Good Friday is the perfect time to reflect on what Christ endured on our behalf, as depicted by the beautiful Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Christ Triumphant.
The Way of the Cross
As most Concordians know, the campus we call home once belonged to an order of Catholic nuns. When CUW moved in, some renovations were made to the Chapel to make it more appropriate for Lutheran worship. One thing that was preserved was the beautiful Stations of the Cross display that adorns 14 pillars along the aisles.
Dating in practice as far back as the fourth century, this “Way of the Cross” depicts Christ’s agonizing journey from Pilate’s residence, to the cross on Mount Calvary, to His tomb. Though the particular scenes and number of statues can vary in different traditions, the 14 stations in our Chapel became somewhat standardized by the 1500s.
They are there to remind us, especially during Lent, of the price Christ paid for the forgiveness of our sins. Whether you ponder their meaning in a formal way, proceeding from station to station, or at random times when you’re in the Chapel, it’s a great way to help stay ever thankful.
Scriptures cited below are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
“But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.” Luke 23:23-25
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.” John 19:16b-17
According to tradition (though it is not specifically mentioned in the Bible), Jesus fell several times while carrying His cross to Golgotha. The third station depicts our Lord falling for the first time.
Again, tradition suggests that Jesus met his mother, Mary, while carrying his cross. Luke 23:27 records that “there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.” And John 19:26 tells us that Mary personally witnessed the crucifixion, so it’s not unreasonable to think she may have met Jesus along the way.
“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.” Luke 23:26-27
Catholic tradition contends that a woman named Veronica–now known as “St. Veronica”–wiped Jesus’ face with her veil during His journey to Golgotha. Again, there is no specific reference to this happening in any of the Gospel accounts.
An exhausted Jesus falls for the second time, according to tradition.
At this station, Jesus is mourned by the “women of Jerusalem.” This depiction is likely based on Luke 23:27-28, which reads: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.'”
“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.” Luke 23:26
“And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.” Matthew 27:33-35
“There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but rather, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”‘ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.'” John 19:18-22
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:28-30
“And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.” Mark 15:42-45
“Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.” John 19:39-42
The Pious exercise of the Way of the Cross represents the sorrowful journey that Jesus Christ made with the cross on His shoulders, to die on Calvary for the love of us. We should, therefore, practice this devotion with the greatest possible fervor, placing ourselves in spirit beside our Savior as He walked this sorrowful way.Alphonsus Liguori
- Though they’re made to look like stone, the figures are actually carved from wood. The sculptor is unknown, but they are believed to be of Italian origin.
- The progression begins at the front right of the Chapel (from the congregation’s perspective), proceeds to the back, then continues on the left side, from the back to the front.
- One of the changes made from the Catholic chapel is the removal of halos from figures other than Jesus.
- One upgrade made during the most recent Chapel renovation was the addition of lights around the foot of each statue.
- Station 11 originally depicted two figures nailing Jesus to the cross. Unfortunately, one of the figures recently fell from its platform and broke on the ground.
- Concordia sometimes offers a Stations of the Cross worship service during Holy Week. This year, a service was held on the evening of Tuesday, April 4.
As difficult as it can sometimes feel, reflecting on the events of Good Friday is meaningful and important. Without Christ’s death, His resurrection could not have happened; without the resurrection, we could not be cleansed by His blood.
As we mourn His suffering and death, remember that it’s only part of the story. We know how it ends: God wins. After all, as we our reminded by the beautiful stained glass above the main doors, there’s a reason we call it The Chapel of Christ Triumphant: He is risen, indeed!
At CUW you can see and feel a Christian emphasis from how our professors teach in the classroom to how our athletes play on the field. We instill in our students that living a full Christian life is about more than worship. CUW is a Christian university, not because we’re perfect people, but because we’re forgiven sinners who gather together in Christ. The strength of a Christian community rests on an awareness that people need one another and reach out to one another for support and understanding.