Wish you could visit Jerusalem and walk in the footsteps of Jesus as he carried his cross, from his condemnation to entombment? Your local church may offer the next best thing: a “Stations of the Cross” service that commemorates the events of his final hours.
- Step 1: Move on to subsequent stations two through fourteen, stopping in front of each to contemplate the artwork and read the corresponding prayers.
- Step 2: Take your time. Reflect on the meaning of the event and how it speaks to your beliefs.
- Step 3: Expect to see familiar prayers, such as the Our Father, as well as some unfamiliar ones. Some prayer books may divide up each station with words for a leader and words for the congregation. If you are alone, read both parts quietly.
- TIP: Notice that each station presents a dramatic moment of what’s called the “passion.” For example, station two depicts Jesus receiving the cross and station seven depicts Jesus falling for a second time.
- Step 4: When you arrive at station fourteen, you will read, “Jesus is laid in the tomb.” You have now walked a virtual Via Dolorosa—the “Way of Sorrows” in Jerusalem that physically commemorates the steps Jesus took from his judgment to his crucifixion.
- FACT: The Pope leads a public Stations of the Cross service every year on Good Friday in the Roman Colosseum—the very place where many early Christians met their deaths.
- Step 5: Consider dropping a little money in the donation box. If you fasted from a meal as well, you will have accomplished the trifecta of Christian spirituality: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
- Step 6: Stand respectfully in front of the station. Examine the way in which the artist has chosen to depict the event. Has he done so literally or symbolically?
- Step 7: Find the corresponding prayers that accompany station one in your prayer book.
- TIP: “Stations of the Cross” is also called the “Way of the Cross,” and while it is most commonly found in Catholic churches, it is a popular service among other Christian denominations.
- Step 8: At the start of Lent — the forty days leading up to Easter — call up a local church and see whether it offers a group service or if you can go on your own.
- Step 9: Remember that churches are considered holy ground by their members, who generally frown upon T-shirts, cut-offs, and flip-flops. So dress in something nice.
- Step 10: Arriving at the church, locate a church official and say you are there for the Stations of the Cross service or individual walk-through. He or she should provide you with a prayer book that guides you through each station. Traditionally, there are fourteen.
- TIP: Stations of the Cross vary from church to church and denomination to denomination, but they’ll likely be numbered paintings, statues, or carvings in a progressive pattern mounted on the walls of the church or somewhere on the grounds.
- Step 11: Find out where the stations begin. Look for the Roman numeral “I” and a caption reading: “Jesus is condemned to death.” Above this caption, you will see an artistic rendering of this historic moment.
- Step 12: Having decided that you want to experience a mini-pilgrimage through the last hours of Jesus’ life, set aside at least one hour for prayer and meditation.