I love the Stations of the Cross. Even if I can't get to any other service during Holy Week (other than Easter Sunday mass) I try to make it to the Stations of the Cross.
If you've never heard of them, it is a spiritual meditation on the final moments of Jesus' life, broken up into (typically) fourteen events - from being condemned to death to laid in the tomb. Typically on Good Friday if you go to a reading of the Stations (many churches, including mine, have them every Friday during Lent), one reader will read the text for each Station, followed by "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you." Then the congregation says, "Because by your Holy cross, you have redeemed the world." The priest and altar servers will process around the church and stand in front of each station as it is read. On that note- if you're in a Catholic church and you see stained glass or wooden images with roman numerals under them, chances are, you're looking at the Stations of the Cross!
They date back to the 4th century when Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land would recount the walk that Jesus took to Golgotha. When Muslims captured Jerusalem and it became too dangerous to make the pilgrimage, Christians brought the concept home and viola! They are also knows as the Via Dolorosa, Way of the Cross or Via Crucis.
There is something so sad yet beautiful about walking with Jesus on this road. To reflect on these 14 moments and think about how long and arduous that journey was and what it did for us is the perfect way to close out the Lenten season and get my mind and heart ready for Easter.
Thanks to CatholicMom.com I came across A Woman's Stations of the Cross. Now these aren't going to be read in a formal setting at church, but that doesn't mean you can't take them and sit in church by yourself and do a little quiet reflection. Or how great would it be to bring these to your next women's bible study?! I'm sure everyone would appreciate it & grow from it.
On a separate but related note, a couple of years ago a dear friend of mine accompanied me to a Friday night Stations of the Cross. She is not Catholic. She asked me about Veronica. The sixth station is "Veronica wipes the face of Jesus". I said, uh... it's Veronica. I was baptized at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee. Of course there's a Veronica! She's not in the Bible? I figured she was mentioned in just a verse or two and I had missed it. So I did my research. Here's the gist (source, bustedhalo.com):
Regardless of how much you search and how closely you read the text, you won’t find an account of what we know of as the sixth station of the cross, Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, because it isn’t in the Bible. It is one of our Catholic legends that grew up after the Bible was written. The sources of the legend are varied, but it is noted in some medieval texts and includes the detail that after Veronica gave Jesus her veil to wipe his face as he walked to his death on Calvary it bore an imprint of his face. In the 1800s, a Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St. Peter, reported a vision of Veronica wiping away the spit and mud from Jesus’ face. The name Veronica itself is sometimes said to derive from “Vera Icon” meaning “true icon.”
Stations of the cross numbered three, seven, and nine — recounting Jesus falling three times — are also not to be found in the Bible although they, too, have become part of the popular imagination around Christ’s Passion.
I encourage you to join me (and more importantly, Jesus) before Lent ends. You'll be glad you did!