Variations on the stations
In recent years some variations have been introduced into the traditional devotion. One of these is the addition of a 15th station - the Resurrection of Jesus. Another is a series of scriptural stations, which begin with the Agony of Jesus in Gethsemane and omit some of the traditional non-scriptural stations in favor of incidents mentioned in the gospels.
Pope John Paul II celebrated a series of scriptural stations on Good Friday in 1991, and again in 1994, in the Coliseum at Rome:
What Prayers do You Say?
There are no official prayers to say with the Stations of the Cross. For many centuries, pilgrims in Jerusalem were prevented from praying the devotion publicly along the Moslem-controlled Via Dolorosa, and so groups and individuals passed silently and quickly along the holy way. Without words, the devotion depended on the sentiments it raised in the human heart -- which may be a reason for its continuing popularity. Above, right: The Man of Sorrows. Medieval Christians identified with this image because it portrayed the fatigue and discouragement that was so much part of their lives.
Though there are no official prayers, saints and spiritual writers over the centuries have provided a wealth of prayers and aids for the devotion, and each year new aids appear.
What do you do?
Christians fortunate enough can still visit Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. But it is not necessary to go to Jerusalem to find Christ-- or to make the Stations of the Cross. We can follow the stations in our own churches, homes, or places of prayer-- alone or with others. Nor is it necessary to walk from one image to another, if it cannot be done. We can make the Stations within our own hearts and minds-- as a "spiritual pilgrimage"
Following Jesus Christ
What matters most in the Stations of the Cross is to follow Jesus Christ in his passion and to see ourselves mirrored in him. Whether we know it or not, we bear the imprint of his cross. We are judged unjustly, we fall, we find life's journey hard, we know the mystery of death, and we recoil from it. To face life's dark side in ourselves and in our world, we need images of hope, and Jesus offers images of hope in his passion.
"Human kind cannot bear very much reality." (T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton) Through his passion and resurrection, Jesus transforms the reality of evil we find hard to bear. By accompanying him on the Way of the Cross, we gain his courageous patience and learn to trust in God who delivers us from evil.