return to Body Theology

The Way of Light (Via Lucis)

Stations of the Resurrection

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 Crucis) 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 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 document "Give Me a Firm Footing" (1999) describing the realizations that he had "after a profound crisis of existential meaning…because of the prospect of death" followed by 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 Crucis, 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 Crucis, 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 Crucis, which is the mirror of the hopes of the world, especially of those to whom it most rightly belongs, the poor.

The fourteen stations of resurrection that came from this effort were these:

Station 1 Jesus rises from the dead (Matthew 28:5-6).
Station 2 Women find the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-6).
Station 3 The risen Lord appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:16).
Station 4 Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the apostles (John 20:18).
Station 5 The risen Lord appears on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27).
Station 6 The risen Lord is recognized in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:28-32).
Station 7 The risen Lord appears to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-39).
Station 8 The risen Lord gives the disciples the power to forgive (John 20:22-23).
Station 9 The risen Lord strengthens the faith of Thomas (John 20:24-29).
Station 10 The risen Lord says to Peter, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).
Station 11 The risen Lord sends the disciples into the whole world (Matthew 28:16-20).
Station 12 The risen Lord ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
Station 13 Waiting with Mary in the Upper Room (Acts 1:12-14).
Station 14 The risen Lord sends the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4).

Images were initially given to these fourteen stations by the sculptor Giovanni Dragoni were carved in wood. This devotion was first blessed on Easter Sunday 1994, in Turin, Italy, at the hill of Becchi, the birthplace of Saint John Bocso, founder of the Salesian Order to which Father Sabino Palumbieri belongs. These wooden images are on display at Colle Don Bosco (see below). Close up images of these can be seen at:

Via Lucis at Colle Don Bosco

The 14th station of the Via Lucis at Colle Don Bosco

The 14th Station (The risen Lord sends the Holy Spirit) in wood by Giovanni Dragoni at the Colle Don Bosco (where St. John Bosco was born on August 16, 1815).

Another set of images of the 14 stations by Giovanni Dragoni, in metal, are displayed outdoors at the San Callisto Catacombs, along one segment of the path that runs from the small church known as Domino Quo Vadis? to the Basilica of San Sebastiano.

Giovanni Dragoni's Station One (Jesus Rises from the Dead) at the Callisto Catecombs

Giovanni Dragoni's Station One (Jesus Rises from the Dead) at the Callisto Catecombs

Giovanni Dragoni's Station Five (The risen Lord appears on the road to Emmaus) at the Callisto Catecombs

Giovanni Dragoni's Station Five (The risen Lord appears on the road to Emmaus) at the Callisto Catecombs

This devotion, celebrated in several places around the world with development of locally inspired artistic representations of the fourteen stations, has received formal recognition by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Via Crucis was listed (#153) in its Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (December 2001):

A pious exercise called the Via Crucis 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 Crucis, 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 Crucis, 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 Crucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since "per crucem ad lucem." Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Crucis 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 Crucis 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.


Images with prayers for the 14 stations of the Way of Light can be seen at: [in Italian] [in English]

A pamphlet with the original Giovanni Dragoni sculptures and text by Father Sabino Palumbieri (translated to English) is Via Crucis published by the Catholic Truth Society (England).

A pamphlet with the original Giovanni Dragoni sculptures and text by Father Sabino Palumbieri