The Way of The Cross (Via Crucius)
The Stations of the Cross
One of the best known meditation aids which can be enacted in a congregation is known as “The stations of the Cross” or "Way of the Cross". This meditation is based upon the path Jesus is thought to have traveled through Jerusalem on his way to the crucifixion.
- In Jerusalem this route is marked out and is known as the “Via Dolorosa”.
- Early Christians would make pilgrimages to Jerusalem to walk along this path.
- During the Middle Ages, The fourteen Stations of the Cross were marked out in churches so that people could participate without journeying to the "Holy Land". Each station could be accompanied by a Bible reading, prayer and time of silence.
- In modern churches, children or adults may act out the events associated with the Stations of the Cross.
- Some congregations create special art works to be displayed at different points around the church building.
- Participants may walk through the set-up at their own leisure, praying and meditating as they proceed.
Station 1: Jesus is Condemned Before Pilot.
(This is based upon John 19:16.) It involves a court room scene, where the Jewish people clamour for a death sentence and the governor washes his hands to absolve himself of responsibility.
"Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”
...Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away." (John 19:8-16 NKJV)
Station 2: Jesus Begins to Carry his Cross.
According to the Bible story, Jesus knew that part of his mission on earth was to die on the cross. To "take up a cross" or "bear a cross" have become sayings meaning to tolerate a burden. Jesus also warned his disciples that the life of a Christian might not be easy.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mathew 16:24 NKJV)
Towards the end of Jesus life all the prophecies and predictions regarding a cross came true:
"Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center." (John 19:16-18 NKJV)
Station 3: Jesus Tires and Falls.
This scene reflects the weakness of fatigue, blood loss from a flogging and an awareness of coming death. It is not based exactly on any one Bible text, but has grown out of tradition.
"So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands." (John 19:1-3 NKJV)
"Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour." (John 12:27)
See also: Job 16:6, 17:1, Psalm 24
Station 4: Jesus Passes his Mother
This scene has a Biblical basis and is also beautifully sentimental. In the Bible story, Jesus asked the apostle John to take care of his mother after he died.
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home." (John 19:25-27 NKJV)
See also: Luke 2:34
Station 5: Simon Carries the Cross for Jesus.
This scene adds a multicultural touch. According to the Bible story, Jesus was too weakened by the flogging to carry his cross and a passerby was conscripted to assist him.
"Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus." (Luke 23:26 NKJV)
Station 6: Veronica Wipes Sweat from Jesus Face.
(Ecclesiasticus 6:14-15) This incident is extra-canonical as it cannot be found in the gospels.
It represents an act of compassion from a woman, who may have been a stranger or a close friend. It also reminds us of the woman who anointed Jesus head and feet with oil at the feast at Bethany. (Mathew 26:5-7)
Station 7: Jesus Falls a Second Time.
This station represents the anguish of Christ’s journey and reflects upon the prophecies in the old testament.
"O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, Because you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war." (Jeremiah 4:19 NKJV)
The Way of the Cross
Station 8: The Women of Jerusalem are Weeping.
Jesus shows his selflessness in telling the women not to cry for him, but for themselves and their families.
"And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children." (Luke 23:27-28 NKJV)
Station 9: Jesus Falls a Third Time.
At this station the meditation is based upon Jesus pleas in the Garden of Gethsemane that God would allow him to forgo the ordeal. The reading is taken out of its chronological context (which is before the arrest) and used to accompany a presumed crisis of weakness upon his journey.
"And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:41-44 NKJV)
Station 10: Jesus Robe is removed.
This scene is part of the Bible story and has also inspired much thought. The Roman soldiers, being greedy men noticed Jesus robe was a nice one and gambled for it. According to the story, Jesus forgave the soldiers this act and also the act of crucifying him.
"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. Therefore the soldiers did these things.” (John 19:23-24 NKJV)
See also: Isaiah 50:6
Station 11: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross.
An accompanying sign mockingly pronounces him “The king of the Jews”.
"Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”" (John 19:19-22 NKJV)
Station 12: Jesus is Mocked upon the Cross, Cries Out to God and Dies.
Death upon the cross was degrading and perceived by the crowd as a sign of failure. It is sometimes said Jesus died of a 'broken heart'.
"Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last." (Luke 23:44-46 NKJV)
Station 13: Jesus is Taken from the Cross and Wrapped in a Cloth.
Jesus was declared dead and some of his followers stepped forward to claim the body. The women played an important role in preparing the body for burial.
"Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment." (Luke 23:50-56 NKJV)
Station 14: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb.
According to the Bible story, Jesus body was laid in a tomb and the door was blocked. Just to make sure the body was not stolen, a guard was placed outside the tomb.
"Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard." (Matthew 27:57-65 NKJV)
The Addition of Tradition
If you are familiar with the passion story in the Bible, you will notice that the stations may not be in the exact order you would expect, and additional charming pieces of tradition have been added over the years. Other parts of the story, appear to have been omitted, but may be woven into stations where appropriate. For example, Jesus asking his disciple to care for his mother (John 19:25-27) may be incorporated into Station 4, forgiving the soldiers into station 10 or 11 (Luke 23:34), and promising eternal life to the thief by his side into Station 11 or 12 (Luke 23:40-43).
No crucifixion story is complete without contemplation of the resurrection (Luke 24:1-9). However, many congregations will end Maundy Thursday or Good Friday on a sombre note, to break into song and celebration again on Easter Sunday.
The resurrection is occasionally included as the 15th station, but this is not usually done before Easter Sunday.
Costello, G. 1988 A Bible Way of the Cross: for children, Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Connecticut
Gleeman, R. 1991 Stations of the Cross for Children: a dramatised presentation, Blackrock,Columba