Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scriptural Stations of the Cross --- History and Theology

The Stations of the Cross - also called Via Crucis, Via Dolorosa or the Way of the Cross - is a devotion to the passion of Christ consisting of prayers and meditations on fourteen occurrences experienced by Christ on His way to the crucifixion and burial.

The origin of this devotion goes back to the custom of visiting the holy sites in Jerusalem: Early pilgrims to the holy city marked the last moments in Jesus' life by prayerfully stopping at all the sites associated with Jesus' suffering and death. This practice, which began in the fourth through sixth centuries was so powerful that many Christians desired to do the same thing, even those who were unable to travel to the Holy Land.

As 12th-century Europe was devastated by the plague and the Crusades brought record numbers of Europeans to the Holy Land, the desire for the celebration of Stations of the Cross increased dramatically. The popularity of the Stations of the Cross was fostered by the Franciscans, who took over the care of the sacred sites in Jerusalem in 1342. The custom of praying the Stations emerged in a multiplicity of formats with different numbers and names for each of the stations.

Originally done only outdoors, the Stations were allowed inside churches in the mid-18th century. They were fixed at fourteen by Pope Clement XII in 1731, and soon became a standard feature in all Catholic churches. In recent years, some variations have been introduced in the traditional devotion.

One of these is the addition of a 15th station - the Resurrection of Jesus (c.1960), as theologians claimed that the resurrection completes the cycle. In addition, Pope John Paul II has proposed a series of scriptural stations that portray only incidents related in the gospels. He celebrated these for the first time at the Roman Coliseum on Good Friday, 1991.

At The Basilica we have three sets of Stations of the Cross. Two of the sets depict the traditional stations. The first set consists of the stations, which are original to the building. They were designed and sculpted by The McBride Studios from Pietrasanta, Italy. They were installed in September, 1926.

You may find a second set of the traditional stations in the Saint Joseph Chapel. These are on loan from the artist, Leo Winstead. The third and most recent set differs in two ways from the others: it is abstract, rather than figurative and it depicts the Biblical stations, rather than the traditional stations. Lucinda Naylor, artist-in-residence at The Basilica, and Steven Anderson, master printer, collaborated on these mono-prints.

The Stations of the Cross may be conducted personally by making one's way from one station to another and saying the prayers, or by having an officiating celebrant move from station to station while the faithful make the responses.
Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

Audio Stations of the Cross

Pray along at home with these Stations each Friday.
They were recorded by Basilica staff and choir members.

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