The Way of the Cross or Nonviolent Path to Redemption

Prepared by Rev. Loren McGrail
St. Andrews Scotts Memorial Church, Jerusalem

 Bible Study, March 15, 2015

The crucifixion of Jesus was a rite of Roman power. The marching of the charged or defeated through the streets is well documented during the Roman Occupation.

The Franciscans developed the Stations of the Cross because they were granted administration of Christian holy places in 1342. There are 14 Stations in Jerusalem.  Some of the stations have scriptural stories, most do not.   The route has changed except for the beginning at the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and end point at Golgotha.

There are presently Fourteen Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, some with chapels or places to pray and meditate.

  • Christ condemned to death;
  • The cross is laid upon him;
  • His first fall;
  • He meets His Blessed Mother;
  • Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross;
  • Christ's face is wiped by Veronica;
  • His second fall;
  • He meets the women of Jerusalem;
  • His third fall;
  • He is stripped of His garments;
  • His crucifixion;
  • His death on the cross;
  • His body is taken down from the cross; and
  • He is laid in the tomb.

Megan McKenna says, "The Stations of the Cross are a compass, a guide for the heart, a blueprint, and a source for sounding out our responses to what prevails and happens in our world today. They offer wise counsel on how to walk with dignity, with grace, with compassion, and with the freedom that the children of God have, no matter what they encounter along the way...It is the way of God’s agony among us and how God draws our attention to injustice and sin among us."

Church of Scotland reads Station 3 and Station 8 on Good Friday. The following is a reflection I wrote for Global Ministries of the UCC/Disciples of Christ in 2014.

Station 8: Generations of Grief Sharing

We have processed down the Mount of Olives waving palms and singing Hosanna in the highest. We even saw the soldiers standing above us with guns pointed and tear gas canisters ready. We were too involved in our own faithful witness and spectacle to pay much attention. We were caught up in the throng of people singing and dancing making their way to Lion’s Gate.

This was the easy part of the journey but now we are walking the Way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa. The disciples, the men, are nowhere to be found. Jesus is too weak to carry his cross so Simon of Cyrene is asked to help. Even so, Jesus keeps falling. The women, the daughters of Jerusalem, are watching with horror as Jesus stumbles up the hill. These brave women refuse to go and hide. They stay and witness and risk their hearts breaking open beyond repair. Are you with them? Are you with Him?

I imagine their wailing is loud and guttural, their bodies keening at the sight of him and what is to come. The scripture says they beat their breasts. I believe it. These daughters of Jerusalem are after all also mothers, sisters, and wives. They have seen it all before---- husbands, sons dragged away in the dark of night, imprisoned, murdered, crucified daily in humiliating spectacles meant to intimidate.

These women are courageous because they not only stay the course but scream about it. I believe that this is why Jesus turns to them even in his exhaustion.  He is moved by their compassion. He recognizes and validates their pain. The accompaniers and the accompanied become One at station 8. Yet at the same time, Jesus points to the road ahead and yet more challenges to come, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and never gave suck!” The passion story is not only about him he warns.

Living here in occupied Jerusalem, I am aware daily of the hidden and not so hidden passion or sorrow that my colleagues and friends carry. Grief is like the fine sand these frequent dust storms kick up which seem to rise up from nowhere. It covers everything, colors every occasion because it points to what is lost---people or places or will never be again or may never happen.  It is ever present.

Tearful, wailing women populate my morning Facebook feed too as one more child is hauled away by soldiers or another shot in the head. Other women remain stiff and stoic as they try and keep it together for one more day. And still others manage to join in creative ways to resist the occupation like the activists who keep rebuilding the peace camps in E1 or demonstrating on Fridays.  All of these women are staying the course. Are you?

In community organizing there is an expression, “Don’t mourn, organize.” I’ve come to challenge the patriarchal nature of this statement that seems to believe we can cut off our feelings or that there is something inherently wrong or wasteful about deep lament or that it might even keep us from moving forward. Living here has shown me that you can and must keen, wail, cry over the injustice. It is how we stay human and connected to each other. It is one way we can share the Passion.

So dear ones, mourn the tragedy that is taking place before your eyes and organize your resistance. Do what you can where you can. Cry your eyes out for the brutality of it, the injustice. Go the distance. Join the Daughters of Jerusalem and become part of the story of the suffering so you can celebrate the resurrections when they come, so you too can live resurrected lives dedicated to building the New Jerusalem, the Beloved Community.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How is the Way of the Cross important to your understanding about Jesus or God?
  2. Are there certain stations that you feel drawn to?
  3. Who are the suffering or crucified today?  How are you walking with them?
  4. Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die?” What does this mean to you? How is this true or not for you?
  5. Father John Dear says, “I say Yes to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection not only as sources for our own transformation, but as points of decisive confrontation between the power of God and the power of human society that tried to destroy Jesus on the cross. God reversed all expectations by the resurrection, and Jesus’ followers became citizens of a totally new order.”  Do you agree with Father John Dear? Have you have confrontations because of your faith?  How are you living as a citizen of a new order?

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