Though suitable for individual or group use, these stations offer a deeply personal walk through the passion of Christ, an opportunity to be not just a witness, but a companion of Jesus through his sufferings. By seeing how even the smallest actions of our lives alleviate, or add to, the pain of the cross, we are inspired to carry our own crosses with humility, dignity and peace.
Stations of the Cross
While this devotion certainly has a place in Lent, the overemphasis given to it in the past tended to distort the meaning of the season. Because the stations were prayed publicly throughout the whole season, the impression was given that Lent was primarily about commemorating the passion and death of Christ.
Vatican II strongly endorsed the use of devotions as part of Catholic spirituality, but it also called for their renewal, to harmonize them with the sacred liturgy (see Liturgy #13). The liturgy of Lent focuses on the passion and death of the Lord only near the end of the season, especially with the proclamation of the Passion on Palm (Passion) Sunday and again on Good Friday. The weekday readings between the Fifth Sunday of Lent and Palm Sunday also point toward the coming Passion, so that might also be an appropriate time to pray the Stations. The earlier weeks of Lent, however, focus much more on Baptism and covenant than on the Passion.
When we do pray the Stations of the Cross, we can also connect them with the baptismal character of Lent if we place the stations themselves in the context of the whole paschal mystery. In Baptism we are plunged into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, and our baptismal commitment includes a willingness to give our life for others as Jesus did. Recalling his passion and death can remind us that we, too, may be called to suffer in order to be faithful to the call of God.
One limitation with the traditional form of the Stations is the absence of the second half of the paschal mystery. The liturgy never focuses on the death of Christ without recalling his resurrection. Some forms of the Stations of the Cross include a 15th station to recall the resurrection as an integral part of the paschal mystery.
Some contemporary forms of the Stations also make clear the link between the sufferings of Christ in the first century and the sufferings of Christ’s body in the world today. Such an approach can help us to recognize and admit the ways that we have failed to live up to our baptismal mission to spread the gospel and manifest the love of Christ to those in need.