10 IX 2012
Today we entered the City of Jerusalem to pray the stations of the cross. We entered through Herod's gate. I most enjoyed walking through the city streets, alley ways, and paths. It was dirty and grimy, but these were the streets that Jesus once walked on, maybe layer upon layer upon layer below, but it was here in this city of Jerusalem that he carried the cross onto his death. As we walked the "Via Dolorosa" (The way of suffering literally, or the way of the cross). I most appreciated that it was in this setting that Jesus was forced to carry his cross, through the market place, through the middle of the city, I noticed the church of the flagelation had a large stone outside of the front of it with a round center and two square wholes on either side... I wonder if it was this stone that Jesus was bound to as he was whipped and mocked. Over and over again I had the image of Jesus being tied up, trapped, helpless, no going back... for example when he was in prison in the cistern, when he was bound and tied, whipped and beaten, and finally when he was bound by nails to the cross.
There was a mosaic on the ceiling in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where they have the large piece of the true cross. The mosaic showed Jesus tied up and on the bottom left was a ram caught in a thorny bush. (like the ram that Isaac found to replace the sacrifice of his son).
After reaching down a dark hole and touching the relic of the cross we proceeded to the place of the empty tomb.
When we finally reached the center of the basilica they have an area that holds the burial stone (bed) that they laid the body of Jesus on. After waiting in line for a half an hour we finally reached it. As we climbed into the back of the grotto and our eyes adjusted to the candlelight there was a stone bed worn, stained with blood, and smooth. This was the final place that Jesus' body would ever lie. I found myself wanting to lie upon it... so I laid my face down and my arms and rested. I had a unexpected sense of peace. Peace... Peace... Peace.... "Peace be with you."
Reflecting back on it I can hear the words of Jesus saying: "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest, take my Yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart." I felt rest, I felt a moment of Surrender which I so long for and yet find it so difficult to do. With that came the sense of "learn from me." It's ok if you suffer, it's ok if you don't get everything that you want, it's ok if you are mistreated, it's ok if you are abadoned, it's ok if you are rejected, it's ok if you are persecuted because you preach what I teach you, it's ok to try and stop manipulating life, and people, and events... come to me, stop wrestling life, stop fighting people, stop trying to make it all your way and learn from me. Be meek and humble of heart... accept it all, everything, everyone, all of it.... and you will find rest. You do not have to fear the cross, you do not have to fear suffering, you do not even have to fear the dark night. My yoke is easy and my burden is light... surrender to me and you will be the good priest that I have created you to be. Let go of your attachments... let go of your idols, Let go of those who disappoint you, let go of those whom you are too dependent on, and I will provide you with the Father's love. I am where you will find rest and this is the only way to peace. You do not, nor should you every think to provide for yourself, take what life gives to you, take it all without trepidition, for you can have this rest.... this peace... this unburdening... that is the freedom that comes with accepting the cross... that is the lightness of my burden.. And when you lay your life down that final time, because I have risen, you too shall rise.
Celebrating the Eucharist was amazing because again the words in the Roman Missal indicated that the mystery is and was here... in this holy place...
HERE, I have risen, and I am with you still, Alleluia.
You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia.
Too wonderful for me, this knowledge, alleluia, alleluia.
"Very early when the sun had risen, on teh first day of the week,
they came to THIS tomb.
"Do not be amazed!
you seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified,
He has been raied, he is not HERE.
behold the place where they laid him.
There was this sense that we are visiting this place that Jesus was... right here in this tomb, on that rock which my hands have touched... but because of the Resurection he is NOT here. What I mean is that Jesus is NOT limited to this place anymore. He is with us wherever we are and wherever we go.
We each came on this pilgrimage with our own struggles, our lives are not perfect, there are people and relationships that are not the way that I would like them to be, but all of it is very providential. There are boulders in my life, in yours, in my spiritual life and yours, in my personal life and yours, and in my priestly life that I of my own accord cannot move... these boulders seem seem so big. But it was here that the women came worried about how they were going to move such a heavy stone because they wanted to see Jesus one last time. They wanted to anoint His body and give him a proper burial after the unproper death He had just endured.
Perhaps there is a heavy stone in your life right now that you can't seem to move. Maybe it seems like you will never be able to move it. But when we least expect it, early in the morning Jesus will remove that boulder. As he did on the Resurrection.
The greatest mystery of our faith happened because Jesus WASN'T there. It was actually in His physical absence, the empty tomb, the bed of stone with no body, that they came to believe in the Resurrection. So it is with us. It often seems in our lives that when God seems absent, when we face what seem to be insurmountable challenges, when we try to remove the boulders in our lives and can't... it is then... after we have exerted all of our enegery, when we have used up every last resource, when we have finally tried moving it ourselves and surrendered, when we have come to the point that we realize we cannot do it on our own... it is then that God, not us, moves the boulder.
Sometimes in our lives all we can do is... give up... give up our own wills, our own desires, our own way.
All we can do is behold the place where they laid him. All we can do is trust and believe in the promise of our faith. In those moments we must stay with the emptiness, stay with the darkness, remain at the empty tomb, lay our heads, our arms and our hearts upon the stone bed and only then will God reveal to us the Resurection. At that moment of mystery, our stones will be rolled away, what seemed impossible becomes possible, our burden's will be made light, our crosses will be acepted, our surrender will be full and without amends, our will will be Yours and not ours. Whatever it is that we struggle with, we don't have to reject it, we don't have to try to get rid of it, we don't even have to remove it or avoid it. We just simply need to surrender, accept the cross, and then and only then will we experience the freedom of this Resurected Life.
Enjoy the pictures!
The tree of Zaccheaus
Archway in Jerusalem.
Hand print of Christ in Agony.
Angel outside the Holy Sepulcher.
Swimming/floating really in the Dead sea
The Burial Stone where Jesus' Body was laid.
Cannon Ball into a pit of mud at the "Dead Sea". Quite possible the first person/priest to do this.
I have to say I felt like a million bucks after this mud bath!
Mosaic of the Ram caught in the thorn bush.
Group Shot on the stairs outside of the Holy Sepulcher.
Icon of Christ Crucified above the relic of the "True Cross."
Celebrating Easter Mass at the Empty Tomb.
The "Pool of Bethesda"
The Garden of Gethsemane.
Entering the Church at the Garden of Gethsemane... "Silence."
The Stone inside the Church that Jesus wept upon and said "Father, not my will but yours."
The Mount of Olives.
Sunset from the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.
Riding a camel.
The moment of Consecration at the Holy Sepulcher.