|Mosaic of Seventh Station of the Cross|
The Stations of the Cross has been a devotion of Christians since the first years of the Christian Church. Even today, one can travel to Jerusalem and walk the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrows), tracing Jesus' path to Golgotha.
I first walked the Stations of the Cross at the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside at a Contemplative Retreat with College Avenue Baptist Church in 2003 or 2004; it was a peaceful time that prepared my heart for Holy Week and especially for a solemn and prayerful Good Friday, like no other experience with the Cross I had ever had. It was a soul-changing and life-altering experience.
Mark Roberts, who writes the Daily Reflections for The High Calling, is currently doing a series on the Biblical Stations of the Cross. Here is his introductory Reflection in its entirety:
Mar 24, 2012
An Invitation to Take Up Your Cross
by Mark D. Roberts
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (NRSV)
In Mark 8, Jesus uses the imagery of crucifixion to call people to follow him sacrificially. If they want to experience the life of the kingdom of God, they must die to themselves as sovereign over their own lives and live each day under the authority of God.
Many Christians throughout the ages have used the Stations of the Cross to deepen their gratitude for Christ's sacrifice and to augment their commitment to following him sacrificially. Traditionally, the Stations of the Cross included fourteen representations of the passion of Christ, beginning with this condemnation and ending with his being laid in the tomb. The original Stations of the Cross, also known as the Via Dolorosa (way of grief), are in Jerusalem on the path Jesus walked to his death. But many churches throughout the world include artistic stations that help people reflect on the meaning of Christ's death.
Half of the traditional Stations are found in Scripture, while the other half come from ancient Christian tradition. In 1991, Pope John Paul II created a new series of fourteen stations, each one based on Scripture alone. These biblical stations have been attractive to those of us who base our piety more on Scripture than on church tradition.
I have found that reflection on the biblical Stations of the Cross has helped me to experience more deeply the love of God in Christ. Moreover, I have been encouraged to take up my cross and follow Christ more faithfully.
Beginning tomorrow and continuing for fourteen days until Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, the Daily Reflections will follow the new Stations of the Cross. My prayer is that, by "walking" the Stations with me, you will come to a deeper understanding of God's love and grace, as well as a greater desire to serve him with your whole life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What has helped you in the past to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Have you ever experienced the Stations of the Cross? How did this affect your relationship with the Lord?
PRAYER: Gracious God, as we come closer to Holy Week, we yearn for a deeper experience of the cross. We seek to know your love and grace in a fresh way. We want to hear again the call of Jesus to take up our cross and follow him.
As we focus on fourteen passages from the Gospels that highlight aspects of Jesus' passion, may we be drawn into the scene. May our hearts be captured by the horror and the wonder of his sacrifice. May we be encouraged to take up our cross and give our lives in sacrificial service to you. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: Several years ago, some folks at Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I served as pastor, decided to offer the Stations of the Cross as a devotional experience for Holy Week. For obviously Protestant reasons, we opted for the Pope’s biblically-based version. My wife, Linda, offered to paint fourteen watercolor pictures that illustrated the passages upon which the revised stations are based. These were displayed in our church sanctuary during Holy Week, and people were invited to come, to read Scripture, to reflect, and to pray. For many members of my church and community, this was a precious time of drawing near to the Lord in anticipation of Good Friday and Easter. (For the past several years, I have offered the use of Linda’s paintings for churches and Christian ministries without charge. Her paintings have appeared in literally thousands of places of worship on six continents. They are permanently installed in a number of churches. If you would like to use her paintings, all I ask is that you contact me and ask permission. You can view Linda's paintings here.)
My comment to Mark Roberts on The High Calling site (to the above post) reads:
I've been leading a Biblical Stations of the Cross since 2006 at my EV Free Church during Holy Week or Good Friday at least. I found art work by the Old Masters to go along with each of the 14 Biblical Stations, then framed and hung them on the back and side walls of our sanctuary. I had started the Biblical Stations as an activity at a contemplative retreat I led, and then we posted the Stations for the next few years.
Currently I attend an ecumenical Biblical Stations with both Protestant and Catholic churches; we walk along the fourteen seven-foot high wooden crosses, reading the Scriptures for each Station and singing "Were You There" adjusted to each Biblical Station.
The Biblical Stations are an incredibly satisfying exercise for the dayus before Easter as we celebrate our Lord's life, His death, and, on Easter, His Resurrection from the Dead. I look forward to your remembrances, Mark, of Christs's Life, Death, and Resurrection through the Biblical Stations.
Here are this week's Daily Reflections so that you can catch up with the previous Stations:
Invitation to Take Up Your Cross (March 24)
First Station (March 25)
Second Station (March 26)
Third Station (March 27)
So I hope that you will find the wonderful connection with the last events of Christ's life and death that I have found in the Biblical Stations of the Cross over the years. I can't find the words to express how meditating on the Stations of the Cross has deepened my faith walk in general and my experience of Holy Week, especially Good Friday, in particular.
How can we explain in finite human words the sacrifice of the Infinite God Who took our sins upon his own human body...Who was tortured, suffered excruciating pain, and died for us?
Words fail as Christ prevails.