August 11, 2017, Jerusalem– Millions of Christian pilgrims come to the Old City of Jerusalem all seasons of the year to walk this winding route of streets and alleys believed to be the path that Jesus walked on his way to crucifixion.
Ben, our Sandeman Tours guide brought us inside the St. Stephen’s Gate in the Muslim Quarter near Antonia Fortress from where he started his spiel: “We will walk the distance of 2,000 feet westward through Old Jerusalem until we reach the final 5 stations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” It means we will cover the first 9 stations out of the total 14.
Come to think of it, this is not a happy tour. Think about Jesus’s trials and tribulations as he walked these paths. 2,000 feet was a lot! What was going through his mind while he was being tortured, mocked, and disowned by the very people he loved and lived with?
We took photos of the our tour and I’ll share them here. For the scholarly details, there is nothing our tour guide said that most of us may not know or cannot browse in the Internet.
Trial by Pilate and Jesus carried his cross:
Stations One and Two
There are shrines and markers in this monastery complex, where the Franciscan Church of Flagellation stands today. This is where Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate and flogged by Roman soldiers before he carried the cross on his journey down the Via Dolorosa to Calvary.
Jesus falls for the first time: Station Three
On our way to Station 3, where Jesus falls for the first time, is adjacent to the 19th-century Polish-Armenian Catholic Chapel.
Jesus met with his mother Mary: Station Four
The New Testament makes no mention of a meeting between Jesus and Mary during the walk to his crucifixion, but popular tradition introduces one. Yes, there’s got to be this story about meeting his mother. From whom would a son draw his strength from if not for his mother? How did Mary feel to see his son being unjustly punished? Did Mary Magdalene comfort her through her grief?
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross: Station Five
Our tour guide, Ben, pointed to us where Jesus fell and held on to a wall that now has “a mark of his hand” @ Station V. This is the point where Simon of Cyrene was supposed to have helped him carry the cross.
Did the Roman soldiers forced him to carry the cross or he did it out of the goodness of his heart?I put my hand on his ‘handprint’ and tried to imagine what would have been like to be in his shoes. How much did he suffer? How much if his blood and tears, spit and unspeakable dirt thrown at him by people that fell to the ground? Is there any human being on earth who have exactly the same gentle and fiery spirit of Jesus? For sure, there are millions of Herods walking the earth. You see them on television everyday, top of the news even.
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus: Station Six
Ben pointed to us Station VI where Veronica wiped his face with a handkerchief. Wasn’t she afraid to be ridiculed for her act of kindness? The world is in need of so many Veronicas. (Not that mean girl in Archie’s, awright.)
Roman Catholic legend has it that by physical contact with the face of Jesus, the Veil of Veronica has been supernaturally imprinted with Jesus’ image. Although no element of this legend is present in the Bible. Oh, how we love our stories of kindness! Kind-hearted Veronica was definitely a heroine in my books.
Jesus falls the second time: Station Seven
Ben brought us to a major crossroad junction, adjacent to a Franciscan chapel, “built in 1875,” he said. He said this shrine is incorporated in an original tetrapylon, a type of monument that ancient Romans generally built on a “crossroads.”
Now there is a little story of the supernatural here: “In ancient Rome, “crossroads” symbolized a belief that there was an existence of two realms representing ‘neither here nor there’, ‘betwixt and between’. A purgatory of sorts?
Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem: Station Eight
Ben pointed to us Station VIII, where Jesus met with the women of Jerusalem. Was Mary Magdalene among them? Or was she also immersed in her own pain of losing?This station is adjacent to a Greek Orthodox monastery. The sign an embossed cross and the marking of the Greek word Nika, which means Victory.
Jesus falls the third time: Station Nine
This station is adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We passed along the way the Chapel of Saint Helena, a gorgeous 12th-century Armenian church in the lower level of the bigger Church.
Flashback to some events:
Since I was a child, I grew up fascinated by stories about the life of Jesus. My early education about the Bible started since I was in Kindergaarten, age six, when every Lenten Season we watched films, TV and even the theater. My Aunt Christy started me with “The Greatest Story Ever Told” that starred Max von Sydow.
In my teens, there was Franco Zeffireli’s 1977 film, “Jesus of Nazareth.” (I went to a private Catholic high school (yeay, St. Joseph College) and was made to attend student mass every Saturday. Truth be told, you know, the teenagers in us were also happy to have complied with this requirement. Sabado nights kasi!) And what about “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the passion of Christ musicale that brought out the rocker in most of us? I memorized almost all the songs and whenever I meet baby-boomers like myself, it is always great fun to sing along with them– whether it is the Lenten season or not!
Remember Matt Ranillo? In the 90’s we watched his portrayal of Jesus in “Kristo.” Then in 2004, Mel Gibson gave us “The Passion of Christ,” with Jim Caviezel as Jesus. In any vehicle that I watched, I remember crying all throughout the Dolorosa scenes.
Fr. Francel Paje, who was once the parish priest of Subic Bay community. Every Good Friday, he had launched our city’s own version of Via Dolorosa, utilizing the whole stretch of Waterfront Road. On its second year, I watched my own daughter, Trisha- yes that Trisha Velarmino of P. S. I’m On My Way (Visit her spectacular blogsite @ https://psimonmyway.com/travel-stories) who portrayed the role of Mary Mother of Jesus during a Good Friday commemoration, way back when she was 15. I remember crying a lot seeing her and friend Muji (as Jesus) acted their roles. This was, of course, my favorite passion play. <stagemum>
And now here I am, in the streets of Jerusalem- feeling amazed to hear these stories retold.
Next: Let us now continue our journey to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre:
VISITING THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE WHERE JESUS WAS BELIEVED TO BE CRUCIFIED AND LAID TO REST IN A TOMB