This is such a special time of year to ponder the magnificent gift of the atonement and resurrection. Here in Peru at the main plaza, they have a large parade with the crucified Christ as the focus. Thousands of people join in the procession. We were encouraged to participate as a once-in-a-lifetime experience but, no thanks. I imagine Holy Week happens pretty much the same around the Christian world.
We rented bikes and rode to the Plaza Mayor about 2.5 miles. We had sweeping views of the ocean most of the day with a cool breeze so it was really delightful. We were separated from the actual beach by huge cliffs so we just enjoyed the view along the bluffs.
A tradition for Holy Week is to have the sidewalks covered in flower carpets. It was amazing to see the people working on them all around the Plaza Mayor in Surco in the heat of the sun and about 80 degrees. Pretty amazing! As part of the Good Friday festivities, a parade procession marches around the plaza stepping right through the beautiful flower carpets! While we were there, tt was still very crowded but worth the visit. We poked our heads into the St. James church built in 1571 in this old part of Lima just to see the main alter and the priest was giving a sermon. It was very busy so didn't get many pictures except of the procession pieces that are carried on people's shoulders.
We also rode another mile or so to the Bridge of Sighs. The legend is if you hold your breath as you cross the bridge your wish will come true.
Joe, Dad and Grandpa Cheney's Testimony:
A little over thirty years ago, my beloved Eileen and I had the marvelous opportunity to travel to the Holy Land with other CES friends. Our three-week journey began in Rome where we visited in stunned silence the Christian catacombs, Paul’s prison, the Colosseum where Christians were executed as common criminals —their crime being refusal to reverence the Roman gods, and other ancient biblical sites. We continued on to Egypt where we walked over the ancient sands that Abraham, Moses, and the boy child Jesus and his parents had once been. Then we spent our final two weeks in the Holy Land where we climbed the mount of olives, visited the tomb of Lazarus, knelt beneath ancient, crooked olive trees, and walked atop the walls of Jerusalem. We journeyed out of the city to the sea of Galilee where we could say, “we swam today where Jesus once walked”. We sat together on the mount of Beatitudes at Capernaum and quietly read the sermon Jesus gave on that green grassy hillside so many years ago. We could almost hear His voice amidst the gentle rustling breeze as we read aloud and pondered his words.
There were many more sites that humbled our hearts and gave deeper meaning and perspective to the stories we had read and listened to so many many times throughout our lives.
As wonderful and tender they were to us, nothing can compare to the early morning walk we took to the garden tomb. Surprisingly we found ourselves alone in the garden. To us it was a temple experience. We quietly sat on an old bench, holding hands and watching and listening to the cooing of the morning doves. We walked through the garden and ended at the tomb, just an opening in a rock wall. We lowered our heads and entered. There in that small room, hewn from rock by human hands thousands of years ago, they lay the body of the Christ. We quietly shed tears of gratitude. Then Eileen quietly spoke words that mean more now to me than ever before. She asked me, “what do you see?” I had a fleeting thought she saw much more than me. I had so answer, “I see nothing”. “Exactly!” she said. “I see an empty tomb and isn’t it so wonderful? Oh dear Joe, He is not here! He is risen!
Eileen always had a strong, tender and abiding testimony of the risen Lord. She seemed to understand on a much deeper level than most. Quietly and gently she testified of the resurrection and of the atonement of the Savior. Oh how she loved Him and set a standard for me and our children and grandchildren to follow.
It will be six years in May that Eileen entered the spirit world. Someday I will be there too, joining my dear eternal sweetheart and because He is not in the tomb, Eileen will rise again and I will rise again with her. Dear children and grandchildren, your mother and grandmother loved and now loves you more than you can ever imagine. I love you more than I can ever express in words and I place my testimony alongside her’s. It is simple but has never been more true and sincere. With all my heart and strength and fervor of soul, I echo Mom’s same words, “oh dear children, He is not here, He has risen.”
Christmas is a great time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the infant babe in Bethlehem, the Son of God. This is the greatest gift of God to us. But Easter is beautiful as we celebrate Jesus Christ, his life, his example, his Gospel, his atonement, and his resurrection. This is the greatest gift of Jesus Christ to us.
I know he lives today and directs the affairs of this church all over the world. He is intimately involved in the missionary service as this work moves forward. I know we are guided and protected individually by the Spirit. Our Father knows us and is aware of our needs.
Life is hard and there are difficult and challenging times. No one is ever prepared for the unexpected . . . unless we expect something so we can be prepared. We need to always be vigilant and prepared spiritually to withstand the tempests that will come, exercising our faith, continual study of the scriptures and gaining strength through sincere prayer. I know, these are always the right answers. I remember hearing about the challenges of life in Relief Society lessons or General Conference talks and thought, my life is so good. I don’t have any real challenges. I now know extreme difficulties and misfortune come to us in this life and we need to always be prepared emotionally and spiritually. I am so thankful my cup was full enough to have the strength to bear the loss of my dear husband. Luke 8:52 "Weep not; [he] is not dead, but sleepeth. . ."
The assurance of the resurrection gives strength and eternal perspective to endure the mortal challenges of this life, by each of us and by those we love. I know separation from those we love is only temporary. I wait with anticipation of being in Jon’s arms again. Faith in the resurrection also gives me a powerful incentive to stay true and upright in my thoughts and actions during the time I have left in mortality so I can be together eternally with my family and with God.
The peace I feel is because of my knowledge I have that my Heavenly Father is aware of me and loves me. I love him and want to live a life worthy of the blessings he has promised.