A Sacred Place -- By: Sorina Kulberg

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 14:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: A Sacred Place
Author: Sorina Kulberg

A Sacred Place

Sorina Kulberg

A shaft of white light illuminates the hazy, heavy air in the dusky sanctuary. Little motes glint in the sunbeam. It is good to sit still in this holy place. Here in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (a long tradition and many Biblical historians and archaeologists claim) was Calvary. Here, on this mount, Jesus’ hands and feet were nailed to a cross, and He died. Here, on this very rock, His cold body was laid. Here, where I now sit cross-legged on the cool floor. He rose to new life! Christians have come here for centuries—the First Apostles, Queen Helena and her son Constantine, the crusaders, modern tourist—seeking to be closer to God. I breathe deeply the incense-laden air. Without prelude, the air swells with the sonorous voice of a powerful pipe organ. A dozen quiet priests file in to stand in a brown-robed row and chant. Music flows and rises, blending into a heavenly chorus. Chords from the organ, the ancient monophony of the priests, the tangy smoke, and the glittering light roll through my body, bringing climatic joy.

To us who believe the events recounted in the Bible are historically accurate, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is sacred. However, it is not proven beyond question that this is the historical site of Calvary. Some scholars point to the Garden Tomb or the Mount of Olives. The Garden Tomb has the advantage of position (just outside the walls) and poetic appeal (lush flowers, preservation of first-century aesthetics, and looming skull-faced rock).

The Mount of Olives claims a good view of the Temple and has long been a site for burial. If the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is not the actual place where Christ died, does this render my experience (and that of thousands of other Christians) irrelevant? No, it does not. Christ’s walking on the dirt and rocks of Israel did not cause any mystical power to cling to them. The true meaning of a place with religious significance is revealed in a worshiper’s response.

When I was in the Church that commemorates Christ’s suffering and glory, my emotions and thoughts intensified and focused. During normal, daily life at home in America, I often pray to God and try to think about Jesus. While taking communion, I strive to imagine Christ on the cross and understand His sacrifice. But I easily get distracted; my mind wanders. In the church over Golgotha, my brain was forced to concentrate. As some congregations kneel to pray, raise hands in praise, or stand to read Scripture, so I go to a physical place for embodied worship. Pilgrimage can have the same result on a worshiper as liturgy and ritual focus. When I am in a holy place, I find my thoughts and emotions strongly tending towards God and His attributes as revealed in the events that occu...

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