My original intent when sitting down to write tonight was to reflect on the image of Jesus falling under the weight of the cross in the Stations of the Cross. In the traditional Stations, Jesus falls three times. I think most of us can relate to that image. This Lent, that is the image I can most relate to. My personal cross feels very heavy and I am struggling under the strain, trying to find the resolve to keep going. I take comfort in the idea that Jesus struggled as well.
However, as I did some research to further develop this reflection, I came across a fact that I was not aware of – there are actually two approved sets of Stations of the Cross. The traditional Stations of the Cross firmly established since the 1700s have some basis in Scripture, but not all the stations are scripturally based. Pope John Paul II established a Scriptural Way of the Cross on Good Friday 1991 and used them several times during his papacy. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved this set of stations for meditation and public celebration.
The Vatican website offers the following statement:
With the biblical Way of the Cross the intention was not to change the traditional text, which remains fully valid, but quite simply to highlight a few «important stations» which in the textus receptus are either absent or in the background. And indeed this only emphasises the extraordinary richness of the Way of the Cross which no schema can ever fully express.
The biblical Way of the Cross sheds light on the tragic role of the various characters involved, and the struggle between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood, which they embody. They all participate in the mystery of the Passion, taking a stance for or against Jesus, the «sign of contradiction» (Lk 2, 34), and thus revealing their hidden thoughts with regard to Christ.
Making the Way of the Cross, we, the followers of Jesus, must declare once more our discipleship: weeping like Peter for sins committed; opening our hearts to faith in Jesus the suffering Messiah, like the Good Thief; remaining there at the foot of the Cross of Christ like the Mother and the Disciple, and there with them receiving the Word which redeems, the Blood which purifies, the Spirit which gives life.
The traditional Stations of the Cross are as follows:
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus is given his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus’ body is removed from the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.
15. The Resurrection
The Scriptural version, including the Scriptural reference, are as follows:
1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane Matthew 26:36-41
2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested Mark 14: 43-46
3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin Luke 22: 66-71
4. Jesus is denied by Peter Matthew 26: 69-75
5. Jesus is judged by Pilate Mark 15: 1-5, 15
6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns John 19: 1-3
7. Jesus takes up His cross John 19: 6, 15-17
8. Jesus is helped by Simon to carry His cross Mark 15: 21
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem Luke 23: 27-31
10. Jesus is crucified Luke 23: 33-34
11. Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief Luke 23: 33-34
12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other John 19: 25-27
13. Jesus dies on the cross Luke 23: 44-46
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb Matthew 27: 57-60
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a set of reflections and prayers to use with these stations at http://www.usccb.org/nab/stations.shtml.