Friday, March 18, 2011


There can be a lot of symbolism in the Stations of the Cross, much of which you are so familiar with it may no longer even register. Consider what Jesus is wearing. It may be just in passing that you notice the clothing He has on but if it were, for example, green you might pause and say, “What on earth do they have Him in green for?” Of course, most of the time He is in white to symbolize His innocence though at times some artist will have him dressed in red to symbolize his Passion. What do the ones at your parish look like?

As a kid I always liked the more complicated pictures that lead me more deeply into the story. In my home parish (a version found in many parishes) there was, in one of the first paintings, a little boy carrying a wooden box with instruments that needed to be carried along for Jesus’ execution. There was a hammer, a few nails, and a tool for taking out the nails once Jesus had died. Talk about, “. . . they know not what they are doing.”

Often artists will try to simplify the scene to its most basic element. As little is pictured as possible but enough so that it is unmistakably attached to a particular station; a bowl of water with two hands stuck in it, a cloth with an image on it. These don’t work as well for me. I still remember in detail the stations mentioned above but these I see, figure out like a puzzle, and then think, “Well I got that,” and move on. That is not to say that these do not work much better for others.

The ones that do not work for me at all but are held as dear to others are the depictions that have little to nothing to do directly with the station. “Everyman’s Way of the Cross” is one of these. Pictured in sepia tone would be a ramshackle hut with broken baby dolls in the front yard. I get it. It works for many people. Give me a station picture more directly connected to the Passion and put a collection envelop in it.

Anyway, the point is: engage the art. What is the artist trying to tell you? What are the symbols that you may have taken for granted? How can you picture yourself in the scene? Perhaps what even makes you roll your eyes? After stations make it a meditation to contemplate if you were going to paint/draw/create on your computer/commission a stations of the cross, what would you include? It is a great way to draw yourself (no pun intended) more deeply into Christ’s passion.


Pat said...


When I was in grade school, we used the booklets containing the beautiful meditations of St. Alphonsus Liguori, which included a very detailed little picture for each station. I studied those pictures closely and still have those now-tattered booklets. I even introduced my son to them.

I admit that I like Clarence Ensler as an "examination of conscience." The pictures remind me of the transition our culture was undergoing in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the St. Alphonsus meditations are much better. They focus on Jesus and His sufferings--what we need to do especially during Lent.

Patty said...

I actually have five different Stations of the cross booklets! The parish I grew up in used the red "The Way of the Cross with Text from the Scriptures." My current parish uses the St. Alphonsus Liguor stations. I like both -- I usually alternate between the two.