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Living God's Love...

.is an invitation to journey

It's an opportunity to discover new things about God, ourselves and the world, to look with fresh eyes and explore new ways.

In particular, it is a call to the parishes, schools and people of the Diocese of St Albans to Go Deeper into God,Transform Communities and Make New Disciples.

Click here for current Mission Action Plan (MAP)

`There was a garden in the place where he was crucified...''

When we read the Bible in Holy Week we will be accompanying Jesus on the last hours of his earthly life: his sudden and violent arrest in Jerusalem, the hostile crowd, questioning by the High Priest and by Pilate, his flogging and his crucifixion on the mound of Calvary. And then, suddenly, we will be back in a garden. This garden was in the place where Jesus was crucified and in it was a new tomb. It happened to be close by and available. It was a brand new tomb. It had never been used before.

Burials then were quite different to the way we do them now. The tomb would be a cave hollowed out in the rock. It would have been big enough for two or more people to walk in, though the doorway would be quite small, probably about four feet high. Then there would be ledges on either side. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, at considerable personal risk, wrapped Jesus' body in cloths and spices, according to Jewish custom, and laid him in the tomb. They were concerned to bury Jesus before the special (Passover) Sabbath and they brought his body to the tomb just before nightfall when the Sabbath would begin.

The site of the crucifixion and of the tomb, kept alive by tradition since the earliest Christians, was revealed by excavations in the 4th century. A basilica was built, covering both the rocky mound and the cave. When I visited the Church (basilica) of the Holy Sepulchre in May last year, it was hard at first to connect it with the place where Jesus was laid to rest. It was hot and crowded and we were jostled by other pilgrims and tourists as we made our way to the 19th century shrine, called the Edicule, which houses the tomb.

Later that afternoon, we visited the Garden Tomb just outside the Damascus Gate. This complete tomb from the time of Christ is approached through a lovingly tended garden. It is more in keeping with the hymn which recalls a green hill outside the City wall and some prefer it as a more evocative place to meditate on Good Friday and Easter.

While we were sitting near the tomb and recalling the events of Holy Week, we found ourselves competing with the Muslim call to prayer. We stopped and listened, suddenly reminded of the importance of Jerusalem to residents and pilgrims of three faiths: Jews, Christians and Muslims.

At  6am on Sunday morning, a small group of us returned through the almost empty streets of the covered markets to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The atmosphere was completely different. There was a sense of peace and holiness as we joined a communion service taking place in front of the Edicule. The two main traditions in the church are not able to agree a common service timetable, however, so that the Orthodox chant can suddenly be drowned out by the organ playing for the Catholic service.

But for all Christians present, whatever their language and tradition, the communion service is both a reminder and a celebration. We remember Jesus' death upon the cross and we celebrate his resurrection. Early on that first Easter Day, the disciples discovered that the tomb was empty. Only the linen cloths were lying there and curiously, the cloth that had been around Jesus head, was lying in a place by itself.

Five months before our pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was unsealed for the first time in 500 years. The discovery of a marble slab engraved with a 12th century Crusader cross convinced archaeologists that the spot really was the same tomb the Emperor Constantine recovered in AD 325. The beautifully inscribed cross was evidence of the continuity of the tradition.

Our guide told us that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is called the Church of the Resurrection by Orthodox Christians. That seemed very apt as, on that Sunday morning, we stepped out into the Jerusalem sunshine.

Details of our services in Holy Week and Easter mav be found in the Calendar to be found towards the back of Church and Town. We invite you to join us and the other Christian churches then; and we wish you a very Happy Easter.

Signature Frances Arnold

Details of the dates are in the calendar of events ("This Week") here on the website and in Church & Town. If you would like to know more about what is available for children or adults at Great Mary's, then do please contact us. Our contact details are HERE.