Friday, April 06, 2007

The Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross is an ancient devotion that brings the walk along the Via Dolorosa from Jerusalem to local churches. The traditional 14 Stations (which, while dating to the 4th century or earlier, were fixed only in the 15th Century) begin with Jesus being condemned to death, then follow him through the streets of Jerusalem to his Crucifixion, then his burial. A mixture of biblical and traditional episodes, the Stations are particularly part of Lenten devotions, offered particularly on Fridays in Catholic churches, and well as Episcopal/Anglican and Lutheran churches that appreciate their Latin Catholic heritage. American Protestants have only recently begun to be exposed to this devotion, particularly through its use in Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. But any time you walk inside a Catholic Church, you will find the Stations of the Cross on the walls of the Nave.

I discovered several years ago (when we were investigating the possibility of posting the Stations in Zion's Nave as a memorial -- no, we haven't accomplished that) these Biblical Stations of the Cross that that Pope John Paul II first used in 1991 for his annual Good Friday celebration of the Stations. If ever I am able to place them in a church, this is the version I would use. Not that there is anything terribly wrong with Jesus' falling three times or St. Veronica, but they are "a way of reflecting more deeply on the Scriptural accounts of Christ's passion" (as the US Catholic Conference describes it).

Following papal custon, for Good Friday His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome -- see the Reuters news report here for a moving description. And then take a few moments to follow the devotions used by the Pope for the Stations. I was particularly struck, and gladdened, to see him following the Biblical Stations:
1. Jesus in the Garden of Olives,
2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested,
3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin,
4. Jesus is denied by Peter,
5. Jesus is judged by Pilate,
6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns,
7. Jesus takes up his cross,
8. Jesus is helped by the Cyrenean to carry his cross,
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem,
10. Jesus is crucified,
11. Jesus promises his Kingdom to the good thief,
12. The crucified Jesus, the Mother and the disciple,
13. Jesus dies on the cross,
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.
As you follow them, you'll notice Latin in the English version of the Stations. The opening versicle and response of each is:
V/ We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R/ Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

After the meditation for each Station -- and the paintings are part of that, too -- comes the Our Father, followed by a stanza of the Stabat Mater, or the hymn "At the Cross, Her Station Keeping."

Thanks to Canon Kendall Harmon at titusonenine for pointing us to this.


Anonymous said...

I am very deeply moved by the stations of the cross, especially the biblical version presented--I am contemplating giving the stations as a gift to the church where I serve (an atisan is making samll crosses out of wood from our former chapel pews to mark the stations).QUESTION: Where do I get the pictures to illustrate each station (I can frame them myself)?
In Christ's Service,
Sister Carol Weaver, Deaconess Community--ELCA

Unknown said...

I just got back from Good Friday service (I'm ELCA and a music director) and boy do we need something new for next year. Incorporating the stations into a Good Friday service I think would be a good idea and finding your post is a good first step in planning for next year. Thanks!

Pastor Zip said...

I've updated the USCCB's link to the Biblical Stations of the Cross.

Anonymous said...

The information you provide, linking to the proper meditations and their liturgical response, is invaluable. We are about to acquire and install the first set of Stations into our 101-year-old San Diego Spanish Gothic parish. I suspect that we may be one of the first LCMS churches to do so. Such considerations are inevitable for those of us committed to the Eucharistic Liturgy (the German Mass), in the same way that our Church Growth counterparts (Lutheran or otherwise) inevitably slouch toward nondescript evangelical nondenominationalism.