by Stephanie Johnson
Throughout these forty days of Lent, Catholics try to mimic Jesus’ sacrificial behavior through prayer, fasting, abstinence, and reflection. Through a series of religious reflections called The Stations of the Cross, they are able to commemorate His ultimate sacrifice: death on a cross. Fourteen traditional stations allow Catholics to follow Christ’s path from His encounter with Pontius Pilate to His tomb.
The stations include: Pilate condemns Christ to death; Jesus carries the cross; the first fall; Jesus meets His Blessed Mother; Simon of Cyrene helps to carry the cross; Veronica wipes the face of Jesus; the second fall; Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem; the third fall; Jesus is stripped of His garments; Jesus is nailed to the cross; Jesus dies on the cross; Jesus is taken down from the cross; and Jesus is laid in the tomb. The devotion has evolved over time, and some versions have adopted a fifteenth station that reflects on Jesus’ resurrection.
The Stations are recognized as a Roman Catholic devotion. Devotions are not part of the official liturgy but are popular spiritual practices of the Catholic faith. However, this tradition does not belong to Catholics alone. Anglican and Lutheran parishes also use the Stations of the Cross to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice.
The devotion began as a religious pilgrimage that allowed Christians to retrace Christ’s path to Calvary. As the Stations grew in popularity, the Church sought out a way to make it possible to commemorate Christ’s passion without physically traveling to the Holy Land. Artistic representations were incorporated into most churches to accomplish that goal.
Traditionally, the Stations are observable year-round. Paintings or plaques of each station are displayed at intervals along the side walls of the nave in most churches. These artistic representations generally get more attention during the Lenten season, at which time, Christians move around the Stations and recite a series of prayers that supplements them. On Good Friday, many Christian churches feature a live performance of the Stations of the Cross.
Boston College used to own artwork by Russian Prince Alexis Arapoff that depicted six of the Stations of the Cross. The prince was a renowned painter of icons and religious art. The Boston Public Library gave the six paintings to Boston College as a gift. They were hung in various university offices and houses; however, in the 1980s they mysteriously went missing. The paintings’ whereabouts are still unknown.
Boston College’s Church in the 21st Century Center provides students with many Lenten resources that are intended to guide students through reflection, prayer, and contemplation as they prepare for Easter. Their website features a link to online Stations of the Cross. Students can pray the stations directly from the website or recite the series of reflections while walking through the Stations of the Cross, which are hanging in both St. Ignatius and St. Mary’s.
To access the Church in the 21st Century Center Lenten Resources, visit their website: www.bc.edu/church21.