The Gospels (and the liturgy) repeatedly bring up the need to accompany Jesus on his “Via Dolorosa.”
Holy Week is the most sacred time in the Church’s liturgical calendar, entirely focused on Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection. A recurrent theme throughout the week is a call to accompany Jesus during this most painful part of his life on earth.
Palm Sunday opens Holy Week with a solemn recitation of Jesus’ Passion and typically this involves each person having a role. When celebrated in a church, the parishioners often take the role of the crowd. This culminates in the entire congregation saying, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” In this instance we recognize the role our sins have in Jesus’ crucifixion and how Jesus suffered and died for us, even though we weren’t even born yet.
Then after a few days we arrive at Holy Thursday, and Jesus asks us, as he asked his apostles, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test” (Matthew 26:40-41). Jesus wants us to be with him in his agony and to comfort him with our presence. By doing so, we are comforted and brought joy in our suffering with his presence and courage.
On Good Friday, we read the Passion narrative again and then in the liturgy, the priest raises the crucifix for all to see and each one is encouraged to come forward to venerate the cross, with a kiss, touch or bow. We are transported to Mt. Calvary and may even meditate on how Jesus didn’t ascend the mount alone. He was helped by Simon of Cyrene and had his face washed by St. Veronica. Then at the foot of the cross, his mother Mary and St. John stood there to keep him company.
Then at last on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, we join the Marys and go to the tomb, only to find it empty! Jesus is no longer there and has risen!
As we look forward how to celebrate Holy Week, let us not forget to accompany Jesus and follow in his footsteps so that we can rejoice when we find that he is no longer in the tomb!