The Stations of the Cross are both a depiction of the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and also an observation of the 14 important parts of this depiction usually done in Catholic Churches. In fact, most Catholic Churches are lined with pictures or stained glass windows showing these moments. During some masses or religious observations, the Stations may be given particular attention.
Some Catholics regularly visit the Stations of the Cross, pausing at each depiction to meditate on the suffering of Jesus Christ and the holiness of the resurrection. Such contemplation of Christ’s suffering may help people find their own way through difficult times in their lives.
Most Catholics may observe the Stations on Friday services during Lent. Observation is almost always held on Good Friday during the service. This is not typically considered a mass, since no communion is given on Good Friday. Instead, it is a time to contemplate Christ’s willing sacrifice so that all could have eternal life.
The Stations of the Cross are as follows:
- Jesus is condemned to die.
- Jesus receives the cross.
- Jesus falls for the first time while bearing the cross.
- Jesus meets his mother, the Virgin Mary.
- Simon bears the cross for Jesus for a short period of time.
- Veronica wipes Jesus’ face.
- Jesus falls for the second time.
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
- Jesus falls for the third time.
- Jesus is stripped of his clothes.
- Jesus is crucified.
- Jesus dies.
- Jesus is removed from the cross.
- Jesus is entombed.
During the Good Friday service, or a mass observing the Stations of the Cross, special prayers are said or songs may be sung during each station. Sometimes the priest only will visit the Stations, while at other times, congregants are welcome to join the priest and visit each station briefly.
The Stations of the Cross are also called The Way by some Catholics. Since Christ refers to himself as “The Way” in New Testament writings, some Catholics feel there is too much emphasis placed on the crucifixion and not enough on the resurrection and Jesus’ actual life and teachings. They argue the crucifixion was the result of politics, and has little to do with the true meaning of Christ.
As well, emphasis on the crucifixion has translated, for some, throughout history into dislike or hatred of the Jewish people, since a few Jews called for the death of Christ according to the New Testament. The decision was ultimately made by Roman leaders, however, and the church now teaches that Judaism be considered as the fount of Catholicism.
Many still argue that continued emphasis on the Stations of the Cross is not a good reflection of such church teachings. Recent popes have attempted to rectify this with middling success. Some advocate for a 15th station, which would be a depiction of Christ rising from the dead, and shift emphasis to the miracle of the resurrection.