On Friday, April 11, at noon, Madison Episcopalians will be walking the way of the cross downtown. We invite others to join us in this devotional practice as we prepare for Holy Week. We will begin outside the Federal Courthouse (120 N. Henry St.).
The Stations of the Cross is a traditional Roman Catholic devotional practice in which participants walk fourteen stations that depict scenes from the last hours of Jesus’ life, his death and burial. Visual images are prompts for devotion and at each station prayers and meditations are offered. The roots of this practice go back to the earliest centuries of Christianity. We know that Christian pilgrims came to Jerusalem in the 4th and 5th century and sought out those places mentioned in the gospels in connection with Jesus’ passion.
In keeping with St. Francis of Assisi’s devotion to the imitation of Christ, the Franciscans were the popularizers of the Stations of the Cross in the Middle Ages. Eventually the number of stations was fixed at fourteen. While many of the traditional stations are linked to the gospel accounts, others derive from popular stories and devotions. The medieval hymn Stabat Mater often is sung or recited and at each station the traditional hymn Adoremus te is sung or said:
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Our stations will differ from traditional practice in that we will link them to life in Madison. We will begin at the Federal Courthouse on Henry Street and walk a little over a mile around Capitol Square. Our stations will include the Dane County Jail, the City-County Building, the YWCA, the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum, as well as the steps of Grace Church where a homeless man died on one of the coldest days of the year. We will end in the courtyard garden at Grace.
Typically, the Stations of the Cross are an intensely personal and individual devotion focused on one’s own entering into Christ’s suffering. We want to reflect on Christ’s suffering more broadly. The community of Madison is struggling in so many ways, with deepening racial, economic and ethnic divides, poverty and homelessness. It is our hope that by walking the way of the cross in Madison, we will be a witness of Christ’s redemptive and transforming love in this community and in our hearts.