The past is filled with hidden treasures. One of these is the Christian tradition of prayerfully following the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. The idea behind the practice is to use physical movement and a series of gospel readings to slow down time and imaginatively retrace the events that led finally to Jesus dying on the cross. While this practice has often been performed within church buildings, it can – and has – been adapted for outdoor settings. The Scriptural Stations of the Cross are a means for ordinary Christians to escape their living rooms and engage in an outdoor worship experience that is both deeply devotional and carries with it a sense of being out on mission in a local community.
Five Simple Steps
The following instructions can be used for individuals or families and can be performed in one’s own backyard, by walking through a local neighborhood, or by visiting a quiet park or public space.
Step 1 – Pick a starting place. This can be anywhere. Simply find a street corner or quiet area in a park and let this be your launch point.
Step 2 – Do the first reading. If you are alone, prayerfully imagine the scene as narrated. Smell the air, listen to the birds, feel the sunlight on your skin. If you are with children, ask questions and talk through the details of the story together.
Step 3 – When you are finished with step 2, pick a second location and walk to it. This can be another street corner or a different tree in another section of a park. The important thing is physically to move so that you can clear mental space for another reading.
Step 4 – Each time you stop, do another reading. Note: for some readings there are links to songs on YouTube. Use these songs to reflect more deeply on the suffering and death of Jesus.
Step 5 – Keep following these instructions until you have completed all fourteen stations. The benefit of the spiritual exercise is that you will have mentally retraced all of the key moments leading from Gethsemane to Golgotha. The entire activity should take less than an hour.
Note: this spiritual exercise is best performed on Good Friday or Holy Saturday in preparation for Easter Sunday. The final station leaves the worshiper at the grave of Jesus. The reason for this is not to undermine the climactic moment of the resurrection, but to leave reflective space to ponder deeply the suffering and death of Jesus so that the full hope and joy of the resurrection can be felt. Remember the spiritual rule from the Psalms: those who sow in tears will reap in joy (Ps. 126:5).
The Fourteen Scriptural Stations of the Cross
Station 1: The Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-41)
Station 2: Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Mk. 14:43-46)
Station 3: Jesus Is Condemned by the Sanhedrin (Lk. 66-71)
Station 4: Peter Denies Jesus (Matt. 26: 69-75)
Station 5: Jesus Delivered to Pilate (Mk. 15: 1-5, 15)
Station 6: Jesus Is Scourged (Jn. 19:1-3)
FOR ADDITIONAL REFLECTION LISTEN TO ‘STRICKEN, SMITTEN, AND AFFLICTED’
Station 7: Jesus Bears the Cross (Jn. 19:6, 15-17)
Station 8: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross (Mk. 15:21)
Station 9: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem (Lk. 23:27-31)
Station 10: Jesus Is Crucified (Lk. 23:33-34)
FOR ADDITIONAL REFLECTION LISTEN TO ‘O SACRED HEAD NOW WOUNDED’
Station 11: the Repentant Thief (Lk. 23:39-43)
Station 12: Jesus Speaks to Mary and John (Jn. 19:25-27)
Station 13: Jesus Dies on the Cross (Lk. 23:44-46)
FOR ADDITIONAL REFLECTION LISTEN TO ‘WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS’
Station 14: Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb (Matt. 27:57-60)
CONCLUDE THIS EXERCISE BY LISTENING TO ‘MAN OF SORROWS’
By Joe Barnard