Way of the Cross: a Lenten devotion
The Stations of the Cross is a Lenten devotion that offers witness to Jesus’ Passion and Death. The 14 Stations represent events from Jesus’ passion and death.
At each station we use our senses and our imagination to reflect prayerfully upon Jesus’ suffering, Death, and Resurrection, and to experience the visual images to reflect on Christ’s love for us.
It is an ancient devotion originating in the desire of Christians to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. From the earliest decades the Church in Jerusalem revered the burial grounds and other shrines related to the Way of the Cross. Their devotions were not processions related to the Stations of the Cross as practiced today but did involve a walking pilgrimage to the sacred places related to the crucifixion of Jesus.
When we pray the Way of the Cross we follow 14 stations, in the form of 14 pictures, sculptures, or engravings to allow Christians to pause and enter reflectively into those last moments of Jesus’s journey of love.
The Way of the Cross, as it is practiced today, is a devotion that was introduced in late Middle Ages. It is based on the devotion to the Passion of Christ promoted by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1019–1153), St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) and St. Bonaventure (1221–1274). Added to these devotions is the interest and enthusiasm aroused by the Crusades beginning in 1095 which led to the Holy Land becoming the “go to” destination for Christian pilgrims. After 1233 the Franciscans were appointed as custodians of the sacred sites in Jerusalem—a ministry which continues to the present day.
In praying the stations we imagine ourselves walking with Jesus on this journey. We then link our reflection to whatever is going on in our lives today.
The 14 Stations of the Cross
1. Jesus Is Condemned to Death. Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death.
2. Jesus Takes Up His Cross. Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross.
3. Jesus Falls the First Time. Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath his cross.
4. Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother. Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief.
5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross. Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.
6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus. Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus Falls a Second Time. Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time.
8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem. Jesus tells the women to weep not for him but for themselves and for their children.
9. Jesus Falls the Third Time. Weakened almost to the point of death, Jesus falls a third time.
10. Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments. The soldiers strip Jesus of his garments, treating him as a common criminal.
11. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross. Jesus’ hands and feet are nailed to the cross.
12. Jesus Dies on the Cross. After suffering greatly on the cross, Jesus bows his head and dies.
13. Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross. The lifeless body of Jesus is tenderly placed in the arms of Mary, his mother.
14. Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb. Jesus’ disciples place his body in the tomb.
The closing prayer—sometimes included as a 15th station—reflects on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(Source: Catholic Resources LoyolaPress.com)