Around the walls of the nave in St. James’, as in so many churches, there hangs a set of the Stations of the Cross. They are present throughout the year as a visible reminder of the events of Good Friday: Jesus’ judgment before Pilate, his carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem and incidents encountered upon the way, his being nailed to the cross, his death and burial. They mirror for us the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, in the Old City of Jerusalem, which pilgrims still today follow in Jesus’ footsteps to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus.
In medieval times it was the aspiration of every Christian to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land once in a lifetime. Of course, this was never possible for everyone, and it became increasingly more difficult politically over time. The Franciscans were largely responsible for bringing representations of the Holy Places into churches throughout Europe to aid devotion, in 21st Century-speak, to enable a virtual visit. So we have the crèche at Christmas, the Stations of the Cross, and particular places of pilgrimage too: Walsingham, England’s Nazareth; the Holy House of Loreto; the Santa Scala in Rome.
It became traditional in Lent and especially on Good Friday to walk around the Stations, the Way of the Cross, in church, individually or as a group, reflecting on the Passion of Christ and offering prayers. This opportunity is offered at St. James’ every Friday in Lent. This Sunday we shall walk the Way of the Cross at 4.00 pm, using for reflection an evocative set of Sonnets written by Malcolm Guite, a priest-poet who lives in Cambridge, England.
Everyone is encouraged to come to this devotion. Malcolm Guite’s Stations are available on his blog: malcomguite.wordpress.com (enter “Stations of the Cross” in the Search box) and are published in his collection Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012.