"Try this: Place a small container of soil on a sunny windowsill and bury a seed in it from an orange, tomato, lemon, lime, apple, or any fruit or vegetable, you happen to have in the kitchen. Then wait and see what happens. Give the earth a little water when it dries, and chances are that you will soon be surprised and rewarded by joy.

"Something similar happens when we practice the Stations of Light. Each of us has a small seed of the divine embedded at the center of our bodies that needs only a little tending to open and grow into something beautiful. And amazingly, the sacred process never ends. It is as though the original divine seed was always there, opening and reopening, giving birth over and over as long as we live. All we are asked to do is trust the interplay of darkness and light and give the seed a little help by keeping the soil moist and saying 'yes' to the grace of the moment.

"The Way of Light is a spirituality of joy because praying the stations leads to growth and amazing surprises. Even when we use the practices to get through a difficult time, they release a lightheartedness and gladness to be alive from a space in the soul that is deeper than feelings, thoughts and images. Each exercise seeks to be exhilarating by reinforcing the clear New Testament teaching that spiritual life is an invitation to maximize joy despite deep pain. Saint Anselm of Canterbury said it well some ten centuries ago: 'I have known a joy that is full, and more than full,' meaning that the depth and breadth of joy that we receive in the spiritual journey surpasses even our greatest expectations.

"As your progress from station to station on the Way of Light, you may notice an evolution of joy from early glimmers of it to rapture. At the beginning of Station 1, before anyone learns of the Resurrection, there is a sense of the deep grief experienced by Christ's loved ones in the face of his harrowing execution and subsequent disappearance of his body. The psychic state of the first person we meet, the especially beloved disciple Mary Magdalene, is desolation, but that desolation is short-lived. Immediately angels, whose very beings symbolize bliss, descend from the heavens to seed the Way of Light with joy by announcing the Resurrection. By the time you reach the Third Station, Christ has reappeared and makes himself known to Mary in a moving scene that causes her heart to burst open with love. When he sends her to share the news with his disciples, it is not difficult to imagine her happiness soaring — like our own when we share a beautiful experience with a friend, and the beauty is magnified.

"When we reach the Fifth and Sixth Stations, two more disciples, Cleopas and Mary, the parents of James and Joses, meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and their hearts virtually catch on fire with wonder and awe as he teaches them the meaning of his life and death. Before long, Jesus appears to a large number of his followers in the Upper Room, and we feel a spirit of soaring, contagious joy overtaking the entire room. The progression continues, swells, warms, and by the time we arrive at the Thirteenth Station, 'Waiting with Mary in the Upper Room,' the exultation is building toward the great culmination of the Way of Light on Pentecost in an explosion of wisdom and bliss. The whole community is gathered around Mary, raising their hearts 'in one voice' of prayer praising God, and just when we feel there can be no greater joy than this great song of praise, the Fourteenth Station brings us to the fiery descent of the Spirit of Christ over the community, lifting everyone into a state of sheer ecstasy.

"Joy evolves through the Fourteen Stations of the Light like a contagion, passing from person to person, growing in strength and intensity, unveiling divine purposes, motivating the community to persevere in the life of prayer. Part of the teaching of the Way of Light is that joy is so integral to Christian spirituality that it belongs close to the 'theological virtues' of faith, hope and love. The very pattern of the Christian believer's life includes joy, as Jesus taught his disciples with the following words: 'These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full' (John 15:11).

"The greatest gift of the Way of Light is itself, precisely because it is a joyful spirituality."