By Fr. Clayton Elder | September 18, 2019
Prayer is very important to us as a church, and we try to provide as many ways to help you grow in your prayer life as possible. Last weekend we installed and dedicated our latest tool for prayer and contemplation in the sanctuary, our Stations of the Cross commissioned through iconographer Fr. Peter Pearson. If you’re new to our church you may be wondering what these paintings are, or what they represent. Theologian John Stott, when reflecting on the Stations of the Cross, stated that “before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.” While deep with meaning, the words that jump out to me as I contemplate our newly installed Stations of the Cross, are “we…see”.
Although I didn’t grow up with the tradition of walking the Stations, as I have been exposed to them through the years I have drawn closer to God in Christ through them. I have found their truth not to be in their history, but more, in their ability to help me “see” both God’s action, and ours, to see the depth of His love, as well as our faults.
Historically speaking, the Stations of the Cross are a “series of 14 pictures or carvings, designed for devotional purposes, which depict incidents in the last journey of Christ from Pilate’s house to His entombment.” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church)
Typically observed during the season of Lent and Holy Week, these acts of devotion “probably arose out of the practice, attested from an early date, of pilgrims at Jerusalem following the traditional route from Pilate’s house to Calvary, and wishing to reproduce an analogous devotion at home.”
This route, eventually entitled the “Via Dolorosa” (Sorrowful Way) or “Way of the Cross” evolved over time, combining both scriptural references, inferences, and local traditions. Traditionally, it is held that Jesus’ Mother, Mary, visited daily the scenes of her son, our Lord’s passion. Historically, after Constantine legalized Christianity in the year 312, his mother, following these traditions and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, found and marked the specific locations of these holy sites, even, according to the church, finding the remnants of the cross of Christ.
As I weed through the history, the scripture, and the traditions of the Way of the Cross, I find that I am able to “see” God and myself best when I recognize, as Dennis Bratcher expressed:
“Throughout Scripture, in both Old and New Testaments, God’s people are called to remember (for example, Psalm 105). But they are not called to remember events for the sake of the event. They are called to remember because those events are part of who they are, and what they will become. It is in this mode of remembering, of re-presenting the events of the past as part of a living story that has not yet ended, a story in which we still participate, that the events become more than dates and places. They become markers of a journey.”
You don’t have to wait until Holy Week to experience Stations of the Cross. I invite you to join me in walking the Way of the Cross as you feel led, and challenge you to “see” God himself, to witness His love in Christ Jesus, and to enter into the drama yourself, to see and own your own frailties, and to accept His Grace and Forgiveness anew. Stations of the Cross prayer booklets are available at the Welcome Center to help guide your journey.