The Parish of Cranford St Dunstan with Holy Angels

 Stations of the Cross

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Where did the idea of the Stations of the Cross come from?  After Jesus died and rose from the dead, many people reflected upon his passion and death.  They began to make visits to Jerusalem and walk in the footsteps of Jesus.   The street Jesus walked is still called Via Dolorosa, the way of pain.  People would stop along the way and remember what had happened to Jesus.  It is likely that they marked the places for those who came after them to follow as well.  These people became known as "pilgrims."

As Christianity spread throughout the known world,  distance made it nearly impossible for people to make the trip to Jerusalem.  That didn't stop their need to know and remember.  By the twelfth century the fervour of the Crusades and a heightened devotion to the Passion of Jesus created a demand in Europe for representations of the last events in the life of Jesus.

When the Franciscans took over the custody of the shrines in the Holy Land in 1342, they saw it as their mission to encourage devotion to these places.  In Western Europe a series of shrines erected to help the faithful remember Christ's passion became commonplace.  They were erected outside Churches and monasteries and in other places as well.  For many years there was a considerable variety in the number and title of these "stations."   The  number that is now usual, of fourteen, first appeared in the Low Countries in the sixteenth   century and became standard in the eighteenth century.

The chief promoter of this devotion was  Leonard of Port Maurice, a Franciscan, who died in 1751. He set up more than five hundred sets of stations, the best known being in the Coliseum of Rome.  

Modern liturgists have emphasized that devotion to the Passion is incomplete without special reference to the Resurrection and have thus promoted the addition of a fifteenth station, the Resurrection of Jesus.

There are varieties of readings, meditations and prayers that may be used by those who visit the Stations as an act of worship. What follows is just one suggested outline. Those looking for a shorter form of devotion should just miss out Stations as they choose.

Please pray for the peace of the world, the mission of the Church and for all who seek to serve the Lord in this place.



1. Jesus is condemned to death

The chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked him. Jesus replied, “You say so.” The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you  no answer? See of how many things they accuse you !” Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.... Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas... and handed Jesus over to be crucified. Mark 15: 1-5, 15

Lord, grant us discernment that we may see as you see, not as the world sees.



2. Jesus receives the Cross

When the chief priests and the guards saw Jesus they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” ... They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”  Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. John 19: 6, 15-17

Lord, grant us strength of purpose that we may faithfully bear our crosses each day.



3. Jesus falls for the first time beneath the Cross

The soldiers took him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort. They dressed him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on him; and they began to acclaim him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

They kept beating his head with a reed, and spitting on him, and kneeling and bowing before him. After they had mocked him, they took the purple robe off him and put his own garments on him. And they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15: 16-20. 

Weakened by his treatment from the soldiers Jesus falls.

Lord, grant us forgiveness of our sins that burden you so heavily and may we, by your grace, be aided never more to commit them.

 



4. Jesus meets His Mother

A prophecy was made when, as a child,  Jesus was presented in the Temple. Simeon, a just and devout man, gave a blessing and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed (and a sword will pierce even your own soul) to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2: 34-35 .

Mary had been there at every stage in the life of Jesus. She was there beside him as he took his first steps, holding her breath, longing to put out her hands to steady him, to prevent a fall, but she let him go alone: the little child must learn to walk on his own feet. Now as then she is silent; she holds back her hands as she did then, his will is her will. It was for this hour that she gave him to the world. So, her Son goes on to do his Father's will. The Father so loved the world, that he gave up his only Son to save it.

Lord, grant that we may learn to say with Mary, ‘Be it unto me according to your word!’



5. Simon of Cyrene bears the Cross

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. Mark 15: 21

Lord, grant us willing spirits that we may be your  instruments on earth.



6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

This story is not in the Bible. Veronica wipes the blood and sweat from the face of Jesus. It is a single gesture of love and concern and it meant so much to Jesus, and to Veronica whose handkerchief then miraculously bore a representation of the face of Jesus (Veronica means ‘true image’). We, being self-centred, fail many times to offer a helping hand, to say a word of comfort or just give simple encouragement to someone on the brink of despair. Those precious moments slip away from life because of selfishness.

Lord, grant that we may be guided and strengthened by the Spirit to give ourselves in love and service to one another and to you.



7. Jesus falls for the second time

Once again, Jesus stumbles and falls under the weight of the heavy wooden cross.

His body is covered with bruises and he is blood stained from head to foot.

We fall daily. We despair, complain and ask, "Why?" Somehow we feel we ought to be able to rest contentedly and confidently on past achievements and then suddenly down we fall! 

Lord, grant us perseverance that we may never stop seeking you.

 



8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23: 27-31

Lord, grant us gentle spirits that we may comfort those who mourn.



9. Jesus falls for the third time

Jesus, completely overcome by physical weakness, slumps under the cross for the final time. We have slipped, stumbled, fallen many times in life. The temptation is to lose heart and to have low self-esteem. But in the words of the hymn, ‘Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse relieve: because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come.’

Lord, grant that we may be faithful unto death and be given a crown of life.



10. Jesus is stripped of His garments

They divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. Matthew 27 v 35

Jesus is nearing his final moment when the soldiers strip him of his clothing in a savage effort to mortify him. Somehow, we yearn to be something great in this life, always seeking goals that are beyond us or not good for us: never content with being the simple, ordinary, run of the mill person God made.

Lord, grant us the virtue of humility.



11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross

When they came to the place called the Skull, Golgotha, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke 23: 33-34

Lord, grant us merciful hearts that we may bring your reconciliation and forgiveness to all.



12. Jesus dies on the Cross

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. Luke 23: 44-46

Lord, grant us trust in you that when our time on earth is ended our spirits may come to you without delay through the merits of Our Lord and Saviour.



13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19: 25-27.   

So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. John 19: 40

Mary, who had cradled the infant Jesus so lovingly  now holds, in a similar way, the corpse of her son who has died so cruelly in the prime of his manhood.

Lord, grant us constancy that we may be willing to stand by those in need and ever ready to attend to practical necessities with love and care.



14. The body of Jesus is laid in the Sepulchre

 When it was evening, there came a rich man from    Arimathea, named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.        Matthew 27: 57-60

Lord, grant us your compassion that we may always provide for those in need.