Saturday, 31 May 2014

To Calvary and beyond

Our Jerusalem hotel was located right opposite the city walls, so in order to follow the Via Dolorosa, the Stations of the Cross, we just crossed the road, went in through Herod's Gate and strolled through the Arab quarter to Mass at the Ecce Homo Convent (left). Here the sisters look after the remains of the palace of Pilate, possibly where the trial of Jesus took place. Underneath is the famous pavement marked with the games that the Roman soldiers played.
Here, we remembered how Pilate presented the people with the choice - Jesus or Barabbas? Here the voice of Jesus is largely silent, we look, reflect - and choose. Barabbas, the world, the easy life, or Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life?
After Mass we set off on the Way of the Cross through the streets of the Old City. Half way along we managed to obtain a cross for the group to carry - 3 people for each Station. By now my toe problem was playing up after a few days of punishment - but it all seemed tiny compared to his condition...  Soon we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the goal of countless pilgrims down through the centuries... The surprise, some might say shock, of this crowded noisy complex building is long past for me on this my fifth visit. I left the long queue of people waiting to enter the Tomb, and as I came round to the front of it (below, on a quieter day!), a man got up from one of the few seats, smiled, and disappeared into the crowd. And so I sat there, right in front of the Tomb's entrance, for about half an hour. The noise and bustle slowly melted away in my mind, and I was left face to face with the simple truth of an empty tomb. Looking back, these moments were the heart of the pilgrimage for me this time round.

After this visit we went for lunch and then on to the area known as Mount Zion with its Dormition Abbey. We gathered around the statue of the deceased Mary in the crypt, remembering our loved ones, and I asked Clare to sing a verse of the Magnificat ("My soul is filled with joy..."). It was a beautiful end to the day.

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