|Tomb of Christ, Church of Holy Sepulchre|
One of the great memories was serving at Mass at the Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is shared by the Latin, Orthodox and Armenian Churches. As such, there is a specific rotation on who is in control of the Tomb and when. The day before we got to Jerusalem, we were told that our group would celebrate a High Mass at the Tomb of Christ at 6:30am. Needless to say I did not sleep very well that night.
Once we got to the Church we were lead to the sacristy where we met with the Franciscan who would act as Master of Ceremonies (MC). Since there were two deacons, I was to be the deacon of the Word. The Mass included our group and the Franciscans who live at the Church. The Liturgy of the Word was completed just outside of the Tomb and the Liturgy of the Eucharist was celebrated on the altar inside of the Tomb over the place where Christ was laid in the Tomb.
The Liturgy of the Word was beautiful and after the proclamation of the Gospel, I glanced over to my wife, who had tears in her eyes. It was a very emotional moment.
Once this was completed, I was told to remain outside of the tomb while the Bishop and my deacon mentor went into the Tomb to prepare for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At that point, I thought that I would remain where I was for the remainder of Mass. However, they soon returned and the MC asked that I incense the clergy and the laity in the congregation. Once that was finished, he asked us to follow him into the Tomb.
Before I knew it, I was inside the Tomb with the Bishop and my deacon mentor (there is really only room for 3 people). Much of the liturgy now is a bit fuzzy because I was so overwhelmed by where I was and what I was experiencing. To be present at the consecration immediately above where Jesus laid and where the resurrection occurred was beyond belief. During communion, the Bishop left to distribute to those outside the Tomb so my deacon mentor and I were left alone in the Tomb. It was a wonderful 5 minutes of relishing the experience.
Soon, we were back outside of the Tomb for the conclusion of Mass.
This experience, of course, was one of the high points of our trip. I am still amazed that it happened.