The Stations of the Cross by unknown artist; stamps of Ajman
The crucial portion of the life of Jesus is His death and resurrection. From a very early date Christians in Jerusalem would retrace the steps of Jesus from trial through crucifixion. The number of stations and the route varied especially with regards to the start of the stations – the entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Garden or the Court. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Franciscans built stations outside the church to imitate the stations in Jerusalem. In 1686, the Church gave permission for all church to have stations erected by a Franciscan father and the number was standardized at 14.
Recently, some have wished to add a 15th station – the Resurrection – because Jesus’ death has meaning only in light of the resurrection. Because the Stations of the Cross is a devotion emphasized in Lent and on Good Friday, others argue that to include the resurrection is to “get ahead of ourselves.”
The traditional stations include events recorded in apocryphal works such as The Acts of Pilate (Veronica) or in popular devotions (the 7 falls of Jesus). For our purposes, the scriptural stations provide the better set of points for a time line.
Note: the stamp images are thanks to Bro. Raymond Boutin, S.M.for the The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
- On Palm Sunday we hear the Passion story by Matthew, Mark or Luke depending upon the lectionary cycle. On Good Friday we hear the Passion story by John. Make a chart of the events in the Scriptural Stations of the Cross and note which Gospels include which events. How does each Gospel present it’s perspective on the story?
- Matthew 26:14–27:66
- Mark 14:1–15:47
- Luke 22:14–23:56
- John 18:1–19:42
- On Good Friday many churches celebrate Tre Ore, a three hour devotion with its roots in South America. Often this takes the form of a contemplation of the Seven Last Words. Look at the distribution of the Seven Last Words across the Gospels. What does this detail add to the Passion story perspective you observed in question 1?
- Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
- Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).
- Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27).
- My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
- I thirst (John 19:28).
- It is finished (John 19:30).
- Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).
- Historically the number of stations has only recently been set. Make your own list of stations based on the events that personally strike you as noteworthy. How does your list compare to the standard list? What do the variations show about yourself?
LOGOS 4 hint: create a passage list of the citations in the chart, the Passion readings and the Seven Last Words. Remember that you can add titles to a passage list
- Orthodox 12 Gospels
- Moravian Holy Week
- Stations of the Nativity
- Stations of the Resurrection
- Meditations on the Shadows
- Protestant Stations on the Cross
St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, Hawk Run, PA
Iconostasis is not a word that trips off the tongue of every student of the Holy Bible. In much of Eastern Christianity, a screen with icons separates the congregation from the altar. This screen is called an “iconostasis”. Each row of icons has a particular theme – apostles, patriarchs, feasts, saints … The row that is of interest here is the row that depicts the 12 great feasts of the Church. In the screen above, this is the second row.
These great feast provide a framework for remembering the major events in the life of Jesus. They also include events in the life of Mary the Theotokos ans well as in the life of the Church. Theotokos is another word that rarely trips off the tongue. It simply means that the bore God i.e. that she bore Jesus who was both truly man and truly God.
The 12 great feasts generally do not include Easter, or Pascha as it is called in the East, which is the feast of all feasts. Therefore, on the chart I have provided a separate column for Easter. In typical style, while the number of feasts is agreed upon – twelve – the list of twelve varies somewhat. When a practice covers so much territory in space and time this is to be expected. Three typical lists appear on the chart below.
The colors in this chart indicate:
- blue: a feast of Mary
- purple: a feast of Jesus Christ
- green: a feast of the church
- Read the scriptural passages given beside each feast. Write a short summary of the event described in the passage. What aspects of Jesus’ life are emphasized by these feasts? How can they provide a framework for remembering the major events?
- Compare your experience of church and scripture to that of a parishioner who every time they enter a church face an iconostasis depicting the major feasts.
LOGOS 4 hint: create a passage list of the citations in the chart
It is easy to say “I should read the Bible” and easier to never quite start. The reasons are legitimate:
- The Bible is difficult to read not in the sense of reading the words but in the sense of not knowing what to expect and how to make sense of it.
- When I hear the homily on Sunday, there are all sorts of relationships I never see; I don’t know enough to understand the Bible.
- I don’t know where to start – a daily devotional guide, lectio divina (praying with scripture), a study guide, reading the lectionary readings, reading a book of the Bible straight through …
- I can’t even understand the reasons just listed.
I am reminded of man in a class I taught on leading Bible study groups. He owned an auto body shop and made it clear that he was not a class member. He was there to drive his wife to class. She was the reader in their family. Well into the class he admitted that he read one book over and over. In the last 50 years he had gone through several copies. The book was Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – not easy reading.
Yes, you can read the Bible even if you first find it difficult. And if you are illiterate you can still study the Bible in other ways. The first serious hurdle is that the Bible has no obvious order for understanding it. Evidence:
- Stories are interrupted by regulations, genealogies, building instructions … you can lose track of the storyline while figuring out the interruptions.
- Stories are repeated and the order of events is lost … in the history books you get the kings and a few prophets; several books later you get other prophets and have no clue as to where they fit with the kings
- The Bible keeps quoting itself or repeating patterns assuming that you know the quotes and patterns … you don’t but you will.
So where do we start? I suggest that the first step is to create a framework that will tell you where a piece of Scripture fits into the whole. I suggest that you build that framework in one of the many ways the framework has been taught over the last 2000 years. Our first lessons / methods will cover these frameworks:
- The life of Christ as depicted on the iconostasis of the Orthodox tradition. (The iconostasis is a screen containing various icons – pictures of Biblical events, people and saints.)
- The Stations of the Cross, a detailed group of the 14 or 15 events telling the story of Jesus’ arrest, execution and (sometimes) resurrection.
- God’s covenants with humanity – Creation, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah and Jesus Christ. This gives us a division of time that highlights humanity’s understanding of their relationship with God and what God expects of them.
- The Jesse tree, an Advent practice that focuses on the ancestors of Jesus and gives as the major Old Testament people in approximate historical order.
- The Great Adventure Catholic Study System’s division of Biblical history into twelve periods.
- The liturgical year … how it presents the life of Jesus Christ and teaches us to read one passage in light on another.
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