After a wonderful 9 days in Washington and New York, I am safely back in Rome. Those were days spent with good friends and making new friends, celebrating Easter in the U.S. for the first time in years and dining out in favorite restaurants but also time dedicated to work, posting blogs and FB stories, doing an inteview for “Vatican Insider,” talking with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly slot on “Catholic Connection and preparing last weekend’s VI special on the Via Lucis.
You will find the print version that story – one I enjoyed researching and then recounting on VI – below. Enjoy again!
I went to Mass yesterday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Newt and Callista Gingrich. Cardinal Dolan presides at the 10:15 Sunday Mass, and he spotted us and asked us to come to his residence afterward where we had coffee and sweets and shared some time with a couple from Birmingham (!) and another from the island nation of Malta.
The cardinal’s secretary, Fr. James, took this photo with a cell phone and for the life of me I cannot seem to enlarge it. For the nth time I’ve searched online and on the WordPress site for how to resize photos once they are uploaded and I have not been succssful in resizing.
Today’s Vatican news: The nineteenth meeting of the Holy Father Francis with the Council of Cardinals began this morning. The work of the “Council 9” will continue until Wednesday, April 26.
MUSEUMS AT WORK: WATCHING VATICAN ART RESTORERS
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Museums have launched a new scientific-cultural initiative entitled “Museums at Work” to show visitors the process of restoring a work of art.
Taking place over the coming months in Room XVII of the Vatican Pinacoteca, the “Museums at Work” program seeks to show the public “the everyday activities of the Pope’s Museums”.
The initiative presents the restoration of the triptych of “The Virgin bestows her belt to Saint Thomas, The Mass of Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome Penitent” (1497) by Viterbo Antonio del Massaro. (photos news.va)
The Vatican Museums’ website says the triptych is “a painting possibly destined for an important Roman monastic community with strong doctrinal interests and particular devotion to the Virgin and to the Fathers of the Church.”
Restoration efforts for the triptych were financed by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts.
THE VIA LUCIS, STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION
Because we are still in the Easter season, I thought it would be timely, fun and informative to introduce you to something that relatively few people know about – the Via Lucis – the Way of Light – also known as the Stations of the Resurrection. (Sources: Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada; www.itmonline.com, CNA, Vatican)
First, let’s look at the 50 Days of Easter as explained on the website of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in Canada: “We spend 40 days preparing for and counting down to the great celebration of Easter, the day that Christians around the world remember the resurrection of Christ. What many do not realize is that Easter is not a single day but rather it is a season made up of 50 days. We continue to live Easter for six consecutive Sundays before commemorating Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. The Easter season culminates the following week with the feast of Pentecost, the day the apostles were sent out, accompanied by the Holy Spirit, on their great mission. ”At Masses during the Easter season, the usual Old Testament reading is replaced by readings from the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles recount the story of the Church’s earliest days, and the beginnings of our faith. These stories of heroism, controversies, persecutions and miracles all testify to the continued presence of the Risen Christ in the world, through the lives of his disciples, and the actions of the Holy Spirit.”
How is this related to the Via Lucis? This post-Easter period, as told by the Apostles, IS the Via Lucis!
Now, we all know that the Via Crucis – the Way of the Cross – follows the course of Jesus’ passion, death, and burial. This is observed by the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, a collection of 14 images that are found in virtually all Catholic churches. What fewer people know about is the Via Lucis – the Way of Light, also called the Stations of the Resurrection – which celebrates the most joyful time in the Christian liturgical year, the 50 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 St. Callistus, a slave who eventually became the 16th pope, reigning from 217 to 222. The inscription found at St. 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.
Paul wrote: “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 traditional scheme of the Stations of the Cross, the final Station is the burial of Jesus. Though this constitutes a logical conclusion to the Via Crucis, it has been increasingly regarded as unsatisfactory as an end-point to meditation upon the Péaschal mystery which, according to Christian doctrine, culminates in, and is incomplete without, the Resurrection. For this reason a fifteenth Station, representing the Resurrection, is sometimes added to the Stations of the Cross. Even this practice has, however, been subject to criticism as insufficiently representing the two-fold dynamic of the Paschal mystery: the suffering and death of Jesus on the one hand, and on the other his Resurrection and glorification.
In the summer of 1988, Father Sabino Palumbieri, Professor of Anthropology at the Salesian University in Rome, proposed the creation of a new set of stations, centered upon the Resurrection and the events following from it, so as to emphasize the positive, hopeful aspect of the Christian story which, though not absent from the Stations of the Cross, is obscured by their emphasis upon suffering.
The first major public celebration of this devotion was in 1990, after which it gained greater currency. Fr. Palumbieri helped develop the idea to combine the events mentioned in the St. 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 an optimistic complement to the Way of the Cross, and was fashioned of fourteen stations paralleling the fourteen Stations of the Cross. Father Sabino wrote of this idea in the 1999 document, “Give Me a Firm Footing,” that described the realizations he had “after a profound crisis of existential meaning…because of the prospect of death.” This was followed by a study of the Gospels and recognizing that, “With the Risen One, I know why I live.”
“Personally – thanks to this turning point of faith – I was able to continually proclaim the Risen One and in this way propose, as Paul VI said, Christianity as joy, as continual striving to supersede the stalemate of suffering without an outlet. The Lord Jesus is for me He who has made me meet along my journey hundreds of brothers and sisters, youth and adults, so that together we might better remember this central portent which is the resurrection from the dead in a community in journey. In this community a new form of popular piety, by his grace, was sketched out. It is the Via Lucis, which is the physiological second moment of the Via Crucis, that by now has spread itself throughout the five continents. Its celebration has been accompanied by moments of special grace at Jerusalem, at Moscow, on the soil of the martyrs in the catacombs of Saint Callistus. So many suffering people write to me saying that every day they do a station of the Via Lucis, drawing from it strength, joy and peace. Also the very poor communities of Madagascar, of Brazil, Peru. It does not mean abolishing the Via Crucis, which is the mirror of the suffering of Calvary without end in the world. It means only completing it with the Via Lucis, which is the mirror of the hopes of the world, especially of those to whom it most rightly belongs, the poor.”
All the Stations of the Resurrection are based on scripturally-recorded incidents contained in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
As with the Stations of the Cross, the devotion takes no fixed form, but typically includes for each Station a reading from Scripture, a short meditation and a prayer. Where a series of pictures is used to aid the devotion, it takes the form of a procession with movement from one Station to the next sometimes being accompanied by the singing of one or more verses of a hymn.
This devotion has received formal recognition by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In December 2001, it promulgated a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, which commended the Via Lucis as follows:
“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; Lk 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. Col 1, 13; Eph 5, 8). For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fix 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 Paschal event, namely the Lord’s Resurrection. The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since “per crucem ad lucem” [through the Cross (one comes) to the light]. 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.”
As of 2007 there is no universally-agreed list of Stations of the Resurrection, nor have any Church authorities sought to impose a definitive list, and as a result some churches have commissioned sets of sculptures for the Stations according to their own distinctive scheme which may not be followed elsewhere.
This is, in fact, similar to the history of the Stations of the Cross, which attained their normative form only after many centuries of widely varying local practice. There is agreeement on the number of stations – 14 – to emphasize the complementarity between the Stations of the Cross – Via Crucis – and the Stations of the Resurrection – Via Lucis.
In spite of continuing local variability, there appears to be an increasing convergence upon the following 14 as an accepted list of Stations of the Resurrection: These 14 stations, in fact, appeared in the April 2015 edition of MAGNIFICAT with Meditations and Prayers and an introduction by MAGNIFICAT Editor-in Chief, Dominican Father Peter Cameron.
- Jesus is raised from the dead
- The finding of the empty tomb
- Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus
- Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
- Jesus reveals Himself in the breaking of bread
- Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
- Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
- Jesus confirms the faith of Thomas
- Jesus appears to disciples on shore of Lake Galilee
- Jesus confers primacy on Peter
- Jesus entrusts the disciples with Universal Mission
- The Ascension of Jesus
- Mary and the disciples wait the coming of the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost
Other sources, however, including some recent ones, replace some of these Stations with others, such as: The earthquake – The Angel appears to the women – Jesus meets the women – Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the disciples Jesus and the beloved disciple – Jesus appears to over five hundred at once – Jesus appears to Saul.
I hope you enjoyed this report that I aired as a special on “Vatican Insider.” I loved learning about the Via Lucis, the Stations of the Resurrection and think it would be wonderful to organize a pilgrimsage to the Holy Land based on these Stations!