The Stations of the Cross, one of the most popular devotions to the Passion of Christ, follows the final earthly journey of Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to Calvary where he was crucified and then to the garden where he was placed in a new tomb. Images of the Stations are found everywhere in the Catholic world in churches, shrines and country pathways.
The devotion grew in the high middle ages, but became especially popular in the 18th century inspired by the preaching of St. Leonard of Port Maurice (+1771).
A number of Christian themes appear in the devotion: the theme of life as a journey or pilgrimage, the passage from this life to a risen life, and the desire to see the Passion of Christ as a book of life revealing the wisdom and power of the Cross.
Like other devotions, the Stations of the Cross is not meant to be a prayer of set words or actions, but a meditational prayer that leads to a variety of insights. Like the four gospels it opens our minds to see the Passion of Jesus in different ways.
The Stations of the Cross should always offer a message of hope in Jesus who died and rose again. Like the Stations of the Cross pilgrims follow in Jerusalem, we should find ourselves as we pray this devotion led to the empty tomb of the Risen Jesus
We use the simplest signs on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Holy Thursday Jesus knelt before his disciples and washed their feet–a sign he was a servant, come to serve and not to be served. Then, he gave himself to them in bread and wine – signs of his love for us all.
On Good Friday we take another sign, the cross, a powerful sign of death, which Jesus carried to his crucifixion on Calvary. The cross struck fear into the hearts of Jesus’ disciples, but God turned it into a sign of life. After the Risen Jesus appeared to them, his disciples saw the cross in another way–as a sign of his victory over death.
Our liturgy today begins in silence, the only attitude to have before a mystery like this. “See my servant” God says through the Prophet Isaiah. “so marred was he in appearance…so shall he startle many nations and kings shall stand speechless before him…He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering accustomed to infirmity.” Yet he became our High Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “able to sympathize with our weaknesses” and ” a source of salvation for all who obey him.”
The story of Jesus’ Passion from the the Gospel of John is read today. Like the other disciples, John followed Jesus from the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem. There he stood on Calvary with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and watched him die. He recoiled before it then, but later after meeting the Lord risen from the dead, he saw signs of God’s power even in that grim story. His gospel carefully indicates the power of Jesus at work from his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his appearances before the Jewish leaders and Pontius Pilate, to his death on the cross. His power never fails, despite what it seems. Jesus lays down his life on his own, no one takes it from him.
Good Friday is a day of mercy, when graces flow from the wounds of Christ. We pray confidently this day when Christ became our High Priest for the needs of our world and our own needs. We venerate the wood of the cross that bore his love to us. We take the signs of communion he gave us.
“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
On this day we remember the Lord’s goodness and follow his steps. The Stations of the Cross are among the treasured devotions for this day. Children can join by following the video prepared from “Stations of the Cross for Children” by Lucille Perrotta Castro