We rose before dawn to walk in silence into the Old City to begin the stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa. We entered through the Herod Gate and, using our cell phones as flashlights, found our way through dark, narrow, stone-paved streets to a church near the site of the Praetorium, where Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to be crucified. From there we followed in Jesus’ steps as he staggered through Jerusalem carrying his cross to Calvary. Twelve more times we paused on our journey to read from Scripture, offer prayers, and reflect on Christ’s suffering. It was a sad journey that made us confront the brokenness in our own lives and in our world. And then at the fifteenth station, we found ourselves at the empty tomb in the Church of the Holy. Sepulchre. Into our sadness we heard the Good News proclaimed: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is here! He is risen! He is with you now!”
Like those who heard this news on the first Easter morning, we left the empty tomb with wonder, joy, and fresh hope in our hearts.
Our contemplation of Easter continued as we walked back to St. George’s Guest House for breakfast and then rode in a bus out to one of the four places that have been identified as Emmaus. Two troubled disciples were on their way to Emmaus when they encountered a stranger on the road who turned out to be the risen Christ. As we read the Gospel story and celebrated the Eucharist, we were powerfully reminded that Christ still makes himself known in Scripture and the breaking of the bread.
As we left the grove where we had gathered with hearts full, we came upon a carnival picture board of the disciples and Jesus on the road, and someone couldn’t help but look through its opening.
At a festive lunch back in Jerusalem, we bade farewell to eight of our fellow pilgrims who were returning home to the US. Then the eighteen of us who are continuing on the pilgrimage’s three day extension went back into the Old City to explore the archeological remains at the south end of the Temple Mount. The highlight of the afternoon was sitting on the actual steps that Jesus used when he went up to worship in the Temple. We rejoiced as we read together the words from Psalm 122.
I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the LORD. Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Peace be within your walls and quietness within your borders. WJE