Imagine carrying a six by four foot wooden cross on Via Dolorosa (Latin for the Way of Suffering), commemorating Christ’s passion as He walked carrying his Cross from the Antonia Fortress not far from the Temple through the streets of Jerusalem, and then to Calvary. Remembering our Lord’s passion and His walk to Calvary has long been and continues to be an ‘active prayer’ in Jerusalem. Many pilgrims walk the Via Dolorosa each year.
Today, Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem has Roman numerals on bronze disks along the walls of buildings marking the way the Lord carried His cross. Each Roman numeral signifies a “station”. For example, the First Station, “Jesus takes up His Cross”, is marked outside the ancient ruins of the Antonia Fortress. There are fourteen Stations of the Cross, the first nine are along Via Dolorosa and the last five are in the Holy Sepulcher Church built over Calvary and the area of the Tomb of Christ.
My husband and I just led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where all the pilgrims had the opportunity to carry the large wooden cross along the Via Dolorosa. Some of the marked Stations have small chapels maintained by various religious communities living in Jerusalem such as the Franciscans, the Armenian Catholics and Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus founded by Charles de Foucauld.
One morning, Tom and I were walking along the Via Dolorosa with a dear friend living in Jerusalem, we were planning to have coffee at the Austrian Guesthouse near the Fourth Station. Our friend who is a devout Catholic with Armenian roots invited us to visit the Fourth Station Church under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Church dedicated to the Armenian genocide that occurred around 1915. The church’s crypt marked the site of the fourth station where Jesus met His Mother as He carried the Cross to Calvary. The foundation, part mosaic from the 5th century, had a pair of ‘sandals’ marking the spot where Mary stood.
On the other side was a section with a modern sacred art piece with the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a unique monstrance. There was a large rug for kneeling, a few chairs and a religious nun praying. We decided to spend an hour with Jesus there in silent prayer, adoring Him in His Eucharistic Presence. I thought… “Lord! I am here with you in a special way where you met your mother on your way to Calvary!” Tom and I enjoyed our quiet one hour.
Meanwhile, on the upper level, life went on along the Via Dolorosa. Muslim women were purchasing fresh vegetables and pastries to prepare for their Ramadan meal after Sundown, tourists with open maps wondering about, a group of Italian Catholics praying the Stations of the Cross, and the market along the Via Dolorosa open for business.
The Son of God in His Eucharistic Presence was present in silence only a few yards away. Our hour with Jesus on Via Dolorosa will be one I’ll always remember.
To learn more about the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, visit the Franciscan Website (Custody of the Holy Land).
Want to experience a journey to the Holy Land? Contact us!