Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Santa Maria Cemetery

This is the most unique cemetery I've ever seen -- and one of the most beautiful.  You've heard the old term, "Location, location, location."  Well, that term is relevant even in the place of burial in this case.  Not only are the central building and surrounding monuments beautiful, the location right beside the pounding surf of the vast blue Atlantic Ocean, in a valley between two handsome historic forts, is absolutely stunning!

We visited the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery on our recent visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as one of our cruise ports.  I'm a bit of a "cemetery junkie" and so this was one I really wanted to see.  I took the first photo looking over the old walls of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro fort.  I'll share some more of the pictures from San Juan in a later blog.  This cemetery is in the colonial style and was began in 1863.  Forty feet walls surround the estimated 1,000 graves.  I read that the Spanish government "viewed death with fear because it was a mystery."  They also built it overlooking the Atlantic to "symbolize the spirit's journey to cross over to the afterlife."

Several things strike me about this.  First of all, giving that old term, "Location, location, location" a spiritual spin changes our view of this cemetery (even though I still think it's visually beautiful).  While these deceased bodies lie in a beautiful location, it is the location of the soul/spirit that is of paramount importance.   There are many cemeteries throughout the world where bodies lie, but there are only two locations in all of creation where their soul and spirit reside.  Those two locations hold the spirits of every single person who has ever died.  Heaven and Hell -- they are the only addresses available to those who have drawn their last breath on earth.  Which address is listed on your ticket for eternity?

The beauty of accepting Christ as Savior and being sure your future address is "Heaven" is that even before you die, your eternal home is secure and -- in essence -- you will never truly die.  You'll just take one last breath on earth and the next breath in your new home.  Jesus promises, "...whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life...; he has crossed over from death to life" John 5:24.

Lastly, there will come a time when this beautiful graveyard will be emptied of its residents.  Sounds spooky, doesn't it?  It is, however, a bit of a mystery, but not one that should be viewed with fear -- not if you are a Christian (if you're not a Christian, yes, be afraid, be very afraid!).  Jesus made another promise in the book of John, when He said, "...for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear my voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned" 5:28-29.

If you have chosen the way of truth through the Lord's gift of salvation, there is nothing to be afraid of and everything to look forward to.  We can view a beautiful cemetery like Santa Maria Magdalena with an eye for the aesthetics and enjoy our visit.  We can also feel joy in the knowledge that we will never truly die.  With Paul we can gladly sing out, "O death, where is your sting?  O grave, where is your victory?" and two verses later, "But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" 1 Corinthians 15:55 & 57.

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