Thursday, January 25, 2007

Amazing Origins of the Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa (Way of Agony), is a special remembrance of the suffering and death which Jesus Christ endured for our salvation. In this brief essay, I will look at this event and what brought it about.

Many believe that Mary was the first person to trace the steps that Jesus took through his final hours. It makes sense as she is his mother and this is something she would do. However, most people place the start of this practice with St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis and his followers formed a great devotion to the suffering of Jesus, including his suffering and death on the Cross. During his life in the 13th century, the Muslims had unfortunately taken control of the Holy Lands, which prevented Christian pilgrims from retracing the steps of Christ in his final hours. In order that they could continue this practice, St. Francis initiated the stations of the cross within Churches across Europe. Eventually almost every church had the stations of the cross going around their church. People would contemplate on these things, especially during Good Friday. The practice became very widespread, and today is pretty much ubiquitous in Catholic Churches. St. Francis in fact was so devoted to contemplating the suffering of Christ, that he was the first person to receive the Stigmata, or the visible wounds which Jesus bore (some people also receive the pain without the visible wounds).

This is an amazing practice, which is especially popular on Good Friday. The following is the list of the 14 stations of the Cross:

1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus receives the cross
3. The first fall
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes Jesus' face with her veil
7. The second fall
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. The third fall
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body removed from the cross (Pieta)
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

Next time you pray on the stations of the Cross, remember the history of it, and remember how Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

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