My dear friends,
We are before the tomb of Jesus, the place where on the evening of Good Friday His lifeless body was laid. Here we are now inside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and there before us is the great Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
When Jesus was condemned to death we were outside the walls, and nearby was the hill of the skull, Calvary, where those condemned to death were executed and where Jesus too, was also crucified. Descending from the rock of Calvary, a cultivated space opens, a small garden in which perhaps grew olive trees, some lemons, some vines and some almond trees. Right at the edge of the garden there was the stone quarry, now abandoned and used for burial. This is the place where we are and where Joseph of Arimathea had bought a new tomb for himself.
Here the body of Jesus was laid, anointed and bandaged in haste, wrapped in a new shroud, with a cloth covering His face.
When night came, all activities had to be suspended, because it was the Sabbath-Saturday. Another night would have to pass before they could come back here to weep and complete the burial procedures.
Coming to visit this empty tomb and pausing here in prayer, I have asked myself several times: what happened on the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday? How did the Resurrection of Jesus, which is the foundation of our faith and hope, come about?
I imagine the darkest hour of the night and the instant when darkness is wounded by the first ray of sunshine that appears in the distance, on the horizon. I imagine the quietest and coldest hour of the night, when even the breath of a child is perceptible, and the dew settles on the grass and trees. And I imagine that in an instant everything changes. It's like lightning! The bandages that bound Jesus' body suddenly fade away. The sheet that was wrapped around Him lays on the stone, suddenly emptied of its contents. And the shroud remains there, as though left abandoned to remind us that it covered His face. In that moment of light there is the beginning of a new creation, a new world and a new humanity. In that moment of light, the body of the risen Jesus carries forever in God a fragment and a seed of new humanity.
Being here, I perceive in a mysterious way that that light also envelops me and that now my life and my flesh is also renewed. I perceive that this tomb is the door to life because here Jesus entered the abyss of death and transformed it into the passage to life in God.
I know that the world in which we live still seems overwhelmed by the power of evil, violence, hatred and death. I see it in wars and injustices, in economic inequalities and in the cynicism of indifference in the face of natural disasters, which continue to cause death and despair. I see it in the ideologies that justify discrimination, the brutal use of violence, the cancellation of the dignity of the human person, the extermination of entire peoples. I see it in the hatred that continues to be sown with both hands in the furrows of history and of our humanity, even here in the Holy Land. Yet in that flash of light that marks the passage from the night of the world to a new world, I see that all this is already won. I feel hope reborn in my heart, a hope stronger than any evidence that could ever be offered to the contrary. A hope stronger than the raw experience of evil.
Happy Easter from Jerusalem! May the Risen Lord bring hope to each and every one of you, and illuminate any night that may darken your heart. May He enable you to become sowers of faith and hope for the future.
The Lord is truly risen!
fr. Francesco Patton
Custos of the Holy Land