Way of the Cross, “Via Crucis” in Latin, also called
The Sorrowful Way, or “Via Dolorosa”, commemorates the way that Jesus trod in Jerusalem, from the Garden of Gethsemane or from the court of Pontius
Pilate, to the hill of Golgotha, that was then just outside the city walls.
Stations of the Cross, as we know them today, are fourteen stops along the Way
of the Cross that are clearly marked in the streets of Jerusalem. The last five are enclosed in the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The fourteen stations erected in most Catholic
churches throughout the world are those commemorated
since the Seventeenth Century in Jerusalem.
At the First Station:
Jesus before Pilate
we go into the history of the origins of the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem, we cannot say that an eyewitness
who followed Jesus from Pilate’s palace to Calvary would claim that all the events commemorated
by the fourteen stations actually took place on the spots marked in the streets
of Jerusalem. We are not dealing with that kind
of historical veracity. The Way of the Cross is based mainly on the gospel
accounts and on local traditions in Jerusalem, but it has been greatly influenced
by the prayerful meditation of spiritual giants, men and women saints, as well
as of ordinary faithful Christians in Europe.
At the Second Station:
Jesus carries the cross
in Jerusalem and from elsewhere venerated the
places of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the earliest times, especially
after the Edict of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the year 313. A pilgrim
from Bordeaux, France, in 333, and the Spanish lady Etheria later in that
century, both described the ways in which Christians venerated the places made
holy by the suffering and death of Jesus, especially Calvary and the Holy
Sepulchre of his burial and resurrection.
At the Third Station:
Jesus falls the first time
the first ten centuries, there was no question of venerating the Way of the
Cross as we know it, either in Jerusalem or anywhere else. Our Way of the
Cross evolved slowly out of a patchwork combination of veneration of the holy
places in Jerusalem and various forms of devotion to the Passion
of Jesus in Europe which pilgrims carried over to Jerusalem.
At the Fourth Station:
Jesus meets his mother
the Eleventh Century, Christians in Europe venerated the suffering and death of Jesus and
accepted their own sufferings as Jesus had accepted his. Great saints and
mystics, such as St Bernard of Clairvaux, promoted this devotion. Some of the
Stations originate from their meditations on the Passion, for example, this
fourth Station, Jesus meets his mother, and also the Sixth Station, Veronica
wipes the face of Jesus. St Francis of Assisi carried the wounds of Jesus in his
own body and the Franciscans promoted everywhere the veneration of the
suffering of Jesus.
At the Fifth Station:
Jesus is helped by the Cyrenean
pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem in the Twelfth and Thirteenth
Centuries, while the Crusaders made the place safe enough for pilgrimages.
There is mention in 1228 of the way trodden by Jesus on his way to Calvary. The Franciscans were installed in Jerusalem and in other holy places in 1333,
and have remained there ever since. In the 1400s, they made visits to the Holy
Places connected with the suffering and death of Jesus. They were similar to
our Stations of the Cross. They had evolved from the places venerated by
Christians from the earliest times. So the Franciscans venerated many of the
spots commemorated in our present Way of the Cross, but, strangely to us, in reverse order, from Calvary to Pilate’s palace.
At the Sixth Station:
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
we noted already, this Station originated from the meditations of saintly men
and women on the Passion of Jesus. You will notice that the most touching, most
compassionate Stations often derive from the piety of Christian people over a
long period of time, rather than from the sober gospel accounts.
At the Seventh
Station: Jesus falls the second time
of the present Stations derive directly from a widespread European veneration
of seven or more falls of Jesus under his cross on the way to Calvary. These falls are not mentioned in
the gospels but are the product of prayerful and compassionate meditation on
the Saviour’s sufferings.
was also a popular devotion in Europe to sorrowful processions during which the
faithful moved from one church to another, sometimes to nine churches, and
meditated on the painful progress of Jesus carrying his cross, uniting their
own sufferings to his.
At the Eighth Station:
Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem
of these Stations, including this one, are based on the gospel texts that
describe the way that Jesus took to Calvary. Luke’s gospel reads: “Large numbers of people
followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus
turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for
yourselves and for your children” (-28), and there follows his terrible
prediction that was verified in the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.
At the Ninth Station:
Jesus falls the third time
the veneration of the falls of Jesus and the devotion of sorrowful
processions were popular in Europe, yet another practice developed, namely,
veneration of the stops that Jesus made on his way to Calvary. These stations commenced in some
places with Jesus saying farewell to his mother, in other places they began
with the Last Supper, or in the Garden of Gethsemane, or at the palace of Pilate.
Way of the Cross as we have it today is therefore the product of a long evolution of
popular piety in Europe over a period of a thousand years, and transported to Jerusalem by European pilgrims. In the
Seventeenth Century, the Franciscans adapted their visits to the Holy Places
connected with the suffering and death of Jesus to the European Way of the Cross. And so we arrive at
our present-day Way of the Cross.
At the Tenth Station:
Jesus is stripped
of the faithful in every country had a great desire to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but relatively few could make it.
Since the end of the Fifteenth Century, “spiritual pilgrimages” to Jerusalem became popular and people at home
were assured that they enjoyed the same spiritual advantages as those who
actually reached Jerusalem.
Atthe Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross
the Seventeenth Century, the fourteen Stations of the Cross as we know them had
been reproduced in Franciscan churches throughout Spain, from where they spread through Sardinia, then through Italy. Early in the Eighteenth Century,
they spread to churches outside the Franciscan Order, largely due to the
preaching of the Franciscan friar St Leonard of Port Maurice, who died in 1751,
a year after he had erected the Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum in Rome, at the request of Benedict XIV.
the Stations of the Cross have been erected in practically every Catholic church throughout the world. They have been erected also in the
open air in many sanctuaries, as at “Maryfields”, Campbelltown NSW, and at
At the Twelfth
Station: Jesus dies on the cross
1975, Pope John Paul II introduced a Way of the Cross that is based totally on
the gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus. He replaced those
Stations that had developed in Europe out of prayerful meditation without a
scriptural basis, namely, the three falls of Jesus under his cross, Jesus meets his
mother, and Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
set of Stations is more appropriate for ecumenical services, where all
Christians join in making the Way of the Cross, since we all share the same
gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus. Only the titles of the
Stations are given, with no set gospel texts or prayers.
At the Thirteenth
Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross
Scriptural Way of the Cross is similar to the traditional Way of the Cross,
except that there are three stations before “Jesus before Pilate”. They are:
“The Last Supper”, “The Garden of Gethsemane”, and, “Jesus before the
Sanhedrin”. “Jesus is whipped
and crowned with thorns” comes before “Jesus carries the cross”. There is
no first, second or third fall in the Scriptural Way of the Cross, or Jesus
meeting his mother or Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. “Jesus and the good
thief” and “Jesus speaks to Mary and John” precede “Jesus dies on the
cross”. Most important of all, after “Jesus is buried”, is added “Jesus
rises from the dead”.
At the Fourteenth
Station: Jesus is buried
do we make the Way of the Cross? We begin by recollecting our minds and
situating ourselves in the gospel scene of Jesus at the Last Supper (if we are
following the Scriptural Way of the Cross) or of Jesus before Pilate. As we
proceed through the fourteen Stations, we stand in front of the representation
of the scene. We recall that Jesus the Risen Lord is present among us and
accompanies us while we remember his last hours before his death.
each Station, we read or listen to a relevant passage from the gospel or other
sacred Scripture. We speak to Jesus by joining others in a common prayer, and
by praying silently.
process from station to station, singing appropriate hymns, or in silent
reflection. We are moved to compassion for Jesus and for all who suffer, to
admiration of his forgiving his enemies, to compunction for our poor following
of him, to imitation of his patience, to thanksgiving for what he did for us,
to hope and trust in his power to save us, to love for God who gave him to us
as our brother and Saviour.