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(photo: Chris Heagle)

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.”

Map of the Stations of the Cross

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.


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Reflections

That is amazing and shows the power of the Holy Spirit to still touch your life!

Although there was much that I didn't care for in the movie "The Passion of the Christ" I still consider the scene where Jesus falls (and Mary simultaneously has a flashback to Jesus falling as a child) to be one of the most poignant and moving scenes ever filmed.

"Reaches out and grabs you," yes...but also (maybe?) reaches out and finds parts of you that you had thought forgotten or long gone, bringing back that "girl who cried over the suffering of God" who is still also you, if not all of who you are.

"What to say"? What you have said is, for me, enough. I find myself recalling now my own childhood moments of deep religious connection and sentiment that have changed as I have grown and experienced the world...and yet I know they are also still a part of me. Beneath the imperfections and away from the disillusionment of my fundamentalist Protestant upbringing, there's still always somehow the presence of what Bruce Cockburn sings about as the "messenger wind," the "wind that blows through everything."

Thanks Kate - that is beautiful. A deeply personal insight into how people from so many places, with so many thoughts about religion, experience Jerusalem as saying something to them. Beautiful.

Thank you for the beautiful memories. Years of memories from my youth as a Catholic School student came flooding back, including the sadness I always felt during the Stations. I will be sure to pray them again this year.

My heart and soul are with you for this rare SPIRITUAL HIGHS that happened to you!!! GOD BLESS US!!!!

Kate, I'm another "girl who cried at the stations of the cross." I've not forgotten the intensity of my feelings during those formative years. Recently, I was walking the beautiful rooftop garden of a Catholic hospital in my town and discovered their unique stations of the cross. Instantly, I was a ten-year-old in my home church two thousand miles away, on a dark Good Friday night, so sad and confused about the suffering depicted by the stations of the cross.

And, today, I'm editing a number of essays on the topic of tolerance written by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders in the Middle East, topics such as, so-called honor killings, and violence done in the name of religion. The (American) author who has collected these essays is currently in Jerusalem filming interviews with individuals who have family members who were victims of religious torture or who were suicide bombers or who died simply because of their faith. I find that I'm still sad and confused about the suffering inflicted in the name of God.

I'm an aging Protestant who's never experienced the Stations of the Cross. But just last week, after spending time with the daily meditation at sacredspace.ie, I looked at the Lent page there, and decided to visit the Stations of the Cross portal, which this year features an African version (Kenyan, I believe) of this classic path of contemplation. I wept at the encounter of the Passion of Christ thru the eyes and heart of another culture.
What a touching experience it must be to walk those streets in Jerusalem... to be blindsided by long-forgotten dimensions of your faith...

apples