Why do the Stations of the Cross?

The most important reason for reviving the practice of making the Stations of the Cross is that it is a powerful way to contemplate, and enter into, the mystery of Jesus' gift of himself to us.  It takes the reflection on the passion out of my head, and makes it an imaginative exercise.  It involves my senses, my experience and my emotions.  To the extent I come to experience the love of Jesus for me, to that extent the gratitude I feel will be deep.  Deep gratitude leads to real generosity and a desire to love as I have been loved.  First, just a note about the history of the stations:

The History

From the earliest of days, followers of Jesus told the story of his passion, death and resurrection.  When pilgrims came to see Jerusalem, they were anxious to see the sites where Jesus was.  These sites become important holy connections with Jesus.  Eventually, following in the footsteps of the Lord, along the way of the cross, became a part of the pilgrimage visit.  The stations, as we know them today, came about when it was no longer easy or even possible to visit the holy sites.  In the 1500's, villages all over Europe started creating "replicas" of the way of the cross, with small shrines commemorating the places along the route in Jerusalem.  Eventually, these shrines became the set of 14 stations we now know and were placed in almost every Catholic Church in the world.

Why Put Them On The Web?

We do this for the same reason we have done the Daily Reflections and the Online Retreat on the web - accessibility.  It would be wonderful if each of us would find the time to explore our church, or a classic church in town, and make the stations there, going from station to station.  However, it is much easier to imagine almost anyone with a computer going through these stations, any time, day or night.

What if I have never made the Stations before?

Go to the page on "How to do the Stations" and see how simple it is.  On the web, it's easy.  I can do one a day, for two weeks.  I can do several at a time, and just do them, when I get a chance.  I can do all 14 at a time, and return to them in my prayer and imagination as I do them.

The most important thing to remember is that this can be as personal as I'd like it to be.  One of our common religious struggles is to realize that we are not alone.  The Good News is that Jesus entered into our life's experience completely - even suffering and death - and that he fell into the hands of a Loving God, who raised him from death to life.  We can have complete hope that suffering and death have no complete hold on us.  We will all share eternal life with him, if we can fall into the hands of the same Loving God.  And, along the way, we are not alone.  Jesus is with as one who knows our suffering, and the death we face.  That can be deeply consoling.

So try the stations, and experience the consolation they offer.  And return often, to be renewed in this intimate experience of Jesus' solidarity with all humanity in our way of the cross each day.

How to do the Stations of the Cross.

Making the stations is easy.  And, we tried to make this online experience of them an easy adaptation of what one would do, if doing them in a church before real stations.
The first point to note is that this is prayer.  It isn't an intellectual exercise.  It is in the context of my relationship with God.  I could read through the text of each of the stations, and look at the pictures, but that wouldn't necessarily be prayer.  This is an invitation to enter into a gifted faith experience of who Jesus is for me.  It becomes prayer when I open my heart to be touched, and it leads me to express my response in prayer.

The second thing to remember is that this is an imaginative exercise.  Its purpose is not a historical examination of "what really happened" on that day in history.  It's about something far more profound.  This is an opportunity to use this long standing Christian prayer to let Jesus touch my heart deeply by showing me the depth of his love for me.  The context is the historical fact that he was made to carry the instrument of his death, from the place where he was condemned to die, to Calvary where he died, and that he was taken down and laid in a tomb.  The religious context is that today Jesus wants to use any means available to move my heart to know his love for me.  These exercises can allow me to imaginatively visualize the "meaning" of his passion and death.

The point of this exercise is to lead us to gratitude.  It will also lead us into a sense of solidarity with all our brothers and sisters.  In our busy, high tech lives we can easily get out of touch with the terrible suffering of real people in our world.  Journeying with Jesus in the Stations, allows us to imagine his entry into the experience of those who are tortured, unjustly accused or victimized, sitting on death row, carrying impossible burdens, facing terminal illnesses, or simply fatigued with life.

How to:

Just go from one station to another.  When "arriving" at a station, begin by looking carefully at the image itself.  Click on the image there to enlarge the photo.  See who is in the scene.  Look at how they are arranged and what the artist who created this image is trying to tell us about the drama there.

This online version is divided into four parts:

  • The first part is a simple description of the scene.  It helps us be conscious of what the "meaning" of this station is for us.
  • The second part is the traditional prayer at each station.  Its words become more and more meaningful as we repeat them throughout the journey.
  • The third part is the contemplation of the scene.  This is a guided reflection on the power of the scene for me, to enter it more deeply and to lead to some experience of it personally.
  • The fourth part is my response.  This is expressed in my own words.  It is the place where the sorrow and gratitude flow from my heart.

When to do them:

The beauty of the online version is that I can do the stations whenever I like.  The only guide we'd offer is to not rush through them.  Just reading through them is not making them, any more than walking around a church to look at them is making them.  It could be a wonderful prayer experience to do them as only one or two stations a day for one or two weeks.  It can also be powerful to do all 14, very prayerfully, over the course of 40 minutes to an hour, in a single evening, or to do seven one night and seven the following night.  Finally, it can be wonderful to return to the experience several weeks or months later, and discover that because of some struggle or difficulty I am experiencing, the stations become a different experience and a fresh experience of consolation.
Station 1 - Jesus is condemned to death   Station 2 - Jesus takes up his cross.   Station 3 - Jesus falls for the first time.
         
Station 4 - Jesus meets His mother.   Station 5 - Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross.   Station 6 - Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
         
Station 7 - Jesus Falls the Second Time.   Station 8 - Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.   Station 9 - Jesus Falls the Third Time.
         
Station 10 - Jesus Is Stripped.   Station 11 - Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross.   Station 12- Jesus Dies on the Cross.
         
Station 13- Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross.   Station 14 - Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb.    
         

Used with permission by
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office

Creighton University's Journalism, Media, and Computing Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
Bible Story illustrations by publishing.com 

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