Stations Of The Cross
(Viae Crucis exercitium)
What are The Stations Of The Cross?
The Stations of the Cross, or the Way of the Cross, as it is also known, is a popular Catholic devotion which commemorates the events of “Good Friday”….the Passion and death of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In Our Lord’s Passion, He carried a cross from the court of Pontius Pilate to the hill of Calvary…hence the name, “Way of the Cross. On the way, Christ was obliged to stop awhile and rest…that is why the Way of the Cross is sometimes called the “Stations of the Cross,” for station means a stopping-place.
Technically speaking, the Way of the Cross is simply a series of pictures representing scenes of the Passion of Our Lord, while the Stations of the Cross do not consist in these artistic representations but in the numbered wooden crosses located above the designs.
What do the fourteen stations mean?
From Pilate to the tomb, Christ stopped fourteen times, twelve times while alive and two while dead. Seven stations or stops are mentioned in the gospel, and two others (the stripping and nailing to the cross) are implied in the gospels and the rest are contained in tradition….each event is depicted and numbered.
Where does one make The Stations Of The Cross?
Most Catholic Churches and Chapels have plaques depicting each station of the Way of the Cross mounted along the side of the interior walls. Some have outdoor Stations on their grounds.
When making the Stations Of The Cross, one should move from station to station, meditating and praying over each depiction of this sacred journey.
Can The Stations Be Made Anywhere? Are special prayers to be recited?
While the usual practise of this devotion is done in church, by walking off the stations in prayer and contemplation, it can also be done elsewhere as a meditation alone or with a group.
There are no specific prayers that are to be said…the core of this devotion is the prayer and contemplation on the Passion of Jesus Christ. There are, nonetheless many profound and moving prayers written for this devotion that one may use.
The Church so highly prizes this devotion that she has richly indulgenced it and one can receive a plenary indulgence for performing it in conformity with the norms of the Church.
When did the devotion to the Stations Of The Cross begin?
Tradition tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, herself performed this devotion frequently and encouraged others to do the same. Certainly, we know that the Stations were performed many centuries ago by Christian pilgrims who visited the Holy Land, and went to the sites of Jesus' Passion and there are records of similar forms of this devotion, which date back to the 400s.
Who were the great promoters of this devotion?
Promotion of the devotion to the Stations began in earnest with the Franciscans, who were given custody of the Holy Places in the Holy Land in the 1300s. Many great Saints, numerous Popes, and countless Catholics, have all enriched their spiritual lives with this powerful devotion.
Did you know that the Pope once made a special Stations Of The Cross?
Once on a Good Friday, Pope John Paul II slightly altered the usual fourteen stations in this manner: (1) Jesus' agony in the garden (2) Jesus is betrayed by Judas and is arrested (3) Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (4) Jesus is denied by Peter (5) Jesus is condemned by Pontius Pilate (6) Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (7) Jesus is made to carry the cross (8) Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus with His cross (9) Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (10) Jesus is crucified (11) Jesus promises paradise to the repentant thief (12) Jesus speaks to Mary and John from the cross (13) Jesus dies on the cross (14) Jesus is buried in the tomb.
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