The burial tomb of Jesus, out of which He rose from the dead to life, is located in Jerusalem within the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher built by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. A chapel within the basilica houses the tomb where the body of Jesus was laid after His death on the Cross.
Known as the Edicule, this sacred site is visited by pilgrims to the Holy Land, and as such, has recently undergone a much needed restoration. Built in the 12th century, this sacred site was showing signs of significant deterioration as was the marble slab covering the ground on which the corpse of the Lord was buried, according to the Jewish customs of first century Palestine.
This site is an important reminder of what happened to Jesus on that first Easter morn, as found in the testimony of the Scriptures and from the witnesses to the empty tomb. He was seen alive. Risen from the dead. Out of that burial chamber. The resurrected Jesus is as real as was the human Jesus, but His Risen life is a new form of life. That Risen life is shared with us in Baptism and is our hope for eternal life. For life in Christ now and forever. We can say that we have risen with Him; we can sing Alleluia for His Resurrection and for our Rising to New Life in Him.
Many signs of Easter are used to refer to the New Life given to Christ at His Resurrection and shared with us through the Sacraments. The beauty of spring flowers that signal the earth awakening from its winter sleep. Lilies shaped like trumpets blaring the awakening of Jesus Christ from His sleep of death. Eggs whose shells chicks break open, an analogy of Christ breaking out of the confines of His tomb. Bunnies and rabbits, prolific creatures who symbolize the abundance of New Life offered to us by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And of course lambs, for He is the Lamb of God sacrificed on the Cross for our sakes.
Easter speaks to death its word of Life. Easter breaks down tombs erected by sin, hatred, and darkness. Easter overflows with new life into our lives. Easter raises up His Cross but not in ignominy. Rather, as the victorious sign of our Christ and of Christians who share in His victory.
Easter means that life is always possible – the power of God can roll back the stones in our lives. The power that raised Jesus to life. The power that can release us from being trapped by any darkness. As did Mary Magdalen, Peter and John, we too peer into the darkness, whether in our lives or in the world, and see that Christ our Light is Risen and that we can rise with Him. Easter means that we lay aside our burial cloths. We have no need for them. At Baptism we are clothed in Christ. Dressed by God who wraps us in the power of the Resurrection of His Son.
To visit the basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and pray at the restored tomb of the Lord is a special grace. However, the Easter mystery is not confined to that empty tomb. While that site is sacred, our central confession of Christian faith is that Christ is Risen from the dead. He lives.
May you, your families and loved ones be touched by the beauty, the freedom, and the bounty of His resurrection. May He whom no cross could hold nor tomb contain be with you.
May you have a Blessed Easter.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden