Yesterday I received a text message that the Stations of the Cross are up at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Rochester, NY.
I made these Stations during my own personal annus horribilis, when I was being treated for cancer. Looking back, I see these as very personal work, addressing the chaos in which I found myself. Nevertheless, they were always meant to be illustrations for a public text.
You can find the full set of illustrations and the original text here.
The idea of the Stations of the Cross originated in pilgrimages to Jerusalem, in the form of what was later called the Via Dolorosa or “Way of Suffering”. This was an effort to understand in some small way the suffering of Christ by following him on the route of his conviction and execution.
Of course, most devout Christians never get to Jerusalem. Attempts to replicate the Via Dolorosa experience appeared as early as the 5th century. Eventually these took the form of connected shrines, bas relief carvings on indoor or outdoor church walls, or woodcuts in bound books. The term “Stations” was in use after about the 15th century.
By the 16th century, out-of-door Stations of the Cross were a regular sight on the approaches to many large churches. These most commonly had seven settings, but ranged up to 30.
In 1731, Pope Clement XII fixed the number of stations at the modern 14. These are:
- Jesus is condemned to death
- Jesus accepts the cross
- Jesus falls the first time
- Jesus meets His Mother
- Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls the second time
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls the third time
- Jesus is stripped of His garments
- Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
- Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.
The problem for Protestants is that Stations 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 have no clear basis in the Bible.
In 2007, Pope Benedict approved a new set of Stations for Catholics, called the Scriptural Way of the Cross. Those Stations are:
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested,
- Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin,
- Jesus is denied by Peter,
- Jesus is judged by Pilate,
- Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns,
- Jesus takes up His cross,
- Jesus is helped by Simon to carry His cross,
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem,
- Jesus is crucified,
- Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief,
- Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other,
- Jesus dies on the cross,
- Jesus is laid in the tomb.