Easter at the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ rose | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Easter at the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ rose

This year again the announcement of the Resurrection was made in Jerusalem and spread all over the world. The Holy Sepulchre was the first place in the world where the Easter Vigil was celebrated, although in the absence of faithful. Following the pre-Conciliar tradition, maintained by Status Quo, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem presided the liturgy of the Vigil, considered the “mother of all Holy Vigils” at 8 in the morning. Everything started with the rite of the “Lucernarium”, with the lighting of the candles of the Paschal Candle, the fire which symbolizes the Resurrection of Jesus which illuminates the darkness of sin. 

This was followed by seven readings from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament: in them, the Church meditates on the marvels that the Lord has accomplished for his people and trusts in his promise. At the time of the “Gloria,” the bells rang out loudly, as did the music from the organ: the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of the world was announced in front of the empty Sepulchre, the place of the Resurrection. During the celebration there was also the renewal of the baptismal promises, before the aspersion with water, blessed with the immersion of the Paschal Candle.

“My dear brothers and sisters, however strange it may seem, what we are experiencing in these days is the closest to the Easter experience and to the sign, very dear and always powerful, of the Holy Sepulchre of Christ where we are celebrating,” Mos. Pizzaballa said in his homily. This absence of rites, absence of faces, absence of presences, absence of contacts that each of us is living through, due to the restrictions imposed by the health emergency, is causing fear, concern and bewilderment. “Isn’t that how the women felt on that dawn of the first Easter?” the Bishop continued. “Weren’t these the feelings of the disciples after the grief of Good Friday and the silence of the Saturday? Wasn’t their drama similar to what we are going through?” The joy of Easter, however, according to Mons. Pizzaballa, lies exactly in a new ability to look at absence and dialogue with grief. “So here, today, for me, for you, for our Diocese, for the Church and for the world, I would like to ask the Lord for an Easter way of looking, a new vision to better answer He who never stops telling us: Come and see.”

On Sunday, Easter Mass was held in front of the Edicule in the Holy Sepulchre, in the presence of the friars of the community of the Holy Sepulchre and presided by Mons. Pizzaballa. After the Eucharist, the joy of Easter was announced in four different spots, corresponding to the four cardinal points, around the Sepulchre without Christ. This is an important symbol of how the announcement of the Resurrection reaches every corner of the earth. The Word of God was then taken in a solemn procession around the Edicule and the Stone of Unction.

Amongst all the absences that we are experiencing in this time of a pandemic, in his homily  Mons. Pizzaballa mentioned one in particular: the absence of the possibility of celebrating salvation. “Not being able to celebrate salvation, during this Holy Triduum, in this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, has made us even more aware of our fragility and our limits,” the Bishop continued. (...) Yet, in this time of great difficulty and loneliness, perhaps we take the words Martha said to Jesus more as our own: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” (John 11,21). How this loneliness weighs on us, how difficult it is to be guided by Him on these unknown paths! Well, here, facing this empty tomb, we now want to cry out: Lord, you have not abandoned us in the arms of death. The tomb is empty. You are no longer in the tomb, because we know that You Lord are alive and are here, with us. Your love sustains us, lights up our existences and comforts our fragile hopes.”

Mon. Pizzaballa’s homily in the Holy Sepulchre came to an end specifying that faith does not cancel out the dramatic character of existence, but it can open the eyes and the heart to a perspective of salvation, of eternal life and of joy: “This is what we celebrate on Easter Day and is it what we want to celebrate with life. May the wide open tomb of Christ open up wide our tombs as well!”


Beatrice Guarrera