Today I walked the Via Dolorosa, the Road of Sorrows, with a brave pilgrim
Dotty had broken her foot before the tour began. She walked every step of the way in pain … over cobblestones, up hills, down hills, all along the winding and tortuous way.
We got to Calvary — steep steps to where the top of Calvary resides under the facade of a Chapel.
“Do you want to climb these stairs?” I asked.
“I’ve come this far, I dare not miss it!” she would say. And on we would go.
So we climbed Calvary. There were tears in her eyes as she came down. These were not the tears of pain (though her foot must have ached something fierce), but the tears of gratitude and the tears of faith.
Earlier I had told Elaine that I was not sure why I had come on this trip to the Holy Land. I was just going to have to discover it, along the way. As I was escorting Dotty along the Via Dolorosa, Elaine came and said to me, “Maybe this is why you came.”
Again it is reaffirmed what God has in store for me is to be a Guide for Pilgrims. No! not a tour guide for the Holy Land, but a Guide for those who journey in faith, for those whose journey takes them inward even when their journey is in Jerusalem.
It was touching when we came to that narrow twisting turn in the road where Simon Cyrene was supposed to have taken the cross. Abed, our guide, mentioned that Simon was probably a Black man. Dotty, who was aware of the differing schools of thought regarding Simon’s skin color, exclaimed: “Oh, So he was Black after all!” and her heart was touched. (Oh yes, Dotty is a Black woman.)
The Via Dolorosa was a long way, but the path was relatively easy to traverse (that is, for those of us with two good feet) especially since we hadn’t been scourged and we didn’t have to carry a heavy wooden crosspiece.
As the group walked along, and as I helped Dotty, I remembered my trip to St. Meinrad’s Abbey. I discovered an old, abandoned Stations of the Cross. Before I realized what the stelae were, I have gone to 3 or 4 of them. And I had started at the end and continued moving toward the beginning. I remember the feeling and the thought that I had undone the Crucifixion, and now it was time for me to do it again on my own. (Maybe the more theologically appropriate way of saying that would be: to make the Crucifixion my own.)
Today, as I walked with Dotty and sensed some of her deep faith being renewed, I know something more of what it means to make the Crucifixion my own. Dotty’s tears and Christ’s tears mixed with each other (and with the tears of countless numbers of Pilgrims who have walked the Via Dolorosa over the years) and those tears sanctified both the day and the Way.
“Forgetfulness leads to exile,
while remembrance is the scent of Redemption.”
– Baal Shem Tov
The confirmation for all this came as we stood atop the Coptic monastery, looking at the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I looked up …
I had encountered her before…
in prayer and meditation,
She had perched on my shoulder,
and winked (as if in confirmation)
at my installation as LPC’s pastor.
And now she was back
A pure white dove …
hovering at the Dome
hovering over Calvary
hovering over the table of preparation
hovering over the Holy Sepulchre
hovering over the end of the Via Dolorosa…
a sign of the Presence of God,
a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit,
a blessing and a benediction!