With Easter just around the corner, I am reflecting on all the many blessings that we have been given. And at the same time, this year I approach the Cross with a sense of heaviness. My heart is burdened by the ongoing conflict in Syria, by the needless suffering at the hands of human greed. I am praying for justice and compassion to prevail and be present in the decision making of our world leaders. I am praying for peace. I am convinced, more than ever, that we must welcome refugees fleeing the violence. That we must be a safe haven for the innocents and that we are more alike than we may originally have thought.
And through these uncertain times, I am unendingly grateful for Jesus, for the hope that even in our darkest days, love wins always.
So as we look ahead to Easter, I am looking back to our time in Israel last year. One of my favourite moments of the whole journey was the day we spent at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Old Jerusalem. Built in 335 AD, this church is easily one of the most important landmarks for the Christian faith as according to traditions dating back to the fourth century this church is built upon the place where Jesus was crucified and also contains the place where Jesus was laid to rest..in a tomb that is now empty.
The first thing that I noticed upon entering the beautiful site was the strong wave of incense that I was welcomed by from within the church’s doors. Centuries of worshippers and pilgrims alike have left the fragrance of their devotion still lingering through the stations and halls of this great church.
My heart beat so fast as I walked up the tall, narrow stone steps towards the hill known as Golgotha or Calvary…the place where Jesus was crucified. Since I was a young girl I had often imagined what this place might be like and now, I was about to see it with my own eyes.
An elaborately decorated golden altar brilliantly displays the place where the Cross was resurrected. No matter what your personal beliefs, the environment is breathtaking. Everyone who I have ever spoken to that has visited this place, describes the experience as truly next level as there really is a sacred aura emulating from this place.
My photos from this time, or any photos ever taken, will never do this place justice. It is an experience that must be felt to be seen. When I stood before the place of the Cross, I could feel my knees weaken and my body pulled down to the floor. I had to kneel. I know that it sounds dramatic but in that moment it was the only thing that felt right.
And I will forever be moved by the boldness of little Chayton, only a year and a half old, walking boldly up to the foot of the Cross, as close as he possibly could go. I can only imagine that this made the heart of Jesus smile, as He longs to draw us all near.
My favourite memory of all was when we had a solo moment at the Stone of Anointing, where they believe His body was laid down and prepared for burial. The rich smell of frankincense and other oils radiated from the giant stone before us and in between large groups of visiting pilgrims, Chayton and I had a quiet moment alone to pray and reflect upon the special meaning of this place.
Because ultimately, as strikingly beautiful as this ancient architectural structure is, it is not its location which makes it important. This may or may not even be the exact location where all these historic events took place. And in some ways, it doesn’t really matter at all. Because the bottom line is that the tomb is empty, the stone was rolled away and Jesus rose again.
So that is what I am meditating on this Easter weekend, love always wins. You can’t hold it down, you can’t stop it.
Love always wins.
Happy Easter, friends.