On this Holy Saturday, we are not at the Holy Sepulcher but at Basilica of the Resurrection. As the dawn was barely breaking, there were many pilgrims waiting for the Easter Vigil.
The Franciscans led by the Custodial Vicar, Fr. Dobromir Jazstal, accompanied the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem to the Holy Sepulcher from the Patriarchate. In an almost empty Basilica and among a rare tranquility, the Franciscans, seminarians and Knights of the Holy Sepulcher took their places around the Tomb, before which the altar had been erected.
At the entrance of the basilica, before the stone of annointing, the celebration began with the blessing of the fire, which was used to light the candles of the Tomb, as well as a new Paschal candle. After the Exultet, the readings followed.
Florian, 28, experienced his first Holy Week in Jerusalem. “It’s wonderful to be here for Holy Week at the places of the Gospel,” he said, while sitting in one of the last niches of the shrine illuminated by the Coptic chapel. “I am discerning my vocation, and I must say that in a monastery, it would have been much quieter to re-experience the resurrection of Christ, but would that be comparable to what I saw here today on the site of the resurrection?”
As the celebration progressed, groups of pilgrims and tourists began arriving at the Basilica. They left a sign of their passage by lighting softly glowing candles around the Tomb.
After the readings, the singing of the Gloria filled the dome and its vaults. Before the empty Tomb, the patriarch proclaimed the Gospel of the Resurrection, at the same place of resurrection.
For Br. Clovis, the resurrection is a hope for a better future, without violence, a world with the benefit of peace and love. “The presence of Christians around the empty Tomb is a true sign of unity and hope.” Directly behind the friars, pilgrims wished each other a happy Easter, announcing: “Christ is Risen!”
In the evening, the parish of Jerusalem and many religious communities in the city and throughout the Holy Land will take part in the joy of Easter and say: “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!”
The early morning celebration on Saturday morning may be a surprise to some. Especially, since it takes away from the silence of Holy Saturday. This schedule reflects the rules for sharing the holy places with other churches.
Especially this year, on the second Sunday of Lent for the Orthodox denominations, there will be celebrations taking place at the same place with solemn entries. In fact, the calculation for the date of Easter in 2016 has the greatest possible gap: five weeks.
In any case, it has been Easter every day at the Holy Sepulcher since Christ was risen.