Q. What is the origin of stations of the cross during Lent?
A. The season of Lent is a time of penance and preparation as we await the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus during the Easter season.
As part of our preparation, we are to meditate more acutely on the Passion of Jesus Christ, his selfless act of love for us. The stations of the cross are a traditional devotional practice in the Church that allows us to walk with Jesus in his final hours and enter into his passion. The stations of the cross, or Way of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa (sorrowful way), are 14 scenes in the Passion of Christ, following the footsteps of Jesus from His condemnation to death by Pilate to being placed in His tomb.
The stations have developed throughout the life of the Church. After Constantine legalized Christianity in 313, he built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the place where Jesus was raised from the dead. Various stations were marked along the way, indicating the different moments of the Passion, and pilgrims began to walk the Way of the Cross.
By the 5th century, the stations were beginning to be replicated throughout the Christian world, allowing those unable to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to make a spiritual pilgrimage within their hearts.
In 1342, the Franciscans became the custodians of the many shrines in the Holy Land, and they have been closely associated with the transmission of this devotion ever since.
The Church commends the practice and attaches a plenary indulgence to the exercise of the Way of Cross, when moving from station to station where they are legitimately erected, and meditating on the events. Those impeded from physically going to a church may gain the indulgence by meditating on Christ’s passion and death for a half hour.
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