Ash Wednesday. As Here & Now begins this special series for Lent and Easter, Selah Center’s Executive Director Mary Pandiani invites you on a contemplative journey together.
Wendy Bryant shares with us from the teachings of Dorotheos of Gaza, a desert father from the 6th century.
As a protestant, I had heard of the Stations of the Cross but didn’t know anything about it until I decided to investigate it this year.
The Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross, also known as the Way of Sorrows or the Via Crucis, refers to a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion and accompanying prayers. The stations grew out of imitations of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, which is a traditional processional route symbolizing the actual path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary. The objective of the stations is to help the Christian faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage through contemplation of the Passion Story of Christ. It’s one of the most popular devotions and the stations can be found in many Western Christian churches, including Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic.
The Stations of the Cross originated in pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a desire to reproduce the Via Dolorosa. Imitating holy places was not a new concept. For example, the religious complex of Santo Stefano in Bologna, Italy, replicated the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other sacred sites, including the Mount of Olives and Valley of Josaphat.
Usually, a series of fourteen images will be arranged in numbered order along a path, and the faithful travel from image to image, in order, stopping at each station to say the selected prayers and reflections. This is done individually or in a procession usually on Good Friday, in a spirit of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during his crucifixion. As a physical devotion involving standing, kneeling, and genuflections, the Stations of the Cross are tied with the Christian themes of repentance and mortification of the flesh.
The fourteen Stations of the Cross
- Jesus is condemned to death
- Jesus carries his cross
- Jesus falls the first time
- Jesus meets his mother
- Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls the second time
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls the third time
- Jesus’ clothes are taken away
- Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross
- Jesus is laid in the tomb.
The style, form, and placement of the stations vary widely. The typical stations are small plaques with reliefs or paintings placed around a church nave. Modern minimalist stations can be simple crosses with a numeral in the center. Occasionally the faithful might say the stations of the cross without there being any image, such as when the pope leads the stations of the cross around the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday.
Obviously, as a Protestant, I was puzzled about station six. Who was Veronica? According to Catholic tradition, Veronica was a pious woman of Jerusalem who was moved with pity upon seeing Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha. As Jesus passed, Veronica wiped his faith. A miracle occurred when an impression of Jesus’s face was left upon the cloth called The Veil of Veronica.
And, I never knew that Jesus fell three times as featured in stations three, seven, and nine.
How protestants can pray the Stations of the Cross
In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced “Scriptural or Biblical Stations of the Cross.” These fourteen stations are tied to scriptures from the Passion story in the gospels.
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-41)
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested (Mark 14:43-46)
- Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71)
- Jesus is denied by Peter (Matthew 26:69-75)
- Jesus is judged by Pilate (Mark 15:1-5, 15)
- Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (John 19:1-3)
- Jesus takes up his cross (John 19:6, 15-17)
- Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross (Mark 15:21)
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31)
- Jesus is crucified (Luke 23:33-34)
- Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief (Luke 23:39-43)
- Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other (John 19:25-27)
- Jesus dies on the cross (Luke 23:44-46)
- Jesus is laid in the tomb (Matthew 27:57-60)
The Stations of the Cross
You might try meditating on these scriptures at each station. You can use the artwork below.
If you want to pray the stations using the scriptures listed above, there are lots of resources online:
- Written resources
- Prayer apps
- YouTube videos
The next time you wear a necklace with featuring a cross, I hope you’ll remember the Passion Story and the Stations of the Cross. May you find Holy Week this year meaningful with the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
by Debora Buerk
Here & Now
“Experimental Theology” blog by Richard Beck, March 28, 2022
Praise be to the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth
into a living hope through the resurrection of
Jesus Christ from the dead.”
1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)
While doing research for my doctoral dissertation awhile back, one nugget I continue to use is the gift of creative genius that by putting two-three ideas together, named by Einstein as “combinatory play,” you create a new idea. Similar to cooking or baking, adding two or more different ingredients than required, you create your own new recipe. My friend, Lisa, makes new dishes nearly every night with her creativity by combining different ingredients for a mouth-watering experience. We all have this gift of creative genius by simply attending to what has been given to us in each day, combining that which seems unconnected, then somehow together creates a new idea, or at the very least a fresh idea.
I had a “combinatory play” experience today while listening to the story of Jacob, the son of Isaac, brother to Esau, in the Old Testament. It goes like this: Jacob steals the birthright of his older brother, causes a great rift in the family, leaves with nothing other than the promise that comes with a birthright. He goes to Bethel where he spends the night on the first night of his journey. He takes a stone as a pillow, and after falling asleep, he dreams of a ladder (some may recall the childhood song, “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder”). It’s a place where heaven and earth touch. In the dream, God offers this promise:
14 Your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth and shall extend to the west and the east, the north and the south. All the nations of the earth shall be blessed through you and through your descendants.
15I am with you and I will protect you wherever you go. I will make you return to this country,
for I will not abandon you without having done all that I have promised you.”
This is where the connection between two different stories – two different ideas – begin to merge.
The other story is Jesus in the wilderness, in a place of temptation, solitude, and questions by the devil who wants to distract, lead astray, cause Jesus to betray the Father, Creator God. In particular with the second question, the proposal is this:
5 Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city, Jerusalem,
and he had Jesus stand at the very highest point in the holy temple.
Devil: 6 If You are the Son of God, jump!
And then we will see if You fulfill the Scripture that says,
“He will command His heavenly messengers concerning You,
and the messengers will buoy You in their hands so that
You will not crash, or fall, or even graze Your foot on a stone.”
Jesus: 7 That is not the only thing Scripture says.
It also says, “Do not put the Eternal One, your God, to the test.”
According to Henri Nouwen, this temptation addresses the “desire to be spectacular” when the devil invites Jesus “jump,” to stand out among everyone else. In fact, scripture is used to back up the suggestion to prove himself, surely there is nothing wrong to see if God will bring to pass what God promises. Indeed Jesus does stand out, but it’s not because he is seeking to stand out. He seeks something else.
That’s when the two ideas emerge. Placing Jacob’s experience alongside Jesus’ temptation, both stories are about encounter and seeking, granted of different kinds, that occur in isolation, only rocks for pillows, and discovering that God is present. And it’s about promises. It’s about what God will do, not what we set out to do. The discernment in these stories is not about jumping, becoming spectacular, or all the grains of sand as the number of descendants. It’s about meeting God in the places we find ourselves.
These encounters in both Jacob’s seeking and Jesus’ experience reflect the real promise. God doesn’t promise that life will happen as we want or expect. In fact, it usually doesn’t. Rather, as we witness the discovery of Jacob and the response of Jesus to the devil, there is a promise of presence, one that Jacob recognizes as more valuable than all the eventual descendants.
16 The dream ended, and Jacob woke up from his sleep.
Jacob (to himself): There is no doubt in my mind that the Eternal One is in this place—
and I didn’t even know it!
17 But even as he said this, a bit of fear came over him.
Jacob: This place is absolutely awesome! It can be none other than
the house of God and the gateway into heaven!
Jacob finds God where God finds Jacob, in his solitude and questions, in the life he has been given, not the one that he thinks he wants. Jesus also meets God as he understands the “Eternal one in this place” as the one to whom he trusts, not in the proving of who is he. Jacob begins to recognize the sacred moment and place where God meets him. For Jesus, he lives out of God’s presence, in the solitude and questions, an ongoing filling by the One who loves him.
And for us, combinatory play – the creative genius given to us by the Creator – means we get to join in this reality that God invites us to also be present in God’s presence.
- Mary Pandiani, Executive Director, Selah Center
 Nouwen, Henri, In the Name of Love.
Would I recognize you Jesus if you rode into
town on public transit?
If you stepped off a bus in filthy blue jeans
and a tattered coat carrying a bedroll and backpack,
would I see your holiness?
Would I see you tenderly, quietly lay your
hand on the man sleeping in a doorway?
Would I hear your gentle voice when you
spoke to the mumbling, disconnected,
bent over woman pushing a shopping cart?
Would I recognize how your compassion
connected with the sullen, pocked-faced,
wild-eyed teenager as you shared a laugh and
Would I turn away from you, a man
who looks down on his luck, and go about my life
Or would I, for a moment, glimpse my King,
no show, no theatrics, no pomp,
the radical, servant Jesus,
the confident, silent Jesus, the unexpected,
Open my eyes.
by Zoanna Pearson
One who does not seek
the cross of Jesus
isn’t seeking the
glory of Christ.
St. John of the Cross
Full disclosure, I don’t really get Lent. Perhaps it comes from being raised in the Church of Christ where there were no holy days other than the Lord’s Day. The communion song, “This we do each Lord’s day, as Christ has said…” reverberates in my brain as I write. We didn’t follow the church calendar, celebrating Christmas and Easter very minimally at home, my parents’ appeasement to their children but don’t tell anyone at church. Or perhaps it’s my Enneagram Seven-ness: if you can avoid pain, you should avoid pain. Reading about the Crucifixion and participating in Lenten activities never really caught on with me. Writing about it is a stretch.
At a dinner party during the season, several people declined certain indulgent foods or beverages due to Lent. It got me thinking. First, I didn’t even know it was Lent. Second, I wondered if there was something wrong with my Christian-ness, my theology, with me. Why was I always so different, so other from people I knew and respected? Why was I always standing a little outside the mainstream rules and procedures?
I started thinking about what the cross meant. Which got me thinking a lot about grace and how I respond to mistakes. Last week, on a mountaintop in the dark, I made some mistakes that could have been life threatening. It was a scary situation. We all made it down alive and well, but the errors in judgment stayed with me. I found myself wanting to confess to everyone, but fearing the consequences, the punishment, the restrictions that might ensue, I kept the confession silent.
While I prayed on the mountain and on the way down, and shouted a final exclamation of gratitude at the bottom, I had pretty much ignored God after that. I didn’t want the lecture. As my backpack got heavier and heavier that night, so did this burden of guilt and responsibility.
About to shatter under the weight, I went to my friend and told her I needed to confess. I needed accountability. She listened to my whole, ugly story. I waited for judgement. Our Fathers and Hail Marys perhaps. Sacrifice a bull. Confess your sins in front of the congregation and be shunned. Carry a cross. Something.
And where two or more are gathered, I knew God was listening in. Of course, He knew. Of course. My hands instinctively slid to my backside to await the spanking.
You readers of the Lenten series know what came next. You know my friend and have experienced her grace. You know Jesus and have experienced His grace. The big arms-stretched-wide embrace of Love. Come home.
As I write, I cannot think of one time when I confessed to God and received anything but open arms. Not one time. I can tell you hundreds of times I delayed going to God because I expected punishment. And thousands of times I have judged others and invoked or wished harsh consequences on them. Yet my Lord, never once, has done the same to me. Lessons to learn, sure. Growth to be had, yes. Natural consequences, sometimes, but less than you’d predict. Always, open arms. Come home.
I’m thinking I might jump into this whole Lent thing and try giving up this delicacy of judgement. Focus on the healthy diet of love and forgiveness. Live in the gift. Maybe try it out after Lent too. After Easter, until Christmas, and again. Still.
Last night I went to a performance by Rona Yellowrobe, a Native American Flute player, singer, and storyteller, and her guitar playing partner, Bruce Witham. You can imagine how the two instruments go together nicely. Native American flute players do not use music or study notes. The music comes from the heart. Players may learn songs and repeat them, but the music is not written down, and can change as the spirit moves. It was beautiful. Bruce also plays the cello. Cello music is defined, written down, procedural. It comes from a composer—until Rona and Bruce get together, then the experience is magical.
To add to the glory of the evening, an accomplished harmonica player, Eric Brown, joined the duo. Bruce switched to blues guitar, and flute, harmonica, and guitar jammed like there was no tomorrow. There was only now. Musical mindfulness. Hallelujah and Amen. Turns out, Eric had never met either Rona or Bruce before stepping to the stage. Three distinct, disconnected instruments and musicians transfixing their audience with joy, a little outside mainstream rules and procedures.
And then the gift. The audience was invited to join in with singing the chorus of the song, “Get Together.” Separate instruments, voices, lives, beliefs, all praising, pleading together. The spontaneous and the designed. The weight and the grace. The Cross and the Resurrection.
Come on, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.
—by Sandy Shipman
The Word was God
And EVERYTHING was created
He chose to become embodied, as fertilized egg, embryo, and baby,
To limit Himself
And know what it means to be human.
Human like you and me.
Bodies precious as He formed male and female and declared them very good.
A body, a person as He was born
In this world: Jesus, Emmanuel!
Growing, playing, skinning knees, teasing siblings, celebrating Shabbat…
Parents, who loved God and His Word,
Imparting it to their eldest son and each child added to the family,
As important to them as every breath,
God’s scripture written on their hearts!
Apprenticeship with wood, skilled carpenter, provider to his family when Joseph died.
He knew the joys and sorrows of our everyday lives.
At the right time,
He was called to His ministry
To choose disciples, to teach and show us His Father, to touch bodies, and heal,
This man, who walked many miles, knew hunger and thirst,
Joy, sorrow, frustration, every emotion, just like you and me.
Beaten, humiliated, dying on a cross.
Dead and buried, and raised again through God’s power of resurrection.
Through the Holy Spirit, He lives in us.
Our bodies’ holy temples where He delights to dwell!
Every inch of us sacred, uniquely expressing aspects of God’s character.
We are His precious embodied people.
Sharing a reflection from Selah’s friend and former board treasurer, Lisa Veitenhans:
Eugene Peterson wrote, “… we see Jesus as the way we come to God. Jesus is also the way God comes to us.”
He also threw out a couple more zingers in this particular sermon (see below), comparing being in the wilderness for 40 days as being more like time in Eden and the nuance of the original language offering a coin flip definition of “Testing-Temptation,” with testing being something you do to confirm that something works and temptation being something that wants failure.
Imagine that our loving Lord comes to you and says, “Come with me to the quiet places where we can be totally together, free from distraction. You’ll leave all your regular duties, and comforts, behind, but don’t worry, you’ll be completely cared for, even by Wilderness itself. What will happen? Intense learning? Yes! Beauty? Beyond what you can imagine! Clarity? When distraction is gone, purpose will become clear. When we are done you’ll be ready to take the test.”
I would say, “Test? What test? Can’t we just go along together forever as we are?” Isn’t that how we want things to be? Sun shining, hearts smiling, comfort abounding places are so lovely! But that isn’t the way life actually happens (at least not yet). Sometimes we must have challenges. New challenges focus my attention, whether I want it to or not.
The first time I looked at the wilderness as more of an invitation to Eden than a pass/fail walk into some punishment, I felt my shoulders drop. My anxiety about failing God and not being able to resist temptation had always felt overwhelming. “Will I remember all the scriptures I need? Will I fail in the final second?” But this other way of looking at Testing-Temptation… I thought of a favorite teacher, who handed out the year end test, winking at me. He knew I would pass with flying colors in spite of my nerves because he knew me well enough to know I was ready. God knows our readiness much better than we do. So maybe the Testing- Temptation is more for us to know we are ready.
Peterson also says, “However necessary the wilderness is, it is temporary, an in-between time, and a place not intended to characterize an entire life. Wilderness life is a strenuous life. It cannot be endured indefinitely.”
But it can be endured for 40 days. Welcome to Lent. May each of us Christians all over this globe with all our forms and ways enter our little wildernesses where God meets us, prepares us and blesses us with his presence and love.
— As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God by Eugene H. Peterson
The message of Easter cannot be written past tense.
It is a message for today and the days to come.
It is God’s message which must re-echo through your lives.
Frank D. Getty
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
submitted by Doreen Olson
Merton, Thomas. “Thoughts in Solitude,”
NY, NY: The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. 1956