This column first appeared in the May issue of the Anglican Journal.
In his book A Walk in Jerusalem, John Peterson writes: “No road in the Holy Land has been more travelled than the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem. It is an ecumenical phenomenon and never more so than today.” Moving through the Old City, using Peterson’s guide to the road Christ walked on his way to the cross, we stop briefly at gates, arches and doorways surmounted by one of the Stations of the Cross.
At the last one-XIV, commemorating Jesus’ body being laid in the tomb-we find ourselves inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. “What other church,” writes Peterson, “what other cathedral, what other basilica in the world hosts an empty tomb? None other does. Such a church is found only in Jerusalem. Our roots stem from this empty tomb…This empty tomb makes us all citizens of Jerusalem.”
With hundreds of other pilgrims from all over the world, I have stood in line to spend a moment or two in the Holy Sepulchre. That’s all you get before you are moved along! In that tomb, I have been reminded that death had no dominion over Christ, and that in him we have the sure hope of a resurrection to eternal life. That truth is at the heart of the church’s preaching the gospel through the seven glorious weeks of Easter.
I am delighted that, by resolution of the General Synod in 2013, our church has designated the Seventh Sunday of Easter (June 1, this year) as Jerusalem Sunday. In the readings for that day, we are in the Holy City, between the ascension of the Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit, according to Jesus’ promise. We are reminded of his words to his disciples, then and in every age, even our own, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Indeed, while Canterbury is the cherished see of our unity in the spirit and tradition we call Anglican, Jerusalem is truly the mother of all who call themselves Christian, indeed all who call themselves Jew and Muslim. As Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has said, “There is room for everyone in Jerusalem.”
With gratitude, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, saying with the psalmist, “May they prosper who love you” (Psalm 122:6).
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.