Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Traditional Stations of the Cross Map, How the Stations Came to Be, and Jerusalem's Mixed Reputation

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The above map, made by me, shows the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked with his cross.  Each marker is one of the fourteen traditional stations.

The Stations of the Cross is based after one of the earliest Christian pilgrimage practices: walking the path Jesus did on his way to be crucified.  Those who could not travel to Jerusalem recreated the important part of the city by making stations in churches and other places so one could walk and mediate on Jesus' final trek without the dangerous and/or costly journey.

I say "important part" because early Christianity had a love-hate relationship with the place now known as the "Holy City."  On the positive Jerusalem had the first church council, where it was declared one does not have to be a Jew to be Christian, and one of the main patriarchs of the united Church was the head of the Church of Jerusalem.

However, the city Jerusalem had major baggage for Christians.  Jesus himself let out a statement of despair about how Jerusalem could have been great but for its unwillingness to follow God:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? (Mathew 23:37)

The Apostles did their best to get away from Jerusalem.  The first few martyred died around Jerusalem while the rest managed to spread out.

View Where the 12 Apostles Died in a larger map

Jerusalem's patriarch was the minor player in the biggest league (Antioch had the scholars, Alexandria had the theologians, and Rome had the power).  No major Church Father argued for Jerusalem to be the center of Christendom and the Church.

Jerusalem remained a sort of backwater even after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  The Temple Mount remained primarily ruins as Christianity taught Jesus and the Church were the new temple.  The site of the old temple had little meaning.  When Helena, Emperor Constantine's mother, allegedly found holy relics of Jesus they were not enshrined in the Holy City but instead taken out.  The universal faith kept the capital of David on the back burner.

It took the fall of Jerusalem to Muslim forces for the status of Jerusalem to rise in the Christian mind. Since then, from before the Crusades up until today, many Christian pilgrims have made their way to Jerusalem.  Walking along the Way of the Cross is one of the main attractions that many still do.  And Christians around the world, including an increasing number of Protestants, continue to do the first virtual pilgrimage every year by mediating along the Stations of the Cross.

1 comment:

Dina said...

I never knew all that about the apostles' deaths. Thanks for the map and information.
Yes, the Old City is packed with pilgrims this week.
Have a holy Holy Week!