A few years ago, I had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the things that I was most looking forward to on that trip was walking the Via Dolorosa, and commemorating Jesus’ journey to Calvary, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead.
When we finished that portion of our trip, I found myself feeling a little disappointed. I was expecting to have this great spiritual high as we walked the Via Dolorosa, but all I could focus on was the “ordinariness” of everything that was going on around us. The shopkeepers were peddling their wares, people continually bumped into us on the crowded streets, and when we finally got to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the monks quickly moved everyone along past the spot marking Calvary, and through the empty tomb. It certainly was not the spiritual experience I had hoped for!
As I’ve reflected on this part of our pilgrimage, I’ve come to realize that the way in which I picture the events of the Passion in my head played a large part in my expectations of what the experience of the Via Dolorosa would be like. I have always had a tendency to view them in isolation- as if the world stood still while Christ was being led to Calvary. But the truth is, Jesus’ experience of being led to Calvary was likely very similar to my experience of walking the Via Dolorosa. Crucifixion was extremely common in Jesus’ day, and for many of the residents of Jerusalem, there would have been nothing to distinguish Jesus from the people who were executed by the Romans the week prior. This ordinary occurrence of crucifixion only became an extraordinary event, and the key Mystery of our Faith, because Jesus’ death on the cross was not the end of the story.
Viewing the events of our Lord’s Passion through this lens helps me to put this Holy Week into perspective- especially since we find ourselves needing to scale back some of our Holy Week traditions due to the realities of the Pandemic. Many of us will likely feel some disappointment about this, but it’s important to remember that the inability to carry out certain rituals does not change the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. We can take comfort in knowing that God is with us, even if these days do not feel as extraordinary as we would like them to. Maybe this year, we can all learn to be a little more attentive to the ways in which God is present to us in all of the ordinary and mundane circumstances of our lives.
Wishing you all a Blessed Holy Week, as we journey with our Lord through his Passion, death and Resurrection.
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB