Visitors to the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, near Jerusalem, are doubtless humbled and excited by the opportunity to establish a physical connection, however mystical, to her son, Jesus Christ. According to the Sacred Tradition of Eastern Christianity, Mary died naturally and three days after being lain to rest was resurrected body and soul into heaven. Her absence from the tomb, visually verified at the time, does not much diminish the allure of this site, acquired more than two centuries ago by the savvy Greek Orthodox Church.
A friend and teaching colleague of mine, Ron, himself a former minister, and his wife, Ana, recently visited the empty Tomb of the Virgin Mary. Near the end of their spiritual journey, as Ana purchased crucifixes and Ron looked at books, an employee identified himself as a Serbian Greek Orthodox priest and asked, “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Mexico but I live in the United States?” said Ana.
“And where are you from, sir?” the priest asked.
“I’m from the United States.”
“You know,” said the priest, “that the United States took land from Mexico.”
“Yes,” Ron replied, “and Spain took the land from the Native Americans, and the Native Americans for centuries had been taking it from each other. That’s the history of humanity.”
“And now you’re in Afghanistan,” said the priest.
“I wish we weren’t, but terrorists there attacked us on 9/11 and want to attack us again.”
The priest hinted at a smile.
“And,” Ron continued, “what do you think would happen tomorrow in Israel if the Israelis threw all their arms into the Mediterranean?”
The priest grinned. And the two tourists took their souvenirs and left.