From the earliest days, those who wish to follow Jesus have found immense value in making real footsteps. Pilgrimages to the great centres of Christianity, especially Jerusalem, have been a high point of Christian prayer. Realising that most people would never travel so far, Franciscans developed the ‘Stations of the Cross’ as a way of following Jesus’ final footsteps in our prayers.
The number of stations varies from place to place; a ‘full set’ includes fourteen. At All Souls’, there are ten stations sculpted in the walls of the Church; an eleventh is added by making use of the reredos above the high altar. We begin by reading from Isaiah chapter 53, which was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
He was despised, shunned by all, pain-racked and afflicted by disease;
we despised him, we held him of no account,
an object from which people turn away their eyes.
Yet it was our afflictions he was bearing, our pain he endured,
while we thought of him as smitten by God,
struck down by disease and misery.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities;
the chastisement he bore restored us to health,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We had all strayed like sheep, each of us going his own way,
but the Lord laid on him the guilt of us all. (Isaiah 53.3-6)