Why is it called “Stations” of the Cross?

In English, the word “stations” refers to places people stop as they wait for the next step in their journey. We might think of a train or bus station—a place where we wait for a vehicle to come and take us to our destination.

The Stations of the Cross devotion is called “Stations” because it invites us to wait on the Lord in our own journey of faith. We are pilgrims on the way to heaven, and this devotion helps us walk closely with Jesus so that we may be ever more conformed to the Way of Love, which is the Way of the Cross.

The devotion engages the whole person—body, mind, and soul.

Stations—Worship with Your Body

It is a physical exercise: We move, stop, make the Sign of the Cross, kneel, stand again, listen, and reply. All the moving, stopping, falling to our knees, and rising up again as we trace the Sign of the Cross over our bodies recalls Jesus on his way to Calvary. He fell, got up again, listened to others, and replied to them. Jesus had many “stations” on his way to Golgotha. He was stopped by his accusers, stopped by his own weakness, and stopped by his own love for the people he met along the way.

So it is fitting that we move from station to station, rising and falling and rising again as we cross ourselves and remember Jesus’ own Way of the Cross. We are incarnate beings, and what we do in our bodies expresses our interior life and helps us respond more reverently and ardently to Christ’s love.

Stations—Worship with your Mind

The Stations of the Cross devotion is also a mental exercise: Our mind reflects on what Jesus reveals in each station. We see an image related to each station in a book or on the church walls. We hear the leader read a reflection on the scene.

All this helps fill our minds with the truth of what Jesus did for us on this day, and we penetrate more deeply the mystery of his love that each mystery unveils.

Stations—Worship with all your Soul

Finally, this devotion is a profound spiritual exercise. Hopefully, we are not just going through the motions, rattling off words and moving robotically from station to station around the church. We know we have prayed the Stations well when the devotion facilitates a deeper personal encounter with Christ—when we are drawn to love and sacrifice more, when we are stirred to tell Jesus we are sorry and repent of a certain sin, and when we more deeply realize his amazing love for us.

Basically, the goal of the Stations is to help transform our hearts. They are not just meant to be prayed; they are meant to be re-lived in each of our lives. Jesus wants to walk his steps to Calvary, his steps of love, over and over again in each of our hearts.

This article is based on Edward Sri’s book Pocket Guide to Stations of the Cross (Ascension Press)