The church of the Holy Sepulcher is perhaps the most complex space you can ever imagine. Housed under its roof are at least 6 separate churches/spaces of worship. The hill of Calvary with its two separate altars; the stone of anointing with its perfumed oil lamps; the tomb of Jesus with two separate ‘churches’ in front of it, and finally, deep below, the burial chapel of St. Helena, wife of Emperor Constantine, and finder of the true cross – are all literally within a stone’s throw or two of each other.
Of my many memories of that place, one that comes to the fore is the quiet, reverential ‘buzz’, especially in front of the hill of Calvary. There was no ‘sign’ to tell people that this was a place of prayer, yet you knew it to be so. And the most striking part of that ‘buzz’ was the many languages that created it. German. Italian. Hebrew. English. Asian. Korean. And those were just the 10 or so people to whom I was standing the closest. And in a little moment of grace, I understood something in a visceral way.
The cross belongs to everyone.
Before the stark sacrifice of our Lord upon the hill of Calvary, we are all equal, all debtors, all supplicants, all sinners in need of His mercy and forgiveness. And we are all recipients of that same universal love that wants to connect all believers and bond them into one as a gift to the Father. This love that we all know in the sacrifice of Jesus calls us to treat each brother and sister as equal, as co-debtors and co-owners of the mystery of the heart that was pierced so that we could be free.
Of the many things to pray for during this Holy Week as we recall the great events that led to our salvation, perhaps this year might find us humbly kneeling in supplication for the same, all inclusive heart and love that filled our Savior on the Cross. As his love cut across all boundaries of race, class and nation, so may ours. As his sacrifice, symbolized by his outstretched arms, embraced all of humanity, might ours reach out to embrace our wounded families, our broken relationships, and our fractured neighborhoods – that the power of his cross and resurrection might indeed redeem the world.