As we get a good foothold in these Lenten days, we are beginning to understand that these days have been set aside by the Holy Mother Church as a time for conversion, as a time to make amends. It is a period of days set apart from the ordinary, so as to give us a chance to leave the hustle of the world outside and step into the quite of the Church…to focus on our return to God. It is a time to step into the quite embrace of Our Lord.
Lent and all the practices contained therein are an opportunity for us to be transformed as we are transported to the Lord’s suffering and Passion. It is a humbling experience as we reflect on the nature of sin… on the nature of our sin. There is perhaps no better way to immerse ourselves in the reality of Christ’s sacrifice than to take part in the ‘Stations of the Cross’ or ‘The Way of the Cross.’
As early as the 4th century, Christians were making pilgrimages to the Holy Land so they could walk the path that Our Blessed Lord walked as He made His way to Golgotha… as He made His Way for our salvation. But when Jerusalem fell into the hands of Muslims, to make this journey became very dangerous and then when people moved away to foreign lands they developed replicas of these “stations,” so they could pray the devotion without having to travel to the Holy Land. This devotion was referred to as either ‘Stations of the Cross’ or the ‘Way of the Cross.’
Since Lent is a time for prayer and conversion, the Church has said that anyone who practices this devotion on the Fridays of Lent can receive a plenary indulgence, as long as certain conditions are met. This means that the faithful should strive to worthily receive Holy Communion, as well as participate in the Stations of the Cross. This can be done with the community or it may be done privately at home. But one must say prayers and meditate upon each of the fourteen stations. Another condition for the indulgence is confession. You must go to confession within 20 days of praying the Stations of the Cross. These plenary indulgences remit all temporal punishment due to personal sin. But just as a side note, if there is any attachment to sin...even if it is just venial, the indulgence will just be a partial one. Regardless, it is an awesome opportunity for the Faithful to make amends and convert our hearts back to the Lord.
Making the Way of the Cross
When the Way of the Cross is made in a group. The people begin with the Sign of the Cross, and an Act of Contrition, or a similar prayer of repentance for our sins. It is also recommended that the faithful make a spiritual intention of asking God for His Mercy so as to receive the indulgence. At each station:
- the leader announces the name of the station.
- the leader says: “We adore Thee O Christ and we praise Thee”
- as they genuflect, the faithful respond “Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou has redeemed the world.”
- the leader reads a meditation on each Station, the Faithful should be silently thanking God for His sacrifice, and uniting themselves to His suffering
- all pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and the Glory Be
- traditionally the hymn Stabat Mater is sung between stations.
The fourteen Stations of the Cross are:
Jesus is Condemned to Die
Jesus is Made to Bear His Cross
Jesus Falls the First Time
Jesus Meets His Mother
Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
Veronica Wipes Jesus’ Face
Jesus Falls the Second Time
Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
Jesus Falls the Third Time
Jesus is Stripped
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Jesus Dies on the Cross
Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
Jesus is Laid in the Tomb