Church of the Holy Sepulchre: is 300+ Years a Problem?

While taking a rest (and a beer) in the garden of the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem, I overheard a conversation between an older gentleman from Haifa who was guiding a small group of Chinese pilgrims. One of the pilgrims asked a question about the veracity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the actual place where Jesus was crucified and buried.

His response, while not exactly a “no”, began by referring to St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and her “discovery” of the place in the 4th Century AD. I resisted the temptation to interrupt, but thought the better of it. Nonetheless, St. Helena is not the beginning of this story.

I will not delve deeply into St. Helena’s story here, except to say that she preceded her son in becoming Christian, and once Constantine embraced the faith, he sent her to the holy land to bring back its relics to Rome. In Jerusalem, around 327 AD, she found the True Cross by a miracle, near the complex which Emperor Hadrian had erected a pagan temple (around 135 AD), and now sits as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which among its marvels, houses the rock (Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified and the tomb of Joseph of Aramithea, where He was buried and resurrected.

By the logic of some, including the tour guide from Haifa, the fact that the place of Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial was not found and no cult venerating the site existed before St. Helena provides the skeptic some reasonable doubt when it comes to whether the site is legitimate or not.

It, like so many other matters of miracle surrounding Jesus can be reduced to inspiration — it doesn’t really matter that it was here, exactly, so long as we have seen something that grounds us to Jesus, not unlike the way a storybook presents a tableau for the young child.

But the problem with this thinking is that when we hold that it may be the place, we can and must allow that it may not, which really undermines a lot of what we see and hear, and provides the critic with the basis to cry superstition is at work. We Christians are reduced to lemmings caught in a web of confusion, unthinking, relying upon surmise.

As with so much incredulity directed at the One True Faith, all of this omits a critical piece of evidence, which was discovered in 1971. Beneath the St. Helena Chapel (the level of which is already well below the main floor of the church), excavations uncovered a chamber which has since been dedicated as a chapel to St. Vartan, with stone foundation walls that can be dated to Hadrian’s pagan temple from around 135 AD.

Upon one of those foundational walls of the pagan temple, one finds a Roman ship with a broken mast in the style and shape of the second century AD, with an inscription beneath which reads “DOMINE IVIMVS” or “Lord, we have come / will go”. This inscription alludes to Psalm 121, which is a song of ascent and protection for the anxious pilgrim.

Thus, the connection of Christians to this place of Crucifixion and burial of Our Lord can be traced to the early second century, approximately 100 years from Jesus’ death, rather than 300 years.

And in such a case, St. Helena was doing nothing more than expanding upon an existing tradition that had already run the course of centuries, rather than inventing a new, albeit miraculous one, not unlike the way that pilgrims to Rome venerated Vatican Hill as the resting place of St. Peter, which was a matter of superstitious tradition for millennia, until, in the midst of World War II, archaeologists found bones and graffiti directly beneath the main altar of the basilica attributable to the fisherman from Galilee, and definitive confirmation of faithful religious devotion.


If this is true, what does it mean?

Pope Francis Awards Architect of Safe-Abortion Fund with Pontifical Honor – The Lepanto Institute

Halloween continues to get weirder and stupider…

fullsizeoutput_2076To the child, Halloween has a broad appeal; there are costumes, jack-o-lanterns to carve, and trick-or-treating (the primary mechanism by which candy is obtained).

But the New Halloween of our age isn’t for kids anymore. It isn’t children working tirelessly in the yards of quaint neighborhoods to install the many inflated pumpkins, animated zombies and frankenfreaks, chattering ravens and cackling motorized skulls, along with lights, and spider webs, and styrofoam tombstones, and a whole host of other items from the seasonal aisles of the local Target.

It isn’t children who gave the New Halloween its own embedded and inherently false mythology, a sort of hybridized sanitized amalgamated tale about ancient stone circles of gnosis and druids and dryads and how all was untamed and yet wonderful before the nasty Christians came along and deprived the natives of their true inchoate and natural celebrations, the shells of which were co-opted and perverted and now all that remains is the equinox or made up name Simhain or whatever to remind everyone of how terrible Christianity is.

It isn’t children who make it the Dan Brown of “holidays”, in which freshly concocted garbage from the imagination of ignorance is packaged each year into the flashiest of coverings and presented as an apex in New Culture.

It isn’t children engrossed in a festival of masquerade in which few limits are placed upon poor choices so that craven appetites — more drinking, more drugs, more sex, outrageously profane and objectifying costumes, more libertinism — are proposed as normative.


In other words, it isn’t children who have screwed up Halloween, twisted it, and made it weird and stupid. Rather, it’s adults who are to blame for the New Halloween, an Embarrassment at best and a Portal for Demons at worst.

Elephant Tusk Restored…..

Perhaps you recall, a few months ago, the story of a vandal. Someone broke the left tusk off the statue of an elephant holding atop its back an ancient Egyptian obelisk. This famous work of Bernini is stationed in front of the Roman Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, where it has acted as sentry, for centuries. So great was the outrage poured out over such a heinous act that artisans set to work almost immediately. Thankfully it has been repaired. 

This needs to become a law for all “A. I.”. Enough of this “Siri,” “Alexa,” “Cortana”. Do you want to hasten the claims for “equality” with software? Then by all means, give “it” a name.

You Can Now Address Alexa As “Computer” Because Star Trek Is Real Life

Cubs Win! The World is Shaken!

IMG_2733.PNGWhat seemed to be a fixed constant of our Universe — the perennial “next year” for the Chicago Cubs — has finally unravelled after more than a century.

Within this time, there have been world wars, the advent of air travel, radio, television, computers, the Internet, a host of other technological innovations, including sliced bread, as well as all of the societal and cultural changes of the past 108 years. Yet in all that time, never has the famed marquee outside Wrigley declared (except maybe, on April Fools’) the Cubs as World Series Champions.

We lived in Wrigleyville for several years, and after going to class and then clerking in the Loop, I would take the Red Line to the Addison stop. On game days, you could catch a glimpse of the action on the field from the El platform.

As I’d make my way down the stairs from the platform, I’d buy a bag a peanuts from a vendor set up in the station, and walk the few blocks to our apartment. If it wasn’t too far into the autumn, I’d open the French doors to our little patio, and turn on the game on the TV.

It was a surreal experience, watching a Cubs game in that apartment — an outfielder would catch a fly ball or Sammy Sosa would hit a home run, and you’d see the fans cheer on TV, and then, a few seconds later you would hear the roar and din from Wrigley through our patio doors. You could even hear the notes of the organ on the air.

So, while I’m not a “sports guy”, in my heart is a nurtured romance for Wrigley and the Cubs, and a reverence for the pure love of the team’s true fans. I couldn’t be more happy for those loyal North-Siders who, after generations of long suffering patience, have finally breached the gate of baseball paradise.

Even church bells had their say in the Windy City last night.

/ W /