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World Youth Days offer young people profound moments to experience and deepen Christian piety and devotion. The ceremonies of the Way of the Cross during each World Youth Day take place on the Fridayevening of World Youth Day week and are televised throughout the world. The Stations of the Cross presentations in Toronto (2002), Sydney (2008) and Madrid (2011) were spectacles for the world and offered a provocative witness of the Christian story in the heart of three great cities of the world.
Background of the Devotion
Jerusalem is the city of the historical Via Dolorosa (sorrowful Way). Jerusalem, alone has this great and tragic privilege. The Via Dolorosa is defined by faith and not by history. During the Medieval times, pilgrims returning from Jerusalem wanted to “reproduce” the holy places in their own cities, thus enabling many other people to share in the same spiritual experiences that they had in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
The Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) as we have it today dates back to the Medieval period, and is associated with St. Bernard of Chiaravalle (1153) St. Francis of Assisi (1226) and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1274). In 1233, The Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) established themselves in the Holy Land and became the “Custodians of the Holy Places”.
At the end of the XIII century, the Via Crucis is mentioned, not as a pious exercise, but as the way the Jesus walked up to Calvary. Several “stations” were identified along this way. Around 1294, a Dominican Friar, Rinaldo di Monte Crucis, in his “Liber peregrinationis” wrote that he “went up to the Holy Sepulchre on the same way that Jesus walked, carrying his cross”. He described the various stations along that way: the palace of Herod, the Lithostrotos (where Jesus was condemned to death), the place where Jesus met the women of Jerusalem, and the place where Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ cross upon his shoulders.
The Via Crucis as we know it, is a fusion of three different devotions that were widespread from the beginning of the XV century, especially in Germany and in the Netherlands.
-a devotion to the times that Christ fall under the weight of the cross. There were 7 such falls.
-a devotion to the “sorrowful way of Christ” that consisted at first in processions from one church to another, (sometimes as many as 7 or nine different churches) commemorating the sorrowful way. These processions marked Jesus’ different “processions” during the passion narratives: 1) from Gethsemane to the house of Annas (Jn. 18:13); from the house of Annas to the residence of Caiphas (Jn. 18:24; Mt. 26:56); the walk to the Pretorium of Pilate (Jn. 18:28; Mt. 27:2); the walk to the Palace of Herod (Lk. 23:7); etc.
-a devotion to the “stations of Christ” i.e. those moments in which he stopped along the way to Calvary, for reasons of the heavy burden he was bearing, because of exhaustion, or moved by love and compassion, in order to talk with those women and men along the way who participated in his passion. Each of these stations was often marked with a pillar or a cross which became objects of meditation and veneration.
The Way of the Cross with the 14 stations is first attested to in Spain in the first half of the XVII century, especially in areas where Franciscans were present. It then spread first to Sardinia (at that time under Spanish control), and then up the Italian peninsula.
The 14 Stations on the Way of the Cross
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus takes up his cross
3. Jesus falls for the first time
4. Jesus meets his Blessed Mother, Mary
5. Simon of Cyrene bears the cross
6. Veronica wipes Jesus face
7. Jesus falls again
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls a third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is crucified
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
14. Jesus body is laid in the tomb
Stations of the Cross in Rio
The Rio Stations of the Cross speak of the suffering of Jesus as expressed in the youth of today. The route taken by Jesus in the city of Jerusalem will be recreated in the Stations of the Cross on July 26 in the setting of Rio de Janeiro, such as at the Rock of Arpoador and the Selarón Staircase in Lapa. There will be 14 stations, with 13 of them set along 900 meters of the central median of Atlantic Avenue and the final at the central stage, where Pope Francis will be. The cast will consist of 280 volunteers who will enact the stations throughout the approximately 1 hour and 15 minute procession.
Each of the stations will relate to one of the questions facing youth in the modern world: missionary youth; converted youth; youth in recovering communities; youth speaking in the name of mothers; seminarians; Religious fighting for life; couples; youth speaking for women who suffer; students; youth in social networks; youth in prison or prison ministry; youth with terminal illness; deaf youth; youth of Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
The Stations of the Cross is designed to speak to young people, just as the story of this route of suffering of Christ speaks today to the difficulties young people face. Its a Stations of the Cross that has a message of solidarity. Its not just about speaking to these issues, but about calling on the spirit of youth to act together in Christ, said artistic director Ravel Cabral. Transmission via large screens will make the events easily visible to all participants.
Pope Francis will preside at the main stage. Besides the staging at the other 13 stations, there will also be a representation of all that is happening in the other stations on the main stage. The idea is that the Holy Father will participate in a real way with everything that is happening in each of scenes, explained the general director Ulysses Cruz.
The Brazilian actress Cássia Kiss will play Maria. Other Brazilian actors will also take part and read the Bible excerpts at each station, which will precede the meditations.
Rio Stations of the Cross Team:
Texts: José Fernandes de Oliveira (Father Zezinho)
and João Carlos Almeida (Father Joãozinho)
Direction: Ravel Cabral
Choreography: Janice Botelho
Musical Direction: Roger Henri
Staging: Abel Gomes
Concept and General Direction: Ulysses Cruz
Martín Valverde (Costa Rica / Mexico), Kiki Troia (Argentina), Judy Bailey (Germany), Matt Maher (United States), Son By Four (Puerto Rico), Cardiac Move (Germany), Martin Duarte (Argentina), Ziza Fernandes (Brazil), Banda Vida Reluz (Brazil), Cantores de Deus (Brazil), Olívia Ferreira (Brazil), Sister Kelly Patrícia (Brazil), Ricardo Sá/ Comunidade Canção Nova (Brazil), Dunga/ Comunidade Canção Nova (Brazil), Eliana Ribeiro/ Comunidade Canção Nova (Brazil), Nelsinho/ Comunidade Canção Nova (Brazil), Márcio Pacheco (Brazil), Flavinho (Brazil), DJ Odilon (Brazil), DJ Piedade (Brazil), DJ Gogan (Brazil).
Reflection on Way of the Cross
The stations emphasize the tragic interplay of persons, the struggle between light and darkness, between the truth and falsehood. Along the way of the cross, the evangelists Luke and John offer us models who teach us to live in our daily lives Jesus’ passion as a journey towards a resurrection. Simon of Cyrene, who was “coming in from the fields”… after laying the cross on him they made him carry it ‘behind’ Jesus. The mere fact of carrying the cross is not what is most important. Many persons in this world suffer dramatically: every people, every family has on its shoulders sorrows and burdens to bear. That which gives fullness of meaning to the cross is to carry it behind Jesus, not in a journey of anguished solitude, hopeless wandering or rebellion, but rather in a journey sustained and nourished by the presence of the Lord.
Ultimately, the Stations of the Cross and the Via Dolorosa invite us to enter into the mystery of Christ’s passion, and to take sides either for or against Jesus. Each of us has been marked with the sign of the cross, and the word of the Cross dwells within each of us, freeing and liberating us from a world of darkness, alienation, hatred and death and welcoming us here and now into a communion of light, life and peace. Christ crucified is the word whose message reached into the depths of human sin and saved all humankind from self-destruction. The cross is the triumph of God’s love over the deepest sin, the darkest death, the ultimate evil.
The cross also reveals the extent to which God will go for us out of love. Those who identify with the Via Dolorosa and the Cross of Jesus agree to identify also with the unwillingness to destroy and crucify. The question is not WHO killed Jesus, but WHAT killed Jesus… and what vicious cycles of violence continue to make the Lord of Life walk the sorrowful way in women and men in our day, and what cycles and systems crucify him today in his sisters and brothers of the human family.
What can we do for Jesus?, Pope asks after Via Crucis