How to do the Stations?
The first point to note is that this is prayer. It isn't an intellectual exercise. It is in the context of my relationship with God. I could read through the text of each of the stations, and look at the pictures, but that wouldn't necessarily be prayer. This is an invitation to enter into a gifted faith experience of who Jesus is for me. It becomes prayer when I open my heart to be touched, and it leads me to express my response in prayer.
The second thing to remember is that this is an imaginative exercise. Its purpose is not a historical examination of "what really happened" on that day in history. It's about something far more profound. This is an opportunity to use this long standing Christian prayer to let Jesus touch my heart deeply by showing me the depth of his love for me. The context is the historical fact that he was made to carry the instrument of his death, from the place where he was condemned to die, to Calvary where he died, and that he was taken down and laid in a tomb. The religious context is that today Jesus wants to use any means available to move my heart to know his love for me. These exercises can allow me to imaginatively visualize the "meaning" of his passion and death.
The point of this exercise is to lead us to gratitude. It will also lead us into a sense of solidarity with all our brothers and sisters. In our busy, high tech lives we can easily get out of touch with the terrible suffering of real people in our world. Journeying with Jesus in the Stations, allows us to imagine his entry into the experience of those who are tortured, unjustly accused or victimized, sitting on death row, carrying impossible burdens, facing terminal illnesses, or simply fatigued with life.
Just go from one station to another. When "arriving" at a station, begin by looking carefully at the image itself. See who is in the scene. Look at how they are arranged and what the artist who created this image is trying to tell us about the drama there.
This online version is divided into four parts:
- The first part is a simple description of the scene. It helps us be conscious of what the "meaning" of this station is for us.
- The second part is the traditional prayer at each station. Its words become more and more meaningful as we repeat them throughout the journey.
- The third part is the contemplation of the scene. This is a guided reflection on the power of the scene for me, to enter it more deeply and to lead to some experience of it personally.
- The fourth part is my response. This is expressed in my own words. It is the place where the sorrow and gratitude flow from my heart.
When to do them:
The beauty of the online version is that I can do the stations whenever I like. The only guide we'd offer is to not rush through them. Just reading through them is not making them, any more than walking around a church to look at them is making them. It could be a wonderful prayer experience to do them as only one or two stations a day for one or two weeks. It can also be powerful to do all 14, very prayerfully, over the course of 40 minutes to an hour, in a single evening, or to do seven one night and seven the following night. Finally, it can be wonderful to return to the experience several weeks or months later, and discover that because of some struggle or difficulty I am experiencing, the stations become a different experience and a fresh experience of consolation.