Praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: My Experience

Praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: My Experience

Despite temperatures touching 90 degrees, prayers don’t stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of the old city. It is hard to believe that these modest walls house the site where Christianity’s four most important events — the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are said to have occurred.

What is Significant about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

The Gospels tell us that the Lord, Jesus, was crucified at Golgotha – the place of the skull. The current complex encompasses that original location. One cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the scope of history and faith that surrounds the courtyard. Wars have been fought and tales of honor among the vanquished abound.

Who Worships at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

Today, the joint ownership of the Church lies mainly with the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, and the Roman Catholic denominations.

The outer walls of the Church display signs of classic Roman and Baroque architecture. However, parts of the structure have been razed and rebuilt several times. The entrance to the complex can be accessed via a flight of stairs leading up from the‘Cardo’ — the main street of Jerusalem.

Who Holds the Keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

Interestingly, the keys to the Church have traditionally been kept by a Sunni Muslim family since the time of Emperor Saladin. The story goes that the Caliph Umar took possession of the Church peacefully from the Roman patriarch Sophronius on the condition that the houses of worship in Jerusalem would not be harmed. To fulfill these conditions, the Caliph entrusted the keys to a loyal Muslim household called ‘Nussaiba’. When Emperor Saladin re-conquered the city from the Crusaders, he honored Caliph Umar’s arrangement by engaging another Muslim family called ‘Al-Goudia’.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

At the entrance to the Church building, there is usually a long line of pilgrims waiting to be admitted. A series of steps lead up to the Hill of Calvary, where lie two chapels. The lavishly decorated one on the left is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. The chapel to the right marks the spot where Jesus was nailed to the Cross. The Rock of Calvary, from the abandoned quarry that existed in Jesus’ time, is now encased in glass beneath the altar, with an opening through which you can touch the old limestone. You can even see a fissure in the rock which is consistent with the story that the earth cracked open upon Jesus’ death as mentioned in the New Testament.

The two chapels correspond to the Eleventh and Twelfth Stations of the Cross or the Via Dolorosa. The Tenth Station, where Jesus is stripped of his garments, also occurred on Calvary. As one watches these divine relics, the Apostle’s Creed comes instinctively to mind:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate; Was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into Hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen.“

From the Chapel of the Crucifixion, you can move on to the Stone of Anointing, now covered with a building and lined with ornate candlesticks and frescoes. This is the place where Jesus’ body was laid down and prepared for burial.

If you wish you can visit the immaculate Iconostasis – the link between heaven and the holy place. The Armenian Station of the Holy Women is commemorated by a circular slab with four pillars supporting a marble roof. From here, Mary and the women of Jerusalem are said to have watched the Crucifixion.

The Real Tomb of Jesus Christ

Going past the Station of the Holy Women, you reach the Rotunda, which houses the Tomb of Christ under a massive dome. Archaeologically, this site has been confirmed to be either the actual site of Jesus’ tomb or very close to it because a real tomb existed at the current spot. This area is flanked by barricades where Christian faithful the world over can come and pray for all kinds of miracles. For this is the site of the greatest miracle of all – Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from death — a signifier of forgiveness for mankind’s sins. This site is universally accepted as being the holiest site in Christianity and praying here is an experience Christians should simply not miss.

You can volunteer to pray overnight at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre even as you learn to wait for mass offerings in three different traditions. The doors close by 9 pm at the latest and only open at 4 in the morning. As the Franciscan priests put it, praying at the Holy Sepulchre Church can be painful but very spiritually rewarding afterward.

If by any chance, you are unable to make it to this holiest of holy sites in your lifetime, The Salvation Garden praying community can send a delegation here to pray on your behalf. We will send you photographs and videos of your prayer being recited should you so choose, for a small donation. These donations go toward travel and other logistics to make the trip possible and are only a fraction of the cost it would take for you to perform the journey on your own. Send a prayer request to the Holy Sepulchre Church today.

Praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Know Someone Sick? Maybe A Prayer Can Help​

Know Someone Sick? Maybe A Prayer Can Help​

If you have a family member or a dear friend who has a chronic ailment or suffering silently and showing signs of mental illness or trauma, you start wondering how to reach out to the person. The person might have access to the best medical remedies available yet show no remarkable signs of improvement. In such trying circumstances, turning to the Supreme Being strengthens our heart and gives us the courage to soldier on and deal with our situation. Although you pray for your loved one with faith and sincerity, sometimes you wish to go the extra mile and receive His divine touch for spiritual, emotional or physical healing. An online prayer request to the Holy Land can go a long way to soothe frayed nerves and relieve pain and suffering. Read on to know more about the holy sites where you can send a prayer request.

The Holy Sepulchre Entrance

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This church, also known as the Church of the Anastasis or the Church of the Resurrection, is located within the Old City of Jerusalem. The holy site is significant as it is believed to be the site where Christ was crucified; it also houses Christ’s empty tomb. In 325 AD, Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, built the church; Constantine’s mother Helena discovered the “True Cross”. It is widely believed that the Stone of Anointing marks the spot where Joseph of Arimathea prepared Christ’s body for burial. The main altar contains the Rock of Calvary; it is the most visited spot in the church. Traditionally, the Calvary is believed to be the site of Christ’s crucifixion. If you are unable to travel to the holy site, you can send an online prayer request to receive the healing touch of the Almighty.

Send your prayer to the

The Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

The Golgotha or “the place of the skull” is believed to be the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Further excavations have revealed religious markings (signs of Christian Burials) dating back to the days of Christ. An anchor-cross on the outside wall and a cross carved into the rock face above the tomb were discovered. Two painted crosses were found inside the tomb with Byzantine markings dating back to the 5th or 6th centuries; the crosses were accompanied by Greek letters which referred to Christ as the Alpha and Omega. You can send a prayer request and let His holy touch deliver you from your physical and mental pain.

Send your prayer to the Garden Tomb

Church of All Nations

There are olive trees dating back hundreds of years at this holy site; popular belief suggests that these trees stood witness when Christ prayed in mortal pain on the eve of his Passion. Hence the Church of All Nations is also known as the Basilica of the Agony. The tympanum is decorated with a modern mosaic; it represents the bond between Christ and Mankind. The lunette in the apse features a mosaic depicting Christ in agony being comforted by an Angel. The side apses have mosaic representations of incidents of Christ’s Passion like the Arrest of Jesus and the Kiss of Judas. You can send an online prayer request to seek divine blessings in your hour of pain.

Send your prayer to Church of All Nations​

Abbey of the Dormition

This German Byzantine monastic church is situated on top of Mount Zion. It is said to be the site of the Virgin Mary’s “dormition” or“falling asleep” and ascension to heaven. The dome, floor, and walls are decorated with mosaics depicting the Prophets and Apostles. Above the main altar, the apse features a golden Byzantine-style mosaic portraying the Madonna and Child from 1939. The crypt contains an ivory sculpture of the resting Virgin Mary. You can send a prayer request to this holy site to gain relief from your pain and anguish.

Send your prayer to Abbey of the Dormition

St. Peter’s Church

This church faces the West, as opposed to most other churches, which face East. The site where the Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter is situated has been revered as a Christian center for more than a thousand years. A church and an inn for pilgrims were constructed here in the 16th century, probably on the ruins of another church. The construction of the present church was finished in 1894. There is a wooden pulpit inside the church carved in the form of a fruiting tree. The arms of Christ and Francis are crossed over the Tau Cross. Below the Franciscan Cross is the cross of the Holy Land, a Greek cross in red with a white background and four similar crosses, one in each quadrant; it is also known as the “Jerusalem Cross”. In Aramaic, Peter’s name is referred to as Cepha, the word for “rock”; legend goes that Christ had told St. Peter at Banias that he is the “rock” upon which his church would be built. When this church was built, the cross was fastened upon a rock brought from Banias. You can send a prayer to receive the much-needed balm for your aching mind and body.

Send your prayer to St. Peter’s Church