We are generally inclined to avoid crowded sites on holidays, when tourists and pilgrims fill the Old City streets to bursting. However, Geoff's oldest sister sent us an email beautifully pleading for us to walk the Via Dolorosa on this Good Friday, as she would if she were here. We know there are many others who feel that way as well, and this inspiration kept us from taking for granted that we could visit anytime. We headed into the crowded city.
The actual route is quite possible to figure out based on geography and culture, but the Via Dolorosa follows traditions more than historical accuracy. At the 5th station, for example, a well worn stone is said to be where Jesus placed his hand to steady himself. Though many share that this is simply tradition, we've also seen far too many guides point this out to trusting tourists as the real deal, which is frustrating to say the least. That's the down side. On the positive side - this IS a walk that pilgrims and followers of Christ have walked for hundreds of years in honor of their L-RD Jesus Christ, and is an amazing discipline of memory and love for the Savior.
Easter has always been the most sacred day of the year for me; how could it not be? The death, burial, and resurrection story of Jesus is an incredible one, even for non-believers and scholars due to the cultural circumstances, the feasts that it coincided with in Judaism (and fulfilled), and the incredible movement that followed, known as "The Way," or today, as Christianity.
I am so thankful for the encouragement we received to make the most out of our opportunity to be in Jerusalem on such an Awesome day in history. Though we've walked many parts of it before, we walked the entire Via Dolorosa today and were blessed by the experience. It was worth all the crowds and hassle, and this is already my favorite Easter ever. I have been anxiously anticipating celebrating Easter here, in the very place it happened. We followed groups singing praises to our Savior down the Via Dolorosa, worshiped with them in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where throngs of people gathered at the site of his crucifixion, and tomb. The singing of Franciscan monks filled the church while we were there in the most beautiful serenade. So thankful. He is Risen.