So, Good Friday is coming up and you are learning more about the "Stations of the Cross." Maybe you're looking for ways to engage your church, or even your own devotional time, as Lent comes to its pinnacle on Good Friday.
The "Stations of the Cross" or the "Way of the Cross" has been the Christian Church's answer to this for millennia. So here's the 4-1-1 on this ancient contemplative art form, plus some free resources to help you and your peeps experience its power too. Download free stations of the cross here:
There are 14 Stations of the Cross
The early church identified many different locations in Jerusalem which commemorated moments thought to be along Jesus' path the day he was crucified. But in the 16th century, probably in Europe, the tradition settled on 14 stations and the Franciscans (Catholics) eventually aligned with this number. (citation: 1) But now, yes, the Christian world agrees upon, and practices, 14 Stations of the Cross.
But there is a lot more you should probably know about them. I'll quickly catch you up to speed and then I'll give you some free, high quality art, videos, devotional prayers, questions, and coloring pages you can use to fully experience the Stations alone or with your group.
What are the Stations of the Cross?
The original stations of the cross are 14 sites in Jerusalem where 14 events in Jesus' last day were thought to have happened.
But for those of us who cannot be in Jerusalem on Good Friday to walk and meditate that path, art pieces of these events have been made throughout the centuries to help us do the same meditative walk where we are. These art pieces are also called the Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross).
These art pieces (sculptures, paintings, stained glass windows, etc.) are often installed in places like churches, cemeteries and hospitals so we can walk the "way of the cross" at a location near us.
What are the 2-types of Stations of the Cross?
There are two sanctioned sets of Stations of the Cross.
Traditional Stations of the Cross
Even though the locations of Jesus' foot-journey are memorialized in Jerusalem, many of these events that are said to have happened there are not explicitly in the Bible. Some examples are, "Veronica wipes Jesus' face" and the three times Jesus falls. Being strongly built on tradition, the Catholic Church has championed these moments as the 14 to meditate on.
Scriptural Stations of the Cross
But other Christian denominations lean more heavily on events directly recorded in the Bible. So, fortunately for most protestants, in 1991 Pope John Paul II introduced the scriptural stations. These are an alternate set that track 14 events that are recorded in the scriptures, some of which overlap with the traditional Stations of the Cross.
Below I'll list both the scriptural and traditional Stations of the Cross. I'll use colors to help us see which are the same. (I'm sorry to my colorblind brothers and sisters)
Traditional Stations Scriptural Stations
Jesus is condemned to death Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
He falls the first time Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin
Simon of Cyrene is Jesus is judged by Pilate made to bear the cross,
He falls the second time Jesus bears the cross
He falls the third time Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
He is stripped of his garments Jesus is Crucified
He is nailed to the cross Jesus promises his kingdom to the good thief
He dies on the cross Jesus speaks to his mother and the disciple
He is taken down from the cross Jesus dies on the cross
He is placed in the sepulcher Jesus is placed in the tomb
How to Pray the Stations of the Cross
So how do you DO the stations of the cross? You walk to the different art pieces (or navigate to them on the screen!) and you pray at each one. The Stations of the Cross prayers can differ, depending on what or who is guiding you. If you are using a certain set of art, the art may have suggested prayers accompanying each art piece.
The prayers are meant to help you reflect on Jesus' suffering and help us conform to be more like him. The stations can be walked through with a group or as an individual. If you are walking the stations as a group the prayers will likely be guided by a leader who will read the part of the prayers designated for them and the people will read their section as a response ("call and response.")
Beginning prayers for Stations of the Cross
The prayers usually start with an opening to prepare the participants' hearts before moving to the individual stations. St. Francis wrote prayers for the Stations of the Cross and here is an excerpt of his opening prayer:
Most merciful Lord, with a contrite heart and penitent spirit I bow down before Thy divine Majesty...
At each Station of the Cross
As you or the group move to each Station of the Cross, the associated scripture or a summary of what is happening is read along with a new prayer customized for what that Station of the cross represents. And then there is often a response read by the people.
Conclusion of Stations of the Cross
And then there is a concluding prayer after the 14th station.
Some Stations of the Cross prayers
Here is one Catholic's prayers. Here is St. Francis' prayers. I got the short prayers for my biblical stations art here. But I thought, in this day of quick thumb flicking on instagram, we could use a little bit more to help reign in our attention at each station. So I made each of my Stations of the Cross into Mandalas, which are meant to aid in meditation. And then I made each of those art pieces into an animated video. Each of the videos have questions and music to keep our minds and emotions engaged.
Free Stations of the Cross resources
My first animation is below. Here is the whole playlist. You can use this as a way to walk through the Stations of the Cross at home or virtually with a group. The last one in the playlist is all 14 back to back so you can push play and all experience it together.
And you can click here to download my free PDF of coloring pages.
Click here to download a PDF of my fully colored stations posters with accompanying descriptions. You can also purchase physical copies to post in your space on that page.
Feel free to reach out if you'd like more information or would like to utilize my Stations of the Cross in a custom way for you and/or your congregation.
Thanks for joining me on this little journey. May our next one be together on the way to the cross.