From the earliest days of the Church, Christians commemorated the steps Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion. These steps, or stations, became known as the Via Dolorosa, and eventually, the “Way of the Cross.” In the fourth century (the age when Christians were finally free to practice their faith in the Roman Empire without legal persecution) the stations along the Way of the Cross began to draw pilgrims from throughout the world, especially during the celebration of Holy Week. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land gave Christians the opportunity to walk with Christ in his final hours: to meditate on the depth of his love, a love that was faithful to the end, and to tangibly unite their sufferings to his, in the hope of sharing in the joy of his Resurrection.
There were, however, many Christians who could not make the long and difficult trip to Jerusalem. Desiring to find a way to open this source of spiritual nourishment and grace to the whole Church, bishops began to construct chapels designed to model or include the Way of the Cross. During the Middle Ages, many churches began to be decorated with sculptures representing the Stations along the Way of the Cross. The Franciscans especially fostered the practice of praying the Stations of the Cross. From them we have inherited the traditional 14 stations prayed by so many throughout the world today.
As we walk and pray the Way of the Cross here in Brewer and Bangor, Maine, we continue in the tradition of this ancient Christian pilgrimage with Christ. We mark the Stations of his Cross along the streets of our community, demonstrating by our steps that the Way of the Cross did not end at Calvary 2000 years ago, but that Christ continues to carry his cross among us in a pilgrimage that unites every time and place. Our prayerful procession encourages us, as it has encouraged Christians for centuries, to walk with Christ along the way of sacrificial love, a way that does not end in the cross, but in the promise of eternal life.