Ecumenical Stations of the Cross in St Swithun’s Martyr Worthy

As Father Mark Hogan said last night ‘you never quite know how things are going to work out when you have an idea about a new service’ but they worked out really well last night!

Father Mark and I discussed the idea of holding a service for both Catholics and Anglicans in the Itchen Valley over a year ago.  There are some complications in conducting joint services in some areas (particularly where it comes to the Eucharist) but we thought that we would do something which sensitively avoided those particular issues.  Relating the story of The Passion of Jesus Christ is one of many areas in which Catholics excel – a history of the Stations of the Cross which Father Mark has kindly provided follows at the end of this post.  So we settled on The Stations of the Cross.  But, unlike most Catholic Churches, our Anglican churches do not have Stations throughout the church building, so Father Mark suggested a Scriptural Stations of the Cross – and kindly provided both liturgy and images for projection to enable us to conduct this service.

At the same time as we were discussing these ideas, Tim Tyler and Olivia Tan who lead our occasional Itchen Valley Parish Choir were looking for a new project after our wonderful  Remembrance Sunday Evensong last year.  Tim immediately suggested the Choir singing  excerpts from Stainer’s Crucifixion.  Given that Tim is a member of Father Mark’s parish, as well, it made it particularly appropriate that he was leading our singing.

The result was our wonderful service last night.  Over 70 of us both Anglicans and Catholics attended, which is a fantastic turn out for a Monday evening during Lent and the service went as smoothly as it could.  So many of you have described it to me as ‘incredibly moving’.

The Anglicans of Itchen Valley work together so often with our Catholic neighbours in so many different projects: our annual Lent lunches, our Marriage, Parenting, Bereavement and other courses, the Choir, the Way of the Cross.  Given that they help in our fund raising to such a considerable extent especially the Martyr Worthy Plant Sale (which we hugely appreciate), it was just wonderful that we were able to worship God in this very Catholic way together with them in one of our own Anglican Churches.

Thank you so much to Father Mark for coming to this part of the Parish of St Peter’s and the Winchester Martyrs to lead this service with me and giving his precious time to this ecumenical venture.  Thank you to Tim Tyler and Olivia Tan for organising our wonderful choir and to the choir itself for singing so well and in particular to our two soloists Wojtek Rakowicz and Maddy Woosnam.  Thank you to our readers for reading so clearly and to Tim Rogerson for accompanying the choir on the organ so beautifully.

Stations of the Cross – a brief History by Fr Mark Hogan

The emperor Constantine permitted Christians to legally worship in the Roman Empire in 313 after 250 years of persecution. In 335, he erected the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the site where Jesus’ tomb was believed to have been.

Processions of pilgrims to the church, especially during Holy Week, began soon after its completion.

A woman named Egeria, a pilgrim from France, described one such pilgrimage which took place in the fourth century. The bishop of Jerusalem and about 200 pilgrims began “at the first cockcrow” at the site of Jesus’ agony on Holy Thursday night. They said a prayer, sung a hymn, and heard a Gospel passage, then went to the garden of Gethsemane and repeated the procedure.

They continued to Jerusalem itself, “reaching the (city) gate about the time when one man begins to recognize another, and thence right on through the midst of the city. All, to a man, both great and small, rich and poor, all are ready there, for on that special day not a soul withdraws from the vigils until morning,” Egeria wrote.

Pilgrimages eventually took a fixed route from the ruins of the Fortress Antonia, where Pilate had his judgment hall, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. That route through Jerusalem’s Old City gained acceptance as the way Jesus went to his death and remains unchanged today. It is known as the Via Dolorosa, Latin for the “Sorrowful Way.”

Stops developed on the way to note specific events on the road to Calvary. In many cases, the pilgrims could only guess where some incidents took place because Jerusalem had been almost completely destroyed by Roman armies in 70 A.D.

The pilgrims brought back oil from the lamps that burned around Jesus’ tomb and relics from the holy places, and sometimes tried to recreate in Europe what they had seen in the Holy Land. The Muslim conquest of Palestine in the seventh century made such shrines more significant, since it made travel to the Holy Land dangerous.

Devotions to the Way of the Cross began in earnest after 1342, when the Franciscan friars were given custody of the holy sites in the Holy Land. The Franciscans have been closely identified with the devotion ever since; for years, Church regulations required a set of the stations to be blessed by a Franciscan when possible.

The number of stations varied widely, with some manuals of devotion listing as many as 37. The term “stations” in describing the Way of the Cross was first used in the narrative of an English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited the Holy Land twice in the 15th century, and described pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ to the cross. In 1521, a book called Geystlich Strass(German: “spiritual road”) was printed with illustrations of the stations in the Holy Land.

Depictions of the events described in the Stations did not start becoming common in churches until Pope Innocent XI permitted the Franciscans in 1686 to erect such displays in all their churches. Pope Benedict XIII extended that privilege to all the faithful in 1726. Five years later, Pope Clement XII allowed all churches to have stations,provided that a Franciscan father erected them, with the consent of the local bishop. At this time the number was fixed at 14, where it has been ever since. In 1857, the bishops of England were allowed to erect the stations by themselves, without the intervention of a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this right was extended to bishops throughout the church. In recent years, many churches have included the Resurrection as a 15th station. Benedict XIV specifically urged every church in 1742 to enrich its sanctuary with stations.

The traditional 14 stations are as follows: Jesus is condemned to death; Jesus takes up his cross; Jesus falls the first time; Jesus meets his mother; Simon of Cyrene carries the cross; Veronica wipes the face of Jesus; Jesus falls the second time; Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem; Jesus falls the third time; Jesus is stripped of his garments; Jesus is nailed to the cross; Jesus is crucified; Jesus is taken down from the cross; Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb.

The third, fourth, sixth, seventh, and ninth stations are not specifically described in the Gospels, nor is St. Alphonsus’ depiction in the 13th station of Jesus’ body being laid in the arms of his mother.

In order to provide a version more specifically aligned with biblical accounts, Pope John Paul II introduced the Scriptural Way of the Cross on Good Friday in 1991 and celebrated that form every year thereafter at the Colosseum in Rome. Pope Benedict approved it for meditation and public celebration in 2007.

This version has the following stations: Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane; Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested; Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin; Jesus is denied by Peter; Jesus is judged by Pilate; Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns; Jesus takes up his cross; Simon helps Jesus carry his cross; Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem; Jesus is crucified; Jesus promises a place in his kingdom to the good thief; Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other; Jesus dies on the cross; Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Thirteen specially constructed biblical stations were erected around the city of Sydney, Australia, July 27 2008 for an observance of the Stations at World Youth Day. They started with the Last Supper at St. Mary’s Cathedral and the agony in the garden at Domain Park and ended in Darling Harbour[i], where the sunset provided a dramatic backdrop for three crosses erected at the site.

More than 2 million people took part, with 500 million more watching worldwide on television. This may have been the largest gathering ever for the devotion.

[i]Based on an article here –

Alex Pease

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