Empty Tomb = Heaven in a Tabernacle

By Chris Sparks

“Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised” (Lk 24:5-6)

The reason why anyone visits the Holy Sepulcher at all is that it’s empty.

Most other graves attract crowds because a famous person is buried there. We go to honor past presidents, generals, or other leaders or heroes. We mark the graves of saints with shrines and memorials. We care about the final resting places of our loved ones, ensuring they’ll have fresh flowers, well-tended grass, and beautiful headstones.

But the point of going on pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (above) is to see an empty tomb.

A great blessing
I just got back from the Holy Land a couple of weeks ago. I’d gone from Divine Mercy Weekend to Israel with little time in between, setting out on a great adventure with my pastor, fellow parishioners, and brothers and sisters in Christ from a parish in New York. It was one of the great blessings of my life.

We got to celebrate Mass each day at significant shrines and churches marking crucial moments from the Gospels, culminating with Mass in Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulcher itself. For those of you unaware, the Holy Sepulcher is the very spot of the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where Jesus was buried after the Crucifixion.  My pastor joined his fellow concelebrants in consecrating the Eucharist on the stone of the tomb itself. 

Within the same enormous church is also Calvary, Golgotha, the place where our Lord was crucified. I hadn’t ever appreciated fully what St. John tells us in his Gospel: “Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by” (Jn 19:41-42). And yet there it all was, all within a couple connected rooms.

It was amazing to witness the sheer number of pilgrims from an array of Christian churches, denominations, or ecclesial communities from all across the world who flowed through the church (below), coming to honor our Lord, to touch and pray at the sites of the great core mysteries of our salvation, and to remember that our faith is based in history, not in legend or myth. There are churches at the sites of the main events of the Gospels, centuries old. 

Jesus is present
And one of the most remarkable things for me was the frequency with which those churches and shrines had a tabernacle inside them, and a candle lit before it. Jesus was present there in those tabernacles, in those same places He had walked among us, where He had preached, and healed, and done His work. 

Jesus is at His family home in the tabernacle still, and at Peter’s house where He healed his mother-in-law, and at Magdala, hometown of Mary Magdalene, and in the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus at Bethany. Jesus is in the tabernacle at the great churches and shrines, the Holy Sites in the Holy Land, still there, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Indeed, He’s still there as He is present in our parishes and shrines here at home. Every altar is Calvary, and every tabernacle is God’s home. Our parishes are made holy land just as Israel was made Holy Land by God’s physical presence. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). He has ascended into Heaven, and yet He is with us now, even now, at every consecration, in every tabernacle, all across the world.

Tabernacles are full
The Holy Sepulcher is significant because it is empty. Because it is empty, the tabernacles are full.

And our tabernacles are not merely full with a symbol; “It is the Lord” (see Jn 21:7).

Saint Faustina knew that, and had a deep and abiding Eucharistic spirituality. She wrote:

Every morning during meditation, I prepare myself for the whole day’s struggle. Holy Communion assures me that I will win the victory; and so it is. I fear the day when I do not receive Holy Communion. This Bread of the Strong gives me all the strength I need to carry on my mission and the courage to do whatever the Lord asks of me. The courage and strength that are in me are not of me, but of Him who lives in me — it is the Eucharist.

O my Jesus, the misunderstandings are so great; sometimes, were it not for the Eucharist, I would not have the courage to go any further along the way You have marked out for me (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 91).

She is a model of the Eucharistic amazement that St. John Paul II said we all should have, the sense of the miracle and the gift that is the Most Blessed Sacrament, a scandal and a stumbling block to people in Jesus’ time no less than our own (see Jn 6:66).

Faith is a gift
So pray for me and my fellow pilgrims, so that we may be faithful to the graces of our pilgrimage in our lives back at home. Pray for all those who’ve lost their faith, lost their way, or don’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Faith is a gift, after all, and unless the grace is given, our neighbors will not believe. And pray for our whole world, on pilgrimage today, whether we are aware of it or not, on the road home, or to hell, and badly in need of the Divine Mercy (see Diary, 153).

Chris Sparks serves as Senior Editor/Writer for the Association of Marian Helpers.

Photos: Robert Bye (Jerusalem) and David Rodrigo (Holy Sepulcher) on Unsplash


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