The practice of walking the Stations of the Cross is almost as old as Christianity itself. From the earliest days of the Church’s ministry – especially once Christians were able to come out of hiding and worship freely under Emperor Constantine – people have traveled to the Holy Land to walk the roads where Jesus walked. Pilgrims went to Jerusalem to stand in the places of our Lord’s arrest and death, to step along those same streets that led him up the hill to Golgotha. As time went on, a fixed set of stations along those streets began to take shape, some that mark events described in the Gospels, and some that are interpretations of what may have happened along that hard road. Today, we have inherited a devotion with fourteen stations – fourteen moments for prayer and reflection that lead us through abuse and pain, through love and generosity, to the foot of the cross.
At Atonement, we, like many churches, walk this way of the cross every Friday in Lent. Although the events that are described in the stations do not happen until Good Friday, we mark and meditate upon them each week. While this has long been a custom here, and may have been a tradition you grew up with, the question could fairly be asked: why? Why do we do this every week? Why preempt the timeline of this holy season by jumping ahead to Holy Week during the first week of Lent? What do we gain from doing these stations over and over? Would they not be fresher, more dramatic, more engaging if we waited until the actual day of Good Friday? This is a question that surely has multiple answers, but here’s one for you to think about this week:
We need the practice.
We need the practice of moving through these moments that lead us to the cross. We need to practice being present in that dark hour when it seemed like all was lost. We need to practice the attentiveness, the listening, the faith, that allows us to witness this supreme act of love – love that looks a lot like losing – without worry and without fear. We need to practice watching Christ carry his cross so that we might learn how to carry our own. We need to practice walking together as a community through something that peels back the protective layers of our lives and reveals our naked hearts, vulnerable and real. Like anything else in life, we need to practice in order to become better at this kind of intense, honest engagement with God, with ourselves, and with our neighbors.
This devotion is for you. This journey is yours. Come – practice with us.