Book Excerpt: The Expected One

She visited the Convent of the Sisters of Sion, before moving to the neighboring Chapel of Condemnation, the legendary location where Jesus was given his cross after the sentence of crucifixion had been passed by Pontius Pilate. Again, the unexpected lump in her throat was accompanied by an overwhelming sense of grief as she walked through the building. Life-size bas-relief sculptures illustrated the events of a terrible morning 2,000 years earlier. Maureen stood, riveted, by a vivid scene of haunting humanity: a male disciple as he tried to shield Mary, the mother of Jesus, to spare her the sight of her son carrying His cross. Tears stung at the back of her eyes as she stood before the image. It was the first time in her life she had thought of these larger-than-life historical figures as real people, flesh-and-blood humans suffering through an event of nearly unimaginable anguish.

Feeling momentarily dizzy, Maureen steadied herself with a hand against the cool stones of an ancient wall. She paused to refocus before taking more notes on the artwork and sculpture.

She continued on her path, but the labyrinthine streets of the Old City proved deceiving, even with a carefully drawn map. The landmarks were often ancient, weathered, and easily missed by those unfamiliar with their whereabouts. Maureen cursed silently as she realized she was lost again. She stopped in the shelter of a shop doorway, shielding herself from the direct sunlight. The intensity of the heat, even with the slight breeze, belied the lateness of the season. Shielding the guidebook from the glare, she looked around, attempting to get her bearings.

"The Eighth Station of the Cross. It has to be around here somewhere," she muttered to herself. This location was of specific interest to Maureen, for her work centered on this history as it pertained to women. Referring back to the guidebook, she continued to read a passage from the Gospels that pertained to Station Eight.

"A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus said, 'Weep not for me, daughters of Jerusalem, weep for yourselves and for your children.' "

Maureen was startled by a sharp knock on the window behind her. She looked up, expecting to see an angry proprietor glaring at her for blocking his doorway. But the face that looked back at her was beaming. An immaculately dressed, middle-aged Palestinian man opened the door to the antiquities shop, beckoning Maureen in. When he spoke it was in beautiful, if accented, English.

"Come in, please. Welcome, I am Mahmoud. You are lost?"

Maureen waved the guidebook lamely. "I'm looking for the Eighth Station. The map shows ..." Mahmoud waved the book away with a laugh. "Yes, yes. Station Eight. Jesus Meets the Holy Women of Jerusalem. It is just out here and around the corner," he gestured. "A cross above the stone wall marks it, but you have to look very carefully."

Mahmoud looked at Maureen intently for a moment before continuing. "It is like everything else in Jerusalem. You have to look very carefully to see it for what it is."

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