"People get ready, there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need to ticket, you just thank the Lord."
--Lyrics from song by Curtis Mayfield
From our earliest days they called them Stations--Stations of the Cross. A station is a waiting place. It is a dropping off place. It is a gathering of people whose sole purposed for being there is hoping the train or bus will be on time. Nobody lives at the Station house. This is simply a stopping-off place.
So the Church called these 14 Stations--stopping-off places--as moments when we would stop and look and listen and then move on to yet another station. They began to give pilgrims who could not make it to the Holy Land a taste of the places Jesus walked and the things he did the last week of his life. They called this trail, beautifully and fittingly, via dolorosa. The way of sorrows.
Once in the Middle Ages when people could neither read nor write--pictures and stained glass and stories gave the people the good news they found no other place. As the Black plague descended on village after village the old Priest called the people of his little hamlet together. It was just before dark. And so scared and frightened of what that terrible disease might do to them--they came in droves to the little church. The Priest took a huge candle from the altar. He shuffled back to the large crucifix on the wall. And he reached high up and lifted the candle so his people could see the tortured, blood-streaked face of Jesus. And then he moved slowly to Jesus' nailed-scarred hands and let the light linger there. Then--the Priest took the candle and pointed the light toward the wound in Jesus' side. Slowly he moved down the body to the twisted legs to Jesus' nailed-down feet. The Priest let the candlelight linger there. And then he stood back and lifted the candle so that the whole broken body of Jesus could be seen. He snuffed out the candle and slowly the people left the church. You could almost hear a pin drop. They went back to a hard time not knowing what the future would hold. Sickness perhaps death for them and those they loved. But they would remember the sermon they had witnessed that night. And those simple people believed what they had seen was somehow a word for what they would face.
And so it is with us this Lenten season. We shall shine the light on the fourteen stations of the cross. Hopefully, here at this way of sorrows we shall find, like those people long ago, something to keep us going too.