Whenever you go to visit a tomb, your intention is to be in the vicinity of the mortal remains of someone who has passed away. Yet that is what makes the Tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ so very different from any other tomb in the world. You go because you believe He is not there, for He has risen from the underworld to the newness of resurrected life. In seeking a beautifully empty tomb, void of any signs of death and decay, you profess your belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and your own bodily resurrection at the end of all things.
The tomb of Christ as it stands today does not resemble the biblical depiction of a tranquil garden tomb. To the lament of many who long to find the Tomb of Christ in its pristine and original form, what you encounter is a small stone and marble chapel beneath a large dome that draws light into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We are greatly indebted to the builders of the Holy Sepulchre for having the foresight to protect the Tomb of Christ by building the foundations of the church above the Tomb; had they not, it would have been lost and countless pilgrims would have been denied the chance to venerate the site of the Resurrection.
Once you pass through the doors of the Tomb, you enter a small room encased in white marble. This is the spot where the angels appeared to the women of Galilee to testify that Jesus had risen. From there, you must bow down low to enter an inner chamber where you will see an altar above a smooth marble ledge and a majestic, silver icon of the Risen Christ. It is beneath this marble slab that the tomb of Christ resides, protected for all ages, standing as a perpetual witness to the day that sin and death were conquered by the Cross and Resurrection of the Son of God!
The Catholic and Orthodox churches who take care of the Holy Sepulchre have a very regimented schedule to determine when bishops and priests can offer Mass in the Tomb of Christ. For Roman Catholics, Masses take place early in the morning, are limited to 30 minutes in length and any singing is strictly forbidden. Thus to make the most of your time in the Tomb, it is best that a homily be omitted, as the Tomb speaks for itself and teaches you much more about the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ than any homily ever could. All that needed to be said as I stood in the Tomb was, “He is not here, for He has risen, alleluia!”
In my humble opinion, this is the holiest place on earth. It is here that a peace and joy radiate from the most unlikely of places, a tomb, which we so often associate with death and doom. But the Tomb of Jesus is filled with life and beauty to encourage us that to believe in Christ’s Resurrection is not in vain but is our source of hope in the promise of eternal life.