The way of the Cross through the city
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
During the Holy Week processions, the Ways of the Cross, wind through the streets and paths of Polish cities, towns and villages. One can observe a 'revival' of this service these days. It finds favour with many people, environments and societies. The Way of the Cross through the streets has been most often prepared by the youth groups of the Light-Life Movement, the Catholic Youth Association or other parish groups and it is some form of performance. Its participants are those people who believe in the values Jesus died for. The important thing today is that these values and contents, which the Church proclaims, are transmitted in the way contemporary man is used to. Since it often happens that man, living in a hurry, has not deeper understanding, and consequently the possibility, to experience important religious events. When people follow the cross their hearts are moved by the words of common prayer or song and frequently they experience some mysterious convergence of the Jerusalem events and our problems. Perhaps some casual passer-byes, seeing the Way of the Cross, will wake up and remember that this is the time of Lent and Easter is approaching so they need to think of their souls and salvations. The Saviour is waiting for us with his mercy and he shows us the measure of his love from the cross.
The public Way of the Cross has always an additional dimension. Once Bishop of Kalisz Stanislaw Napierala said, 'The Way of the Cross went through our town, it made the sign of the cross over the town as if it blessed us for Lent. It made the sign of the cross over the streets, houses, and inhabitants. The power of the Way of the Cross of Jesus Christ has blessed this town...'
Our Polish Ways of the Cross are very often connected with prayers for social and political problems. Together with the sacrifice of Christ in the services we speak to God about concrete people or place. So we notice the victims of the war or the old political system; there are the Ways of the Cross of prisoners, families, young people, the unemployed; the sick, alcoholics, etc. follow the suffering Christ with the cross of their own sufferings. Particular groups of believers carry the cross from one station to another and thus they want to praise Jesus and give him their problems. These services, in forms of 'misteria', are celebrated in monasteries, including Kalwaria Paclawska or Kalwaria Zebrzydowska...
The Way of Cross in the Roman Colosseum is of unique character. We, Poles, remember it in a special way, because the suffering John Paul II took part in it. We experience the unforgettable 'tourist' Ways of the Cross in the Student Pastoral Centre when we went to the Mazury district, to the mountains and to the seaside. And naturally, there is Via Crucis in Jerusalem, which is very moving since it is celebrated in the authentic space reality.
Christians must be aware that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, every station of his Way of the Cross, obliges us to examine our conscience concerning our behaviour towards our neighbours and the whole society.
Reading the news I am glad that so many people participate in the passion services every year and the services have the form of great manifestations. This is certainly some form of retreat, touching the most important affairs of our faith and naturally an experience of unique closeness with Jesus. For many of us, who are concerned about daily life, this is some therapeutic moment, taking our attention away from what is earthy to what is truly important and what is somehow in the inner part of human beings.
We do not need money or special mobilisation, we need to open our souls to God and the world becomes more beautiful, in spite of much anxiety, more human and free. How many people have gone astray because they have not had any time for reflection...
So let us encourage one another to participate in these services, connected with the time of Lent, to participate in the liturgy of Triduum Sacrum, the holy days that precede Easter. And perhaps we will find some time to see 'The Passion of the Christ'. Lent is a chance to come closer to Jesus Christ and to rise from the dead with him.