August 10, 2017, Jerusalem– Upon entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the Christian Quarter of Old Jerusalem, I was already immediately entranced to see its magnificent 3-period architecture– Romanesque, Baroque, Byzantine. The splendor of it all is a religious experience in itself. After moments of mingling with the collective energy of humans around me, my appreciation of the aesthetics was overwhelmed by something I cannot explain. It is far different than saying that meeting Neil Gaiman in person is a spiritual experience. Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the biggest Superstar.
THIS IS THE STONE OF ANOINTING. It is believed to be where Jesus’s body was prepared for burial. The moment I touched it,I felt GOOSEBUMPS.
I see people touching it, crying, wailing around it, kneeling before it, wiping the centuries-old wooden coffin with their handkerchiefs, foreheads leaning on it, murmuring prayers, embracing it. Goosebumps. If Concepcion, my mother, was alive, she would say that it was an experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I would agree without question.
However, I was certain it was beyond that “sacred touch.” It was personal to me and I’d prefer not to give it a name or define its relevance in my life. The sacred is meant to be left alone to our own personal experience and relationship with our Maker.
NEXT I WALKED TO THE EDICULE. It is a small chapel erected in the church’s Rotunda that housed a fragment of stone which was believed to be a part of the tomb of Jesus, where he was buried and resurrected. During our visit, some areas of the church were undergoing repairs and restoration, including this one. A group of 5 people took turns to enter through the door and stayed inside for a minute (or less!) of prayer and touch the tomb. However, a marble plaque was placed on the tomb to protect it from any damage that flocks of pilgrims may cause. Women must cover heads with veil or scarf. Strictly no taking of photos while inside.
I took my turn to touch the tomb. Goosebumps. I prayed for the safety, happiness and good health of all my loved ones and of myself. Okay, okay, I also prayed for material riches and sige na nga, for an eternal young-looking face and bod. <flail> What is wrong about it? Todo na ito, God.
Kidding aside, I sincerely prayed for true peace, an evolved Filipino citizenry, and inspired leadership in my Philippines. Barely done with my prayers, I heard a booming voice speak from out of nowhere. No, it wasn’t God’s. A very grumpy priest came rushing to command us with a wave of his hand: “Keep moving, keep moving, there’s a long line waiting!”
Next I took the long queue to the Altar of the Crucifixion, where the Rock of Calvary is encased in protective glass. A narrow stairway leads up the Hill of Cavalry to a line going to the Rock of Cavalry. It is directly beneath this altar. We waited in line for our turn to touch the site where the cross was erected and Jesus died. I was already feeling like I am floating. No, it’s not from a spiritual experience. It was already 3 PM, way past our lunch and I was soo hungry I could munch my scarf. My group and I gave up on the queue and instead, looked at the Rock of Calvary through the glass cases on either side of the altar.
Earlier in the Old City of Jerusalem, we walked the stations of Via Dolorosa, the processional route which Jesus was believed to have walked on the way to his crucifixion. Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, last five Stations of the Cross (that’s the phrase we Catholic-raised girls knew it was called) or of the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of the Passion of Jesus.
Here at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we traversed through these 5 final Stations of the Cross:
- Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of His garments
- Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross
- Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross.
- Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Read our free walking tour courtesy of Sandeman Tours, traversing Stations of the Cross 1 to 9:
THE VIA DOLOROSA: TRACING THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD OF JESUS’S “WAY OF GRIEF” ON HIS WAY TO CRUCIFIXION