The house off the Via Dolorosa

Happy Easter to all my Christian friends.

It is a late afternoon in Jerusalem when I turn off the cobblestone Via Dolorosa onto a little side street and there it is. The smell of cooked meat from the animal sacrifices in the Temple fills the air. Soon I come to the door I’ve been searching for. A wooden door with the sign of a fish above it. The house behind that door is the home of the Mother of Jesus.

During Herod Agrippa’s recent persecutions, many of the faithful left Jerusalem. These included Mary. Though she wanted to stay in the City, the Apostle John, the disciple Jesus charged with her welfare, sent her away. In Nazareth, she had family and she would be safe there.

A week before the fifteenth anniversary of our Lord’s Crucifixion, our tribulations ended. Agrippa was dead. We faithful started returning to the city. This became obvious by the number who gathered on the Mount of Olives for the sunrise celebration of the Resurrection some weeks earlier. His Mother was one of them, and now her door is open again to her Son’s followers.

I knock. A small woman opens the door.

“Who is it, Salome?” a booming voice calls. Peter, a large, balding man, sits at a table across the room, surrounded by three other men. “Not a temple spy I hope. Caiphas and his prying eyes.” Then he laughs.

“Just a traveler,” I say, “seeking some good company and a place to shake the dust off my feet.”

“Enter, friend,” another calls over to me. His name is John and his eyes burn with the bright light of his Master’s love. “You are most welcome in this house.”

“Take off your shoes,” Salome says to me. “This is a holy place.”

I remove my sandals and set them by the door as the others have.

“Sit, friend,” another man says, looking over me with eyes that remember Emmaus. This large, burly man with the gruff voice is Cleopas, a former Zealot.

I join the four men, Peter and John, Cleopas and Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, at the table.

“Perhaps,” Cornelius says, hope in his eyes. “Perhaps this will be the year of His Return. On the anniversary of His Ascension?”

Mary, the one called Magdalen, walks over and pours me a drinking bowl of red wine. Suddenly I realize how thirsty I am. As I drink, Salome kneels and washes the dirt off my feet.

Across the room, I notice another woman dressed in blue, the woman I have come to see. Though her face and hands are wrinkled and her hair white, the woman in her mid-sixties has a calm peace on her face. And the room glows with her tranquility, her stillness. She is the Mother of Jesus. This coming summer she will pass from this earth and join her Son. But this late spring evening she is here, and I have a chance to enjoy the hospitality of her house as I eat her bread and sip her wine.

She sits in her chair, her hands resting on her lap, a gentleness on her face, gentle yet revealing all the suffering she has known. There she tells her stories and I am comforted.

“He who dwells,” she says, “in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. And I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust’….If you make the Most High your dwelling…no harm will befall you.” Then she folds herself inward and meditates upon all that she has known.

After a long pause, she ends the evening with these words: “Maranatha. Come, Lord, come again.”

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