History and Explanation of the Devotion
The Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) follows the course of Jesus' passion, death, and burial; it is observed by the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, a collection of 14 images which are to be found in virtually all Catholic churches. The Way of Light (Via Lucis) celebrates the most joyful time in the Christian liturgical year, the fifty days from Easter (the resurrection) to Pentecost (descent of the Holy Spirit). The idea for depicting the Way of Light was inspired by an ancient inscription found on a wall of the San Callisto Catacombs on the Appian Way in Rome. This cemetery is named for Saint Callistus, a slave who eventually became the 16th pope (217-222). The inscription found at Saint Callistus comes from the first letter St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (around 56 A.D.), in response to the report that some members were denying the Resurrection. The full statement in the letter is (1 Corinthians 15:3-8):
I delivered to you as of first importance what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles. Last of all, he appeared to me, too, as though I was born when no one expected it.
In the 1990s, Father Sabino Palumbieri, a Salesian priest in Rome, helped develop the idea to combine the events mentioned in the Saint Callistus inscription with other post-Resurrection events to create a new set of stations, the Stations of the Resurrection. These new stations emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story that is not absent from the Way of the Cross, but is not as evident because of its tortuous side. This Way of Light, as it was called, thus serves as a complement to the Way of the Cross, and was fashioned of fourteen stations paralleling the fourteen Stations of the Cross.
This devotion has received formal recognition by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Via Lucis was listed (#153) in its Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (December 2001):
A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus-from his Resurrection to his Ascension-in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Luke: 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church.
Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith-the resurrection of Christ-and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Colossians 1, 13; Ephesians 5, 8).
For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fixed its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Pascal event, namely the Lord's Resurrection.
The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since "per crucem ad lucem." Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God's plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man's true end: liberation, joy, and peace, which are essentially paschal values.
The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a "culture of life" which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a "culture of death", despair, and nihilism.