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CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.
the lowest of the children of St. Francis. The table of the Fathers is extremely frugal; but for that frugality, combined with the strictest economy, they could not afford relief to so many unfortunate persons as are fed and supported in the Holy Land; they could not satisfy Turkish rapacity, or escape the vexations, the injustice, and the extortions of all kinds, with which they are continually threatened.
To-morrow, my dear friend, is the great day for me ; to.morrow I shall shut myself up in the church of the Holy Sepulchre ; to-morrow, if the crowd does not prevent me, upon Calvary, and beside the tomb of the Saviour of the world, with hands uplifted to heaven, I will perform the task which I imposed upon myself in coming to Jerusalem.
VISIT TO THE CHURCH Of The Holy SePULCHRE-FranCISCAN Fathers
CLEANING THE SIDES OF THE SEPULCHRE-Cell-GALLERY ADJOINING TO IT-ENTRY INTO The Holy SEPULCHRE.
Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
December 16th, 1831.
Early in the morning of the 9th, I set out for the church of the Holy Sepulchre, with the dragoman and the Turks who had the key. No sooner had I entered than the latter locked the door. Nine or ten Franciscan friars dwell in this church, where they are shut up for three months. At the end of that time they are relieved, unless they choose to pass six months or a year there, out of devotion. My cell was ready for me.
CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.
It was that of the Father warden of the Holy Land. These good Fathers received me with the kindness which characterises them.
Before I touch upon other matters, my friend, it is right that I should give you some idea of this church. It is an extensive edifice, with two domes, very irregularly built, because it was requisite that regard should be paid to the inequalities of the ground that was to be encompassed by it. It contains not only the sepulchre, after which it is named, but also Calvary and some other sanctuaries.
The Catholics, the Greeks, the Armenians, are each in possession of a particular church. The Copts have but a chapel backed against the Holy Sepulchre ; and the Nestorians or Jacobites of Chaldea and Syria, as well as the Maronites of Mount Lebanon, merely an altar.
Divine service is performed there according to the ritual of different Christian nations. The first three only have a right to say mass in the Sepulchre. Close to their church is the convent in which the monks who shut themselves
here reside. The pilgrims can have the privilege of being shut up for one night, and, in this case, they sleep in the convents of their respective nations, sometimes where they can, for want of room.
The church is usually open in Lent and at Easter. The pilgrims who come at those times never fail to find in the interior, close to the door, eight or ten Turks, who, squatting cross-legged on an enormous divan, tell stories, smoke, drink coffee, and never stop but to take their money before they permit any one to enter ; but when
CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.
the pilgrimage is over, that door is frequently unclosed for more than a month, and there is no other method of gaining admittance but paying a certain sum to those who keep the keys. Food and other necessaries are at such times handed in through an aperture made in the principal door of the church, but which is not large enough for any person to get through. At night it is further secured by an iron cross.
But to return to what relates to myself personally. The account of a little incident will explain to you much better than a thousand words would do, with what sentiments my soul was filled. On entering the church, I perceived the Fathers of the Holy Land, busy, broom in hand, sweeping down, in the utmost silence, the sides of the little edifice containing the sepulchre. I immediately took up a broom to assist them. A bit of rush having dropped off, I picked it up, and, looking at it, full of the thought of the Holy Sepulchre, and of the infinite goodness of God, I said to myself: “If this rush could become in thy hands the sceptre of the world, on condition that thou shouldst not have been at Jerusalem, what wouldst thou do?” And He who holds my life and my being in his hands knew the answer of my heart !
To you, as well as to many other persons, appear silly. Your piety, however, authorises me to doubt it, my friend. At any rate, I declare to you that I would not exchange this silliness for all the goods of this world. I shall most carefully preserve that bit of rush.
My cell is not more than thirty paces from the tomb of our Saviour, and one hundred from Calvary. I hear the hymns of the Greeks, the Armenians, the Copts, the
Catholics, ascending from that altar of salvation-the hymns, in short, of all the pilgrims, who, bowing their heads in the dust, fervently repeat, each in his own idiom, the name of Jesus Christ.
When I step out of my cell into the gallery which adjoins it, I behold the precincts of the edifice containing the tomb of the Saviour, covered with prostrate pilgrims. What tears are shed near that sacred Sepulchre ! Oh! what man, after leaving his country, his friends, his relatives, to come so far, amid so many dangers, to visit the tomb of his Lord, would not be deeply affected on approaching it!... The women more especially, whose piety has something more touching and more tender, cannot help shedding floods of tears, while touching with their burning lips the steps that lead to the rock of the crucifixion.
Meanwhile, I prepared myself, in silence and prayer, to ascend Golgotha and to enter the Holy Sepulchre.
Two days had already passed, and I had not yet been able to approach those two hallowed and awful places. Still I adhered more firmly than ever to my resolution to be, in my first visit to them, alone with my God; it was my wish to adore in the silence of complete solitude Him, who, by an ineffable prodigy of mercy towards his creatures, forsook the heavens to come to this very place to suffer and die. Unfortunately, a crowd of pilgrims who had recently arrived beset for two days and nights the church of the Holy Sepulchre, which they had paid the Turks a large fee to open.
At length, on the third day, the kind monks came to inform me that the church would not be open the whole 72
GOLGOTHA AND CALVARY
day, except for me ; and that, in concert with the Greek and Armenian sacristans, they had taken precautions for preventing the entrance of any person whatsoever, the whole time that I should be there.
On the 12th, at half past ten in the morning, the most profound silence reigned around Golgotha and the tomb of the Saviour. I went forth barefoot, and with a lighted taper in my hand to visit Calvary, and a few moments afterwards I ascended, trembling, the steps that led to it.
At one o'clock, still surrounded by a silence uninterrupted, save by the pulsations of my heart, I entered the Holy Sepulchre.
At three, some one came to apprize me that the Greeks were about to commence their service: I returned to my cell, and there shut myself up for the rest of the day.
Adieu, my friend, adieu, adieu !
IMPRESSION MADE BY TAE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPOLCARE - His-
Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
December 12th, 1831.
There is certainly nothing on earth so august and so sacred as the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Christian who approaches it, especially for the first time,