Via Dolorosa

Throughout Lent and into Holy Week, I’ve been sharing weekly devotions based upon my travels to the Middle East. This is the sixth and final meditation in the series.

“So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross by himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.”

— John 19:16b-18

The Via Dolorosa — Way of Sorrow — follows the path that tradition tells us Jesus walked to the cross. The practice of walking the Via Dolorosa dates to the fourth century when Byzantine pilgrims gathered across the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives, descended to the Garden of Gethsemane, climbed the road to Jerusalem, and followed the steps of Jesus to the cross. Over the centuries, stops or stations were added to the walk as travelers paused at places that scripture or local lore maintained that Jesus had also stopped, like the spot where Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service to carry the cross (Luke 23:26) and the location where Veronica is believed to have wiped the face of the suffering Christ with her kerchief.

Walking the Via Dolorosa today will take you along narrow, cobbled streets worn smooth by the centuries. Modern-day pilgrims move to the rhythm of reverence and remembrance. Some carry symbolic crosses and sing sorrowful songs. Others stop to mark the stations with prayerful solemnity. Amid the heady aromas of fresh baked bread and Arabic coffee, tourists pause to haggle with shopkeepers over the price of fresh juice or hand-woven carpets. In the quantum-moment, Jesus still walks the way of immeasurable sorrow and limitless love — bloody, battered, dying.

How will you walk with Jesus along the way of sorrow?

Please pray with me . . .

Almighty God, we are pilgrims all, walking the Via Dolorosa and following Jesus’s path to the cross. Quiet our minds and open our understanding to the way of sorrow that Jesus chose to walk. May we dare to imagine his pain, to feel the weight of the cross, to hear the insults hurled. As we face our sorrow and the sorrow of our world, may we hear your voice, calling us by name. Raise us from death to life and send us forth with good news of a love that is stronger than death.  Amen.

“His executioners made vulgar jokes about Him, called Him filthy names, taunted Him, smacked Him in the face, flogged Him with the cat, and hanged Him on the common gibbet—a bloody, dusty, sweaty, and sordid business.” — Dorothy L. Sayers

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.”— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith.”― W.H. Auden

“The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.”
― T.S. Eliot