Pilgrim's Reflection on the Via Dolorosa

Here is a meditation by one of our pilgrims on her journey along the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus walked to the place of his crucifixion in Jerusalem. On each pilgrimage we journey this meaningful path. This past January we had a wonderful group from Canada with us and Leslie Blair was among them. Her comments were also published by the Cochrane Eagle columnist, Warren Harbeck, Ph.D. (www.coffeewithwarren.com for March 26, 2015)

Leslie writes: "We had been to Bethlehem and touched the place of Jesus’ birth. We had crossed the Sea of Galilee – in a storm! We had touched the rock of His agony in the Garden, mindful of our own Gethsemanes. The next day, we would walk the Via Dolorosa, the Jerusalem street on which Jesus carried His cross to the place of His crucifixion. I looked forward to it with combined anticipation and dread. Though I want to walk where Jesus walked, I shrink from suffering; my imagination is vivid; I know how this particular journey ended on that Good Friday.

I pictured a quiet walk, with ample time for solemn meditation at the stations along the way. Perhaps there would be little shrines, gardens and plaques on this street; I thought the street itself would be set aside in some way for the thousands of pilgrims who visit.

The day arrived. Taking turns carrying the large cross, we make our way to the first station, meeting children on their way to school and people walking briskly to work. The first clue that my expectations were unrealistic is our having to squeeze past a garbage truck that was just small enough to negotiate the narrow street. To my surprise, people live and work, sell souvenirs, shop for groceries, take out the garbage, and drink coffee with their neighbours on the Via Dolorosa.

Simple numbered doors with small signs mark most stations along the way. Each station has a story: Jesus falls under the weight of the cross; Jesus meets Mary, His Mother; Simon helps Jesus to carry the cross; Veronica wipes the sweat and blood from Jesus’ face; and onward to the last stations at the traditionally-revered site of His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, located within the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over Golgotha and Jesus’ empty tomb.

People paid us no mind as, hearts aching, we relived the last hours of Jesus. They see so many pilgrims here. What did they feel when He passed by with His cross, I wonder. The Romans used crucifixion as a brutal way to keep the population in line. Most likely, people felt sorry for Jesus, but turned aside in helplessness. Maybe, busy with their own concerns, they didn’t notice at all. Would I have noticed the drama that infamous day in Jerusalem? I don’t know.

How easy it is for us to miss the holy:

What was on Jesus’ heart as He went to His death? I believe it was His deep love – His love for you and me."

–Leslie Blair, Cochrane