I shared earlier about my experience at Calvary, within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I wanted to write the rest of the experience, but the blog post was growing long, and I know people don’t keep reading after a certain point. We live in a world of brevity. This is a good time for poetry, a time when just a few words can say everything.
When I made it down the stairs, I found myself among people. Our bishop was there, examining a mural on the wall. Someone was telling about the bones of Adam, the theory that Christ was crucified over the burial place of Adam. That’s an image that would normally appeal to my poet’s mind, but I was distraught. My body felt both loose and tight. I wanted to cry but I was also finished crying. I wanted to run away, but I didn’t want to close off the experience.
I am prone to treating the mystical side of Christ like a book. I want to read for a bit and then close the cover.
In this case, I followed other pilgrims to the stone slab said to be the place Jesus would have been laid when removed from the cross. I knelt beside it, kissed the cold rock, and then stood back up. My brain was desperately trying to process what had happened upstairs. I simply could not also process the feel of death on my lips, the cold breath of ghosts, the perfume left behind by oils and incense and human hands for centuries.
Corey guided me through the church to the place where the tomb was kept. Over the years, it has been chipped away by those who did not want it to exist and by those who wanted a piece of the miracle for themselves. A room has been built around what’s left of this rock cave.
We circled it, a breathing mass of people, all languages buzzing around me, another man from our group sobbing nearby. I wanted to tell him, “I know. Me too,” but I had no words. I watched someone else go to him. I turned and looked ahead.
I know Corey must have talked to me.
I know other people talked around and over me.
I know my feet moved a few inches at a time.
I found myself on the other side of the tomb, nearing the front, like I was in the world’s slowest whirlpool, being sucked into the epicenter.
Again, my brain rebelled.
How do you comprehend the tomb when you’re only an hour past the cross?
No wonder Jesus stayed dead three days.
Mourning had to happen.
If there is no mourning, how can joy come?
Without mourning, what is morning?
I reached for the book in my purse. Throughout our journey, I read from a collection of Rumi, The Glance, translated by Coleman Barks. The Middle East seemed the perfect place to read Rumi, and the slim volume slid so perfectly into my travel bag.
I opened the book to where I’d left off.
I did not flip through to find the perfect poem, and I had not read ahead to know what came next.
The poem was titled, “What’s Not Here.”
My knees went weak.
I looked at the tomb.
I looked at my husband.
I found out I still had tears to cry.
To Corey, I read the first line:
I start out on this road, call it Love or emptiness, I only know what’s not here:
I wanted to show everyone there.
I wanted to shout it.
HE IS NOT HERE!
And that… that emptiness,
or call it love,
that’s what matters.
That’s all that matters.