Stations of the Cross

Apologies if this has been raised previously, but here goes:
A member of our congregation has asked me why the Stations of the Cross in our church are displayed 'anticlockwise', starting at the East end of the North side, progressing to the West End, then back on the South side ending at the East end by what we term the Resurrection (formerly Requiem) altar. I believe this is the traditional order.
Thinking quickly, I said that traditionally the North side was the abode of darkness and the Devil, the South that of light and God. So, the series starts with the apparent triumph of evil with the condemnation of Jesus, and ends with the redemption of the world by his sacrificial death. I have no idea if this is right, but can any Shipmate enlighten me with the true explanation?


  • My understanding is that anticlockwise is traditionally the penitential direction for processions, so it's appropriate in Lent and for walking the Stations of the Cross while praying prayers that focus on the events of the Passion (and the part our sins play in that). We proceed anticlockwise when we pray the Great Litany in procession on Lent I, for example.
  • Our Place (C of E 'Anglo-Carflick', FWIW) does it as Eirenist describes.

    The pictures themselves are Edwardian drawings contemporaneous (AFAIK) with the church (built in 1908), and the direction in which the various peeps are travelling, so to speak, is as described.

    Whether it has any significance or not, I couldn't say, but the tradition in some Western churches used to be to read the Gospel facing north towards the abode of the heathen, rather than the forces of darkness, but, hey.....
  • Our Place (C of E 'Anglo-Carflick', FWIW) does it as Eirenist describes... Whether it has any significance or not, I couldn't say, but the tradition in some Western churches used to be to read the Gospel facing north towards the abode of the heathen, rather than the forces of darkness, but, hey.....

    From the discussion of Praying for departed clergy (and the burial thereof):
    Gee D wrote: »
    Albertus wrote: »
    BroJames wrote: »
    I was told by a funeral director that most people are buried east facing in the direction of the second coming of Christ. Priests, however, may be buried facing in the direction of ‘their’ people.

    Sound and loyal CofE clergy should, of course, be buried at the north end of the grave... ;)

    Always remembering that since the earliest Christian times, if not even longer, the Mediterranean world viewed the north as the place of cold, ice and evil.
    Zappa wrote: »
    well where I was living previously it was the place of crocodiles, so, yeah

    So perhaps you're reading the Gospel facing north in the hope of evangelizing the crocodiles.

  • Well, they could well benefit from it!

    (In actual fact, we read the Gospel in the midst of the community of faith, symbolic - AIUI - of Our Lord's presence in the midst of His people).
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    At our place, the deacon reading the Gospel faces east, both liturgically and physically. That's because the Gospel procession is to the mid-point of the nave.
  • Although we don’t have Stations of the Cross in the Orthodox Church, all of our processions always go counterclockwise.
  • The anticlock wise display was used in the RCC church of my youth, the TEC high-up-the-candle church of my later years, and both the RCC and TEC churhes here in town..... so I've always considered it correct. And yes, although we use the Great Litany seldom these days, we always process anticlockwise when using it. And yes, it confuses the dickens out of folk.

    By the way, brilliant quick thinking on your part, Eirenist!
  • Yes, an excellent impromptu homilette!
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Apologies for reviving an old thread, but may I ask if anyone has experience of the Stations of the Cross being used in an ecumenical context? If so, how do they work?
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    edited January 28
    The local Good Friday ecumenical walk of witness is a form of stations of the cross -with acts from the story at various stages of the walk, followed by a prayer and a hymn. The walk starts at one end of town with a joint prayer and hymn, then stops 3-6 times before the crucifixion scene on the green at the other end of town (conveniently near the RC church, which provides the refreshments in their hall). There is sometimes a resurrection scene too. The story is part acted, part read, with people taking it in turns to carry the cross from the start to the end.
  • I have just sat down and worked out that in the congregation I attend the stations are clockwise. Somehow as they go from the Lady Chapel to the chapel of rest that seems appropriate.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Would really appreciate any input on Stations in an ecumenical context, please.
  • BroJamesBroJames Shipmate
    edited January 29
    You’re probably already aware of the ‘Way of the Cross’ material in the Church of England’s Times and Seasons. It is very Anglican, but its choice of stations may work better for those who struggle with the extra-biblical elements of the traditional stations.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited January 29
    There is the Stations of the Cross from Wildgoose Publications which will also be ecumenical. I have not checked to see whether it uses the traditional or an adapted list. There is also this set from the same source. Iona Community does do a Stations of the cross on Good Friday but these are not the traditional. There is a brief account of them in 2017 from church times
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Thanks for these helpful hints.

  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    The local Walk of Witness writes its own material using narrative and speech from the Bible verses, but one stop or station includes the trial with Pilate, another Jesus falling and being helped, I know where I can look, but it means digging through my back up drive.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Thanks for the offer, but it isn’t so much the material content, we have that, and plenty more. It is more how it is done and how ecumenical factors come into play.
  • I have prayed through stations of the cross at the church I attend every Lent Sunday for the last two years. Here are my memories of what stood out for me as someone coming from another tradition.

    Firstly the less liturgically high traditions the few prayers the people know by rote. They will know the Lord's prayer and the Grace but do not assume people know anything more. An alternative that they would understand is to pick one of the great hymns and sing a verse of that after each station. It is worth checking for the original text which is often longer for instance When I Survey the Wonderous Cross had at least six verses rather than the current four. Recent generations have tended to shorten older hymns. The lower liturgically traditions tend to know a lot of hymns as it in many ways replaced the simple liturgical prayers in devotional practice.

    Second, when handling anything to do with Mary, it is fine to do a meditation on Mary's experience. It is likely to upset people if it is followed by anything that might be interpreted as a prayer to Mary

    Third, with non-Biblical stations, you have two choices. One is to leave them in and link with a wider experience of the journey, this may be by tying it into a Biblical passage. For instance, Veronica's veil could be linked back to Mary's anointing with oil at Bethany. The alternative is to skip.

    Fourth, if you have Reformed types then the simple answer is to make sure there is a Bible passage at each station. Nothing is likely to calm them down as much as hearing the Bible read.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Very helpful, thank you.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Third, with non-Biblical stations, you have two choices. One is to leave them in and link with a wider experience of the journey, this may be by tying it into a Biblical passage. For instance, Veronica's veil could be linked back to Mary's anointing with oil at Bethany. The alternative is to skip.
    There is another alternative. You could use the Scriptural Way of the Cross—a variation on the traditional Stations of the Cross where all 14 stations relate to events set forth in the Gospels. It was first introduced by John Paul II on Good Friday, 1991, and was the form often used by him at the Colosseum. It was later approved by Benedict XVI for public and private use, so it has credibility on the Catholic side of things. And it would satisfy your fourth point about answering the Reformed types with a Bible reading at each station.

    The version of the Scriptural Way of the Cross published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops can be found here. (I couldn't find a version at the websites of the Catholic Bishops' Conferences of England and Wales or of Scotland, but maybe there is one somewhere.)

    Hope this helps.

  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    In fact in my town a totally Biblical version has been used and welcomed by Anglicans, Methodists and RCs, held in our parish church which of course is an appropriate building.
    Now our new vicar had announced he will not agree to Stations in his church, as he says it is RC and he does not agree with it.
    Which is why I was interested in alternative ecumenical ideas.
    Instead he has proposed an alternative which is not only during the day so will exclude some who work, but also he proposes to include a Celtic Communion, which almost certainly means the RCs cannot officially participate, though individually some may be happy to do so.

    It will certainly be thrown out by the churches together committee.
  • The churches together my church at the time a decade ago did an outside stations of the cross that walked through the whole area every Good Friday. That linked it with places in the area. A different congregation organised the stations every time and the route was chosen so there were stopping places where links could be made to local events. It did not cover all the stations of the cross as there was not the time for the Anglican's who had to be back for noon at their church. It used to finish at my then church with hot cross buns and coffee.

    The then Anglican vicar I think wanting to get rid of it, placed it with the URC while they were in vacancy. The thing was that it then went to two of people who were engaged with worship leading in the congregation. I think it went out with a bang rather than the whimper he hoped.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    The Walk of Witness here is ecumenical - so Elim Pentecostal, CofE, Methodist, RC, URC and Baptist churches all together. It walks through the story - well most years* - telling the story of the last week, pretty much, from the Bible. A physical walk down the High Street, starting in a pub car park, stopping on the steps of the Methodist Church (nice staging point with space in front - often trial by Pilate), the market water pump - e.g. Jesus falling - and the green - usually the crucifixion scene there - but we've also had the resurrection enacted too at the other end of the same largish green. A life sized cross is carried at the front of the procession, and changed about to show different people carrying it. Whoever is acting Jesus is usually in a white robe of some form and ends up suspended on the cross on the green. There'll be someone in black acting out Pilate's role.

    The Elim guys are involved, tend to irritate me by using it as an excuse to hand out tracts, the Elim minister has performed Jesus on occasion.

    * there was one memorable year when we had white clothed Jesus daubed with black hand prints at every station by a range of different actors, to show the sin laid upon him. That one had poetry rather than a fairly well known hymn, but that was a one off. Same group no longer runs the nativity service on Christmas Eve, which is another story entirely.
  • Oh if you want fine weather just make sure you have low church Methodists involved.
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