First Posted: 3/21/2013
Every Friday during the 40 days of Lent, Catholics attend a devotion known as the “Stations of the Way of the Cross.” This devotion dates back to the late Middle Ages when pilgrims were prevented from visiting the sacred sites due to the Turkish occupation of the Holy Land. Replicas were made of the stopping places of prayer on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem and by the late 16th century, the 14 stations were erected in almost all Catholic churches.
There is a solemnity in each church service attended regardless of the denomination of the church. While attending “The Stations Way of the Cross” each week, the written words of the Passion of Christ are heart wrenching. Our love and belief are affirmed in the obedience to His father and the courage to die a horrific death for His convictions for love of all mankind.
The priest begins the services with, “We adore You, O Christ and we praise You. The people respond, “Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.
The first station is “Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die.” It was after the second appearance of Jesus before Pilate that he was forced into unjustly making a decision to appease the people who chanted “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” that he passed sentence. Taken by the guards, Jesus was unmercifully beaten and a crown of sharp thorns was forced upon his head.
The second station is “Jesus Accepts His Cross”.”With visible bleeding bruises, blood streaming down his face a heavy, rough cross was placed not too gently on his shoulders. It is here where, as a congregation, we pray that all the suffering destined for us until death will be carried with peace and resignation as did Jesus.
The third station is “Jesus Falls the First Time.” The thud of the heavy cross carried on His shoulder is heard as a weakened Jesus, hardly able to walk, falls on his knees to the ground. Soldiers with whips in hand force Him to stand and continue on this journey. We pray by the merits of this first fall to save us from falling into grievous sin.
The fourth station is “Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother.” Wiping the blood and sweat rolling upon His face, Jesus looks into the face of His beloved Mother Mary. Imagine the pain that pierced the heart of mother and son as their eyes met and were unable to reach out in comfort. We pray for the grace of devotion to the most Holy Mother and ask, by her prayers, a lasting remembrance of the meaning and passion of her son, Jesus.
The fifth station is “Simon Helps Carry the Cross.” Jesus was getting weaker with each step at the point of expiring. The soldiers, fearing he would die on the way to Calvary where they wished Him to die the infamous death of crucifixion, forced Simon of Cyrene to help carry the cross. Simon pulled from the crowd hesitated and took a step back. We pray and embrace the acceptance of the death destined for us with the pain that may accompany it.
The sixth station is “Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.” Seeing Jesus in distress, Veronica bravely stepped out from the crowd and, with sorrowful compassion, took her veil and wiped the once beautiful face now bathed in sweat and blood. We are reminded that our soul was once beautiful when it received the Grace of God in baptism and pray it can be restored to its former beauty.
The seventh stationi s “Jesus Falls the Second Time.” Although Simon is helping to carry the cross, Jesus, who is weary, falls again under the weight of the cross. Once again, the executioners drag Him to His feet and force Him to walk the continuing path to Calvary. In our daily lives, how many times have we fallen and offended? In Your mercy, we have been picked up and forgiven with tenderness and love.
The eighth station is “Jesus Speaks to the Women.” Women wept openly with compassion seeing the inhuman suffering of Jesus as He dragged his body along. Jesus, knowing the great depth of a woman’s compassionate heart, said to them, “Weep not so much for me, but rather for your children.” As the women of Jerusalem wept, we too weep for our sins committed against You.
The ninth staation is “Jesus Fall the Third Time.” Thoroughly exhausted, caused by the scourging, the excessive cruelty of the Roman soldiers and the long journey filled with shouting, mockery and jeering, there was hardly any life left in His body, yet the soldiers tried to hasten His steps. We pray for strength to overcome our human injustices and evil passions that are offensive to God and to our human kind.
The 10th station is “Jesus is Stripped of His Garment.” This station depicts the soldiers violently stripping the clothes from Jesus’s lacerated body. The inner garments were torn so roughly that the flesh came with them. By the torment Jesus suffered in being stripped of His garments, we ask for help to strip ourselves of all attachments of the things of earth that are not beneficial to our immortal souls.
The 11th station is “Jesus is Nailed to the Cross.” The wooden cross was placed on the ground and Jesus was thrown upon it. He stretched out His arms and offered to His eternal Father the sacrifice of His life for our salvation. The pounding of the nails into his hands and feet was done Roman style showing no mercy. With bleeding hands and feet completely spent, they raised the cross and left Jesus to die in anguish. May our hearts be nailed to the cross that it may always remain there to love you.
The 12th station is “Jesus Dies Upon the Cross.” Here, we pray for our dying Jesus. After three hours of agony on the cross and overwhelmed with suffering, He abandons Himself to the weight of his body, calls to His father, then bows His head and dies.
The 13th station is “Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross.” Joseph and Nicodemus, two of his disciples, took Him down from the cross and placed Him in the arms of His beloved Mother. She received Him with tenderness, held His broken body close and cleaned His face with her tears.
The 14th station is “Jesus is Placed in the Sepulcher.” At the final station, the disciples carry the body of Jesus to its burial place. Mary, His sorrowful Mother, went with them and arranged Him in the sepulcher. How hard it must have been for her to depart from the tomb and watch as the stone enclosed her beloved son. The closing of the tomb was not the end but the beginning of the forgiveness of our sins.
The Stations Way of the Cross ends with a prayer to Jesus Christ Crucified and a blessing with the crucifix : “To Go in Peace.”