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Living Stations of the Cross take Gainesville parishioners back to Jerusalem

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It’s not something commuters witness every day. Some craned their necks and grabbed their phones to snap photos, while others sat at traffic lights staring straight ahead, unsure of the scene unfolding near them.

The scene was right out of Jerusalem near the start of the first millennium, with a few differences — the streets were busy with cars and buses, not animals or people on foot, and the brief announcement at the beginning to turn off cell phones. Roman soldiers, Pontius Pilate, Jesus, Mary, John and others acted out the living Stations of the Cross in front of Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville April 11.

Nearly 150 people followed in the footsteps of Jesus, some dressed in period costumes. His mother, Mary, wept at His feet. Simon helped Jesus carry the cross. Veronica wiped His face. It was all there.

The re-enactment was the idea of Matt Moore and Margi Loesel, Holy Trinity parishioners. The costumes and some of the actors are from the parish’s Bethlehem Walk held each December. Moore called the stations a bookend to the Bethlehem Walk.

“We bring people into Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth to experience that world and then we get to see the other side of it 33 years later,” said Moore.

Moore said the church grounds, the porticos and arches were a perfect setting for the stations.

Jeff Hunter was the narrator. Reynaldo Rodriguez played Jesus, Mandy Viles was Mary, and Will Hunter was the apostle John. Moore played Pontius Pilate. Students from Seton High School in Manassas sang during the stations.

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus during the Living Stations of the Cross at Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville. ELIZABETH ELLIOTT | CATHOLIC HERALD

veronica wipes the face of jesus

Nicole Merz, a parishioner of Holy Trinity, was moved by the stations. “This was a great way to spend Holy Week reflecting on what this is all about,” she said. It meant a lot to have her second-grade son, Logan, witness what he’s studied in school.

Lizka Torres, a seventh-grader, was dressed in costume and part of the crowd. “It was awesome being able to know you are helping other people experience what it was like to be there,” she said. “We’re giving them a special grace of being there.” 

Rodriguez said playing the part of Jesus was a good way to offer something, especially during Holy Week. “Being carried to the tomb was surreal because you’re trusting that these gentleman carrying you won’t drop you,” he said. “You’re at the mercy of others, and I was thinking about how Our Lord was carried after coming down from the cross.

As the tomb in the basement was sealed — the door to the church was closed — Mary and her companions wept and the crowd sang, “At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017