When we enter any Catholic Church, we immediately focus our gaze on the end of our journey: Our Lord at the altar, and His victory over death. The architecture emphasizes the journey to the sanctuary, a journey we make in union with all the faithful across time and space. It is our common hope to enter the eternal banquet of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Before His victory over death was accomplished, Our Lord made this journey carrying the wood on which He would be crucified. The Stations of the Cross illustrate the stages of Christ’s journey on the walls on either side of the nave. They are worthy of meditation along our life journey both as individuals and as a community.
Depicting fourteen images from the day of His crucifixion, the Stations begin with his condemnation to death by Pilate and end with his entombment. In Latin they are called the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) or the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering). The tradition of following along the Via Crucis, meditating upon each station, began in Jerusalem and may have been started by Our Blessed Mother herself.
Promoted by the Franciscan Friars, the stations were popularized throughout Christian lands in the 15th century because they allowed the faithful to make a mini-pilgrimage to Jerusalem within their own local churches, since it was difficult and often dangerous to visit the Holy Land
Case study: Our Lady of Peace Church, Stratford, CT:
In Our Lady of Peace Church, the stations are austere in style to match the style of the Normandy-inspired church. Like the large wooden crucifix hanging in the sanctuary, the stations are hand-carved from oak. The Stations of the Cross may be made of other materials such as plaster or stone, but here, in Our Lady of Peace Church, their “native” material, wood, is used: the material Jesus Himself carried, and upon which he died. The renovation of Our Lady of Peace Church involved bringing these original Stations of the Cross back to life by cleaning, protecting, and embellishing them.
The cross on Christ’s halo is painted with red pigment symbolizing His Passion, and the blood He shed for our sins. The halo is gilded in 23 K gold leaf, a precious metal that never tarnishes, representing Heaven, our desired destination.
Meditation upon the Stations of the Cross is an integral part of our Lenten journey with Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Making the journey to Jerusalem in spirit, we accompany Our Lord while reflecting upon and responding to, His tremendous love for us.
Note: We are indebted to Margaret Visser’s excellent book, The Geometry of Love: Space, Time, Mystery and Meaning in an Ordinary Church. [New York: North Point Press (a division of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), 2000].
Posted 2019 by Karen D’Anselmi