A first topographical visit to the Holy Sepulcher
“What are your expectations of this Holy Place before going in for the first time?”, was the question asked to our brother Albert Leibor, sdb, a first-year theology student from Tanzania. His answer is what most of us could have said when we know we´re about to encounter something new, “Everything is better learned when you experience it by yourself, when you see holiness with your own eyes. We all have different ways of burying the death. I want to see how they buried Jesus.” This phrase could summarize the beginning of a path where our knowledge and faith is just about to encounter the divinity.
As it is tradition in the Ratisbonne Monastery, we, the first-year students, began the 4-year studies with a visit to the most well-known place in the Old City, in the mystical and spiritual Jerusalem of old. On 14th September 2023, the 19 new students to this study house, accompanied by our teacher, Father Yunus Demirci OFM, some Salesian priests and a religious sister, experienced a guided visit to one of the most important religious and touristic destinations of the Old City of Jerusalem: The Holy Sepulcher of Jesus Christ.
Everything started with a historic and topographical introduction to the place our feet were just about to step on. Father´s experience and explanation made us imagine the immensity of such place followed by immediately taking us at 11 am to the Jaffa Gate where he enlightened us about the importance of the main road (St Elena´s), the Christian quarter of the city, to reach the treasure waiting for us. Following the safe steps of the guide, we reached the entrance to the immense Basilica that safeguards the jewel of the Christian Faith (and many other religions): the place where the Messiah´s body lay for three days and later left after his Resurrection. The explanation of what we were about to encounter was made for us to answer all the possible questions we could have: how, where, when, who… followed right away by a flabbergasted and amazed group of neo visitors willing to find these answers in the remains of a real structure of Jesus’ human form.
The visit to the Basilica was as follows: the Stone of Anointment, Golgotha (touching of the cross) in the Latin side of the temple, the Church of Adam, the Armenian Side of the temple, Jesus’ tomb, the Syriac Chapel and Jose of Arimathea´s tomb, the Catholic chapel inside the Basilica and Jesus’ temporary prison. Each place was accompanied by a description by authority and a better religious understanding of each place visited with the clarification that this all is kept alive thanks to the written and pilgrim tradition and love for the importance of the center of our religion. Unfortunately, not all the places were available for the visit but the four years to come are enough to return to the place where the promise was fulfilled, the place that millions of people desire to visit and that we can encounter with all our senses. How blessed are we?
“My expectations were false. From father Yunus’ explanation I can see that through generations there is not a definitely place, that we always want something real to believe but all we need is faith that it happened. There is no need to have the exact facts, and, for that, faith is necessary.” Brother Albert said after the visit. The promise of understanding the mystery better through our theological studies has started well and, and from now on, is well assured.
– Cristian Adolfo López SDB
March 1, 2022