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Sunday, February 26, 2012
Stational Churches of Lent
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Our modern observance of the stational liturgy traces its roots back to the practice of the Bishop of Rome celebrating the liturgies of the church year at various churches throughout the city, a tradition dating back as far as the late second or early third century. One reason for this was practical: with the church in Rome being composed of diverse groups from many cultures, regular visits by the bishop served to unify the various groups into a more cohesive whole. Another reason, particularly following the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313 which permitted public worship, was to commemorate certain feast days at churches with a special link to that celebration. Therefore, Good Friday came to be celebrated at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and Christmas at St. Mary Major, where a relic of the manger was venerated. In time, the original churches in the city, known as tituli (sing. titulus) because they often bore the name of the donor, took on an additional significance as the places that held the relics of the martyrs and the memory of the early history of the church in this city.1

As time passed the schedule of these visits, which had earlier followed an informal order, took on a more formalized structure. By the last half of the fifth century, a fairly fixed calendar was developed, having the order of the places at which the pope would say Mass with the church community on certain days throughout the year. In the weeks before the beginning of Lent, the three large basilicas outside the walls were visited, forming a ring of prayer around the city before the season of Lent began. During Lent, the various stations were originally organized so that the Masses were held in different areas of the city each day. During the octave of Easter the stations form a litany of the saints, beginning with St. Mary Major on Easter Sunday and continuing with St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Lawrence, the Apostles, and the martyrs.2

The liturgy of these Masses had several elements, many of which developed over time. According to the structure of the late first millennium, the people would gather in mid-afternoon with the pope at one church, known as the collectum. There, after some prayers, the group would move in procession to the statio, at which Mass would be said. The use of the term statio for this ending point has a connection with the practice of fasting on these days. The Christians of this time made a comparison of their fasting and prayer during Lent with the guard duty of soldiers, seeing their actions as something to be approached with a similar seriousness of purpose. The term statio came to be applied to the Eucharistic celebrations that took place on fast days. Later the term came to be used for all churches at which the major liturgical celebration in the city was to be held on a certain day.3

The order of the stations, originally organized in the fifth century, would undergo several changes over the following three centuries. The current order was essentially fixed by the time of the Council of Trent. Over the last several centuries, two of the original stations have been lost, although most older liturgical books still list their name as the station for their original day. The church of St. Augustine has taken the place of St. Tryphon, an older church which once stood on a nearby site. The second lost church is that of St. Cyriacus, which originally stood near the Baths of Diocletian. Having fallen into ruin, its stational day was transferred to Santa Maria in Via Lata, possibly because a monastery, also dedicated to St. Cyriacus, once stood behind this church. The other churches have not passed the centuries without their difficulties either: many have been destroyed and rebuilt; some fell into ruins, being saved only when on the verge of final collapse; all have been modified in various ways throughout the ages. Yet what remains through all the changes is the memory of those past Christians who worshiped at these places. While other cities, such as Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Milan once had similar stational liturgies, Rome is the only city in which these continue in some regular form. Therefore, just like the writings of the Fathers of the Church and the art of the early Christian era, the stational cycle comes down to us as a monument of the early church, a living connection to those days when the witness of the martyrs was still fresh and the echo of the apostles’ voices could still be heard in the city’s streets.
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1Pp. 147-153
2 Pp. 153-158
3 Pp. 143-144; 161-162

Source: Pontifical North American College

Stational Churches:

Please join me in spiritually journeying to each of the Stational Churches this Lent.  Please bookmark this post and refer back to it.

Ash Wednesday
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Friday after Ash Wednesday
Saturday after Ash Wednesday

First Sunday of Lent
Monday in the First Week of Lent
Tuesday in the First Week of Lent
Wednesday in the First Week of Lent
Thursday in the First Week of Lent
Friday in the First Week of Lent
Saturday in the First Week of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent
Monday in the Second Week of Lent
Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent
Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent
Thursday in the Second Week of Lent
Friday in the Second Week of Lent
Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent
Monday in the Third Week of Lent
Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent
Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent
Thursday in the Third Week of Lent
Friday in the Third Week of Lent
Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent
Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Passion Sunday
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Palm Sunday
Monday in Holy Week
Tuesday in Holy Week
Wednesday in Holy Week

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