Holy Week homilies 2010 preached by Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI's Palm Sunday Homily
"The Cross Is Part of the Ascent Toward the Height of Jesus Christ"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2010 - Here is the text of the homily that Benedict XVI gave today in the Mass for Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square. Many young people participated in the celebration, which also marked this year's World Youth Day, held on a diocesan level worldwide.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young People!
The Gospel for the blessing of the palms that we have listened to together here in St. Peter's Square begins with the phrase: "Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem" (Luke 19:28). Immediately at the beginning of the liturgy this day, the Church anticipates her response to the Gospel, saying, "Let us follow the Lord." With that the theme of Palm Sunday is clearly expressed. It is about following. Being Christian means seeing the way of Jesus Christ as the right way of being human -- as that way that leads to the goal, to a humanity that is fully realized and authentic. In a special way, I would like to repeat to all the young men and women, on this 25th World Youth Day, that being Christian is a journey, or better: It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ. A going in that direction that he has pointed out to us and is pointing out to us.
But what direction are we talking about? How do we find it? The line from our Gospel offers two indications in this connection. In the first place it says that it is a matter of an ascent. This has in the first place a very literal meaning. Jericho, where the last stage of Jesus's pilgrimage began, is 250 meters below sea-level while Jerusalem -- the goal of the journey -- is 740-780 meters above sea level: an ascent of almost 1,000 meters. But this external rout is above all an image of the interior movement of existence, which occurs in the following of Christ: It is an ascent to the true height of being human. Man can choose an easy path and avoid all toil. He can also descend to what is lower. He can sink into lies and dishonesty. Jesus goes ahead of us, and he goes up to what is above. He leads us to what is great, pure, he leads us to the healthy air of the heights: to life according to truth; to the courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of dominant opinions; to the patience that stands up for and supports the other. He leads us to availability to the suffering, to the abandoned; to the loyalty that stands with the other even when the situation makes it difficult.
He leads us to availability to bring help; to the goodness that does not let itself be disarmed not even by ingratitude. He leads us to love -- he leads us to God.
"Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem." If we read these words of the Gospel in the context of Jesus' way as a whole -- a way that, in fact, he travels to the end of time -- we can discover different meanings in the indication of "Jerusalem" as the goal. Naturally, first of all it must be simply understood as the place "Jerusalem:" It is the city in which one found God's Temple, the oneness of which was supposed to allude to the oneness of God himself. This place thus announces in the first place two things: On the one hand it says that there is only one God in all the world, who is completely beyond all our places and times; he is that God to whom all creation belongs. He is the God whom deep down all men seek and whom they all have knowledge of in some way. But this God has given himself a name. He has made himself known to us, he has launched a history with men; he chose a man -- Abram -- as the beginning of this history. The infinite God is at the same time the God who is near. He, who cannot be enclosed in any building, nevertheless wants to live among us, be completely with us.
If Jesus goes up to Jerusalem together with Israel on pilgrimage, he goes there to celebrate the Passover with Israel: the memorial of Israel's liberation -- a memorial that is always at the same time hope for the definitive liberation that God will give. And Jesus goes to this feast with the awareness that he himself is the Lamb spoken of in the Book of Exodus: a male lamb without blemish, which at twilight will be slaughtered before all of Israel "as a perpetual institution" (cf. Exodus 12:5-6, 14). And in the end Jesus knows that his way goes beyond this: It will not end in the cross. He knows that his way will tear away the veil between this world and God's world; that he will ascend to the throne of God and reconcile God and man in his body. He knows that his risen body will be the new sacrifice and the new Temple; that around him in the ranks of the angels and saints there will be formed the new Jerusalem that is in heaven and nevertheless also on earth. His way leads beyond the summit of the Temple mount to the height of God himself: This is the great ascent to which he calls all of us. He always remains with us on earth and has always already arrived [in heaven] with God; he leads us on earth and beyond the earth.
Thus in the breadth of Jesus' ascent the dimensions of our following of him become visible -- the goal to which he wants to lead us: to the heights of God, to communion with God, to being-with-God. This is the true goal, and communion with him is the way. Communion with Christ is being on a journey, a permanent ascent to the true height of our calling. Journeying together with Jesus is always at the same time a traveling together in the "we" of those who want to follow him. It brings us into this community. Because this journey to true life, to being men conformed to the model of the Son of God Jesus Christ is beyond our powers, this journeying is also always a state of being carried. We find ourselves, so to speak, in a "roped party"  with Jesus Christ -- together with him in the ascent to the heights of God. He pulls us and supports us. Letting oneself be part of a roped party is part of following Christ; we accept that we cannot do it on our own. The humble act of entering into the "we" of the Church is part of it -- holding on to the roped party, the responsibility of communion, not letting go of the rope because of our bullheadedness and conceit.
Humbly believing with the Church, like being bound together in a roped party ascending to God, is an essential condition for following Christ. Not acting as the owners of the Word of God, not chasing after a mistaken idea of emancipation -- this is also part of being together in the roped party. The humility of "being-with" is essential to the ascent. Letting the Lord take us by the hand through the sacraments is another part of it. We let ourselves be purified and strengthened by him, we let ourselves accept the discipline of the ascent, even if we are tired.
Finally, we must again say that the cross is part of the ascent toward the height of Jesus Christ, the ascent to the height of God. Just as in the affairs of this world great things cannot be done without renunciation and hard work (joy in great discoveries and joy in a true capacity for activity are linked to discipline, indeed, to the effort of learning) so also the way to life itself, to the realization of one's own humanity is linked to him who climbed to the height of God through the cross. In the final analysis, the cross is the expression of that which is meant by love: Only he who loses himself will find himself.
Let us summarize: Following Christ demands as a first step the reawakening of the nostalgia for being authentically human and thus the reawakening for God. It then demands that one enter into the roped party of those who climb, into the communion of the Church. In the "we" of the Church we enter into the communion with the "Thou" of Jesus Christ and therefore reach the way to God. Moreover, listening to and living Jesus Christ's word in faith, hope and love is also required. We are thus on the way to the definitive Jerusalem and already, from this point forward, we already find ourselves there in the communion of all God's saints.
Our pilgrimage in following Christ, then, is not directed toward any earthly city, but toward the new City of God that grows in the midst of this world. The pilgrimage to the earthly Jerusalem, nevertheless, can be something useful for us Christians for that greater voyage. I myself linked three meanings to my pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year. First, I thought that what St. John says at the beginning of his first letter could happen to us: That which we have heard, we can, in a certain way see and touch with our hands (cf. 1 John 1:1). Faith in Jesus Christ is not the invention of a fairy tale. It is founded on something that actually happened. We can, so to speak, contemplate and touch this historical event. It is moving to find oneself in Nazareth in the place where the angel appeared to Mary and transmitted the task of becoming Mother of the Redeemer to her. It is moving to be in Bethlehem in the place where the Word, made flesh, came to live among us; to put one's foot upon the holy ground where God wanted to make himself man and child.
It is moving to climb the steps up to Calvary to the place where Jesus died on the cross. And then standing before the empty tomb, praying there where his holy corpse lay and where on the third day the Resurrection occurred. Following the material paths of Jesus should help us to walk more joyously and with a new certainty along the interior paths that Jesus himself points out to us.
When we go to the Holy Land as pilgrims, we go there, however -- and this is the second aspect -- as messengers of peace too, with prayer for peace; with the firm invitation that everyone in that place (which bears the word "peace" in name), has everything possible so that it truly become a place of peace. Thus this pilgrimage is at the same time -- as the third aspect -- an encouragement to Christians to remain in the country of their origin and to commit themselves in an intense way to peace.
Let us return once more to the liturgy of Palm Sunday. The prayer with which the palms are blessed we pray so that in communion with Christ we can bear the fruit of good works. Following a mistaken interpretation of St. Paul, there has repeatedly developed over the course of history and today too, the opinion that good works are not part of being Christian, in any case they would not be significant for man's salvation. But if Paul says that works cannot justify man, he does not intend by this to oppose the importance of right action and, if he speaks of the end of the Law, he does not declare the Ten Commandments obsolete and irrelevant. It is not necessary at the moment to reflect on the whole question that the Apostle was concerned with. It is important to stress that by the term "Law" he does not mean the Ten Commandments, but the complex way of life by which Israel had to protect itself against paganism. Now, however, Christ has brought God to the pagans. This form of distinction was not to be imposed upon them.
Christ alone was given to them as Law. But this means the love of God and neighbor and all that pertains to it. The Ten Commandments read in a new and deeper way beginning with Christ are part of this love. These commandments are nothing other than the basic rules of true love: first of all and as fundamental principle, the worship of God, the primacy of God, which the first three commandments express. They tell us: Without God nothing comes out right. Who this God is and how he is, we know from the person of Jesus Christ. The sanctity of the family follows (fourth commandment), holiness of life (fifth commandment), the ordering of matrimony (sixth commandment), the regulation of society (seventh commandment) and finally the inviolability of the truth (eighth commandment). All of this is of maximum relevance today and precisely also in St. Paul's sense -- if we read all of his letters. "Bear fruit with good works:" At the beginning of Holy Week we pray to the Lord to grant all of us this fruit more and more.
At the end of the Gospel for the blessing of the palms we hear the acclamation with which the pilgrims greet Jesus at the gates of Jerusalem. They are the words of Psalm 118 (117), that originally the priests proclaimed to the pilgrims from the Holy City but that, after a period, became an expression of messianic hope: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Psalm 118:26; Luke 19:38). The pilgrims see in Jesus the one whom they have waited for, who comes in the name of the Lord, indeed, according to the St. Luke's Gospel, they insert another word: "Blessed is he who comes, the king, in the name of the Lord."
And they follow this with an acclamation that recalls the message of the angels at Christmas, but they modify it in a way that gives pause. The angels had spoken of the glory of God in the highest heavens and of peace on earth for men of divine goodwill. The pilgrims at the entrance to the Holy City say: "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!" They know well that there is no peace on earth. And they know that the place of peace is in heaven. Thus this acclamation is an expression of a profound suffering and it is also a prayer of hope: May he who comes in the name of the Lord bring to earth what is in heaven. The Church, before the Eucharistic consecration, sings the words of the Psalm with which Jesus is greeted before his entrance into the Holy City: It greets Jesus as the King who, coming from God, enters in our midst in God's name.
Today too this joyous greeting is always supplication and hope. Let us pray to the Lord that he bring heaven to us: God's glory and peace among men. We understand such a greeting in the spirit of the request of the Our Father: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!" We know that heaven is heaven, a place of glory and peace, because there the will of God rules completely. And we know that earth is not heaven until the will of God is accomplished on it. So we greet Jesus, who comes from heaven and we pray to him to help us know and do God's will. May the royalty of God enter into the world and in this way it be filled with the splendor of peace. Amen.
On the Paschal Mystery
"Let Yourselves Be Enthralled by Him"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
We are living the holy days that invite us to meditate on the central events of our redemption, the essential nucleus of our faith. Tomorrow the Easter Triduum begins, summit of the whole liturgical year, in which we are called to silence and prayer to contemplate the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.
In their homilies, the Fathers often make reference to these days that, as St. Athanasius observes in one of his Easter letters, introduce us "into that time that makes us know a new beginning, the day of Holy Easter, in which the Lord immolated himself" (Letter 5,1-2: PG 26, 1379).
I exhort you, therefore, to live these days intensely so that they will decisively orient each one's life to a generous and convinced adherence to Christ, dead and resurrected for us.
The Holy Chrism Mass, morning prelude of Holy Thursday, will find gathered together tomorrow morning the presbyters with their respective bishops. During a significant Eucharistic celebration, which customarily takes place in the diocesan cathedrals, the oil of the sick, of the catechumens and the chrism will be blessed. Moreover, the bishop and the presbyters will renew their priestly promises pronounced on the day of ordination. This gesture takes on this year a special importance, because it is situated in the ambit of the Year for Priests, which I proclaimed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of the holy Curé d'Ars. I would like to repeat to all priests the exhortation that I formulated as a conclusion of the letter of convocation: "In the footsteps of the Curé d'Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!!"
Tomorrow afternoon we will celebrate the moment of the institution of the Eucharist. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul confirmed the first Christians in the truth of the Eucharistic mystery, communicating to them what he had learned: "That the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
These words manifest with clarity Christ's intention: Under the species of bread and wine, he makes himself present in a real way with his body given and with his blood shed as sacrifice of the New Covenant. At the same time, he constitutes the Apostles and their successors as ministers in this sacrament, which he gives to his Church as supreme proof of his love.
With a thought-provoking rite we will remember as well Jesus' gesture washing the feet of the Apostles (cf. John 13:1-25). This act becomes, for the evangelist, the representation of Jesus' whole life and reveals his love to the end, an infinite love, capable of making man fit for communion with God and of making him free. At the end of the liturgy of Holy Thursday, the Church reposes the Most Holy Sacrament in a place especially prepared, which represents the loneliness of Gethsemane and Jesus' mortal anguish. Before the Eucharist, the faithful contemplate Jesus in the hour of his loneliness and pray for an end to all the loneliness of the world. This liturgical journey is, on the other hand, an invitation to seek an intimate encounter with the Lord in prayer, to recognize Jesus among those who are alone, to watch with him and to be able to proclaim him light of one's life.
On Good Friday we will remember the Passion and Death of the Lord. Jesus wished to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins, choosing for this end the most cruel and humiliating death: crucifixion. There is an indivisible connection between the Last Supper and Jesus' death. In the first, Jesus gives his body and blood, namely, his earthly existence, likewise, anticipating his death and transforming it into an act of love. Thus death that, by nature is the end, the destruction of every relationship, is made by him an act of communication of himself, the instrument of salvation and proclamation of the victory of love. In this way, Jesus becomes the key to understand the Last Supper, which is the anticipation of the violent death in voluntary sacrifice, an act of love that redeems and saves the world.
Holy Saturday is characterized by a great silence. The Churches are naked and no private liturgies are planned. In this time of expectation and hope, believers are invited to prayer, reflection and conversion also through the sacrament of reconciliation, to be able to participate, profoundly renewed, in the celebration of Easter.
On the night of Holy Saturday, during the solemn Easter Vigil, "mother of all vigils," this silence will be broken with the singing of the Alleluia, which announces the resurrection of Christ and proclaims the victory of light over darkness, of life over death. The Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord, entering the day of Easter that the Lord inaugurates resurrecting from the dead.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us dispose ourselves to live intensely this Holy Triduum now imminent, to be ever more profoundly inserted in the Mystery of Christ, dead and resurrected for us. May the Most Holy Virgin accompany us in this spiritual itinerary. May she, who followed Jesus in his passion and was present beneath the cross, introduce us into the Paschal Mystery, so that we will be able to experience the joy and peace of the Risen One.
With these sentiments I address to you already now my most cordial wishes for a holy Easter, extending them to your communities and to all your loved ones.
[The Holy Father then addressed the people in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Tomorrow the Church begins her celebration of the Easter Triduum, a time devoted to silent prayer and contemplation of the mystery of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection. The liturgies of these days invite us to ponder Christ's saving sacrifice and his promise of new life. In this Year for Priests, the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, at which priests renew the promises made on the day of their ordination, will take on a particular significance. May priests everywhere be conformed ever more closely to Christ as heralds of his message of hope, reconciliation and peace! The Mass of the Lord's Supper, celebrated the evening of Holy Thursday, recalls the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. The liturgy of Good Friday, in which we enter into the mystery of Christ's redemptive death, invites us to contemplate the deep relationship between the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Calvary. Following the great silence of Holy Saturday, the Easter vigil proclaims the resurrection of Christ and his victory over sin and death. May the joy of the resurrection even now fill our hearts as we prepare to celebrate the great events of the Lord's passover from death to the fullness of life. I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking visitors present in today's Audience, especially those from England, Japan, Canada and the United States. I also greet the various student groups present, including those taking part in the annual "Univ Congress." Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!
[In Italian, he said:]
Finally I direct my cordial thoughts to youth, the sick and newlyweds. May the contemplation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you ever more firm in your Christian witness. And you, dear sick, extract from the cross of Christ the daily support to overcome the moments of trial and distress. Dear newlyweds, may the strength to make your family a place of faithful and fruitful love come from the Paschal Mystery that we contemplate these days.
Papal Homily at Last Supper Mass
"Truly You Are a God Who Is Close, You Are a God-With-Us"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, held today in St. Peter's Basilica.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In his Gospel, Saint John, more fully than the other three evangelists, reports in his own distinctive way the farewell discourses of Jesus; they appear as his testament and a synthesis of the core of his message. They are introduced by the washing of feet, in which Jesus’ redemptive ministry on behalf of a humanity needing purification is summed up in a gesture of humility. Jesus’ words end as a prayer, his priestly prayer, whose background exegetes have traced to the ritual of the Jewish feast of atonement. The significance of that feast and its rituals – the world’s purification and reconciliation with God – is fulfilled in Jesus’ prayer, a prayer which anticipates his Passion and transforms it into a prayer. The priestly prayer thus makes uniquely evident the perpetual mystery of Holy Thursday: the new priesthood of Jesus Christ and its prolongation in the consecration of the Apostles, in the incorporation of the disciples into the Lord’s priesthood. From this inexhaustibly profound text, I would like to select three sayings of Jesus which can lead us more fully into the mystery of Holy Thursday.
First, there are the words: "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3). Everyone wants to have life. We long for a life which is authentic, complete, worthwhile, full of joy. This yearning for life coexists with a resistance to death, which nonetheless remains unescapable. When Jesus speaks about eternal life, he is referring to real and true life, a life worthy of being lived. He is not simply speaking about life after death. He is talking about authentic life, a life fully alive and thus not subject to death, yet one which can already, and indeed must, begin in this world. Only if we learn even now how to live authentically, if we learn how to live the life which death cannot take away, does the promise of eternity become meaningful. But how does this happen? What is this true and eternal life which death cannot touch? We have heard Jesus’ answer: this is eternal life, that they may know you – God – and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. Much to our surprise, we are told that life is knowledge. This means first of all that life is relationship. No one has life from himself and only for himself. We have it from others and in a relationship with others. If it is a relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful. But for that very reason, the destruction of that relationship by death can be especially painful, it can put life itself in question. Only a relationship with the One who is himself Life can preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death, can bring me through them alive. Already in Greek philosophy we encounter the idea that man can find eternal life if he clings to what is indestructible – to truth, which is eternal. He needs, as it were, to be full of truth in order to bear within himself the stuff of eternity. But only if truth is a Person, can it lead me through the night of death. We cling to God – to Jesus Christ the Risen One. And thus we are led by the One who is himself Life. In this relationship we too live by passing through death, since we are not forsaken by the One who is himself Life.
But let us return to Jesus’s words – this is eternal life: that they know you and the One whom you have sent. Knowledge of God becomes eternal life. Clearly "knowledge" here means something more than mere factual knowledge, as, for example, when we know that a famous person has died or a discovery was made. Knowing, in the language of sacred Scripture, is an interior becoming one with the other. Knowing God, knowing Christ, always means loving him, becoming, in a sense, one with him by virtue of that knowledge and love. Our life becomes authentic and true life, and thus eternal life, when we know the One who is the source of all being and all life. And so Jesus’ words become a summons: let us become friends of Jesus, let us try to know him all the more! Let us live in dialogue with him! Let us learn from him how to live aright, let us be his witnesses! Then we become people who love and then we act aright. Then we are truly alive.
Twice in the course of the priestly prayer Jesus speaks of revealing God’s name. "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world" (v. 6). "I have made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (v. 26). The Lord is alluding here to the scene of the burning bush, when God, at Moses’ request, had revealed his name. Jesus thus means to say that he is bringing to fulfilment what began with the burning bush; that in him God, who had made himself known to Moses, now reveals himself fully. And that in doing so he brings about reconciliation; that the love with which God loves his Son in the mystery of the Trinity now draws men and women into this divine circle of love. But what, more precisely, does it mean to say that the revelation made from the burning bush is finally brought to completion, fully attains its purpose? The essence of what took place on Mount Horeb was not the mysterious word, the "name" which God had revealed to Moses, as a kind of mark of identification. To give one’s name means to enter into relationship with another. The revelation of the divine name, then, means that God, infinite and self-subsistent, enters into the network of human relationships; that he comes out of himself, so to speak, and becomes one of us, present among us and for us. Consequently, Israel saw in the name of God not merely a word steeped in mystery, but an affirmation that God is with us. According to sacred Scripture, the Temple is the dwelling-place of God’s name. God is not confined within any earthly space; he remains infinitely above and beyond the world. Yet in the Temple he is present for us as the One who can be called – as the One who wills to be with us. This desire of God to be with his people comes to completion in the incarnation of the Son. Here what began at the burning bush is truly brought to completion: God, as a Man, is able to be called by us and he is close to us. He is one of us, yet he remains the eternal and infinite God. His love comes forth, so to speak, from himself and enters into our midst. The mystery of the Eucharist, the presence of the Lord under the appearances of bread and wine, is the highest and most sublime way in which this new mode of God’s being-with-us takes shape. "Truly you are a God who is hidden, O God of Israel", the prophet Isaiah had prayed (45:15). This never ceases to be true. But we can also say: Truly you are a God who is close, you are a God-with-us. You have revealed your mystery to us, you have shown your face to us. You have revealed yourself and given yourself into our hands… At this hour joy and gratitude must fill us, because God has shown himself, because he, infinite and beyond the grasp of our reason, is the God who is close to us, who loves us, and whom we can know and love.
The best-known petition of the priestly prayer is the petition for the unity of the disciples, now and yet to come: "I do not ask only on behalf of these – the community of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room – but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (v. 20ff.; cf. vv. 11 and 13). What exactly is the Lord asking for? First, he prays for his disciples, present and future. He peers into the distance of future history. He sees the dangers there and he commends this community to the heart of the Father. He prays to the Father for the Church and for her unity. It has been said that in the Gospel of John the Church is not present. Yet here she appears in her essential features: as the community of disciples who through the apostolic preaching believe in Jesus Christ and thus become one. Jesus prays for the Church to be one and apostolic. This prayer, then, is properly speaking an act which founds the Church.
The Lord prays to the Father for the Church. She is born of the prayer of Jesus and through the preaching of the Apostles, who make known God’s name and introduce men and women into the fellowship of love with God. Jesus thus prays that the preaching of the disciples will continue for all time, that it will gather together men and women who know God and the one he has sent, his Son Jesus Christ. He prays that men and women may be led to faith and, through faith, to love. He asks the Father that these believers "be in us" (v. 21); that they will live, in other words, in interior communion with God and Jesus Christ, and that this inward being in communion with God may give rise to visible unity. Twice the Lord says that this unity should make the world believe in the mission of Jesus. It must thus be a unity which can be seen – a unity which so transcends ordinary human possibilities as to become a sign before the world and to authenticate the mission of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ prayer gives us the assurance that the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history; that it will always awaken faith and gather men and women into unity – into a unity which becomes a testimony to the mission of Jesus Christ. But this prayer also challenges us to a constant examination of conscience. At this hour the Lord is asking us: are you living, through faith, in fellowship with me and thus in fellowship with God? Or are you rather living for yourself, and thus apart from faith? And are you not thus guilty of the inconsistency which obscures my mission in the world and prevents men and women from encountering God’s love? It was part of the historical Passion of Jesus, and remains part of his ongoing Passion throughout history, that he saw, and even now continues to see, all that threatens and destroys unity. As we meditate on the Passion of the Lord, let us also feel Jesus’ pain at the way that we contradict his prayer, that we resist his love, that we oppose the unity which should bear witness before the world to his mission.
At this hour, when the Lord in the most holy Eucharist gives himself, his body and his blood, into our hands and into our hearts, let us be moved by his prayer. Let us enter into his prayer and thus beseech him: Lord, grant us faith in you, who are one with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Grant that we may live in your love and thus become one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe. Amen.
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Benedict XVI's Chrism Mass Homily
"Christ Does Not Conquer Through the Sword, but Through the Cross"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the Chrism Mass held at St. Peter's Basilica.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the centre of the Church’s worship is the notion of "sacrament". This means that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through his action, he looks upon us and he leads us to himself. Another striking feature is this: God touches us through material things, through gifts of creation that he takes up into his service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and himself. There are four elements in creation on which the world of sacraments is built: water, bread, wine and olive oil. Water, as the basic element and fundamental condition of all life, is the essential sign of the act in which, through baptism, we become Christians and are born to new life. While water is the vital element everywhere, and thus represents the shared access of all people to rebirth as Christians, the other three elements belong to the culture of the Mediterranean region. In other words, they point towards the concrete historical environment in which Christianity emerged. God acted in a clearly defined place on the earth, he truly made history with men. On the one hand, these three elements are gifts of creation, and on the other, they also indicate the locality of the history of God with us. They are a synthesis between creation and history: gifts of God that always connect us to those parts of the world where God chose to act with us in historical time, where he chose to become one of us.
Within these three elements there is a further gradation. Bread has to do with everyday life. It is the fundamental gift of life day by day. Wine has to do with feasting, with the fine things of creation, in which, at the same time, the joy of the redeemed finds particular expression. Olive oil has a wide range of meaning. It is nourishment, it is medicine, it gives beauty, it prepares us for battle and it gives strength. Kings and priests are anointed with oil, which is thus a sign of dignity and responsibility, and likewise of the strength that comes from God. Even the name that we bear as "Christians" contains the mystery of the oil. The word "Christians", in fact, by which Christ’s disciples were known in the earliest days of Gentile Christianity, is derived from the word "Christ" (Acts 11:20-21) – the Greek translation of the word "Messiah", which means "anointed one". To be a Christian is to come from Christ, to belong to Christ, to the anointed one of God, to whom God granted kingship and priesthood. It means belonging to him whom God himself anointed – not with material oil, but with the One whom the oil represents: with his Holy Spirit. Olive oil is thus in a very particular way a symbol of the total compenetration of the man Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
In the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the holy oils are at the centre of the liturgical action. They are consecrated in the bishop’s cathedral for the whole year. They thus serve also as an expression of the Church’s unity, guaranteed by the episcopate, and they point to Christ, the true "shepherd and guardian" of our souls, as Saint Peter calls him (1 Pet 2:25). At the same time, they hold together the entire liturgical year, anchored in the mystery of Holy Thursday. Finally, they point to the Garden of Olives, the scene of Jesus’ inner acceptance of his Passion. Yet the Garden of Olives is also the place from which he ascended to the Father, and is therefore the place of redemption: God did not leave Jesus in death. Jesus lives forever with the Father, and is therefore omnipresent, with us always. This double mystery of the Mount of Olives is also always "at work" within the Church’s sacramental oil. In four sacraments, oil is the sign of God’s goodness reaching out to touch us: in baptism, in confirmation as the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, in the different grades of the sacrament of holy orders and finally in the anointing of the sick, in which oil is offered to us, so to speak, as God’s medicine – as the medicine which now assures us of his goodness, offering us strength and consolation, yet at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing, the resurrection (cf. Jas 5:14). Thus oil, in its different forms, accompanies us throughout our lives: beginning with the catechumenate and baptism, and continuing right up to the moment when we prepare to meet God, our Judge and Saviour. Moreover, the Chrism Mass, in which the sacramental sign of oil is presented to us as part of the language of God’s creation, speaks in particular to us who are priests: it speaks of Christ, whom God anointed King and Priest – of him who makes us sharers in his priesthood, in his "anointing", through our own priestly ordination.
I should like, then, to attempt a brief interpretation of the mystery of this holy sign in its essential reference to the priestly vocation. In popular etymologies a connection was made, even in ancient times, between the Greek word "elaion" – oil – and the word "eleos" – mercy. In fact, in the various sacraments, consecrated oil is always a sign of God’s mercy. So the meaning of priestly anointing always includes the mission to bring God’s mercy to those we serve. In the lamp of our lives, the oil of mercy should never run dry. Let us always obtain it from the Lord in good time – in our encounter with his word, in our reception of the sacraments, in the time we spend with him in prayer.
As a consequence of the story of the dove bearing an olive branch to signal the end of the flood – and thus God’s new peace with the world of men – not only the dove but also the olive branch and oil itself have become symbols of peace. The Christians of antiquity loved to decorate the tombs of their dead with the crown of victory and the olive branch, symbol of peace. They knew that Christ conquered death and that their dead were resting in the peace of Christ. They knew that they themselves were awaited by Christ, that he had promised them the peace which the world cannot give. They remembered that the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples were: "Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). He himself, so to speak, bears the olive branch, he introduces his peace into the world. He announces God’s saving goodness. He is our peace. Christians should therefore be people of peace, people who recognize and live the mystery of the Cross as a mystery of reconciliation. Christ does not conquer through the sword, but through the Cross. He wins by conquering hatred. He wins through the force of his greater love. The Cross of Christ expresses his "no" to violence. And in this way, it is God’s victory sign, which announces Jesus’ new way. The one who suffered was stronger than the ones who exercised power. In his self-giving on the Cross, Christ conquered violence. As priests we are called, in fellowship with Jesus Christ, to be men of peace, we are called to oppose violence and to trust in the greater power of love.
A further aspect of the symbolism of oil is that it strengthens for battle. This does not contradict the theme of peace, but forms part of it. The battle of Christians consisted – and still consists – not in the use of violence, but in the fact that they were – and are – ready to suffer for the good, for God. It consists in the fact that Christians, as good citizens, keep the law and do what is just and good. It consists in the fact that they do not do whatever within the legal system in force is not just but unjust. The battle of the martyrs consists in their concrete "no" to injustice: by taking no part in idolatry, in Emperor worship, they refused to bow down before falsehood, before the adoration of human persons and their power. With their "no" to falsehood and all its consequences, they upheld the power of right and truth. Thus they served true peace. Today too it is important for Christians to follow what is right, which is the foundation of peace. Today too it is important for Christians not to accept a wrong that is enshrined in law – for example the killing of innocent unborn children. In this way we serve peace, in this way we find ourselves following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, of whom Saint Peter says: "When he was reviled he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Pet 2:23f.).
The Fathers of the Church were fascinated by a phrase from Psalm 45 (44) – traditionally held to be Solomon’s wedding psalm – which was reinterpreted by Christians as the psalm for the marriage of the new Solomon, Jesus Christ, to his Church. To the King, Christ, it is said: "Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above other kings" (v. 8). What is this oil of gladness with which the true king, Christ, was anointed? The Fathers had no doubt in this regard: the oil of gladness is the Holy Spirit himself, who was poured out upon Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the gladness that comes from God. From Jesus this gladness sweeps over us in his Gospel, in the joyful message that God knows us, that he is good and that his goodness is the power above all powers; that we are wanted and loved by him. Gladness is the fruit of love. The oil of gladness, which was poured out over Christ and comes to us from him, is the Holy Spirit, the gift of Love who makes us glad to be alive. Since we know Christ, and since in him we know God, we know that it is good to be a human being. It is good to be alive, because we are loved, because truth itself is good.
In the early Church, the consecrated oil was considered a special sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who communicates himself to us as a gift from Christ. He is the oil of gladness. This gladness is different from entertainment and from the outward happiness that modern society seeks for itself. Entertainment, in its proper place, is certainly good and enjoyable. It is good to be able to laugh. But entertainment is not everything. It is only a small part of our lives, and when it tries to be the whole, it becomes a mask behind which despair lurks, or at least doubt over whether life is really good, or whether non-existence might perhaps be better than existence. The gladness that comes to us from Christ is different. It does indeed make us happy, but it can also perfectly well coexist with suffering. It gives us the capacity to suffer and, in suffering, to remain nevertheless profoundly glad. It gives us the capacity to share the suffering of others and thus by placing ourselves at one another’s disposal, to express tangibly the light and the goodness of God. I am always struck by the passage in the Acts of the Apostles which recounts that after the Apostles had been whipped by order of the Sanhedrin, they "rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:41). Anyone who loves is ready to suffer for the beloved and for the sake of his love, and in this way he experiences a deeper joy. The joy of the martyrs was stronger than the torments inflicted on them. This joy was ultimately victorious and opened the gates of history for Christ. As priests, we are – in Saint Paul’s words – "co-workers with you for your joy" (2 Cor 1:24). In the fruit of the olive-tree, in the consecrated oil, we are touched by the goodness of the Creator, the love of the Redeemer. Let us pray that his gladness may pervade us ever more deeply and that we may be capable of bringing it anew to a world in such urgent need of the joy that has its source in truth. Amen.
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Papal Discourse at End of Via Crucis
"With Christ We Have Climbed Calvary"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the meditation Benedict XVI gave today at the end of the Way of the Cross in the Roman Colosseum.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
In prayer, with stirred and recollected spirits, we have tonight retraced the path of the cross. With Christ we have climbed Calvary and we have meditated on his suffering, rediscovering how profound is the love he has had and has for us.
But in this moment we do not want to limit ourselves to a compassion dictated merely by our weak sentiments. Rather we want to feel that we participate in the suffering of Jesus; we want to accompany our Teacher, sharing his passion in our lives, in the life of the Church, for the life of the world. Because we know that precisely in the cross, in the limitless love where one gives all of himself, is the fount of grace, liberation, peace and salvation.
The texts, meditations and prayers of the Way of the Cross have helped us to gaze upon this mystery of the Passion, to learn the immense lesson of love that God gave us on the cross, so that in us is born a renewed desire to convert our hearts, living each day this same love, the only force capable of changing the world.
This night we have contemplated Jesus' face full of pain, ridiculed, insulted, disfigured by the sin of man. Tomorrow night we will contemplate his face full of joy, radiant and luminous. Since the moment Christ was placed in the sepulchre, the tomb and death are no longer hopeless places where history is closed with the most complete failure, where man touches the ultimate limit of his powerlessness. Good Friday is the day of greatest hope, that matured on the cross.
While Jesus dies, while he exhales his breath, he sighs crying out with a loud voice, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Surrendering his existence, given into the hands of the Father, he knows that his death becomes fount of life. As the seed in the ground has to be broken so the plant can grow. If the grain of wheat fallen in the earth does not die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls in the earth, is torn, is broken, dies, and because of this, can bear fruit. From the day on which Christ was raised up on it, the cross, which looks like a sign of abandonment, loneliness and failure, has become a new beginning. From the depths of death is raised up the promise of eternal life; upon the cross already shines the victorious splendour of the Easter dawn.
In the silence that envelops this night, in the silence that envelops Hoy Saturday, touched by the limitless love of God, we live awaiting the dawn of the third day, the dawn of the victory of the love of God, the dawn of the light that enables the eyes of the heart to see life, difficulties and suffering in a new way. Our failures, our disillusions, our bitternesses that seem to signal the collapse of everything, are enlightened by hope. The act of love of the cross, confirmed by the Father and the radiant light of the resurrection, envelops and transforms everything. From betrayal, friendship can be born; from rejection, pardon; from hate, love.
Grant us, Lord, to carry our cross with love, our daily crosses, in the certainty that they are enlightened with the radiance of your Easter. Amen.
Pontiff’s “Urbi et Orbi” Message
“We Are Free, We Are Saved”
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the Easter greetings Benedict XVI gave today at midday before giving his blessing “urbi et orbi.”
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Cantemus Domino: gloriose enim magnificatus est.
"Let us sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph!" (Liturgy of the Hours, Easter, Office of Readings, Antiphon 1).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I bring you the Easter proclamation in these words of the Liturgy, which echo the ancient hymn of praise sung by the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea. It is recounted in the Book of Exodus (cf 15:19-21) that when they had crossed the sea on dry land, and saw the Egyptians submerged by the waters, Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and the other women sang and danced to this song of joy: "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed wonderfully: horse and rider he has thrown into the sea!" Christians throughout the world repeat this canticle at the Easter Vigil, and a special prayer explains its meaning; a prayer that now, in the full light of the resurrection, we joyfully make our own: "Father, even today we see the wonders of the miracles you worked long ago. You once saved a single nation from slavery, and now you offer that salvation to all through baptism. May the peoples of the world become true sons of Abraham and prove worthy of the heritage of Israel."
The Gospel has revealed to us the fulfilment of the ancient figures: in his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has freed us from the radical slavery of sin and opened for us the way towards the promised land, the Kingdom of God, the universal Kingdom of justice, love and peace. This "exodus" takes place first of all within man himself, and it consists in a new birth in the Holy Spirit, the effect of the baptism that Christ has given us in his Paschal Mystery. The old man yields his place to the new man; the old life is left behind, and a new life can begin (cf. Rom 6:4). But this spiritual "exodus" is the beginning of an integral liberation, capable of renewing us in every dimension – human, personal and social.
Yes, my brothers and sisters, Easter is the true salvation of humanity! If Christ – the Lamb of God – had not poured out his blood for us, we would be without hope, our destiny and the destiny of the whole world would inevitably be death. But Easter has reversed that trend: Christ’s resurrection is a new creation, like a graft that can regenerate the whole plant. It is an event that has profoundly changed the course of history, tipping the scales once and for all on the side of good, of life, of pardon. We are free, we are saved! Hence from deep within our hearts we cry out: "Let us sing to the Lord: glorious his triumph!"
The Christian people, having emerged from the waters of baptism, is sent out to the whole world to bear witness to this salvation, to bring to all people the fruit of Easter, which consists in a new life, freed from sin and restored to its original beauty, to its goodness and truth. Continually, in the course of two thousand years, Christians – especially saints – have made history fruitful with their lived experience of Easter. The Church is the people of the Exodus, because she constantly lives the Paschal Mystery and disseminates its renewing power in every time and place. In our days too, humanity needs an "exodus", not just superficial adjustment, but a spiritual and moral conversion. It needs the salvation of the Gospel, so as to emerge from a profound crisis, one which requires deep change, beginning with consciences.
I pray to the Lord Jesus that in the Middle East, and especially in the land sanctified by his death and resurrection, the peoples will accomplish a true and definitive "exodus" from war and violence to peace and concord. To the Christian communities who are experiencing trials and sufferings, especially in Iraq, the Risen Lord repeats those consoling and encouraging words that he addressed to the Apostles in the Upper Room: "Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:21).
For the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that are seeing a dangerous resurgence of crimes linked to drug trafficking, let Easter signal the victory of peaceful coexistence and respect for the common good. May the beloved people of Haiti, devastated by the appalling tragedy of the earthquake, accomplish their own "exodus" from mourning and from despair to a new hope, supported by international solidarity. May the beloved citizens of Chile, who have had to endure another grave catastrophe, set about the task of reconstruction with tenacity, supported by their faith.
In the strength of the risen Jesus, may the conflicts in Africa come to an end, conflicts which continue to cause destruction and suffering, and may peace and reconciliation be attained, as guarantees of development. In particular I entrust to the Lord the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Nigeria.
May the Risen Lord sustain the Christians who suffer persecution and even death for their faith, as for example in Pakistan. To the countries afflicted by terrorism and by social and religious discrimination, may He grant the strength to undertake the work of building dialogue and serene coexistence. To the leaders of nations, may Easter bring light and strength, so that economic and financial activity may finally be driven by the criteria of truth, justice and fraternal aid. May the saving power of Christ’s resurrection fill all of humanity, so that it may overcome the multiple tragic expressions of a "culture of death" which are becoming increasingly widespread, so as to build a future of love and truth in which every human life is respected and welcomed.
Dear brothers and sisters, Easter does not work magic. Just as the Israelites found the desert awaiting them on the far side of the Red Sea, so the Church, after the resurrection, always finds history filled with joy and hope, grief and anguish. And yet, this history is changed, it is marked by a new and eternal covenant, it is truly open to the future. For this reason, saved by hope, let us continue our pilgrimage, bearing in our hearts the song that is ancient and yet ever new: "Let us sing to the Lord: glorious his triumph!"
©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Pope's Holy Saturday Homily
"The Cure for Death Does Exist"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Easter Vigil.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
An ancient Jewish legend from the apocryphal book "The life of Adam and Eve" recounts that, in his final illness, Adam sent his son Seth together with Eve into the region of Paradise to fetch the oil of mercy, so that he could be anointed with it and healed. The two of them went in search of the tree of life, and after much praying and weeping on their part, the Archangel Michael appeared to them, and told them they would not obtain the oil of the tree of mercy and that Adam would have to die. Subsequently, Christian readers added a word of consolation to the Archangel’s message, to the effect that after 5,500 years the loving King, Christ, would come, the Son of God who would anoint all those who believe in him with the oil of his mercy. "The oil of mercy from eternity to eternity will be given to those who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. Then the Son of God, Christ, abounding in love, will descend into the depths of the earth and will lead your father into Paradise, to the tree of mercy." This legend lays bare the whole of humanity’s anguish at the destiny of illness, pain and death that has been imposed upon us. Man’s resistance to death becomes evident: somewhere – people have constantly thought – there must be some cure for death. Sooner or later it should be possible to find the remedy not only for this or that illness, but for our ultimate destiny – for death itself. Surely the medicine of immortality must exist. Today too, the search for a source of healing continues. Modern medical science strives, if not exactly to exclude death, at least to eliminate as many as possible of its causes, to postpone it further and further, to prolong life more and more. But let us reflect for a moment: what would it really be like if we were to succeed, perhaps not in excluding death totally, but in postponing it indefinitely, in reaching an age of several hundred years? Would that be a good thing? Humanity would become extraordinarily old, there would be no more room for youth. Capacity for innovation would die, and endless life would be no paradise, if anything a condemnation. The true cure for death must be different. It cannot lead simply to an indefinite prolongation of this current life. It would have to transform our lives from within. It would need to create a new life within us, truly fit for eternity: it would need to transform us in such a way as not to come to an end with death, but only then to begin in fullness. What is new and exciting in the Christian message, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was and is that we are told: yes indeed, this cure for death, this true medicine of immortality, does exist. It has been found. It is within our reach. In baptism, this medicine is given to us. A new life begins in us, a life that matures in faith and is not extinguished by the death of the old life, but is only then fully revealed.
To this some, perhaps many, will respond: I certainly hear the message, but I lack faith. And even those who want to believe will ask: but is it really so? How are we to picture it to ourselves? How does this transformation of the old life come about, so as to give birth to the new life that knows no death? Once again, an ancient Jewish text can help us form an idea of the mysterious process that begins in us at baptism. There it is recounted how the patriarch Enoch was taken up to the throne of God. But he was filled with fear in the presence of the glorious angelic powers, and in his human weakness he could not contemplate the face of God. "Then God said to Michael," to quote from the book of Enoch, "‘Take Enoch and remove his earthly clothing. Anoint him with sweet oil and vest him in the robes of glory!’ And Michael took off my garments, anointed me with sweet oil, and this oil was more than a radiant light … its splendour was like the rays of the sun. When I looked at myself, I saw that I was like one of the glorious beings" (Ph. Rech, Inbild des Kosmos, II 524).
Precisely this – being reclothed in the new garment of God – is what happens in baptism, so the Christian faith tells us. To be sure, this changing of garments is something that continues for the whole of life. What happens in baptism is the beginning of a process that embraces the whole of our life – it makes us fit for eternity, in such a way that, robed in the garment of light of Jesus Christ, we can appear before the face of God and live with him for ever.
In the rite of baptism there are two elements in which this event is expressed and made visible in a way that demands commitment for the rest of our lives. There is first of all the rite of renunciation and the promises. In the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the west, the symbol of darkness, sunset, death and hence the dominion of sin. The one to be baptized turned in that direction and pronounced a threefold "no": to the devil, to his pomp and to sin. The strange word "pomp", that is to say the devil’s glamour, referred to the splendour of the ancient cult of the gods and of the ancient theatre, in which it was considered entertaining to watch people being torn limb from limb by wild beasts. What was being renounced was a type of culture that ensnared man in the adoration of power, in the world of greed, in lies, in cruelty. It was an act of liberation from the imposition of a form of life that was presented as pleasure and yet hastened the destruction of all that was best in man. This renunciation – albeit in less dramatic form – remains an essential part of baptism today. We remove the "old garments", which we cannot wear in God’s presence. Or better put: we begin to remove them. This renunciation is actually a promise in which we hold out our hand to Christ, so that he may guide us and reclothe us. What these "garments" are that we take off, what the promise is that we make, becomes clear when we see in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Galatians what Paul calls "works of the flesh" – a term that refers precisely to the old garments that we remove. Paul designates them thus: "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like" (Gal 5:19ff.). These are the garments that we remove: the garments of death.
Then, in the practice of the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the east – the symbol of light, the symbol of the newly rising sun of history, the symbol of Christ. The candidate for baptism determines the new direction of his life: faith in the Trinitarian God to whom he entrusts himself. Thus it is God who clothes us in the garment of light, the garment of life. Paul calls these new "garments" "fruits of the spirit", and he describes them as follows: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22).
In the early Church, the candidate for baptism was then truly stripped of his garments. He descended into the baptismal font and was immersed three times – a symbol of death that expresses all the radicality of this removal and change of garments. His former death-bound life the candidate consigns to death with Christ, and he lets himself be drawn up by and with Christ into the new life that transforms him for eternity. Then, emerging from the waters of baptism the neophytes were clothed in the white garment, the garment of God’s light, and they received the lighted candle as a sign of the new life in the light that God himself had lit within them. They knew that they had received the medicine of immortality, which was fully realized at the moment of receiving holy communion. In this sacrament we receive the body of the risen Lord and we ourselves are drawn into this body, firmly held by the One who has conquered death and who carries us through death.
In the course of the centuries, the symbols were simplified, but the essential content of baptism has remained the same. It is no mere cleansing, still less is it a somewhat complicated initiation into a new association. It is death and resurrection, rebirth to new life.
Indeed, the cure for death does exist. Christ is the tree of life, once more within our reach. If we remain close to him, then we have life. Hence, during this night of resurrection, with all our hearts we shall sing the alleluia, the song of joy that has no need of words. Hence, Paul can say to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil 4:4). Joy cannot be commanded. It can only be given. The risen Lord gives us joy: true life. We are already held for ever in the love of the One to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given (cf. Mt 28:18). In this way, confident of being heard, we make our own the Church’s Prayer over the Gifts from the liturgy of this night: Accept the prayers and offerings of your people. With your help may this Easter mystery of our redemption bring to perfection the saving work you have begun in us. Amen.
©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana