Idea File: Stations of the Cross, Women of the Passion Edition

I serve a liturgical church, so we walk the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week. But it is also a Protestant church, so I have a lot of flexibility in the design of the liturgy, which is good because our sanctuary has very skinny side aisles and accommodating the traditional fourteen stations would be rough.

It’s also good because I sometimes want to highlight other parts of the Passion narratives. Like, what about all the women whose stories we never hear? How come Joseph of Arimathea gets the spotlight while we ignore Mary and Mary Magdalene, who kept watch at Jesus’ tomb?

I searched far and wide for a resource offering devotions based on the women of the Passion, and I found lots of reader’s-theater monologues and ’90s feminist lectionaries and other stuff that looked kind of cool but was so not my church’s jam. What I wanted was a service following a traditional format, with updated stories. So I put one together myself.

I like to assign eight readers, one for each station. The following will make for about a 25-minute service as written, though you could certainly add more to it — candle-lighting, Taizé chant, veneration of the cross — depending on what works in your community and your space.

Please feel free to use, adapt, and share the service below, which draws upon the original Stations of the Cross, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Bible (NRSV). I was alarmed to learn that Veronica is totally extracanonical, but everyone else is right there in the Good Book.

Stations of the Cross: Women of the Passion

Opening Devotions

Celebrant: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant: Lord, have mercy.
People: Christ, have mercy.
Celebrant: Lord, have mercy.

Celebrant and People:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Celebrant: We will glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ:
People: In whom is our salvation, our life and resurrection.

Celebrant: Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

I. Jesus is anointed by Mary of Bethany

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As Jesus sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.”

Reader: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me:
People: Because the Lord has anointed me.

Celebrant: Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

II. Peter is questioned by the woman at the temple gate

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

After Jesus was arrested, Simon Peter and another disciple followed him. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

Reader: He was despised and rejected by others:
People: As one from whom others hide their faces.

Celebrant: Almighty God, whose beloved Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption: Give us courage to profess his name and follow him; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

III. The wife of Pilate warns him of her dream

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

While Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” Now the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. Pilate the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

Reader:  By a perversion of justice he was taken away:
People:  He was cut off from the land of the living.

Celebrant: Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their glory: Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate injustice, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

IV. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

There followed after Jesus a great multitude of the people, and among them were women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Reader: Those who sowed with tears:
People: Will reap with songs of joy.

Celebrant: Teach your Church, O Lord, to mourn the sins of which it is guilty, and to repent and forsake them; that, by your pardoning grace, the results of our iniquities may not be visited upon our children and our children’s children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

V. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As Jesus carried his cross, a woman followed him along the way. She approached him with a white cloth and wiped the blood and sweat from his face.

Reader: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due:
People: When it is within the power of your hands.

Celebrant: Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior came not to be served but to serve: Give us grace to minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

VI. Jesus’ mother and friends remain at his side as he is crucified

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him. Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. With him they crucified two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left, and Jesus between them. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”

Reader: They pierce my hands and my feet:
People: They stare and gloat over me.

Celebrant: Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

VII. Mary is with Jesus when he dies

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own home. Then Jesus said, “It is finished!” And then, crying with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And he bowed his head, and handed over his spirit.

Reader: Christ for us became obedient unto death:
People: Even death on a cross.

Celebrant: O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; who lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

VIII. Mary and Mary Magdalene keep vigil at Jesus’ tomb

Celebrant: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
People: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When the body of Jesus was buried and evening came, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained, sitting opposite the tomb.

Reader: You will not abandon me to the grave:
People: Nor let your Holy One see corruption.

Celebrant: O God, your blessed Son was laid in a tomb in a garden, and rested on the Sabbath day: Grant that we who have been buried with him in the waters of baptism may find our perfect rest in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
People: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy upon us.

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