I came to Jerusalem as a journalist, not a pilgrim, and so I was completely surprised today, when, in the cacophony and kitschy merchandising of the Old City’s Via Dolorosa (“The Way of Sorrows”), my eye landed on a sign marking the second station on Jesus’ march to Calvary (“Jesus falls for the first time”) and felt a sob rising in my throat. Embarrassed, I touched Krista’s arm and told her I thought I might cry, trying to explain to her what the stations meant to me as a young girl.
The Stations of the Cross, a devotion performed by Catholics typically every Friday afternoon of the Lenten season, was hugely formative in my early spiritual imagination, and for a few moments I was again a six year old focusing my whole being on each step of Christ’s scourged and bleeding procession to Golgotha. “Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem.” “Jesus is stripped of his garments.”
As we squirmed through the narrow corridors through log jams of tourists and pilgrims, I felt a deep sadness I hadn’t experienced in years — for the terrible suffering of Jesus, to be sure, but also for my own innocence, a girl who cried over the suffering of God. Among the pashminas and souvenirs, I was experiencing a religious sentiment I had not consciously felt for decades, and I was swept up in it like a strong and unexpected wind.
So, we are in Jerusalem and hardly know what to report, what to say. It feels impudent to think self-expression matters here, or that what one can see and digest in 48 hours has any significance in a city where so much of the history and meaning of the world’s Abrahamic faiths was minted, and is encoded in every stone, every street sign. As I found on the Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem is so full of religious significance, it reaches out and grabs you.