To every Christian who goes on a pilgrimage of the Holy Land, following the footsteps of Jesus as he carried His cross is as much a part of the itinerary as visiting the Church of the Nativity.
The practice originated during the time of the early Christians and judging by the sheer number of people doing it seems to have never waned a bit for the past hundred of years. Fortunately we had an early start so the streets were quite empty.
Walking on the cobbled and twisted streets of the Old City was an experience itself. Each corner and alleyway seemed to have a story to v tell. Orthodox and Coptic churches and chapels were everywhere. Most of the shops hadn’t opened yet so there was none yet of the colorful mayhem. As we walked along the streets, I couldn’t help but just feel the place. You know how there are some places that begs to be felt by all your senses like the very place itself has a sensation your body and mind feels? How the place seems to talk to you? This is one of those places.
If I were alone, I could just lose myself.
Honestly, the Via Cruxis didn’t do much for me spiritually. Maybe because the prayers were being read. I’m a very introspective person and I think people should have their own personal insights. It would have been better, for me at least, if we just recounted the event at each station then personally meditated on it rather than reading from a pamphlet someone else prepared. It felt more like a walking tour for me.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This is THE church and the final stop of the Via Cruxis. We were advised by Ronan to just finish the last five of the stations outside rather than inside the church as there world be so many people. He was right.
As we entered the church passing by a chapel of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, we emerged on the front courtyard. We entered the large church and headed up to the steep stairs up to the spot marked by an altar where Christ was crucified. The line was really long but at least the crowd was behaved.
From there, we had mass at a little chapel away from the crowds.
The small chamber marking the spot where Christ was buried was guarded by an imposing Russian Orthodox priest who sternly admonished people if they stayed too long in the tiny tiny chamber where a tomb made of the stone which covered the mouth of the cave was. Of course, the tomb didn’t house Christ’s body as anymore (he ascended to heaven, remember?) and was just a marker. I would have loved to stay inside as the Byzantine lamps and icons were beautiful.
Near the entrance of the church was a large slab of stone where it is said, Jesus’s body was placed to be prepared for burial after being v taken down from the cross.
The church v was really magnificent but there were just so many people it’s hard to appreciate it much more feel its solemnity.