Good Friday is the day Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, died, and was buried. Throughout Ireland on Good Friday, devout Catholics perform the Stations of the Cross, also called the Via Crucis (Latin for the Way of the Cross), or the Way of Sorrows, a series of 14 stops along a spiritual pilgrimage meant to inspire prayer and contemplation on the Passion of the Christ. Most often, Catholic churches have 14 images throughout the building depicting each of the Stations of the Cross that congregants observe, either individually or in a procession, while engaging in silent prayer. In Ireland these processions can include dozens of people, all following the Stations of the Cross in order, making it one of the most stunning displays of devotion witnessed anywhere on Easter Weekend.
For decades, this processional has occurred at 3 p.m., uniting the country in a show of Catholic faith. But not everyone attends a formal observance of the stations, and in fact, in rural areas, it is actually more common to find private Stations being performed at small gatherings in an individual’s home. According to the Irish Culture and Customs blog, this tradition dates at least as far back as the 17th century:
This tradition dates back to the Penal Laws, when it was forbidden for Catholic priests to say Mass in public. To get around the problem, the Mass was often celebrated secretly in people’s homes, and afterwards, those in attendance stayed on for breakfast. This was often followed by a full day of merriment – but only after the priest had finished his breakfast and taken his leave!
As the years went by, and the Penal Laws were repealed, the custom of The Stations continued, especially in Ireland’s more rural areas. People take turns every few years to have the Mass said in their home for family, relatives, friends, and neighbors. It’s considered a great honor to be chosen and preparations for it are often started months in advance.
Public processions of the Stations of the Cross can become large community affairs, especially at Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock, more commonly known as Knock Shrine, where Catholics come from around the world to do the Stations at the site of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1879. Other popular places for the Stations include Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral.
The Stations of the Cross are as follows, courtesy of the Irish Province of the Order of Carmelites:
I. Jesus is condemned to death:
Leaving the house of Caiaphas, where he had been blasphemed, and the house of Herod, where he had been mocked, Jesus is dragged before Pilate, his back torn with scourges, his head crowned with thorns; and he is condemned to a disgraceful death.
II. Jesus is made to carry his cross:
A heavy cross is laid on the bruised shoulders of Jesus. He receives it with meekness: it is the instrument with which he is to redeem the world.
III. Jesus falls the first time:
Bowed down under the weight of the cross, Jesus slowly sets forth on the way to Calvary amidst the mockeries and insults of the crowd. His agony in the garden has exhausted his body and he is sore from blows and wounds; his strength fails him and he falls to the ground under the weight of the cross.
IV. Jesus meets his Blessed Mother:
Still burdened by his cross and wounded by his fall, Jesus proceeds on his way. He is met by his Mother. What a meeting that must have been! What a sword of anguish must have pierced her heart!
V. Simon of Cyrene is made to help Jesus carry his cross:
As the strength of Jesus fails and he is unable to proceed, the soldiers seize Simon of Cyrene from the crowd and make him help Jesus. The virtue of that cross changed his cross and the compulsory task became a privilege and a joy.
VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus:
As Jesus continues on the way and covered with the sweat of death, a woman moved by compassion, makes her way through the crowd and wipes his face with a towel. As a reward of her piety, the impression of his sacred countenance is miraculously imprinted upon the towel.
VII. Jesus falls the second time:
The pain of the wounds and the loss of blood increasing with every step, again his strength fails him and Jesus falls to the ground a second time.
VIII. The women of Jerusalem weep for Jesus:
At the sight of the sufferings of Jesus, some holy women in the crowd were so touched with sympathy that they openly bewailed and lamented him. Jesus, knowing the things that were to happen to Jerusalem because of its rejection of him, turned to them and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
IX. Jesus falls the third time:
Jesus had now almost arrived at the summit of Calvary, but before he reached the spot where he was to be crucified, his strength again fails him and falls the third time.
X. Jesus is stripped of his garments:
Having finally arrived at the place of crucifixion they prepared to crucify him. His garments are removed from his bleeding body and he stands naked before the people, while the soldiers cast lots to see who shall keep his garment.
XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross:
The cross is laid upon the ground and Jesus is stretched upon his bed of death. At one and the same time he offers his bruised body to his heavenly Father of behalf of all peoples, and to his executioners to be nailed by them to the wood.
XII. Jesus dies on the cross:
For three hours Jesus hung upon the cross, and in the midst of his sufferings he has forgiven those who condemned him, pardoned the good thief, and committed his Mother and the beloved disciple to each other’s care. All is now consummated, and, bowing his head, he breathes his last.
XIII. Jesus is taken down from the cross:
The crowds have left Calvary and none remain except the beloved disciple and some holy women who support Jesus’ blessed Mother. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus take down the lifeless body of Jesus and place it in his Mother’s arms.
XIV. Jesus is laid in the Sepulchre:
The body of her Son is taken from his Mother and laid in the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathaea. The tomb is closed and there the corpse remains until its glorious resurrection.
IRISH CROSS GIFTS
Whether you are in Ireland or not, at home or in a church, performing the stations of the cross is a profound way to begin the Easter Weekend, to pray and acknowledge the suffering of Jesus’ sacrifice. Seeing them performed throughout Ireland on Good Friday is one of the hallmarks of the Easter celebrations in the country and is one more reason to be grateful to Ireland’s ongoing tradition of religious devotion.
ShamrockGift.com offers a large range of Irish Cross decorations in a variety of materials. If your Easter tradition involves performing the Stations of the Cross, these ornaments will add a bit of Irish tradition to your own.
Belleek Classic Celtic Cross Water Font
This water font from Belleek’s Classic Giftware Collection is a beautifully designed homage to that heritage, with fine detailing and historically accurate features. The basin is ideal for display or for holding holy water to bless the home and all those who cross the threshold. The oldest fine porcelain pottery in Ireland, Belleek has been producing sophisticated and refined china since 1849 and was a favorite of Irish and British nobility, including Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
Mullingar Pewter Celtic Cross
Whether mounted on a wall or placed freestanding, this tarnish-resistant pewter cross can adorn any room in your home with long-lasting elegance, which also makes it a wonderful gift for any occasion.
Royal Tara Stained Glass Hanging High Cross
If you love the majestic air of the Celtic High Cross as well as bright bursts of color, then you’ll adore this Stained Glass Hanging High Cross. This gorgeous, hand-painted stained glass panel from Royal Tara depicts the famous Celtic High Cross. Adding more Celtic and also Irish touches are Trinity Knots and a Celtic spiral that embellish the cross, along with two shamrock flowers that adorn the vivid green backdrop.
Royal Tara Bronze Plated Celtic Love Cross
Send a heartwarming message of love to everyone who visits your home with this Bronze Plated Celtic Love Cross. This gorgeous piece from Royal Tara features one of the most enduring and famous Irish symbols: the Celtic Love Cross. Dating back to the 9th century A.D., the love cross represented eternal love for the Celts with its central motif of interlacing hearts. This love cross also features a creative, modern touch with Trinity Knot accents on the tips of each of the four limbs.
Belleek St. Kieran’s Celtic Cross Ornament
Named after the first saint thought to have been born in Ireland (around the 5th century), Belleek’s St. Kieran’s Celtic Cross Ornament combines pre-Christian design elements with the religious iconography of the Celtic cross, a uniquely Irish contribution to Catholic art. The Celtic knot design dates back millennia and symbolizes eternity as well as the interconnectivity of the universe. The shamrock design is hand painted and reflects yet another of Ireland’s most famous saints, St. Patrick, who used the three leaves connected to a single stem to represent the holy trinity.
Do you perform the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday? Let us know in the comments below!