Interior Of The Holy Sepulchre.
Service At The Holy Sepulchre.
Street Near The Holy Sepulchre.
During the entire day and night before Easter the immense Church of the Holy Sepulchre is literally packed with pilgrims. They stand there for hours without food or drink, and gradually work themselves into a frenzy by shrieks and howls, and a monotonous wail of "Hada-Ku-ba-Said-Na"-"This is the Tomb of the Lord." Some of these enthusiasts have come thousands of miles to obtain the "sacred fire," and are determined to do so if it costs them their lives. Such persons, if they have not a good position, climb up on the shoulders of their weaker neighbors, and run on toward the Sepulchre on the heads of others, descending finally into the already compact mass in the midst of frightful confusion and violence.
At length, about two o'clock in the afternoon, the Greek Patriarch goes within the Sepulchre. There is now a period of breathless silence, almost appalling after all the pandemonium that has prevailed. Presently, nobody knows exactly why, it is rumored that the Holy Ghost has descended to the Sepulchre in a tongue of flame. A moment more, and four or five lighted torches are thrust out through the holes which perforate the chapel-walls. Language fails to depict the scene that follows. Ten thousand men immediately contend like maniacs to get their tapers lighted. Twenty thousand arms leap forward toward the torches of the priests, like the leafless branches of a forest swayed by a tornado. Hysterical fanatics rush about, searing themselves with lighted tapers, as a kind of penance. Many are trampled under foot, and some are even crushed to death. On one occasion, three hundred pilgrims perished in the church. In 1895, until suppressed by the soldiers of the Sultan, two rival Christian factions fought here desperately.
Rioting At The Sepulchre.
It is a painful thought that Turkish guards must be stationed here to check the rioting and fighting of Christians. For, in their act of guardianship, they smile sarcastically at the so-called followers of the Prince of Peace. If He should once more appear upon Mount Zion, He would no doubt rebuke these poor misguided worshipers, by whom, perhaps, He would be murdered again, upon the site of His reputed grave! "Such " says Dean Stanley, "is the Greek Easter, the greatest moral argument against the identity of the spot which it professes to honor. Considering the place, the time, and the intention of the professed miracle, it is probably the most offensive imposture to be found in the world."
Tomb Of David.
The question which, above all others, suggests itself to the visitor to the Holy Sepulchre is, "Can we believe that this is the real burial-place of Jesus?" Sad as it is to think of such continued and wide-spread delusion, there is not, in the writer's opinion, any satisfactory proof that Christ was either crucified or buried within the precincts, or indeed in the immediate neighborhood, of this church. There is no need to enumerate here the vexed arguments for and against the belief; but one thing can be made quite clear in half-a-dozen sentences. The Gospels state that Christ was crucified and buried outside the city walls. But look from any eminence in Jerusalem and see how far in toward the centre of the city stands the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Can we suppose that the boundary lines of this illustrious capital in the period of its glory were narrower than they are to-day, - especially when the valleys which surround Jerusalem leave it but one direction for expansive growth? Besides this, the historical evidence in favor of the Holy Sepulchre is also unsatisfactory. It is remarkable that no description of the locality of the tomb of Jesus is given either by the Gospel writers, or by St. Paul, who visited Jerusalem at least twice after his conversion. Why was this? Undoubtedly because to them the death and burial of Christ were insignificant facts compared with His resurrection. The early Christians all believed that Jesus was to return before their generation passed away. They therefore gave no thought to the poor place wherein their Master's body had reposed for three days. They could have no conception of the centuries to come, in which man's reverence for sacred sites would lead him to seek out this sepulchre. Enough for them that Christ had risen from the grave and was to reappear at any moment in the clouds of Heaven.