Reflect on these Beautiful Stations of the Cross
The liturgical season of Lent can provide us with ample opportunity for reflection on the many truths within our faith. As we seek to fill our Lenten journey with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, there are many things we can consider as we unite ourselves to Christ in His suffering. One of the primary ideas that come to mind is man’s need for God’s grace: it is only by the help of God’s grace and Christ’s death and resurrection that we are able to attain our ultimate end of eternal life. The sign of this truth is the cross, the instrument by which Christ offered Himself up for the sins of mankind and so transformed death into eternal life.
Something that may help us reflect on this particular facet of our faith is praying the Stations of the Cross. This set of prayers chronicles the events of Christ’s passion and death, beginning with His being condemned by Pontius Pilate and ending with Him being placed in the tomb after His death. The Stations of the Cross provide an excellent way for us to meditate on the particular ways in which Christ offered up His life for us, and so through this meditation, we may be prompted to think a bit further about how we can model our own lives after Christ’s. Let’s take a moment to reflect on each of these events, and consider what we can learn from each station.
The First Station: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die
The concept of condemnation is one that the modern-day Christian is often familiar with. Although we may not experience condemnation on a grand scale, it can be difficult to remain steadfast in the truths of Christianity while it seems that many people we encounter denigrate or condemn what we believe. It is important to remember this beatitude: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Let us recognize that it is important to hold fast to our faith even in the midst of condemnation, and realize that our reward is not earthly but eternal.
The Second Station: Jesus Accepts His Cross
This deceptively simple station is one of the most important in terms of teaching us how to live our Christian lives in everyday moments. There are so many occasions in our lives where we may be faced with suffering, and we may often find it difficult to cope. However, each difficulty, no matter how great or small, provides us with an opportunity to die to ourselves as Jesus did and accept our suffering gracefully.
The Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time
In the prayer for this station, it is mentioned that the cross could have been light to Jesus, but the weight of humanity’s sins was what caused it to be difficult to bear. This prompts us to think about what we do when we love another. When we love someone, it is our desire to ease their suffering in any way we can or to help them never enter into suffering in the first place. In loving Jesus and thinking of the weight of our sins causing Him to suffer, let us resolve more firmly to live our lives without sin as much as we can, and so grow closer to Jesus in our efforts to love Him well and ease His burden.
The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother, Mary
If we think about what Mary must have been feeling at this time, we can consider what it truly means to say fiat, or “Thy will be done.” Mary began her journey as Jesus’ mother by saying “Thy will be done” to the angel Gabriel. She continued to set herself aside as she repeated that fiat every day of her life, even through unspeakable sorrow as she witnessed the intense suffering of her beloved Son. This reminds us that our promises to live as Catholics may not be said once and forgotten; they must be repeated every moment of our lives, even when it may be extremely difficult to do so.
The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Carry the Cross
Meditating on this station gives us the opportunity to think about the way in which we accept suffering in our lives. Simon of Cyrene was not invited to bear the cross but was rather compelled to do so by the Romans. From Biblical passages, the attitude with which he accepted this burden is unclear. Did he take up Jesus’ cross without complaint? Or did he do so unwillingly and grudgingly? Each day, we are invited to share in Jesus’ suffering. Like Simon, let us accept it, but let us go a step further and accept it as cheerfully and gracefully as we can.
The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Veronica’s simple yet incredibly loving action of wiping the face of Jesus prompts us to consider this phrase: “What you have done to the least of my brethren, you have done to Me.” Every interaction we have with our fellow men and women is an opportunity for us to see the face of Christ in others. Let us always show love to those we meet as though we are showing love to Christ Himself, and work especially hard to see Christ in those who may be forgotten by many.
The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls for the Second Time
Meditating on this seventh station allows us to think about the relationship between our body and soul. There are many occasions where, because of our fallen nature, our bodies and souls do not align and we feel that we want to do something detrimental for our souls. We know that it is important for us to be governed by our souls, not our bodies. Although Jesus must have had tremendous difficulty rising to carry the cross again after this fall, His soul led the way and commanded His body to continue. May we too find strength from the depths of our souls to always choose what is right and always let our souls govern our earthly bodies.
The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
This station gives us another opportunity to reflect on the primary cause of Jesus’ sorrow. The women of Jerusalem wept at seeing Him suffer physically in His passion. Jesus’ words to the women show us His true sorrow: “Weep for your sins and for those of your children, for they are the cause of My suffering.” As we remember the events of His passion, let us remember that it was the weight of our sins that caused Him the suffering, and work to live holy lives now.
The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time
Thinking about Jesus’ third fall provides us with an opportunity for gratitude. In our lives, we are always especially grateful to those who do things for us when it may cause them additional inconvenience or difficulty. This third fall of Jesus’ was undoubtedly His most difficult, so meditating on this station directs us to gratitude for the immensity of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.
The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
This station prompts us to think about the virtue of humility. In order to give mankind the gift of salvation and eternal life, it was necessary that Jesus Himself become man. This required the greatest gesture of humility on His part to lower Himself and become one of us. We can interpret this station as symbolizing Jesus’ willingness to lower Himself to the level of our humanity so that we may all be able to attain salvation.
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Thinking of Jesus’ resolute suffering once again provides us with an example of what it means to be patient and willing in the face of trials. Despite the intense pain, He must have been enduring at this time, no words of complaint crossed His lips. Like Jesus, as we face whatever trials we must endure in our lives, let us offer up our suffering silently and without complaint.
The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
While praying the Stations of the Cross, a moment of silence is taken here as we remember Christ laying down His life for us. His death marks an enormous event in Christianity: in dying, He destroyed the power that death had over us and used death itself as part of His salvific plan. Let us always remember His sacrifice as we work towards our salvation in our Christian lives.
The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
This station brings to mind the virtue of perseverance. Jesus remained on His cross until He had fully given up His spirit, and it was only then that He was taken down and laid to rest for a moment on His beloved mother. As we pray the prayer for this station, we say: “For he who perseveres to the end shall be saved.” May we always persevere and do what is right in our earthly life as we fix our eyes on heaven.
The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb
Here we can think of the theological virtue of hope. Jesus’ time in the tomb is a time of silence, where we await His resurrection in hope. May we never be unduly burdened with the sorrows of this earth, but always undergo our trials and tribulations with joy and with the hope of resting in heaven eternally.