The experience of the Holy Sepulchre engenders love of Jesus

“If today we can visit, see, and touch the Empty Tomb, we owe it those who for centuries have made it possible,” explained the Custos of the Holy Land, Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, in the homily he delivered in front of the Aedicule at the heart of the rotunda of the Basilica of the Resurrection.

On Monday, July fifteenth, the Franciscans of the Custody commemorated the dedication of the Crusader basilica. The dedication of the Constantinian basilica (built in the fourth century) is celebrated on September fourteenth, as the Custos also explained. But our presence here, he emphasized, is not due to the Byzantines nor to the Crusaders, but to the lovers of Christ who wanted to have the same experience as the holy women and the apostles. What these Christians have wanted throughout the centuries, he continued, is to share the experience of the Empty Tomb. The Custos recalled the role of Saint Francis himself who obtained for his friars the right to come and live quietly in the Holy Land, which opened to them the path to Jerusalem and the holy places.

That is the reason that the liturgy booklet for the celebration does not feature a picture of the basilica on the cover, but an image of the meeting between the Little Poor Man of Assisi and the sultan, that meeting that enabled the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land.

Later appointed the guardians of the holy places, the Franciscans (and not only them) have not simply maintained the buildings but chose to live out the testimony of these holy places and of witness of the Holy Sepulchre: pardon, reconciliation and the desire for unity.

In a basilica that was still quiet in those early morning hours, the mass was recollected and the celebration projected serene joy. The prayer of the community assembled around the Empty Tomb evoked the residents of the Holy Land, but also pilgrims and everyone who would like to be able to come here.

May everyone have a wonderful summer.

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