Easter is enhanced by the sorrow of Good Friday

Published 9:39 am Friday, March 29, 2013

By the Rev. Curtis Zieske
Trinity Lutheran Church

The “Via Dolorosa,” of the “Way of Sorrow,” marks the path in Jerusalem which Christ is believed to have followed from the judgment-hall of Pilate, where he received the sentence of death by crucifixion, to Mount Calvary, where he died, and finally to the tomb where he was buried. It is marked by 14 “stations.”

Christians around the world are familiar with some denominations that adorn their church’s worship space with 14 stations; some marked with simple numerals, and others perhaps adorned with more elaborate pictures or images. Today, being Good Friday in the liturgical marking of time and holy days in most Christian churches, is a most appropriate time for us to contemplate the Via Dolorosa of our Lord.

Email newsletter signup

Since most Christians cannot make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to walk the Via Dolorosa in person, “walking” the stations in your church or even simply in your thoughts, is a special way to mark and commemorate this Good Friday in preparation for the joy of Easter day. As one keeps the 14 traditional stations of the Via Dolorosa there are a few things to keep in mind.

The first point to note is that this is prayer. It is not an intellectual exercise but something done in the context of one’s personal relationship with God. Reading a prayer and looking at a picture is not necessarily prayer; but it becomes prayer when one opens the heart to be touched by God and moves one to give response in prayer.

The second thing to note is that this is an imaginative exercise. Its purpose is not a historical examination of what really happened. It is something far more profound. This is an opportunity to let Jesus touch each one’s heart deeply by showing the depth of his love for the world (John 3:16). The 14 stations allow one to imaginatively visualize the meaning of Jesus’ passion and death.

The third thing to remember is that this exercise is to lead us to gratitude; that Jesus’ passion and death is not just because of me but also for me. It will also lead us into a sense of oneness with our brothers and sisters. In our busy, high-tech lives we too easily fall out of touch with the terrible suffering of real people in this real world. Walking the stations with Jesus allows us to imagine his entry into the reality of those who are tortured, unjustly accused or victimized, sitting on death row, carrying impossible burdens, facing terminal illness or simply fatigued with life.

Here, then, are the traditional 14 stations of the cross:

1. Jesus is condemned to die

2. Jesus carries his cross

3. Jesus falls for the first time

4. Jesus meets his mother

5. Simon of Cyrene is compelled to carry Jesus’ cross

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

7. Jesus falls the second time

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

9. Jesus falls the third time

10. Jesus is stripped of his clothing

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

12. Jesus dies on the cross

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

As one moves from one station to the next, a customary versicle is said: “We adore you, O Christ and we bless you: for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

To assist you with your prayers and to guide your thoughts at each station, you can easily access any one of several Internet websites by simply doing a search for “Via Dolorosa,’ or “Stations of the Cross.” The search that I used for much of the information in this article is “The Way of the Cross” by the Rev. Thomas Weitzel, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

I am encouraging you to include the stations of the cross in your Good Friday prayers today in this holiest of weeks. The joy of Easter resurrection this coming Sunday will be enhanced and enriched by your experience of the depths of Good Friday sorrow.

I wish for you all, dear readers, a most blessed Holy Week and joyous Easter!