Holy Sepulcher: The Tomb of Jesus
By Georgette Loussi, a Tour Guide student.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” In this exact holy site, we travel back in time to a moment of absolute greatness, holiness, a moment when all the prophecies of God were manifested in his incarnated Son. This was not just any miracle, it was the fulfillment of every single word of God, as the Son of Man was delivered over to the hands of sinners, was crucified, and on the third day was raised as it was written in the scriptures.
Here in front of the Holy Sepulcher, the angel talked with the two Marys, wondering why they were looking for the living in a tomb, and proclaiming that he had risen. As they searched for him and did not find him in the tomb, they were amazed! When we think of a tomb, we feel sad or maybe remember our beloved ones who passed away. But not this tomb! Not the tomb of Jesus, as he is indeed the living God who rose for our salvation to give us life.
Every year during Holy Week, Christians re-live the memory of their salvation from sin. The Holy Sepulcher is the place where our Lord was laid for three days, and where he demonstrated his power and sovereignty over death by His resurrection. Our salvation depended essentially on his resurrection from death. Jesus proved his words as the ultimate proof of truth and love for us.
The Tomb of Jesus is situated in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, which was built in the 4th Century by Emperor Constantine on the site of Golgotha. It was a small rise, from five to ten meters, with a rocky structure and a rounded shape. Here the Romans executed those condemned to death and it was here where Jesus was crucified and not far away, he was buried. The Emperor Hadrian, around 135 A.D. transformed the city of Jerusalem into Aelia Capitolina, with a clear Greco-Roman imprint and style equipped with temples dedicated to pagan gods, with the aim of erasing all early Christian memories from Jerusalem. As the urban design of the city changed, the garden of Golgotha became the center of the city, where the status of Venus was erected on it, built on a mound, which preserved the oldest remains, as reported by the testimony of Eusebio, Bishop of Caesarea in the 4th Century. In their local tradition, this story was kept, and the early Christians in the city of Jerusalem passed the tradition from one generation to another saying, “The tomb of Jesus is beneath the pagan temple.”
In 326, when Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem, she found the remains of the Holy Cross on the site of the Holy Sepulcher. Saint Helena had the filling material removed from Hadrian’s temple, and there she found the original tomb of Jesus. Her son, the Emperor Constantine, built a large basilica with five naves, and the Anastasis (resurrection, in Greek), is an aedicule with a central plan with a dome above the tomb of Jesus. Since then, the Holy Sepulcher has undergone numerous architectural transformations, as a result of the several conquests of the city of Jerusalem.
The Holy Sepulcher is the place of the ultimate love of God shown for us when Jesus was resurrected from death. Its beauty, holiness, and significance are felt in every corner, every stone, and in every lighted candle. When you arrive inside the tomb, you can feel it, especially on the celebration of the Holy Saturday, when Christian denominations from all over the world come to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. All believers announce their faith, rejoicing and saying, “The Lord is truly risen! Indeed He has risen!”
From the Holy Land, the land of peace, truth, and salvation, where the light of God was incarnated, we proclaim our salvation. May Jesus resurrect your hearts and spirit, as he is the light of life. Today, Jesus invites us to resurrect from our tombs, invites us to resurrect from our sadness, depression, sins, and fears, to overcome darkness, and to live with him in his immense love.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”