For centuries Christians around the world mark Good Friday, the day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, with the practice of the Stations of the Cross.
Also known as the Way of the Cross, the practice depicts the last moments of Jesus’ life on earth from the time he was condemned to death till his body was placed in the tomb.
Commonly seen across Catholic churches, the practice is followed in many churches across Mumbai. On the morning of Good Friday, believers come together to reflect over his death. The churches have paintings depicting the different incidents from his last day on Earth. As the people walk across the church, they stop by each painting, meditating over its significance.
“In most churches, there are 14 paintings depicting the incidents before the death of Jesus Christ. On Good Friday morning, we do not have devotion in church but the people come together to make the ‘Way of the Cross’. It is like accompanying Jesus in his suffering. It is a prayer which commemorates the journey of Jesus from the time he is condemned to death to where he is crucified in Golgotha and finally to his burial,” said Father Francis Correa, from Vasai.
Traditionally, it has been practised with 14 stations depicting different events like Jesus taking the cross on his shoulder, him wearing the crown of thorns on his head, the women crying over his death and his three falls. However, not all of it is based on the Bible but is also taken from legends.
“The traditional Stations of the Cross is not entirely based on the Bible and includes some legends such as Veronica wiping the face of Jesus and even the three falls. In the early 2000s, Pope John Paul II brought a more authentic representation of it which is entirely based on the Scriptures. The people now can choose which one they would like to follow. It is eventually an attempt by each one of us to follow in his footsteps,” said Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Mumbai archdiocese.
“As we walk along the paintings depicting the different incidents of Jesus’ last moments, we reflect on his death and its meaning. It is a time to ponder on his suffering and bring meaning to Good Friday,” said Pascal Lopes, a Vasai resident.
Meanwhile, some churches also enact the Stations of the Cross with different themes. “This year St. Theresa’s church in Bandra has taken up an ecological theme depicting how we humans have destroyed nature. Meanwhile St. Peter’s Church in Bandra is stressing on the message of shroud burial instead of coffin, whereby a person after death is buried only covered by a cloth and not inside a coffin,” added Father Barrett.
Among the churches that enacted the Way of the Cross was Bandra’s St. Andrew’s Church, where the focus this year was on women’s suffering. “We call them ‘Sheroes’ and at each station we commemorated different women who have suffered in history. Over 1,000 people participated in the procession that started from Mt. Mary’s Basilica to our church. It is considered a great privilege to be a part of it and it is mostly organised by the youth,” said Father Caesar De Mello, Head Priest, St. Andrew’s Church.
In Vasai, a group called Rasik Ranjan Natya Mandal, organises a live depiction of the stations of the cross on Good Friday. Complete with dialogue and enactments, it begins outside the St. Michael’s church in Manikpur and travels through the village.