Friday, March 23, 2012

Stations of the Cross: History & Reflection

Faithful Christians of the Middle Ages used to strive to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at least once in their lives. Those who were physically and financially able would go, soaking in the rich history of the land and walking the very places where Jesus lived. Stations of the Cross arose as a consolation for those unable to visit the Holy Land. While many of the faithful could not visit Gethsemane or Golgotha, they could make a spiritual journey, reflecting on the passion and death of Jesus. Shrines and images were used to share the Holy Land experience with a largely illiterate populations.

Today, images of Christ's passion are placed around the perimeter of most Catholic churches, allowing a the faithful to follow the journey to the Crucifixion and Jesus' burial. Traditionally, there are 14 stations, although some churches include a 15th, the Resurrection. These stations include events not recorded in Scripture, such as Jesus meeting his mother. (In 1975, a new set of Scriptural stations was approved.)

One of the most powerful reflections on the Stations that I have encountered was given to me on retreat years ago. I have no one to credit, but know that this is not my own. Each station is summarized by one word, which invites a deeper meditation. If you are unfamiliar with the Stations, the mouse-over text on each image gives the title. I hope you will grow from this as I have.

All images are in the Fr. Henry Flanagan set, courtesy of Fergal of Claddagh, via Flickr.

(Henry Flanagan) 1 JESUS BEFORE PILATE
condemned

(Henry Flanagan) 2 JESUS BEARS HIS CROSS
burdened

(Henry Flanagan) 3 JESUS FALLS THE FIRST TIME
overwhelmed

(Henry Flanagan) 4 JESUS MEETS HIS MOTHER
loved

(Henry Flanagan) 5 SIMON HELPS JESUS
assisted

(Henry Flanagan) 6 VERONICA WIPES JESUS' FACE
recognized

(Henry Flanagan) 7 JESUS FALLS THE SECOND TIME
stumbled

(Henry Flanagan) 8 JESUS MEETS THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM
cried

(Henry Flanagan) 9 JESUS FALLS THE SECOND TIME
fallen

(Henry Flanagan) 10 JESUS IS STRIPPED
dishonoured

(Henry Flanagan) 11 JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS
crucified

(Henry Flanagan) 12 JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS
died

(Henry Flanagan) 13 JESUS IS TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS
mourned

(Henry Flanagan) 14 JESUS IS LAID IN THE TOMB
buried

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