As we enter the holiest of weeks of the Church year Holy Week we turn to the Stations of the Cross. Now this is a fairly old tradition in the church with it dating back to somewhere in the mid to late 300s, it originated with the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. The Via Dolorosa, the way of grief/sorrow/suffering, a pilgrimage site which runs through the city of Jerusalem there have been some alternate routes and there continue to be today. It covers the 14 stations of the cross, nine of which are on the route and five are located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the middle ages the Franciscans made outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate the experience with seven to thirty stations on an approach to a church. It took until 1686 when Pope Innocent XI said that the Franciscans could have stations in their churches. In 1731, Clement XII expanded this to all church although Franciscans needed to erect them and it wasn’t until 1862 that the right was extended to all bishops in the church.
There are two sets of the Stations, the Traditional set that most of us know and the Scriptural one which the Pope does on Good Friday. The Scriptural Way of the Cross were established by Pope John Paul II in 1991 as a way to add nuance to an understanding of the Passion. The Scriptural Way was introduced because of the 14 stations in the Traditional Way only eight can be found in the Scripture.
The Traditional one are as follows
- Pilate condemns Jesus to die
- Jesus accepts his cross
- Jesus falls for the first time
- Jesus meets his mother, Mary
- Simon helps carry the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- 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 nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross
- Jesus is placed in the tomb
The Scriptural one are as follows
- 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 of Cyrene 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; and
- Jesus is laid in the tomb.
A fifteenth station, the Resurrection can be added to both of these
The second Joyful mystery is the Visitation. This is when Mary goes and visits her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with John the Baptist. It is found in Luke’s Gospel 1:39-56. After hearing that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant Mary went to visit her. Now Elizabeth lived a little some speculate it was south of Jerusalem, in Hebron or even in Ein Karem, wherever it was Mary traveled from Nazareth to visit about a 150 mile journey which would take a couple of days to get there. When Mary arrived Elizabeth was about six months pregnant and Mary stayed until she had given birth to John. The feast day is on 31 May for the Western Church and 30 March in the Eastern Church.
The feast was first celebrated by the Franciscans and by 1263 it was spreading around to other churches in the Franciscan Breviary. Pope Urban VI hoping to end the Western Schism in 1389 added it to the Roman calendar, the official list of feast days of the church. It wasn’t until 1969 when the feast was moved to May so that it would be between the Annunciation (25 March) and the Nativity of John the Baptist (24 June) to better align with the Gospels.
The fruit of this mystery is love of neighbor. As we approach the Christmas season we will expect to look out toward our neighbors and celebrate with them this great feast however how often is it that we care more about ourselves or what’s on the screens in front of us than those living next door. Let us all try to go out and meet our neighbors since we all live in a community and they are it.
This is a prayer written by Maximilian Kolbe, one of the Saints of World War II. Maximilian Kolbe was a Conventual Franciscan (Greyfriars) who volunteered to die in the place of a stranger at Auschwitz. He is a pretty cool saint and Pope John Paul II named him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”. The prayer is a consecration to the Immaculata, Mary the Immaculate. I hope that we all can remember to turn to Mary of Mother when we are in need. The prayer comes in two forms the long one is:
Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.
If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: “She will crush your head,” and “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world.” Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin R. Give me strength against your enemies
Or there is a shorter version of the prayer for daily renewal of the consecration which is as follows:
Immaculata, Queen and Mother of the Church, I renew my consecration to you for this day and for always, so that you might use me for the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus in the whole world. To this end I offer you all my prayers, actions and sacrifices of this day.