It’s interesting to watch over my own shoulder sometimes and just see how things affect me . . . . Tonight was just such an occasion.
Paul: Bill? Bill – I need a reader for Friday night.
Me: Sure, what do you need Paul . . .
Paul: I need you to be reader number 2 for Stations Friday – can you do that?
Me: Sure, more than happy to . . . .
There is a Catholic tradition during Lent that on Friday evenings a parish holds a simple communion service and then conducts “Stations of the Cross”. The tradition began in the early centuries of the church. Catholics were expected to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands to follow the “Via Dolorosa” – The “Way of Suffering”. It is an actual, physical path through Jerusalem that begins where Christ was condemned to death and ends at his tomb.
However, the reality of the times was that this was a dangerous journey. As an alternative – fourteen individual “stations” were constructed along the walls of the nave of the church – each representing a physical location along the “Via Dolorosa”.
As this tradition has evolved, in our parish there is a procession consisting of a cross bearer and two assistants. They begin at the First Station: Jesus is condemned to death. The first reader reads a passage detailing the events of His life at that point. The second reader reads a passage on how we, as individuals, live our life in today’s world with of family, friends and those around us.
The tradition, in our parish, is fairly simple in readings and prayers. Other parishes are much more ornate. This link provides a fairly simply set of readings that are similar to our parish’s ceremony.
His “cross to bear” was, of course, a true cross. Whether it was an actual, physical cross or simply a cross member – there is little doubt of its weight and its effect on his body. Much as our “crosses” can wear and weigh us down. At different points throughout this journey he was overcome, given assistance, was greeted by his mother, stripped, killed and buried.
- Station One: Jesus is condemned to death
- Station Two: Jesus takes up his cross
- Station Three: Jesus falls for the first time
- Station Four: Jesus meets Mary
- Station Five: Simon is forced to carry Jesus’s cross
- Station Six: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Station Seven: Jesus falls the second time
- Station Eight: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- Station Nine: Jesus falls a third time
- Station Ten: Jesus is stripped of his clothing
- Station Eleven: Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Station Twelve: Jesus dies on the cross
- Station Thirteen: Jesus is taken off the cross
- Station Fourteen: Jesus is laid in the tomb
A tortuous path that followed a life of love, confrontation, truth telling, expectation, duty, recruitment . . . . that set before man a path . . . . a path to salvation and redemption . . . a path to the life that follows . . . .
It is at Station Fourteen that true faith begins – at least for me. And so I sat through the beginning communion service looking at my church family and I watch over my shoulder. I stood at a lectern and read my little piece of tonight’s procession – and looked over my shoulder . . . . at what this faith has meant in my life. How it has helped me and the “crosses” that I have encountered along the way. I am a better man for it. I am a better husband, a better father, a better friend . . . .
We all have crosses . . .
We have been given one example on how to bear those crosses . . . .
All we are asked to do is to truly do our best, love those around us and realize that He truly loves us well beyond our understanding . . . .
It is truly a mystery to me . . . .