The “Via Dolorosa” or “Way of the Cross” is a 14-station route that winds through the Old City of Jerusalem. Marked by metal plaques with Roman numerals indicating each station number, these stations form a short pilgrimage along the road Jesus would have walked as he made his way to Golgotha and eventually to his death and burial. All year long, one can see groups moving from station to station, reflecting on the suffering and gruesome torture inflicted upon Jesus.
While the Old City’s Via Dolorosa starts at the Garden of Gethsemane and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there are forms of Palestinian suffering that move beyond the confines of the Old City and permeate every aspect of life. As a community of Palestinian Christians engaging in liberation theology, Sabeel invites others to participate in a similar pilgrimage of lament called the “Contemporary Way of the Cross”, which acknowledges present-day suffering and violent realities within Palestinian experience.
On March 19th, an ecumenical group of 35 locals and internationals gathered to walk the Old City’s Via Dolorosa, mindful of Christ’s suffering, but also intentionally lamenting various “stations” of Palestinian suffering like the Nakba, refugee camps, political prisoners, and checkpoints. For Christians, identifying with Christ in his suffering means also learning to more fully embrace the liberation which came afterwards – a liberation to which he leads all humanity. As the group walked along the old stone streets together, they carried a wooden cross, asking Jesus to strengthen their faith and their courage as they face the many challenges of life in this context. Along the way, the group sang hymns from a variety of church traditions and participated in a special liturgy published by Sabeel. The pilgrimage ended with the Lord’s prayer at the St. Helena Grotto in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the historic cross of Jesus was supposed to have been discovered.