The Stations of the Cross, Part 1
My earliest memories of Lent include praying the Stations of the Cross every Friday afternoon. I attended Catholic school and I recall the jubilation I felt at being dismissed an hour early each week to attend the service in the church. I soon learned to love this prayerful practice for what it was – a way of walking the “via dolorosa”, the sorrowful way – along with Jesus, rather than just a bit of extra time away from class.
The origins of the Stations of the Cross stretch back to the Crusades when, as a result of the conquering of the Holy Land, Christians began making pilgrimages to the sacred sites where Jesus lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead. When travel to these places became either impractical or undoable, due to the recapturing of Jerusalem by the Muslims, the practice of walking the Stations of the Cross took hold. Today, churches, monasteries, and retreat centers have various ways of depicting the Stations through paintings, sculpture, or stained glass.
The meditations for this prayer practice also vary as the tragic walk from condemnation to the cross unfolds. As pilgrims on a journey of faith, we use the Stations of the Cross to reflect on the ways we, too, suffer humiliation, rejection, suffering, and death. This makes the Stations more than a historic re-creation of Jesus’ walk to Golgotha. The prayers draw us into considering how Jesus accompanies those who suffer in today’s world. Thus, the injustice of being arrested and falsely accused, the pain of enduring mockery, torture, and being forced to carry the means of one’s own death, the grace of small acts of compassion in the midst of an agonizing climb, and the surrender of heart and soul to God’s infinite mercy all draw us into a story that is as contemporary as it is ancient. Perhaps, even as a child, I understood that, no matter how difficult the path I take, Christ walks it with me.
Divide your class into small groups. Assign each group a different one of the Stations of the Cross to illustrate. Post the stations around the room or down a hallway and lead the children in a walk to each one. Pause and allow the groups to explain their illustrations. Then offer a prayer together.
Take your family to visit two or three other parishes or a retreat center during Lent in order to pray the Stations of the Cross together. Compare and contrast the way the Stations in each place are portrayed.
Download the first part of a meditation on the Stations of the Cross and use it with your family or class. (The second part of the meditation will be published in next week’s blog.)
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