A solemn yet humbling occasion
It was, indeed, a solemn occasion and a humbling one. After descending a series of steps in the Basilica of the Ecce Homo in the old city of Jerusalem, we were taken to a place called “The Pavement,” the courtyard of Pilate’s headquarters where Jesus was condemned by Pilate. After the condemnation, Jesus was stripped of his clothes, dressed in a purple robe, crowned with a crown of thorns, a reed staff was placed in his right hand, and calling him a king, the crowd mocked him.
After being reminded of what happened there, we began a slow walk along the Via Dolorosa, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. Via Dolorosa means “The Way of Sorrow,” and it is the road from Pilate’s headquarters where Jesus was condemned to Calvary where he was crucified. The Via Dolorosa ends at a tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that has been venerated for centuries as the tomb in which Jesus, following his crucifixion, was laid by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
Tradition has established fourteen Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa. These stations commemorate experiences that occurred between the place of condemnation and the place of crucifixion. As we approached the third Station of the Cross, we were reminded that that station commemorates the place where Jesus is reported to have fallen beneath the weight of the cross, and the fifth Station of the Cross commemorates the place where Simon was forced, by Roman officials, to carry Jesus’ cross from that point to Calvary. Not much is know about Simon. All we do know is that he was from Cyrene, the capital of Cyrenaica, a city on the northern coast of Africa. Too, it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. He was “was passing by on his way in from the country” when he, a bystander, was forced to carry the cross of Jesus.
Standing there at the fifth Station of the Cross, words of Henry Lyte took on a new meaning, “I my cross have taken.”