Via Dolorosa

Tomorrow, (Sunday, March 29th), marks the beginning of Holy Week—a time of heightened reflection as Easter approaches. (My post from this time last year describes the events of Holy Week, in case you are interested.)

Some churches hang “Stations of the Cross” during this season as visual reminders of Jesus’ steps as He was led out of Jerusalem to be crucified. Each station portrays an event from the time Jesus was convicted to when He was laid in the tomb.

Stations of the Cross are often made of wood, metal, or stone and are placed one after the other on the walls of a church’s nave so that worshippers can “walk with the Savior” through the last moments of His ministry on earth. This “path” is traditionally referred to (in Latin) as Via Dolorosa, which translated means “Way of Sorrow,” “Way of Suffering,” or “Way of Grief.”

The stations can range in number from nine to fifteen. Why such a range? Some versions incorporate legendary, extra-biblical events, such as Jesus falling multiple times or a woman (Veronica) wiping His face. This is where being (or becoming!) familiar with the eyewitness accounts recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) comes in handy.

Duke Chapel in Durham, North Carolina, hangs Stations of the Cross in its vaulted nave. Haitian artist John Sylvestri created these relief sculptures—fourteen in all—from recycled oil drums.


In the vaulted nave of Duke Chapel, Stations of the Cross hang beneath the stained glass windows. (Durham, NC)

For several years now, I’ve walked the Stations. Although Duke Chapel’s collection uses the aforementioned “creative” (a.k.a. extra-biblical) license, I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater—when I come to one of those, I simply move on to the next station.


Station 12 depicts Jesus dying on the cross.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. — I Peter 2:24 (ESV)


Station 14, Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Walking the Stations of the Cross does not in and of itself confer special blessings, but the “journey” can be spiritually edifying. Reflecting on these last moments of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth might raise the question, “Why did He walk this way?”

The short answer—and the response upon which each of our lives personally hang—is this: Every one of us fails to keep God’s Law (i.e. the Ten Commandments) perfectly. I fail. (Translated: I sin.) Respectfully, so do you. We need a sinless Savior. Jesus was—and is, and always will be—that perfect solution. (He is fully God, but He is also fully man.) He suffered and died the death that each one of us deserves. He sacrificed His life so that we could live forever. Believe that, and we will. Believe that, and we will fall on our knees, repentant, begging God our Creator to forgive us of our sins. And He will.

Holy Week is a good time to reflect, prayerfully and thankfully, on Jesus Christ’s suffering on our behalf. Come Easter Sunday, sorrow will be turned to joy in celebration of the risen Savior.

Blessings to you during this Holy Week.