On this first Sunday of Advent, I wanted to share a special place I visited at sunset yesterday. Advent Sunday marks the beginning of a renewed commitment to the Christian faith. Yesterday was my second visit to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross in San Luis, the oldest city in Colorado. San Luis in southern Colorado was founded in 1851. Ironically, the first time I hiked up the hill to see the Stations of the Cross was an Easter Sunday several years ago.
To me, this pilgrimage up Piety and Mercy Hill is extremely moving as you view the statues filled with so much drama and poignancy. As you wind up the path, there is enough time for you to take each one in, feel Christ, reflect, and pray. Local artist Huberto Maestas created the passionate works. His bronze sculptures are graphic meditations of the last hours of Christ’s life. In the Stations of the Cross, you witness His judgment, sufferings, death, and resurrection.
Representing the fourteen pauses Jesus Christ made as he went from being condemn in Pilate’s court to dying on the Calvary Cross along with the Resurrection, the Stations of the Cross have been around for centuries. Some stops are written about in scripture, and others are taken from Christian tradition. If you have been in a church or cathedral, you’ve likely seen then depicted in painting, woodwork, or stained glass.
I’ve never seen a more passionate depiction than in the bronze sculptures in San Luis. Driving into town, you’ll see the adobe Capital perched on the hill. Walk the path and you can’t help but be moved. The people in the sculptures are about four feet tall with the cross much larger. The sorrow, violence, love, and passion depicted in the sculptures may leave you emotionally exhausted, but hopefully the walk will also nurture your faith with tremendous gratitude.
As you begin the half mile walk up Piety and Mercy Hill, the first thing you see is a simple cross.
At the first station, you’ll immediately see the drama depicted in the sculptures. Station I is “Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die.”
Station II is “Jesus Accepts His Cross.”
Station III is “Jesus Falls for the First Time.” The pain in Jesus’ face is so vividly depicted in this station. I walked away with a very heavy heart.
Station IV is “Jesus Meets His Mother.” In this one, you see a mother’s love and pain. The display of humanity of the souls depicted in these sculptures in riveting. You see it too in Station V “Simon Helps Carry the Cross” and Station VI “Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.”
Station VII “Jesus Falls the Second Time” is gut wrenching.
In Station VIII “Jesus Speaks to the Women” you see the unspeakable sorrow in the women’s faces.
Station IX “Jesus Falls the Third Time” is even more gut wrenching than Station III or VII. You sense the horrific pain.
Station X “Jesus is Stripped of His Garment” depicts the indignity of the tragic moment followed by the callous violence of a soldier pounding in the nails in Station XI “Jesus is Nailed to the Cross.”
Station XII is “The Crucifixion Jesus Dies on the Cross.” The sheer sorrow and pain on this journey culminates here. But, the sky behind the moving sculpture was filled with clouds whisking by in the day’s last rays of sunshine. I can’t explain it, but for some reason, that gave me a feeling of tremendous hope.
Station XIII is “Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross.” Like Station VI, the depiction of a mother’s love, pain, and unbearable sorrow is overwhelming.
Station XIV is “Jesus is Laid in the Tomb.” It is a somber tomb of rocks marked with a cross. On the cross are rosaries left by others who have made this same pilgrimage.
Station XV is “The Resurrection of Jesus.” As I came up to this one, I was filled with tremendous joy. It is a depiction of Christ with his arm outstretched up to Heaven. Seeing it at sunset was nothing short of breathtaking.
The Capilla was locked so I didn’t get to go inside on this visit. But I can tell you it is a simple, beautiful spiritual place. If it is open, sit quietly, pray, or meditate.
In this homage to the spirit, I prayed the entire way back down the hill, glancing back over my shoulder to see the hill in the lit up in the glow of sunset, and enjoying the view of San Luis. Fitting, I thought, that I would return to this holy place at the beginning of Advent. My first visit, on Easter celebrating The Resurrection. This visit, at the beginning of the season celebrating Christ’s birth. God does work in mysterious ways.