A Greek Priest.
A Syrian Bishop.
In another part of the church is the Chapel of the Crucifixion, where one beholds what is alleged to be the very Rock of Calvary. In this is shown (at present bordered by a rim of gold) the rent made in its surface by the earthquake that occurred at the time of the Crucifixion. Nay, more than this, one can look down into the very hole in which the Cross is said to have been placed!
. Not far from here we saw the chapel said to contain the grave of our first parent, Adam. Every reader will recall the tear which Mark Twain here dropped in memory of our common ancestor; and to a rational mind nothing could seem more absurd than locating the grave of Adam near the site of Calvary. But we must bear in mind that, to a large proportion of mankind, only "seeing is believing." For fifteen hundred years the majority of pilgrims to the Holy Land, coming from the steppes of Russia, from the mountains of Syria, from Egypt, and even from Abyssinia, expected and demanded to see all the localities mentioned in the Bible. This demand inevitably created the supply, in order to satisfy those who probably needed some such tangible souvenirs to help them to appreciate and understand the life of Him whom they were taught to reverence. Inspired by intense religious zeal, the early pilgrims and Crusaders must have gone about Jerusalem intoxicated with their own enthusiasm, and utterly undirected by a critical spirit of investigation. Hence, as years rolled by, the influence of tradition and antiquity gave to these places a sanctity which it is now almost impossible to disturb.
The Holy Sepulchre.
The tomb of Adam is the property of the Greeks, who are so proud of it that it is somewhat surprising that their discomfited rivals have not produced the grave of Mother Eve! As an instance of the sectarian jealousy that prevails here, it may be stated that the Greek Christians, in 1808, actually destroyed the authentic monuments of the Crusaders, Godfrey de Bouillon and King Baldwin I, for the sole reason that, if left here, the Latin Church, through some technicality, would claim the site. There is little doubt, moreover, that one of the causes of the Crimean War was the contentions of the Christian sects in Palestine - Russia supporting the Greek Church, and France defending the Latins.
But of all places in this famous building, the most revered is the Holy Sepulchre. It is a little chapel, built of highly-colored limestone, twenty-six feet in length by eighteen feet in breadth. Though it has frequently fallen into ruin and been rebuilt (the present structure dates only from the year 1808), the site which it still covers has not changed for fifteen hundred years. One gazes on it, therefore, with the deepest interest, for (genuine or not) no spot on earth has so profoundly influenced the fate of Christian nations. It brought about one of the most important events of the Middle Ages - the Crusades; and for its possession and defense the best and bravest blood in Christendom was freely shed. Other than Christian blood has also flowed in its vicinity. For on the 15th of July, 1099, the victorious Crusaders, having finally captured Jerusalem, put to death most of the Turkish population, and then approached the Holy Sepulchre barefooted and singing hymns of praise. As we drew near it, a line of pilgrims stood in front of us; another line formed quickly in our rear - all eagerly awaiting the moment when their turn would come to pass within. Several men, as well as women, were weeping and moaning at this realization of a life-long dream. At last my turn came, and with a feeling of awe, never experienced before or since, I stepped alone across the threshold. I found myself at first in a little vestibule, ablaze with gilded lamps. Before me was a piece of rock encased in marble. It is said to be the stone which the angel rolled away from the mouth of the sepulchre. Advancing still farther, I stood within a tiny, marble-lined compartment, only seven feet long and six feet wide. The air was heavy and oppressive, for hanging from the ceiling, which I could easily touch with my hand, were forty-three golden lamps, kept constantly burning. Of these, thirteen belong to the Latins, thirteen to the Greeks, thirteen to the Armenians, and four to the Copts. This inner room is supposed to be the veritable rock-hewn tomb of Jesus, and on a platform, two feet high and six feet long, is a marble slab, which covers the rock on which the Saviour's lifeless body is said to have reposed. It has been worn as smooth as glass by the kisses of millions. I was allowed to remain here but a moment, since others were impatient for my place. Accordingly, returning to the body of the church, I looked attentively at those who stood in line, seeking admission to the Sepulchre. Of course, among so many nationalities there is great diversity, but there were many pilgrims whom I would rather not meet alone on a dark night. There is a saying in the Orient that the worst Moslems are the ones who have been in Mecca, and the worst Christians those who have seen Jerusalem. Still another proverb says: "If thy neighbor has made one pilgrimage, distrust him; if he has made two, make haste to sell thy house." We can the more readily believe this when we recall the scenes which take place around the Holy Sepulchre at every Easter festival. For then the miracle of the "Holy Fire," as it is called, may well make angels weep and all intelligent Christians shudder with disgust. The Roman Catholic and Armenian Christians discarded this function three hundred years ago, denouncing it as a gross imposture; but the Greek Church still maintains it.