2/23/2012 9:00:00 AM REFLECTIONS Stations of the Cross
With this column, Father Rosson begins a series of Lenten reflections.
BY REV. JOHN P. ROSSON
It's Lent again! It is the season for purple vestments at Mass, for meatless Fridays - and for a special Lenten walk, the Stations of the Cross.
The walls of every Catholic church are dedicated to the Stations of the Cross, which depict the Passion of Christ in 14 pictures. Those icons depict the last earthly steps of Jesus on Good Friday.
Sometimes, the Stations of the Cross are simply symbols: for example, a figure pointing at Jesus to represent the first station, "Jesus is Condemned to Death."
In the 14 stations, we encounter historical figures from Scripture, including Pontius Pilate, Mary, Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea and the women of Jerusalem. The 14 scenes arise from the four Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.
But the Passion narratives in the Gospels differ. Only Luke's Gospel mentions the "good thief" - a man whom tradition gives the name "Dismas" - who was crucified next to Christ but repented his sins in his last moments. John's Gospel does not mention Jesus falling andplaces Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of the cross. The piercing of Jesus's side to determine whether He had died differs in the Gospel accounts.
Most celebrations of the Way of the Cross bring all these diverse scenes together. The Stations of the Cross blend the Gospel narratives of Jesus' Passion and death.
Station six introduces someone who does not appear in the Gospel: Veronica, a pious woman of Jerusalem, who wipes the face of Jesus with her veil. The closest character in the Bible to Veronica is the woman healed by touching the hem of Jesus' garment (Luke 8:43-48). The name "Veronica" means "true image."
"Longinus" is the name traditionally given to the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus' side with a lance. He is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox church; there is a shrine to him in the Basilica di San Pietro in the Vatican. St. Longinus is invoked against wounds from sharp weapons; his feast day is October 16.
Walking the Way of the Cross is a tradition for the Fridays of Lent. One prayer for making the Stations of the Cross reads: "Lord Jesus, your whole life was a journey - a journey to Jerusalem, to the cross and to God. At your final Passover, you proclaimed the gift of your body and the new covenant in your blood, and you asked us to do the same. Be with us as we do this in memory of you. For this we pray to you, our Lord and Savior, now living and reigning forever and ever. Amen."
(Father Rosson is pastor of St. Mary's "Our Lady of the Lake" parish in Cooperstown.)