It was my third time there. I was, quite simply, overwhelmed my first time there in 1984. Last time I was better prepared but it is still a kind of "holy chaos." One does not have a quiet reflective moment there. In preparation for our visit today, one of our guides shared a quote that I find sums up my own feelings, from the late Jerome Murphy-O-Connor, OP. Here is what he has to say:
One expects the central shrine of Christendom to stand out in majestic isolation, but anonymous buildings cling to it like barnacles. One looks for numinous light but it is dark and cramped. One hopes for peace, but the ear is assailed by a cacophony of warring chants. One desires holiness, only to encounter a jealous possessiveness: the six groups of occupants - Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians - watch one another suspiciously for any infringement of rights. The frailty of humanity is nowhere more apparent than here; it epitomizes the human condition. The empty who come to be filled will leave desolate; those who permit the church to question them may begin to understand why hundreds of thousands thought it worthwhile to risk death or slavery in order to pray here. Is this the place where Christ died and was buried? Very probably, Yes.So with those words, let me simply share some images, and leave it at that. Those who have been here before will be reminded of their experience; those who have not been may get a glimpse.