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?

Comments

  • 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.
    :wink:


  • Well, they could well benefit from it!
    :lol:

    (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!
    :sweat_smile:
  • 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
    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 Purgatory Host
    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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited February 24
    Our Place's new priest-in-charge (he takes over next Sunday, TBTG) has planned a series of 'Stations of the Cross' on Friday evenings in Lent, followed by Compline.

    I shall be interested to see how he does it, given that he seems to come from a more 'High-Church Anglican' than a 'wannabe Roman Catholic' background!
    :wink:
  • Please do share when the time comes.

    I've been to a very small number of services involving The Stations, but have always found them helpful.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    As Stations in its traditional form has not been allowed this year, our Reader did a one off today. He covered all the stations, sitting down, looking at the pictures one by one, with at least one Biblical reading or verse of the passion narrative, and reflections from Mary. These referenced events earlier in the life of Jesus which she had observed. Sometimes a reading of these was included. There was plenty to think about.

    It was much appreciated, but I could not help wonder why our vicar had thought this was Roman and therefore inappropriate in his church, yet here we were, doing much the same thing in condensed form, [but necessarily excluding those who work, as it was in the afternoon, and as part of the Mothers’ Union meeting it was not really open as such to other churches ( though they would have been welcome if they had turned up). ] Oh well....
  • @Climacus , I'm afraid I haven't been to Stations yet this Lent (the second service is due this evening, but I don't think my Legs will stand it, IYSWIM).

    Father NewPriest has, perhaps sensibly (so that he doesn't have to do it all himself!), asked various people to lead Stations, and my turn is on 5th April (if I live). This gives us scope to' do our own thing', and I have at hand some quite sensible and objective material from Iona, which I have said I will use.

    I'm afraid the sentimental maudlins of some mediaeval Pope don't cut the mustard for me.....

    At the end of Stations, the Faithful repair to the nearby Blessed Sacrament Chapel for a simple modern-language version of Night Prayer, which is conducted by Father NP. This seems a suitable way to conclude the service.

    Last week's Stations had a congregation of 8. Not a lot, I know, but roughly what we've had in the past. One couple, who do appreciate Stations, are away at the moment. The BS Chapel accommodates a dozen or so, beyond which it gets a bit crowded!
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    @Bishops Finger Father here counts me as attending Stations of the Cross during Lent much to my surprise. I actually do what I do every Sunday of the year i.e. sit in a pew and do personal devotions but the Stations of the Cross weave in and out of those as the congregation move around the church. I would think you could participate in a similar way.
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    I'm afraid the sentimental maudlins of some mediaeval Pope don't cut the mustard for me....

    I don't get the reference. What are you referring to? Which pope?

    There are no official texts for stations. Al I ask is that if the Resurrection is mentioned, it is not at a separate station from the burial. That the place of burial and resurrection are identical seems to me the Christian faith in a nutshell.

  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    @Bishops Finger Father here counts me as attending Stations of the Cross during Lent much to my surprise. I actually do what I do every Sunday of the year i.e. sit in a pew and do personal devotions but the Stations of the Cross weave in and out of those as the congregation move around the church. I would think you could participate in a similar way.

    Not a bad idea - I'll give it a try next week!
    venbede wrote: »
    I'm afraid the sentimental maudlins of some mediaeval Pope don't cut the mustard for me....

    I don't get the reference. What are you referring to? Which pope?

    There are no official texts for stations. Al I ask is that if the Resurrection is mentioned, it is not at a separate station from the burial. That the place of burial and resurrection are identical seems to me the Christian faith in a nutshell.

    Sorry, that was a rather snarky reference to something served up at Stations one year by our previous priest. I'm afraid I can't give chapter and verse, but it was (a) by a Pope, and (b) exceedingly sentimental......

    I agree with you re the final Station.

  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    I think that it is quite possible that the 'snarky reference to a pope' made by BF really refers to the prayers to accompany the Stations of the Cross made by St Alphonsus Liguori,
    the founder of the Redemptorists. Alphonsus expended great energy in preaching God's love for all and used his considerable talents in developing strong devotional life among both clergy and laity. His prayers for the Stations which sound wonderful in Italian are not quite English in style, but were and still are popular in RC parishes for the Stations.

    As VB says there are no set words since the Stations are a pious devotion and not as such a liturgical and sacramental action.

    Possibly the reference to the pope may also have been BF's previous priest's prayer for the pope's intentions which traditionally (in RC parishes) conclude the devotion.
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    That sounds about right. So neither a pope nor medieval.

    I'm afraid the words "compassion fatigue" occur to me about stations. I feel I'm meant to feel great sorrow and I don't so I feel a fraud.

    I am sure I would feel just the same about St Alphonsus's devotions as I do about typical evangelical prayers and hymns. They are trying to make me feel ...
  • This year we are once again having Stations of the Cross each week during Lent on a Thursday morning at 10.00 am. Sadly in our small congregation we now have no-one in full time employment and people would rather come out during the day than after dark.
    Until 4 years ago when I retired we did have it at 7.30 pm to enable me to also attend.

    There were 8 of us this week. It will usually be between 6 and 10 people attending. Not bad when the most we ever get these days on a Sunday morning is 15. Having not had a priest now for almost 8 years we do it ourselves. Our retired priests, who are not getting any younger, have enough to do covering Sunday and Tuesday mornings mass, monthly Saturday Walsingham Cell Mass and Holy Week and other holy days and festivals without expecting them to lead Stations too.

    This week I took overall lead with the opening and closing prayers and introduction to each station and I did the prayers at each station. Others present took turns to read the bible readings at each stations. We do it in an informal way and no-one is made to feel uneasy if they mistake a mistake.
    Whoever leads the service decides which version we will follow and usually what we will sing as we move around. This week we used the Anglican Stations of the Cross as published with Common Worship (can be downloaded for printing on A5 paper from the Oremus website). Sometimes we use other versions such as those from the Walsingham Pilgrims Manual. We try to generally use versions that are acceptable to us as Catholic Anglicans and I fully understand what Bishop Finger means by not using 'sentimental maudlins of some mediaeval Pope'. We especially avoid that type of Stations of the Cross.

    This week we sang verses from traditional hymns - My song is love unknown, When I survey and There is a green hill. Another week we may use Taize music - Ubi charitas, O Lord hear my prayer, Jesus remember me etc. Another week we may use Graham Kendrick - Meekness and majesty, The Servant King, My Lord what love is this etc. Very varied music which reflects what we also do on Sundays at our Parish Mass.
  • All of which sounds as though you're offering the Very Best You Can to Our Lord, which does Your Place credit. Well done, good and faithful servants...

    Re Stations by St Alphonsus, no, they're not what I meant at all. I have a copy, and have used them in the past. All quite seemly IMHO.

    I think what I had in mind (and it obviously didn't stick in my mind!) was some sentimental stuff which harped on and on about the weeping and wailing of Our Lady et al, trying to make us feel guilty, as @venbede says. But Father OldPriest was rather prone to that sort of hand-wringing, as he thought it made him look more Holy......
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    I am still not sure that any medieval pope who was in Renaissance Prince mode would have had any interest in composing prayers for the Stations of the Cross. St Alphonsus who lived in the late 1600s on to the late 1700s composed a number of versions of prayers for this devotion including the one which is often used in English RC churches.I have been looking at a copy of his still popular devotional book 'Massime eterne' and quote what he has written for the IVth station.I have to give you it in Italian to have the full flavour but please do not despair.I shall give you the translation in English at the end.

    Stazione IV Gesu' incontra la sua Santissima Madre

    Oh! Dio! E non bastava a mia gran confusione il vedere Gesu' coperto di dolore in abito di peccatore,che vi si aggiunge anche la Madre a rimprovero del mio peccato ! Maledetto peccato ! penosissimo incontro, afflittissima Madre.Nel Vostro spasimo leggo la mia perfidia.So che se le mie gravissime colpe trafiggono Gesu' nel corpo,a Voi,o gran Vergine, trafiggono il cuore ……………… ecc.

    The above in English (of a sort)
    Fourth station Jesus meets His most holy Mother
    Oh1 My God! And as if it was not enough to my great confusion to see Jesus in pain and dressed in sinner's clothes,now is added His mother to reprove me for my sins ! Accursed sin ! o most painful encounter ; most afflicted motherin your spasms of pain I can read my perfidy..I know that if my most grievous sins strike Jesus in his body,they strike you o great and holy Virgin through the heart ….. etc.
    IV Station
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    I didn’t mean feeling guilty. I meant feeling awful. And it would be heartless if we never did, but as I say I don’t like being told what to feel.
  • This.
  • I came across a script for the Stations of The Cross that was written in the first person as if composed by Mary, ventriloquising Mary as it were.

    'As a mother it grieved me to see my son spat upon ...' sort of thing.

    It did raise my Protestant eyebrows but as it was in an RC retreat house, I went with it. When in Rome ...

    I found it an interesting exercise and perspective and I did find it moving. Perhaps I'm just susceptible that way. Perhaps it was because I've recently been bereaved.

    As an imaginative exercise in an Ignatian kind of way I don't particularly have an issue with it, provided we don't take it as if it really is Mary talking in a similar way to how charismatics sometimes give the impression that they are ventriloquising God with their first person prophecies.

    It's all down to context, I suppose. I agree with those who say they don't like being told how to feel, though and I can see how easy it would be for popular devotional practices of this kind to topple over into sentimentality.

    I always say that I'm allowed a certain amount of sentimentality as I'm Welsh but even so ...
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    I have even written several pieces in the voice of Mary, one at the foot of the cross. No, I am not going to call it a station as I would then have then another thirteen to go and as it was extremely challenging to write the idea of another thirteen just fills me with dread.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited April 6
    'Mary at the Foot of the Cross' is often the Gospel for Lent 4 ('Mothering Sunday' in Ukland), so your 'meditation-station' (IYSWIM) might very well be absolutely right for somewhere in the Mass that Sunday (after the Gospel, and before the homily?).

    Meanwhile, back to Stations. Our Place has been doing Stations each Friday evening in Lent, and yestere'en it was my turn to be Conductor. I couldn't find my booklet by Prior Wilfred (formerly of the Carmelites at Aylesford, Kent), so resorted to my dear friend Mr Go Ogle.

    He provided me with a short, but pithy, set of meditations, with scope for personal/immediately relevant interpolations e.g. a prayer for someone suffering, or recently departed.

    I began Stations with the traditional Anglican daily Collect for Lent.

    Father NewPriest assisted by leading a verse (based on the relevant Station) of ' Were you there when they.......?', starting on the right note each time (not the easiest thing to do), as we moved from one Station to the next. Various members of the assembly were invited to carry the processional cross between each 3 or 4 Stations, which helped to involve peeps who might not otherwise usually be so employed.

    I concluded with a general, but comprehensive, prayer provided for us by the Additional Curates Society™, and then Father NP directed us into our Blessed Sacrament Chapel for said Compline/Night Prayer.

    Though I say so myself, it was a satisfying act of devotion and worship, and the good attendance (the Chapel was full) helped.

    (BTW, the Franciscans - Third Order, IIRC - provide online a very short set of Stations, intended primarily for personal use. Highly recommended.)
  • Iereus wrote: »
    Although we don’t have Stations of the Cross in the Orthodox Church, all of our processions always go counterclockwise.

    It was not always so. This was one of the many points of contention in the Nikonian reforms in Russia- prior to that, the church of Russia processed clockwise, probably continuing an ancient tradition they had received from Constantinople. Some of the Old Believers said that counterclockwise processions were undoing the clockwise processions that had been done through the ages.

    I believe at least some of the Oriental Orthodox churches do clockwise processions.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I am trying to remember which way the 'holy pretzel' goes on Palm Sunday, and it is basically counter-clockwise, and in my old church station 1 was at the east end of the nave on the Gospel side and station 14 at the east end of the nave on the Epistle side so, so we went counter-clockwise for those too.
  • OblatusOblatus Shipmate
    Same here. When visiting other churches with Stations on the walls, I am in the habit of checking to see if they go counterclockwise or not. I raise no objection if not; I just have to know which way they go.
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