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February 17, 2019 - Pastor Message



In previous columns, we looked at the history of the Stations of the Cross and how we arrived at the now traditional fourteen stations. This week, we will look at the stations themselves and explore their foundations. Nine of the stations that compose the devotion as we know it today are drawn from the Gospel accounts of Christ’s suffering and death, although not entirely from any one Gospel. The remaining five come from pious tradition, beliefs and practices that do not stem directly from the Sacred Tradition of the Church, the teachings of the Apostles passed on and interpreted by the bishops in union with the pope, but arise from the popular piety. The nine stations which depict events taken from the Gospels are as follows:  

1st Station: Jesus is condemned (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:2425; John 19:16)

2nd Station: Jesus takes up his cross (John 19:16-17)

5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26)

8th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31)

10th Station: Jesus is stripped (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24)

 11th Station: Jesus is crucified (Matthew 27:33 35; Mark 15:2224; Luke 23:33; John 19:16-18)

12 Station: Jesus dies (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30)

13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross (Matthew 27:57-59; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38)

14th Station: Jesus is buried (Matthew 27:59-60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53; John 19:39-42)

The five stations that depict events taken from pious tradition are as follows:

3rd, 7th, and 9th Stations: Jesus falls

4th Station: Jesus meets his mother

6th Station: Jesus meets Veronica

The three falls of Jesus most likely are drawn from a popular 16th century German version of the Stations of the Cross called The Seven Falls of Christ, which depicted Jesus as falling in all of Stations 39. This in turn was most likely based on the pious tradition that Jesus fell seven times corresponding to the seven deadly sins his death would conquer. Regardless, four of the seven falls later became identified by other names (e.g. Jesus meets his mother), leaving only the three falls we have today.

The tradition that Jesus met his mother on his way of the cross could be loosely based on the Gospel accounts of Simeon’s prophecy that she would be pierced by a “sword” (Luke 2:35), indicating that she would share her son’s suffering, and of her presence during his passion and death (John 19:25-27). While its ultimate origins are unclear, archeological evidence shows that a 5th-6th century church dedicated to Our Lady of Fainting once stood on the current site of the 4th Station in Jerusalem, so the tradition goes back at least that far.

The tradition of Veronica and her miraculous veil can be traced to ancient times as well. First mentioned in writings from the late 2nd early 3rd centuries, the episode became popularized in the 7th century work, The Cure of the Emperor Tiberius, which reports that the emperor’s leprosy was cured by touching Veronica’s veil. It wasn’t until the 15th century, however, that the current location of the 6th Station in Jerusalem, Veronica’s house, was incorporated into the Via Dolorosa.

That’s it for this week. Tune in next week when we will conclude our look at the Stations of the Cross. For more information about the history of the Stations, please see the following articles, from where the above information was taken: “The Fourteen Stations of the Sorrowful Way,” at terrasanctummuseum.org; “The Way of the Cross,” by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, at OSV.com; and “The Mysterious Veil of Veronica,” at ancient-origins.net.

Fr. Marc Stockton


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