The Way of the Cross, locally known as the Khursachi Vatt in Konkani, is a tradition practiced by the Catholic community in Goa. Having started ages ago, this act of penance is commonly practiced during the season of Lent.
“In simple terms, the Way of the Cross, often referred to as the Stations of the Cross refers to a walking pilgrimage or a procession from station to station enacting the Via Dolorosa or the sorrowful way that Jesus walked on his way to Mount Calvary to be crucified, according to the Holy Bible,” shared Mia Fernandes, resident of Miramar.
A station can be defined as a pit stop between each recitation of the prayer. While there are 14 stations of the cross, each station has a specific image of what Jesus went through on his journey to Calvary. The faithful stop at each station and reflect in prayerful solidarity.
During this, one member from the crowd steps forward and stands facing the rest of the crowd while holding the crucifix up. The practice also involves kneeling down after every station as a form of reverence.
This motion is repeated until the 14th station of the cross after which the service ends.
Customarily followed every Friday during the Lenten season (Friday is observed to be the day when Jesus was crucified), the Way of the Cross is an act of commemorating the journey of the suffering of Jesus Christ by walking in his footsteps.
Some of the important elements of the Way of the Cross are the wooden cross or crucifix and the recitation of the Stations of the Cross.
Every village has its unique way of celebrating the Way of the Cross. In the the village of Dramapur in Salcete, the stations of the cross lead uphill to the Holy Cross.
In other places, there is a tradition of people carrying a heavy cross during the stations of the cross to signify Jesus's suffering and in some parishes, the Way of the Cross is held around the church.
As a native of the city of Panjim, right from the time I was a child, attending the way of the cross during the season of Lent was part of weekly routine for me on Friday.
The Friday’s itinerary was perfectly tailored around one or two hours of the evening that would be dedicated to walking up the picturesque staircase next to the yellow building of the Portuguese Consulate of Goa because this is where the Way of the Cross by the Panjim parish is held every year.
The Panjim church is situated just one left turn and a slope away from the Portuguese Consulate. After the evening mass, this is where the Way of the Cross would essentially begin.
While most of the people attending the sorrowful walk make their way directly to the first station of the cross which is situated at the beginning of the stairs, others prefer starting their journey with a little bit of extra walking – down the laterite steps of the church.
As the service begins and the crucifix is handed from one person to the next, many look forward to this honour, while others shy away from being the centre of attraction.
When we were younger, the desire to stand in front of a small group of people and hold up a large wooden cross – which was way bigger than our tiny hands could balance – was strong. However, now, as grown-ups, we often shy away from this duty.
It is almost as if our smaller palms held more faith than a pair of grown hands.
Most places have designated stations which are permanent structures built of stone. In many villages, people also use crosses that have been built on the side of the road as stations.
In some parishes, where there are no crosses, houses become the stations during the Way of the Cross.
The last station of the cross is the one where Jesus is laid in the tomb. This station is usually marked by a religious landmark that is bigger than the rest.
Often lost in translation, the Way of the Cross is more than just a Lenten practice that people follow as a matter of force of habit.
Because, to the ones that believe, this bitter-sweet walk of penance and gratitude has been passed down from generation to generation - a timeless example of how love often means sacrifice.