We shuffled slowly into the sanctuary and between the pews. We, so young and squirrely, still uninitiated in hushed tones, moved in as much silence as we could muster from one station to the next. At each wood etching the somber procession would come to a stop. We’d look at the plaque, listen to the reflection given by the fresh-faced priest and then say a prayer more (but mostly less) together. We were learning to walk the Stations of the Cross.
The icons affixed to the walls depicted The Way of the Cross – snapshots of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem out to the hill of Golgotha. Church tradition preserved these images so we’d never forget what happened during That Week, the one we now call Holy. Our annual practice invites us to remember these moments on Good Friday when things are already quite dark.
As a child I found these carvings both crude and lovely. Jesus carrying the cross he would soon die on, his mother weeping as she watched from the crowd, an on-looker recruited to help Jesus, then being stripped and nailed to a tree. Jesus falling not once – but three times – and we’d stop, look and pray for each one. Not even a child could miss the truth that Jesus suffered many things before he suffered the cross.