first Stations of the Cross were walked by Jesus himself on the way to Calvary.
Known as the "Via Dolorosa" ("The Way of Suffering") or the
"Via Crucis" ("The Way of the Cross"), it was marked out
from the earliest times and was a traditional walk for pilgrims who came to
Jerusalem. The early Christians in Jerusalem would walk the same pathway that
Jesus walked, pausing for reflection and prayer. Later, when Christians could
not travel to the Holy Land, artistic depictions of "The Way of the Cross"
were set up in churches, or outside and Christians would walk from station to
station, reading the Gospel account of the Passion, or simply praying and
reflecting on each event. While the content or place of each station had
changed, the intention was to make a mini-pilgrimage and follow--literally--in
the footsteps of Jesus.
This devotion became better
known in the Middle Ages, and the Franciscans are credited with its spread.
Lent is a time when many people make the Stations and some churches present
Passion plays or Living Stations. But anyone can pray the Stations at any time.
It is a simple and personal reflection on the passion of Jesus and what it
means to us.