The Stations Of The Cross (Part Two)

My Roman Pieta

This was a special week for me. On Wednesday night our parish arranged for eight priests to come and hear confessions. Half of these holy men are retired, but out of duty and love of God they sacrificed  their time to hear many of us divulge our indiscretions. While waiting my turn, I prayed and silently wept for all those on my prayer petitions. The priest who heard my confession was an elderly sage whose wisdom brought me to tears. God knows all of my struggles, but this time something was different. My spirit was yielded to the wisdom of this priest. I felt the true presence of God as the venerable pastor absolved me of my sins. I go to confession because it clears my mind, heart and spirit; it frees me to continue to mature in my Christian walk. Nothing is more spiritually rewarding!


Walking toward the Eight Station of the Cross, protected by the Israeli army

The Eighth Station of the Cross: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem 

When Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, they are moved with compassion. In their sorrow, they attempt to comfort Him. At this point on the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Pain) Jesus has just gotten up from falling the second time. We are now entering into a much narrower and steeper passage for this station. The military and police escorts usually hold us up here to allow the crowd to clear the area, so when we make our turn, we will not be trampled.

As the women of Jerusalem approach Jesus, He gives what will be His last sermon. Jesus receives two different types of punishment because under Roman discipline He will be crucified. Pilate had Jesus scourged to appease the Jews; then he had Him crucified to avoid a riot. The cruel scourging included a whip similar to the cat-o’-nine tails. This device was made of pieces of stone and broken glass embedded in its ends.  As it made contact with the skin, it would shred His skin and open to expose His arteries; this caused immediate swelling. So by the time the women of Jerusalem met Jesus, He was unrecognizable. Jesus had been abandoned by his friends, yet even until the end He shared a message of repentance. (Luke 23:28-31)

The Ninth Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls a Third Time

To make our way up to the Ninth Station we need to walk back to the main cobblestone path and make our way up a flight of stairs. I always remember this station because we pass through a shop where feral cats live on the rooftops. Jesus falls a third time. At this point Jim, the gentleman who is carrying the Cross, is exhausted. As a team we allowed him to catch his breath while Linda, one of the ladies in our group, sang “The Day He Wore My Crown.”

The crowd believes that Jesus does not have the strength to get up again. By now all His energy is depleted, not only from the weight of the Cross but  from all the scourging. He is completely covered in blood but our beautiful Lord musters enough strength to finish the dreadful Via Dolorosa.
The Tenth Station of the Cross: Jesus is Stripped of His Clothes
Jesus is stripped of His garments. Imagine after all the humiliation, being surrounded by people who hate you; and now they take His human dignity by removing His clothes. The Roman soldiers disrespectfully belittle Jesus and expose Him to shame. Jesus’ tunic was made of one piece; it was seamless. This type of garment were worn by the High Priest since the time of Moses. The priest wore these garments for sacrifices. Our Lord was the ultimate sacrifice, and His garments were a sign of His priesthood.

Jesus is crucified at the Eleventh Station of the Cross. We are not allowed into the area of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where the actual Crucifixion took place, so we reenact in an open area not far from the original site for all the world to see. At this time the crowd is thick with tourists from all over the world who have followed us most of the way.

On the way to Calvary

As Jesus (Jim) reaches out to touch them, many of these people are moved to tears. I have witnessed many Israeli soldiers’ countenances change into sadness when experiencing the Via Dolorosa. Our Lord was hung on the Cross between two criminals. Even then that the last minute he saves one of the criminals. Lord, Your mercy is so great!

39Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”


The Twelfth Station of the Cross: Jesus Dies on the Cross

When Jesus and the two criminals were hung on the Cross, it was urgent that they die quickly so their bodies could be taken down from the crosses before the Sabbath, which began at sunset. For the Jews the spectacle of crucifixion would have been seen as desecration of the holy day. At the Jews’ request, Pilate commanded the soldiers to break their legs.

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