Every Friday in Lent at 7 p.m. we pray the Way of the Cross at All Souls. As we move through the church, we are given an opportunity to hear scripture with new ears and to see visual representations of our Lord with new eyes. We are invited to respond to the Way of the Cross, and indeed, to the Way of Christ, with new hearts.
The devotion known as Stations of the Cross, or the Way of the Cross, is thought to have begun in 4th-century Jerusalem, as pilgrims sought to be close to the places where Jesus walked. The number of stations, or places where Jesus paused on his way to be crucified, has varied with tradition and time. Monks and nuns who visited the Holy Land took the idea of the Way of the Cross back to their monasteries, and so, by the 16th century, a number of monasteries and convents began to have small artistic representations of the Stations of the Cross in their chapels. Prayers would be said at each representation and this practice eventually spread to churches. The number of stations finally became fixed at fourteen. Of these, eight are based directly on events recorded in the Gospels and six (stations three, four, six, seven, nine, and thirteen) are based upon tradition.
Participating in the Stations of the Cross allows us to pray with our imagination. We imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to walk through the city of Jerusalem carrying his cross. We imagine how we might have reacted or not reacted. And perhaps most of all, we can imagine where God must have been in the midst of that struggle. To recognize God in such times is at the heart of Lent.