Via Dolorosa

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There is no peace in Bethlehem tonight.

The way is blocked, the borders sealed;

The sky is bright with stars,

And the moon glances off the barrel of a gun.

The donkey’s corpse lies rotting by the road,

His bones picked bare by scavengers.

And pregnant mothers yield their weight

To an uneasy, apathetic world. Who will open the gates to Bethlehem

And straighten the highway to Jerusalem?

A road once lined with orange and olive

Now broken by the oppressor’s blade.

Life triumphs over death in Israeli fields,

The vines flourish behind the barbed wire;

And the olive ripens in the sun. Bulldozed fields make way for bypass roads

With guard rails; and Israeli settlers

Whose cars pass by like Levites,

Take no notice of the silence on the hillsides. The way of the cross was political too.

Despised by the powers that be, rejected by his own,

Cast out, denied, a prophet without a home.

Jesus was crucified outside the city walls.

And laid to rest in another man’s tomb.

There is no peace in Bethlehem tonight,

And Christ is crucified again and again, today…. One star among the brightest of the best,

Its checkpoint spotlight glare

Is searching, searing in each human soul.

For truth will out; the human voice released

Like herald angels, will ring out o’er the world,

No peace in Bethlehem, no peace on earth? Truth is the way to peace;

And truth is here tonight

Incarnate in the heart and vine,

The soul of Bethlehem, the soul of humankind. O Jerusalem, my tears pour forth for you,

They wipe the feet of my neighbours

As Jesus washed the feet of his companions,

And Mary’s tears anointed his,

Before he gave himself for your salvation. O Jerusalem, he who wept over you

Now weeps for all his people

Who wither like the figs on the branch

And lie fallow in their fields. The olive branch still offers its fragile strength

To bear his weight,

Its soured fruit to sponge his drying lips and dying frame,

And nourish his people

Before they too yield their souls to the earth;

For the myrrh-bearers are at work in the field. O Bethlehem, the tears that flow for you,

Reach down into your barren soil,

To turn the mustard into gold,

They fill the potter’s jars with wine,

And cause the almond tree to blossom at winter’s end,

Its flowering a sign that spring will come

And with it, the resurrection of the body. There is no peace in Bethlehem tonight.

The locals are buying tape to seal their doors

And stocking up supplies.

The world lies uneasy on the brink of war

As U.S. fighter planes fly over the Gulf

And Canadian frigates are dispatched

To lie in wait for escort duty.

Officials are handing out gas masks

To diplomats, foreign workers and tourists.

But not to Palestinians – yet. Turn back Jerusalem and see the dispossessed of the land,

The ones whose roots run deep as yours.

Then open your gates and call them home:

The refugees, the prisoners, the oppressed,

The lame, the blind, the people of your God.

And sound the trumpet call of Jubilee to all –

So that there can be peace in Bethlehem tonight.

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L. JUNE STEVENSON

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