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Stations of the Cross

You are invited to journey through The Stations of the Cross. This is a historical practice that is also known as the Way of the Cross, or the Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering) and is often practiced on Good Friday. The Stations was a devotional observance that seemed to originate during the 4th Century and involved Christians walking the path of Jesus from where he was condemned to die to Calvary, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. As Christians walked the way of the cross they would stop from time to time and reflect and pray around various stories associated with Jesus’ journey to Calvary. During the time of the Crusades (1095 – 1270) this practice of walking in the footsteps of Jesus down the Via Dolorosa became very popular among the devout. However when the Moslems took over the Holy Land this practice ceased as it became too dangerous to even try to journey to Jerusalem.

It was during the 14th century that the Stations became adapted into a devotional practice that could be entered into outside of Jerusalem. The Stations began to be depicted by sculptures, carvings or even simple wooden crosses and were always outside. Then in the 18th Century the Stations began to be placed within the Church. Today if you look around inside most Catholic Churches you will have some form of the stations within the sanctuary and on Good Friday at noon they will have a service where they will move from station to station offering a reading, a prayer and time for reflection.

The Stations have changed over time and eventually became a mix of events taken from the gospel narratives and traditions that arose around Jesus’ journey to the cross. The traditional Stations of the Cross have 14 individual stations.

Now there are some people who struggle with the Stations of the Cross because the last station is Jesus being laid in the tomb and not the resurrection. When we realize that the practice of doing the Stations was associated with the events of Good Friday and not Easter then it is not surprising that it ends when it does. Also this seems to be a good thing for there is a tendency to skip over or rush through the Holy Week and Good Friday in particular to get to the joy of the resurrection which results in missing some of the messages inherent in the suffering of Jesus on Good Friday among them the fact of living in a broken world where we need to continue to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as in heaven and to ask not to be led into temptation but delivered from evil. So as you make your way through the stations seek to do so without the reality-softening truth of the resurrection but rather try to stay in the stark and horrific reality that Jesus is marching to his own death, carrying his own means of execution and he is going to die.

As you enter into your journey through the Stations of the Cross resist the temptation to rush through the stations instead give yourself permission to linger at each station seeking to be open to what invitations and/or challenges that God may bring your way. Also do not feel compelled to finish your journey through the Stations. The point is not to get through the stations but to become open to God through the stations. Pay attention to what you are feeling. Are you feeling resistance? If so, why? Are you feeling anguish, joy, love, peace, guilt…take these to God and ask for help exploring and unpacking these feelings. Journaling can be a great aid to your journey through the Stations of the Cross.

Finally as you journey through the Stations do not do so as a disinterested observer but as one who knows Jesus and loves Jesus. Also do not hesitate to place yourself in the scene, the one chosen to carry Jesus’ cross, the one nailing Jesus’ hands and feet, the disciple standing next to Jesus’ mother, the Centurion, those who take Jesus down from the cross…. Let your journey begin.

Traditional Stations of the Cross