Our celebration of Holy Week originates in our instinct to visit the graves of the dead in order to remember them. Pilgrims flock to Jerusalem during Holy Week each year to walk its narrow streets and visit the sites where Jesus died and was buried.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, stands on the site where crucifixions took place. Greek Orthodox monks keep lamps lit above the rocks where executioners stood upright beams. No one knows exactly where Jesus’ tomb was but the gospel says nearby. Tombs abound under the foundations of the church and give the church its name.
The liturgy visits the holy places in its worship during Holy Week – the upper room on Holy Thursday, Golgotha on Good Friday, the empty tomb on Easter morning. Every Eucharist recalls the events that happened in these places. We gather for a meal as Jesus did with his disciples in the upper room. In the signs of bread broken and wine poured out, each Eucharist celebrates Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross and the promise of eternal life that his resurrection opens for all of us who believe in him.