
Via Dolorosa).  Here are space
where one who is on a spiritual journey can partake in the meeting of Heaven and earth.

Charleston C. K. Wang, 5/25/2011.
Vigilant Monks
Roof with Ethiopian cells of the Deir Sultan
Monastery adjacent to the dome
Mosaic of the Entombment of Christ
To view "The
Garden of
Gethsemane and
Church of All
Nations," click