This Sunday we enter into the week we call holy. It is a fresh opportunity to enter more deeply into the passion of Jesus – His life, death, and resurrection. This Lent we have invited artists in our community to use their artistic gifts to help each of us and all of us experience anew the reality of Christ’s amazing love and sacrifice.
“The Journey to the Cross” will be open to the public next week at the Uptown Center (668 Washington Road in Mt Lebanon on Monday – Saturday from 10 AM-2 PM and Thursday and Friday evenings from 6:30-8:30 PM for viewing, reflection and prayer. Tonight (Friday) at 6 PM we will have a First Friday Open House preview. I hope you will join us during this holy season as I believe this exhibit will enable you to more fully apprehend the amazing, divine love of God in Christ.
The following is my introduction to the Journey and I invite you to reflect upon these words today.
Many years ago, during my final year of theological education at Pittsburgh Seminary, I had the opportunity to visit the nation of Israel for a month long immersion into the land we call “holy.” It was a rich, life changing journey and my experiences with fellow seminarians along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea, in the mountains of Caesarea Philippi, the lush valleys of Jericho, and the deserted places – these experiences continue to inform and enlighten my reading of the Scriptures almost 25 years after the fact.
However, my favorite memories were the early morning and late night walks I took through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. The ancient paths possessed a maze-like quality and every twist and turn along the cobbled way brought with it intrigue, mystery and great delights of sight, sound, smell and taste. Over time we become familiar with many of the shopkeepers and street vendors along the way. Complex and competing Arab and Hebrew melodies, braying donkeys, freshly baked breads, tantalizing falaphal sandwiches, amazing fruits and vegetables, strong Arab coffee – these walks are locked deeply into my sensual memory banks. And yet there were moments on these walks when a profound sense of sacredness, might I say even holiness, overtook me as I came to the realization that the path my feet were traveling were perhaps tracing the very steps that Jesus took two centuries earlier.
For countless generations, followers of Jesus have referred to these sacred steps as the Via Dolorosa – Latin for “the Way of Grief” or “the Way of Sufferings”. Traditionally, the Via Dolorosa is held to be the pathway that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion and death. Nine stations mark the Via Dolorosa, each one commemorating a specific event that contributed to the suffering and passion of our Lord in his final hours of His earthly ministry. For most pilgrims who find their way into the Old City, the exact location of each event along the Via Dolorosa is of little importance; what is most significant however is the spirit of the journey.
It is my honor to welcome you to the Journey to the Cross. This exhibit features the creative work of artists from our community of faith. As you take time to consider their artistic renderings of the final steps of Jesus, I invite you into the spirit of the journey.
May the same Spirit who empowered Jesus, each and every step of His journey to the cross, open your eyes, ears and hearts and may the Spirit guide you deeper into the mystery of the passion of our Lord – His life, death, and resurrection. And as we follow our Lord along the Via Dolorosa and ultimately to the empty tomb, may we be reminded of His passionate love for each of us and all of us.