The Via Dolorosa

by Michael L. Russo

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



The goal of this work is to provide a deeper understanding of the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we can grow in the knowledge of God’s love for us. The Via Dolorosa is a permanent gift to us. It is a constant reminder of what Jesus suffered, where he suffered, and how he suffered so that humanity could be reconciled to the Father. Meditating on the Stations of the Cross is not just reserve for the Lenten season in preparation for Easter. The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ should be in our minds and in our hearts daily, for it is the understanding of that great love that we can gain strength and draw ourselves closer to God. St. Jerome tells us: “When we pray we speak to God but when we read God speaks to us.” We need to use all that is at our disposal to learn about and communicate the salvific work of Jesus. It is with that thought in mind that the goals for this work were established: to provide a tool for prayer, reflection meditation, contemplation, education, and reconciliation.


This project focusing on the Via Dolorosa can be summed up for me in one word, and that word is “transforming.” Initially, the project was all about research. The author gathered the graphics and the historical information and began to structure his vision for the project. As he moved from research to project structure, he was transforming from research to reflection. As the pieces of the puzzle came together, I found myself reflecting on Jesus, what He did for me, and what he did for all humanity. The author discovered that his quest for a deeper understanding of the salvific work of Jesus Christ was opening his mind and his heart to new levels of interest that he had never explored. Again, he was transformed. His reflections changed into meditation as he mentally placed himself on the Via Dolorosa and walked alongside Christ.


The entire account of the Passion is set in five different locations. It begins in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, and continues in the palace of the retired high priest, Annas, where the scribes and the elders were gathered. Scripture tells us that the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin were trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus so that they could put Him to Death (Matt, 26:57,59; Mark 14:53-55; Luke 22:54. When Jesus was finally declared guilty of blasphemy, He was held overnight in prison so that the chief priests and elders could take counsel about their decision.


The decision was ratified by the morning, and the event moved to Pilate’s palace. Because it was not lawful for the Jews to put any man to death, they put the trial into Pilate’s hands (John 18:31) Pilate struggled with making a decision, but in the end, he gave in and condemned Jesus to death, just as the Jews had demanded. Jesus was then taken from the Praetorium to Golgotha where the execution sentence was carried out. The Passion and death of Jesus concludes in a garden where the burial takes place. This suffices to show that the account is built according to concentric structure. The story within a story surrounds and draws attention to a central theme: the kingship of Christ. The theological importance of the Roman trial cannot be ignored, for it is during the trial before Pilate that the theme of Christ’s kingship is developed (Matt 27:11; Mark 15:2). This scene is situated in the center of the story.

This book won the Christian Writings Award and is a book sensitive to the knowledge/feelings of the reader.