Art by: Abbey Youth
Have you ever heard of the stations of the cross? This was something else about the Lenten season that was very new to me. So new in fact, that I had never heard of it before. With curiosity in tow, I set out to learn about this ancient tradition of walking the stations of the cross.
The first thing I discovered is that though this spiritual practice is not limited to Catholics alone, it is primarily a ritual tradition observed within the Catholic Church. Let me be clear however, that this is not an exclusive spiritual practice and anyone can participate through their own churches (there are some Protestant churches who practice the stations of the cross), or, you can do as I am doing, and observe it in your own personal Lenten devotional time.
The Lenten Reader I spoke of the other day, Following Christ by Carmen Acevedo Butcher, is the one that I'm using during this season of Lent. One of the things I love about it so far, is that it not only discusses the stations of the cross, but it focuses the devotional to lead me through said stations during my prayer time. I purchased this reader at Cokesbury, but it is also available at Amazon.com, Christianbook.com and I saw one on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.
So what are the stations? There are 14 "stations of the cross". Each station symbolizes or is a marker of certain events that happened during the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. According to Butcher, there are 15 stations, as she includes the resurrection as the final station. That being said, the following are the stations of the cross as seen by Butcher:
- (1) Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane
- (2) Jesus is betrayed by Judas
- (3) Jesus is condemned to death by the Sanhedrin
- (4) Jesus is denied by Peter
- (5) Jesus is judged by Pilate
- (6) Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns
- (7) Jesus carries his cross
- (8) Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene
- (9) Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- (10) Jesus is crucified
- (11) Jesus promises to share his reign with the good thief
- (12) Jesus is on the cross, with his mother and disciple below
- (13) Jesus dies on the cross
- (14) Jesus is placed in the tomb
- (15) Jesus rises from the dead
The concept behind the stations of the cross is really quite simple, or was to me, when I thought of it like taking a train. Let's say we are going on a trip to see the countryside of Europe. During our train ride, we must stop at various train stations, get out and wait for the next train which will be headed to the next station on our course. While 'WAITING' at the station, we look around, sit in silence, take in the environment that surrounds us...we embrace where we are at, where we are present at that very time. It is the same concept with the stations of the cross. We are on a train ride, a journey with a final destination of Easter, of resurrection. Along this journey, we take time to stop and remember what happened on that walk for Jesus. Much happened between the Garden of Gethsemane and the empty tomb...but how often do we walk that walk WITH Jesus? How powerful this must be!
I want to encourage you to walk with me and most importantly, walk with Jesus during Lent. Stop at each of these stations and silently observe what happened there. Reflect on how your senses, heightened by the intense emotion of the walk, are speaking with your soul. Listen for the voice of Jesus calling to you from the cross.
I have already walked through stations 1 and almost all of 2. I'm going to try and recap that for you and then moving forward through Lent, I'll journal about my devotion time at the stations and how I'm experiencing Jesus through Lent this year. I hope you'll choose to take this walk. I cannot even express to you how profoundly spiritual it has already been in my life in the 4 1/2 days I've been doing it.