The Paschal Way of the Light
Father Richard Veras
The Paschal Way of the Light, or Via Lucis, is a new religious practice proper to the Easter liturgical period. The characteristics of the new devotion resemble the Way of the Cross, or Via Crucis, and can be prayed individually or with others. Instead of carrying the cross, a symbol of the Passion, a Paschal candle or icon of the Resurrection is raised for all to see. Just as Friday is the special day for the Via Crucis, Sunday is the day for the Via Lucis. The Via Lucis includes fourteen stations for reflection on Christ’s pasch, from his Resurrection to Pentecost.
Jesus Rises from the Dead
“He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good.” (Mt 5:45)
Jesus rose. He rose for his sinless mother. He rose for his betraying friend, Peter. He rose for the tax collectors and sinners who believed in him as well as for the Pharisees who rejected him and the soldiers who killed him. His Resurrection is a fact. Where is my heart in front of the fact of the Resurrection? Our hearts should rejoice because now it is abundantly clear that our salvation does not have to do with our own goodness or badness, but with Jesus Christ, who has victory over death and evil. The Risen Jesus invites us into life. Our hearts need only say Yes.
Lord Jesus, may my eyes not be set on my own wretchedness, but on you and the superabundance of your Life, that my heart may rejoice and follow.
The Disciples Find the Empty Tomb
“Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” (Lk 24:5)
Mary Magdalene thought the body had perhaps been stolen. Peter seems not to have known what to think. Only one disciple, the beloved disciple, saw the empty tomb and believed. Only the disciple whom Jesus loved was able to look at an empty tomb and some burial cloths and be cer-tain that Jesus was alive, that love is stronger than death. It is only the experience of Jesus’ love, present in the flesh of the members of the Church, that makes the Christian heart recognize the Church as a life, the life of the Risen Christ, and not a mere organization or moral philosophy.
Lord Jesus, may I not relegate your Resurrected Life only to Sundays or to certain times and places, but may I recognize your life as it grows in even the most unlikely times and places.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” (Jn 20:16)
This is the woman from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. She seemed to be completely evil, completely lost. Yet this is the woman whom Jesus chooses as the first witness of his Resurrection. The Virgin Mary received the Annunciation of the Incarnation of our Lord. This Mary receives the announcement of the Resurrection. Let us look at this second, sinful Mary, let us contemplate the Risen Jesus saying her name with familiarity and love, and let us never think that our Lord would wait for us to be worthy before he gives us his Life.
Lord Jesus, may I never imagine that my sin could be stronger than your love and life.
Jesus Walks With the Disciples to Emmaus
“Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way?” (Lk 24:32)
How do I experience the love of the Risen Christ? These disciples met a man before whom their hearts were burning. A stranger with whom they found themselves completely attentive, completely willing to follow, completely generous! The love an engaged couple feels for one another, the love of the husband and wife of fifty years, the love for a child or a parent, the love for a best friend, a beloved teacher … anyone before whom my heart is generated and then pours itself forth in generosity … this is the love of Christ. He is in the flesh! His Presence in our lives is real! If only we recognize him when he walks with us!
Lord Jesus, let me not reduce or take for granted the human love and the human faces you continually give me as the evidence and continuation of your Resurrection.
Jesus Reveals Himself in the Breaking of the Bread
The two recounted [...] how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:35)
Jesus told us that whoever eats his flesh, the Bread of Life, would live for ever. The Last Supper, i.e., the First Eucharist, was already a prophecy of the Resurrection. Jesus gives his flesh for the life of the world. The Eucharist is a fountain of life. When the stranger on the road to Emmaus breaks the bread for the two disciples, they recognize him to be Jesus, alive! He disappears from their sight, but he remains with them in the Eucharist. The Resurrection is not limited to a point in time; it bursts forth in the sacraments and it continually gives life to the Church.
Lord Jesus, let my “Amen” to the Eucharist extend to become an “Amen” to all the unexpectedly ordinary ways you choose to come to me visibly and tangibly.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
When the doors were locked, where the disciples were, [...] Jesus came and stood in their midst. (Jn 20:19)
Recall how often Jesus criticizes his Apostles for lack of faith, and how often he commended people like the centurion and the woman with the hemorrhage for their great faith. Our lack of faith is shown when we decide that certain situations could not possibly be transformed by Christ. When friends or family try to encourage us we resist them with our cynicism or our claims that “you just don’t understand.” The disciples locked the doors for fear. Jesus burst through the doors for love. When I think there are aspects of my life where Jesus’ presence is impossible, I show how little faith I have in his power to save and in his particular love for me.
Lord Jesus, let me not be afraid to beg you to transform the situations and relationships which seem to me to be out of your reach. May the life of hope have victory over the death of my cynicism.
Jesus Confers on His Disciples the Power to Forgive Sins
“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.” (Jn 20:23)
Our human experience can help us understand why the forgiveness of sins is so closely tied to the Resurrection. There is perhaps no moment when love is so clear as when I receive mercy from someone whom I betrayed. There is perhaps nothing that awakens and generates me like receiving forgiveness, especially the forgiveness of God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Life can begin again, even after I have done so much to betray the life I have been given. The experience of forgiveness is truly the experience of a life which is indestructible.
Lord Jesus, may your Risen life continually pull me back and raise me up from the death of sin.
Jesus Confirms Thomas in Faith
“Have you come to believe because you have seen me?” (Jn 20:29)
With Jesus and Thomas we see mercy in action. Thomas was not originally gathered with the other Apostles. Where was he? When his friends tell him they have seen Jesus, he doesn’t believe them! He has no reason to doubt his friends’ unified witness. His stubbornness and willfulness is unreasonable. Yet Jesus comes and gives him what he asks for, along with a gentle and fatherly reprimand. “Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.” Blessed would the people of India be, those people who would meet Jesus through the life they saw in Thomas. A life generated, no doubt, by the love and mercy he had seen and touched in Jesus.
Lord Jesus may I never look back on my betrayals, but always go forth in the life toward which your love and mercy propel me.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples on the Shore of Lake Galilee
“Have you caught anything to eat?” (Jn 21:5)
Jesus appeared as a stranger on the shore. He begins with a question that perhaps anybody might have yelled out to the fishing boat. From there he recommends they cast to the other side, and what unfolds is the re-happening of an event in their lives with Jesus. They recognize Jesus not by his face, but by the way he looks at the circumstance, judges it, and invests it with his Presence. The discovery of Jesus never would have happened had they not been open to recognizing something familiar about this stranger. This encounter with Jesus is possible because the Apostles follow the sign by which Jesus progressively reveals himself.
Lord Jesus, may I rediscover the teachings of the Church, the sacraments, and the people and circumstances of my life to be signs by which you increasingly reveal yourself to me.
Jesus Confers Primacy on Peter
“Simon, son of John, do you love me? [ ... ] Feed my sheep.” (Jn21:17)
Once again, the Resurrection is revealed in mercy. Jesus asks Peter three times “do you love me!’ He is tenderly revealing to Peter that his betrayals are forgiven. The rock on which the Church is built is the love Peter has for Jesus, a love that brings Peter back to Jesus after every sin. In front of this loving attachment to Jesus sin has no power, for Jesus said, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me” (Jn 6:37). Peter will be the ideal leader of the Church, for he will be a man of mercy, having learned at the hands of the Good Shepherd that mercy is the hope of the human heart and the hope of the Church. In front of the victorious mercy of Jesus, Peter’s betrayals become like Adam’s sin, a “happy fault.”
Lord Jesus, may your mercy perform the miracle of bringing me closer to you than I was before I sinned, and thus make me a living sign of your Resurrection.
Jesus Entrusts His Disciples with a Universal Mission
“Go, [...] make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 28:19)
In Mark’s Gospel, he is very clear that Jesus did not “appoint” Apostles; rather, he “made” Apostles. He made them something. He changed them so that they became something substantially different than they were before. At the Last Supper and Resurrection he makes them “other Christs.” The Apostles’ mission will be the same as Jesus’ mission. They will not only teach people about Jesus, but make them “other Christs” through baptism, so that the Resurrected life of Christ may spread throughout the world. Christ is one with the Apostles and their successors, for it is through their cooperation with Christ that his Resurrection, his Mystical Body continues to live and grow in the world.
Lord Jesus, may bishops and priests follow you thankfully and humbly, and may all the faithful rejoice to have been made one with you in baptism.
Jesus Ascends into Heaven
“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” (Acts 1:11)
Jesus told the Apostles that it would be better for them that he go to the Father. This must have confounded the disciples. How can it be good to be separated from one with whom you desire unity? The Apostles would discover the answer to this question when they found themselves, with the Holy Spirit, doing the very same things Jesus did: healing the sick, raising the dead, witnessing before persecutors. They were closer to Jesus than even the most faithful follower could have been when Jesus walked among them, for now they discovered an astounding oneness with the Risen Lord. This unimaginable communion must still have confounded them, but it was now a mystery full of joy and wonder.
Lord Jesus, may I become a spectacle to myself as my following you in the Church makes me more and more your very Presence in the world.
Mary and the Disciples Await the Coming of the Holy Spirit’s Pentecost
All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. (Acts 1:14)
Israel had waited and prayed for 2,000 years for the Messiah, and the prayer was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came to Mary. Mary now remains in prayer with the disciples. For her, it must have been a prayer full of certainty and wonder. She had no doubt that through the Holy Spirit her Son would enter the world, as he had entered her womb; and yet the mode of his Presence through his weak and fearful disciples would be a miracle that could not be imagined, but only encountered.
Come, Holy Spirit, come through Mary.
Jesus Sends the Spirit Promised by the Father to His Disciples
“Receive the holy Spirit.” (Jn 20:22)
The coming of the Holy Spirit is indispensable. Without the Holy Spirit’s coming continually to make the Risen Lord tangibly present, the Incarnation and the Resurrection would be events that never reach me and never touch me. I know of these events, I place my faith in these events, I am changed by these events because they are made mysteriously present in the community of the Church, i.e., the communion and life of the members of the Body of Christ and the sacramental life that sustains them. This living body, this living unity is given and sustained through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the holy life-breath of the Church.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in them the fire of your love; send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
(Father Richard Veras is Director of Pastoral Formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. He is author of Jesus of Israel: Finding Christ in the Old Testament and Wisdom for Everyday Life from the Book of Revelation).