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    The Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem - Reflection
    The 3rd Station: HERE Jesus falls the first time

    The procession left the fortress. It passed through the city gate towards the barren land to the west of the city. It was not easy. The road went downhill towards the Valley of the Tyropeon. Jesus' feet were unsteady. The soldiers where pushing the condemned. They had to finish their job as soon as posible.

    On the wayside the scene started to change. There were many others who had come outside the city gate to see this "procession". They were mostly women. The men had other things to do. It was the Passover vigil and they had to get the lambs and by three in the afternoon take them to the Temple to be killed. The men of Israel where preparing the lambs to be killed!

    The Roman soldiers where leading the "lamb of God" (Jn 1,29.36) to the slaughter: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth" (Is 53,7).

    Jesus was exhausted and his feet were trembling under the weight of the cross-beam. He could not take it any longer. With a bang Jesus fell under the cross-beam, face down in the muddy path. He is breathing heavily. His tunic opens again the wounded flesh.

    The soldiers come running up to him and without delay pull him up from under the cross-beam.

    The pain is unberable. It made him feel like his shoulders were being pulled apart. His arms stretched. There was no kindness in the soldiers' behaviour. It was only a matter of seconds and Jesus was again brought to his feet.

    They were but interminable moments and Jesus prayed aloud "In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men. For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth" (Ps. 71,1-5)

    A Prayer

    Dear Jesus, how I wish I could live in serenity my moments of weakness! How I wish to confide in your love whenever I feel the burden of my cross! How I wish to come out of the mud whenever I stumble in my paths! How I wish dear Jesus that your hand will lift me up again and return in your path! Yes, dear Lord, I want to be one with you, I want to carry with a smile the burdens of my life. Seeing you face down under the weight of the cross I cannot but thank you Lord for taking upon yourself the task to carry me with all my sins upon your shoulder like a shepherd carries on his shoulders the lost lamb of his flock. Dear Jesus, help me rise again whenever I fall!

    The Site

    The Ecce Homo Arch

    Moving from the Second to the Third Station you pass under the "Ecce Homo" Arch. This is one of the best known sites in Jerusalem, not for its archaeological interest, but for the role traditionally assigned to it in the story of the Passion of Jesus. And yet this triumphal arch with its three openings, which was not encased in a boundary wall, must surely have impressed the inhabitants of Aelia Capitolina.
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    The Ecce Homo Basilica

    The better preserved of the three arches of the Ecce Homo Arch, beside the central one which spans over the Via Dolorosa, is the northern one visibile in the Ecce Homo Basilica. The arch is decorated with very simple mouldings, of which fragments still remain in various places. The upper part of the arch is modern. The setting up of a loggia with two windows eventually encouraged the tour guides to see here the spot from which Pilate had presented Jesus to the Jews and to give the arch the name "Ecce Homo", which it kept to this day. The actual basilica was opened for worship in 1868.
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    The Sisters of Sion

    The Convent of the Sisters of Sion was built by Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbone who had bought the land in 1857. Within it are encloses various archaeological elements of undeniable importance even if their interpretation sometimes lacks a solid basis.
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    The "Lithostratos"

    The problem of the famous pavement known as the Lithostratos came to light as soon as excavations were carried out under the Convent of the Sisters of Sion and in the adjoining Franciscan Friary (1858-60, 1889, 1990, 1931-33). This brought to light various Roman flagstones some of which were grooved to prevent horses from slipping, others had games scratched on them much like our games of hopscotch and noughts and crosses. Apart from its archaeological interest, the pavement invites reflection!
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    Another view of the "Lithostratos" area

    The scene recalls the events of the first "Way of the Cross" undertaken by the Lord Jesus Christ!
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    The "Lithostratos" area with other archaeological remains

    This pavement covers over a double reservoir of impressive dimensions, identified by archaeologists as being the Strouthion Pool. The reservoir provided an important drainage system for the collection and distribution of rainwater.
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    The Roman game

    One of the games engraved in the stone pavement is thought to be the "King's Game".
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    Another view of the "King's Game"

    It is called the "King's Game" because of the engraved crown accompanied by what seems to be the initial letter B (which is the initial letter of the Greek word "Basileus" = king).
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    External view of the Chapel of the Third Station

    Beyond the Sisters of Sion and the Greek Praetorium the road goes downhill towards the Valley of the Tyropeon. At the valley crossroad, the "Via Dolorosa" folows along the road which comes from Damascus Gate. Ever since Ricoldus de Monte-Crucis (1288) pilgrims linked the junction of the two streets to a fall of Jesus and the requisitioning of the Cyrenian, or less often to the requistioning and the scene of the daughters of Jerusalem, or again most frequently to the requisitioning episode. Today the spot only recalls the devotional episode of the first fall.
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    Inside the Chapel of the Third Station

    On the site of a part of the former Turkish baths, on the left of the street coming from Damascus Gate, a chapel was built in the second half of the 19th century. This chapel was renovated in 1947-48 thanks to the generosity of Polish soldiers. The place belongs to the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate.
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    Another view of the Chapel at the Third Station

    In front of the iron railing two pillars are made from two pieces of a column which before 1947 was partially buried in the ground and marked the actual spot of the station. Above the door and inside, two sculptures by A. Minghetti represent the Lord's first fall.
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    Reflections and Prayers by John Abela ofm
    Descriptive text by John Abela, ofm and Michael Olteanu based on research by Albert Storm (SBF - Jerusalem)
    Hi-Res pictures prepared by Michael Olteanu
    Display pictures prepared by John Abela ofm

    THE WAY OF THE CROSS - Navigation
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    Last Supper | Gethsemane 1 | Gethsemane 2 | Prison | Holy Sepulchre | Procession

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     Created / Updated Tuesday, March 31, 1998 at 02:30:31
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