The Holy within the Harried

church of holy sepulchreEach Easter, I recall our trip to the Holy Land, which took place the week after Easter 2008. While scriptures are read and we sing songs about Christ’s resurrection, what springs to mind typically is the Garden Tomb—one of the places in Jerusalem that claims to be where Christ was buried. I blogged last Easter about why that’s the spot I associate with the Easter story.

But this year was different. This Easter, in hearing the familiar verses from the Gospel of Luke, my mind went instead to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the other spot that claims to be the site of Christ’s burial. There we strolled around a large, beautiful church, marveling at colorful mosaics and shiny relics, before settling in a long line to wait our turn to enter a tiny, enclosed altar space that commemorates the location of Christ’s tomb. The space is big enough for only a few people at a time, hence the long line.

What struck me in recalling our visit to that place is not what happened when we reached the altar and knelt before it, but what happened in the long line. What I experienced there was an acute juxtaposition of holy and harried. Most of the people there were with tour groups like our own, groups with places to see and schedules to keep. It’s a tour of the entire Holy Land in just a week to 10 days, after all—no time for delays. As the line crept forward, people began to push a bit, they grew impatient and irritated, they grumbled as they shifted their weight from tired foot to tired foot, and there was some fussing when it appeared folks were trying to cut in line (the last shall be first? I don’t think so).

At the same time, we tried to focus on the somber beauty of the place and remember that here—or somewhere close to here—is where Christ the Lord was buried and then rose again. Behind our group were some older women. From their clothing and language, I’m guessing they were from Eastern Europe somewhere. They seemed oblivious to the crowd. Some bowed their heads, others gazed in awe at their surroundings. And then one woman began to sing a beautiful tune. Again and again, she sang quietly, “Veni Sante Spiritus”—Come, Holy Spirit. The melody cut straight through all of the grumbling and irritation, and my spirit was lifted. Christ again became the center of my experience in that place (as He should have been to begin with).

This has been a stressful year—one of illness, surgery and treatments, unexpected home expenses, costly vet bills, parents struggling with various issues, and less than smooth sailing in raising teenage boys. It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of life and resort to grumbling and shoving. Although there is little I can do to stop the harried pace of life and the challenges that come my way, I can remember that the risen Christ dwells within me. Like the woman in the line, during the waiting, frustration, and jostling in life, I, too, can choose to sing—or cry out—Come, Holy Spirit.

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