Benedict XVI Holy Week homilies 2011

 

On Christ's Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem
Mary's "Heart, Like That of the Son, Was Ready for Sacrifice"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2011 - After celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square today, Benedict XVI greeted the crowds in several languages before praying the traditional midday Angelus.

In English, he said:

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here in Rome this Palm Sunday, as the whole Church sings "Hosanna" to the Son of David, commemorating Our Lord’s solemn entry into Jerusalem in the days leading up to his passion and death. In a special way I greet all the young people present and I look forward to celebrating World Youth Day in Madrid this summer with many thousands of others from around the world.

Concluding his greetings in Italian, he said:

And now we turn in prayer to Mary, asking her to help us to Holy Week with intense faith. Understanding the prophecies, Mary too exulted in the spirit when Jesus entered Jerusalem in royal procession; but her heart, like that of the Son, was ready for sacrifice. Let us learn from her, the faithful Virgin, to follow the Lord even when his way leads to the cross.

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Pope's Palm Sunday Homily
To the "Heights of God" He "Wanted to Lift Every Human Being"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear young people!

It is a moving experience each year on Palm Sunday as we go up the mountain with Jesus, towards the Temple, accompanying him on his ascent. On this day, throughout the world and across the centuries, young people and people of every age acclaim him, crying out: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

But what are we really doing when we join this procession as part of the throng which went up with Jesus to Jerusalem and hailed him as King of Israel? Is this anything more than a ritual, a quaint custom? Does it have anything to do with the reality of our life and our world? To answer this, we must first be clear about what Jesus himself wished to do and actually did. After Peter's confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, in the northernmost part of the Holy Land, Jesus set out as a pilgrim towards Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. He was journeying towards the Temple in the Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God's closeness to his people. He was making his way towards the common feast of Passover, the memorial of Israel's liberation from Egypt and the sign of its hope of definitive liberation. He knew that what awaited him was a new Passover and that he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. He knew that in the mysterious gifts of bread and wine he would give himself for ever to his own, and that he would open to them the door to a new path of liberation, to fellowship with the living God. He was making his way to the heights of the Cross, to the moment of self-giving love. The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being.

Our procession today is meant, then, to be an image of something deeper, to reflect the fact that, together with Jesus, we are setting out on pilgrimage along the high road that leads to the living God. This is the ascent that matters. This is the journey which Jesus invites us to make. But how can we keep pace with this ascent? Isn't it beyond our ability? Certainly, it is beyond our own possibilities. From the beginning men and women have been filled - and this is as true today as ever - with a desire to "be like God", to attain the heights of God by their own powers. All the inventions of the human spirit are ultimately an effort to gain wings so as to rise to the heights of Being and to become independent, completely free, as God is free. Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history. Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months.

The Fathers of the Church maintained that human beings stand at the point of intersection between two gravitational fields. First, there is the force of gravity which pulls us down - towards selfishness, falsehood and evil; the gravity which diminishes us and distances us from the heights of God. On the other hand there is the gravitational force of God's love: the fact that we are loved by God and respond in love attracts us upwards. Man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us and grants us true freedom.

Following the Liturgy of the Word, at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer where the Lord comes into our midst, the Church invites us to lift up our hearts: "Sursum corda!" In the language of the Bible and the thinking of the Fathers, the heart is the centre of man, where understanding, will and feeling, body and soul, all come together. The centre where spirit becomes body and body becomes spirit, where will, feeling and understanding become one in the knowledge and love of God. This is the "heart" which must be lifted up. But to repeat: of ourselves, we are too weak to lift up our hearts to the heights of God. We cannot do it. The very pride of thinking that we are able to do it on our own drags us down and estranges us from God. God himself must draw us up, and this is what Christ began to do on the cross. He descended to the depths of our human existence in order to draw us up to himself, to the living God. He humbled himself, as today's second reading says. Only in this way could our pride be vanquished: God's humility is the extreme form of his love, and this humble love draws us upwards.

Psalm 24, which the Church proposes as the "song of ascent" to accompany our procession in today's liturgy, indicates some concrete elements which are part of our ascent and without which we cannot be lifted upwards: clean hands, a pure heart, the rejection of falsehood, the quest for God's face. The great achievements of technology are liberating and contribute to the progress of mankind only if they are joined to these attitudes - if our hands become clean and our hearts pure, if we seek truth, if we seek God and let ourselves be touched and challenged by his love. All these means of "ascent" are effective only if we humbly acknowledge that we need to be lifted up; if we abandon the pride of wanting to become God. We need God: he draws us upwards; letting ourselves be upheld by his hands - by faith, in other words - sets us aright and gives us the inner strength that raises us on high. We need the humility of a faith which seeks the face of God and trusts in the truth of his love.

The question of how man can attain the heights, becoming completely himself and completely like God, has always engaged mankind. It was passionately disputed by the Platonic philosophers of the third and fourth centuries. For them, the central issue was finding the means of purification which could free man from the heavy load weighing him down and thus enable him to ascend to the heights of his true being, to the heights of divinity. Saint Augustine, in his search for the right path, long sought guidance from those philosophies. But in the end he had to acknowledge that their answers were insufficient, their methods would not truly lead him to God. To those philosophers he said: recognize that human power and all these purifications are not enough to bring man in truth to the heights of the divine, to his own heights. And he added that he should have despaired of himself and human existence had he not found the One who accomplishes what we of ourselves cannot accomplish; the One who raises us up to the heights of God in spite of our wretchedness: Jesus Christ who from God came down to us and, in his crucified love, takes us by the hand and lifts us on high.

We are on pilgrimage with the Lord to the heights. We are striving for pure hearts and clean hands, we are seeking truth, we are seeking the face of God. Let us show the Lord that we desire to be righteous, and let us ask him: Draw us upwards! Make us pure! Grant that the words which we sang in the processional psalm may also hold true for us; grant that we may be part of the generation which seeks God, "which seeks your face, O God of Jacob" (cf. Ps 24:6). Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Triduum
"I Invite You to Seek in These Days Recollection and Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 20, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope focused his address on the meaning of the Easter Triduum, the culmination of the Lenten journey.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have already arrived at the heart of Holy Week, the fulfillment of the Lenten journey. Tomorrow we will enter the Easter Triduum, the three holy days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. After being made man in obedience to the Father, the Son of God, being in everything like us except for sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15), accepted fulfilling his will to the end, to face for love of us his Passion and Cross, to make us sharers in his Resurrection, so that in him and through him we can live forever, in consolation and peace. Hence, I exhort you to receive this mystery of salvation, to take part intensely in the Easter Triduum, the culmination of the whole liturgical year and a moment of particular grace for every Christian. I invite you to seek in these days recollection and prayer, to be able to accede more profoundly to this source of grace. In connection with this, given the imminent festivities, every Christian is invited to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, a moment of special adherence to the death and resurrection of Christ, to be able to participate with greater fruitfulness in Holy Easter.

Maundy Thursday is the day in which we recall the institution of the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. In the morning, each diocesan community, gathered in the cathedral church around the bishop, will celebrate the Chrism Mass in which the sacred chrism, the oil of the catechumens, and the oil of the sick are blessed. Beginning with the Easter Triduum and during the whole liturgical year, these oils will be used for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and priestly and episcopal ordination and the anointing of the sick; in this is manifested how salvation, transmitted by the sacramental signs, springs precisely from the paschal mystery of Christ. In fact, we are redeemed by his death and resurrection and, through the sacraments, we go to that same salvific source. During the Chrism Mass tomorrow, the renewal of priestly promises takes place. Throughout the world, every priest renews the commitments he assumed on the day of ordination, to be totally consecrated to Christ in the exercise of the sacred ministry at the service of his brothers. Let us support our priests with our prayer.

On the afternoon of Maundy Thursday the Easter Triduum effectively begins, with the remembrance of the Last Supper, in which Jesus instituted the Memorial of his Pasch, fulfilling the Jewish paschal rite. According to tradition, every Jewish family, gathered at table on the feast of Passover eats the roasted lamb, recalling the Israelites' deliverance from the slavery of Egypt; thus in the Cenacle, conscious of his imminent death, Jesus, the true paschal Lamb, offered himself for our salvation (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7). Pronouncing the blessing over the bread and wine, he anticipated the sacrifice of the cross and manifested the intention of perpetuating his presence amid the disciples: Under the species of bread and wine he makes himself present in a real way with his body given and his blood shed. During the Last Supper, the apostles were constituted ministers of this sacrament of salvation. Jesus washed their feet (cf. John 13:1-25), inviting them to love one another as he loved them, giving his life for them. Repeating this gesture in the liturgy, we are also called to give witness with the deeds of our Redeemer.

Maundy Thursday, finally, is closed with Eucharistic Adoration, in memory of the Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Leaving the Cenacle, he withdrew to pray, alone, in the presence of his Father. At that moment of profound communion, the Gospels recount that Jesus experienced great anguish, such suffering that he sweat blood (cf. Matthew 26:38). Conscious of his imminent death on the cross, he felt great anguish and the closeness of death. In this situation an element is seen that is of great importance also for the whole Church. Jesus said to his own: Stay here and watch; and this call to vigilance refers in a precise way to this moment of anguish, of menace, in which the betrayer arrives, but it concerns the whole history of the Church. It is a permanent message for all times, because the somnolence of the disciples was not only the problem of that moment, but is the problem of the whole of history.

The question is what this somnolence consists of, and what is the vigilance to which the Lord invites us. I would say that the disciples' somnolence in the course of history is a certain insensitivity of soul to the power of evil, an insensitivity to all the evil of the world. We do not want to let ourselves be too disturbed by these things, we want to forget them: We think that perhaps it is not so grave, and we forget. And it is not only insensitivity to evil; instead, we should be watching to do good, to struggle for the force of good. It is insensitivity to God -- this is our real somnolence: this insensitivity to the presence of God that makes us insensitive also to evil. We do not listen to God -- it would bother us -- and so we do not listen, of course, to the force of evil either, and we stay on the path of our comfort.

The nocturnal adoration on Maundy Thursday, our being vigilant with the Lord, should be precisely the moment to make us reflect on the somnolence of the disciples, of Jesus' defenders, of the apostles, of ourselves, who do not see, we do not want to see all the force of evil, and we do not want to enter into his passion for the good, for the presence of God in the world, for the love of neighbor and of God.

Then the Lord began to pray. The three apostles -- Peter, James and John -- slept, but then they woke up and heard the phrase of this prayer of the Lord: "Not my will but thine be done." What is this will of mine, what is this will of yours, of which the Lord speaks? My will is that I "should not die," that he be spared this chalice of suffering: It is the human will, of human nature, and Christ feels, with all the consciousness of his being, life, the abyss of death, the terror of nothingness, this menace of suffering.

And he more than us, who have this natural aversion to death, this natural fear of death, even more than us, he felt the abyss of evil. He also felt, with death, all the suffering of humanity. He felt that all this was the chalice he must drink, that he must make himself drink, accept the evil of the world, everything that is terrible, the aversion to God, the whole of sin. And we can understand that Jesus, with his human soul, was terrified before this reality, which he perceived in all its cruelty: My will would be not to drink the chalice, but my will is subordinated to your will, to the will of God, to the will of the Father, which is also the real will of the Son. And thus Jesus transformed, in this prayer, the natural aversion, the aversion to the chalice, to his mission to die for us. He transformed this natural will of his into the will of God, in a "yes" to the will of God.

On his own man is tempted to oppose the will of God, to have the intention to follow his own will, to feel free only if he is autonomous; he opposes his own autonomy against the heteronomy of following the will of God. This is the whole drama of humanity. But in truth this autonomy is erroneous and this entering into God's will is not an opposition to oneself, it is not a slavery that violates my will, but it is to enter into truth and love, into the good. And Jesus attracts our will, which is opposed to the will of God, which seeks its autonomy. He attracts this will of ours on high, to the will of God. This is the drama of our redemption, that Jesus attracts our will on high, all our aversion to the will of God and our aversion to death and sin, and unites it to the will of the Father: "Not my will but thine be done." In this transformation of the "no" into "yes," in this insertion of the will of the creature in the will of the Father, he transforms humanity and redeems us. And he invites us to enter into this movement of his: To come out of our "no" and enter into the "yes" of the Son. My will exists, but the decisive will is the will of the Father, because the will of the Father is truth and love.

A further element of this prayer seems important to me. The three witnesses have kept -- as it appears in sacred Scripture -- the Hebrew or Aramaic word with which the Lord spoke to the Father, he called him: "Abba," father. But this formula, "Abba," is a familiar form of the term father, a form that is used only in the family, which has never been used toward God. Here we see in the intimacy of Jesus how he speaks in the family, he speaks truly as Son with his Father. We see the Trinitarian mystery: The Son who speaks with the Father and redeems humanity.

One more observation. The Letter to the Hebrews gives us a profound interpretation of this prayer of the Lord, of this drama of Gethsemane. It says: these tears of Jesus, this prayer, these cries of Jesus, this anguish -- is not all this simply a concession to the weakness of the flesh, as could be said. But precisely in this way he realizes the task of High Priest, because the High Priest must lead the human being, with all his problems and sufferings, to the height of God. And the Letter to the Hebrews says: with all these cries, tears, sufferings, prayers, the Lord took our reality to God (cf. Hebrews 5:7ff). And it uses this Greek word "prosferein," which is the technical term for what the High Priest must do to offer, to raise his hand on high. Precisely in this drama of Gethsemane, where it seems that God's strength is no longer present, Jesus realizes the function of High Priest. And it says, moreover, that in this act of obedience, namely, of conformity of the natural human will to the will of God, he is perfected as priest. And it uses again the technical word to ordain a priest. Precisely in this way he becomes the High Priest of humanity and thus opens heaven and the door to resurrection.

If we reflect on this drama of Gethsemane, we can also see the great contrast between Jesus, with his anguish, with his suffering, in comparison with the great philosopher Socrates, who remains peaceful, imperturbable in the face of death. And this seems to be the ideal. We can admire this philosopher, but Jesus' mission is another. His mission was not this total indifference and liberty; his mission was to bear in himself all the suffering, all the human drama. And because of this, precisely this humiliation of Gethsemane is essential for the mission of the Man-God. He bears in himself our suffering, our poverty and transforms them according to the will of God. And thus opens the doors of heaven, he opens heaven: This curtain of the Most Holy, which up to now man closed against God, is opened by his suffering and obedience. These are some observations for Maundy Thursday, for our celebration of the night of Maundy Thursday.

On Good Friday we will recall the passion and death of the Lord; we will adore Christ Crucified, we will share in his sufferings with penance and fasting. Looking "on him whom they have pierced" (cf. John 19:37), we will be able to drink from his broken heart that gushes blood and water as a fountain; of that heart from which springs the love of God for every man, we receive his Spirit. Hence, on Good Friday we will also accompany Jesus as he goes up to Calvary; let us be guided by him to the cross, let us receive the offering of his immaculate body.

Finally, on the night of Holy Saturday, we will celebrate the Easter Vigil, in which the resurrection of Christ will be proclaimed to us, his definitive victory over death which calls us to be, in him, new men. Participating in this holy vigil, the central night of the whole liturgical year, we will recall our baptism, in which we were buried with Christ, to be able to resurrect with him and take part in the banquet of heaven (cf. Revelation 19:7-9).

Dear friends, we have tried to understand the state of spirit with which Jesus lived the moment of extreme trial, to understand what guided his action. The criterion that guided all of Jesus' choices during his whole life was the firm will to love the Father, to be one with the Father, and to be faithful to him. This decision to correspond to his love impelled him to embrace the Father's plan in every circumstance, to make his own the design of love that was entrusted to him to recapitulate everything in him, to lead everything back to him.

On reliving the Holy Triduum, let us dispose ourselves to receive also in our lives the will of God, conscious that in the will of God, though it seems hard, in contrast to our intentions, is found our true good, the path of life.

May the Virgin Mother guide us on this journey and obtain for us from her divine Son the grace to be able to use our life for love of Jesus at the service of brothers. Thank you.


[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, the three days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection. The liturgies of these days invite us to ponder the loving obedience of Christ who, having become like us in all things but sin, resisted temptation and freely surrendered himself to the Father's will. Tomorrow, at the Chrism Mass, priests renew their ordination promises, the sacred oils are blessed, and we celebrate the grace of the crucified and risen Lord which comes to us through the Church's sacramental life. On the evening of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord's Supper begins the actual Triduum and recalls the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. The Liturgy of Good Friday invites us to share in Christ's sufferings through penance and fasting, and to receive the gift of God's love flowing from the Lord's pierced Heart. The Easter Vigil joyfully proclaims Christ's resurrection from the dead and the new life received in Baptism. By our prayers and our sharing in these liturgies, let us resolve to imitate Christ's loving obedience to the Father's saving plan, which is the source of authentic freedom and the path of eternal life.

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Benedict XVI's Chrism Mass Homily
"It Is Not Only We Who Seek God: God Himself Is Searching for Us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2011 - 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 heart of this morning’s liturgy is the blessing of the holy oils – the oil for anointing catechumens, the oil for anointing the sick, and the chrism for the great sacraments that confer the Holy Spirit: confirmation, priestly ordination, episcopal ordination. In the sacraments the Lord touches us through the elements of creation. The unity between creation and redemption is made visible. The sacraments are an expression of the physicality of our faith, which embraces the whole person, body and soul. Bread and wine are fruits of the earth and work of human hands. The Lord chose them to be bearers of his presence. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and at the same time it points us towards Christ: the word "Christ" (Messiah) means "the anointed one".

The humanity of Jesus, by virtue of the Son’s union with the Father, is brought into communion with the Holy Spirit and is thus "anointed" in a unique way, penetrated by the Holy Spirit. What happened symbolically to the kings and priests of the Old Testament when they were instituted into their ministry by the anointing with oil, takes place in Jesus in all its reality: his humanity is penetrated by the power of the Holy Spirit. He opens our humanity for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The more we are united to Christ, the more we are filled with his Spirit, with the Holy Spirit. We are called "Christians": "anointed ones" – people who belong to Christ and hence have a share in his anointing, being touched by his Spirit. I wish not merely to be called Christian, but also to be Christian, said Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Let us allow these holy oils, which are consecrated at this time, to remind us of the task that is implicit in the word "Christian", let us pray that, increasingly, we may not only be called Christian but may actually be such.

In today’s liturgy, three oils are blessed, as I mentioned earlier. They express three essential dimensions of the Christian life on which we may now reflect. First, there is the oil of catechumens. This oil indicates a first way of being touched by Christ and by his Spirit – an inner touch, by which the Lord draws people close to himself. Through this first anointing, which takes place even prior to baptism, our gaze is turned towards people who are journeying towards Christ – people who are searching for faith, searching for God. The oil of catechumens tells us that it is not only we who seek God: God himself is searching for us. The fact that he himself was made man and came down into the depths of human existence, even into the darkness of death, shows us how much God loves his creature, man. Driven by love, God has set out towards us. "Seeking me, you sat down weary ... let such labour not be in vain!", we pray in the Dies Irae. God is searching for me. Do I want to recognize him? Do I want to be known by him, found by him? God loves us. He comes to meet the unrest of our hearts, the unrest of our questioning and seeking, with the unrest of his own heart, which leads him to accomplish the ultimate for us. That restlessness for God, that journeying towards him, so as to know and love him better, must not be extinguished in us. In this sense we should always remain catechumens. "Constantly seek his face", says one of the Psalms (105:4). Saint Augustine comments as follows: God is so great as to surpass infinitely all our knowing and all our being. Knowledge of God is never exhausted. For all eternity, with ever increasing joy, we can always continue to seek him, so as to know him and love him more and more. "Our heart is restless until it rests in you", said Saint Augustine at the beginning of his Confessions. Yes, man is restless, because whatever is finite is too little. But are we truly restless for him? Have we perhaps become resigned to his absence, do we not seek to be self-sufficient? Let us not allow our humanity to be diminished in this way! Let us remain constantly on a journey towards him, longing for him, always open to receive new knowledge and love!

Then there is the oil for anointing the sick. Arrayed before us is a host of suffering people: those who hunger and thirst, victims of violence in every continent, the sick with all their sufferings, their hopes and their moments without hope, the persecuted, the downtrodden, the broken-hearted. Regarding the first mission on which Jesus sent the disciples, Saint Luke tells us: "he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal" (9:2). Healing is one of the fundamental tasks entrusted by Jesus to the Church, following the example that he gave as he travelled throughout the land healing the sick. To be sure, the Church’s principal task is to proclaim the Kingdom of God. But this very proclamation must be a process of healing: "bind up the broken-hearted", we heard in today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah (61:1). The proclamation of God’s Kingdom, of God’s unlimited goodness, must first of all bring healing to broken hearts.

By nature, man is a being in relation. But if the fundamental relationship, the relationship with God, is disturbed, then all the rest is disturbed as well. If our relationship with God is disturbed, if the fundamental orientation of our being is awry, we cannot truly be healed in body and soul. For this reason, the first and fundamental healing takes place in our encounter with Christ who reconciles us to God and mends our broken hearts. But over and above this central task, the Church’s essential mission also includes the specific healing of sickness and suffering. The oil for anointing the sick is the visible sacramental expression of this mission. Since apostolic times, the healing vocation has matured in the Church, and so too has loving solicitude for those who are distressed in body and soul. This is also the occasion to say thank you to those sisters and brothers throughout the world who bring healing and love to the sick, irrespective of their status or religious affiliation. From Elizabeth of Hungary, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Camillus of Lellis to Mother Teresa – to recall but a few names – we see, lighting up the world, a radiant procession of helpers streaming forth from God’s love for the suffering and the sick. For this we thank the Lord at this moment. For this we thank all those who, by virtue of their faith and love, place themselves alongside the suffering, thereby bearing definitive witness to the goodness of God himself. The oil for anointing the sick is a sign of this oil of the goodness of heart that these people bring – together with their professional competence – to the suffering. Even without speaking of Christ, they make him manifest.

In third place, finally, is the most noble of the ecclesial oils, the chrism, a mixture of olive oil and aromatic vegetable oils. It is the oil used for anointing priests and kings, in continuity with the great Old Testament traditions of anointing. In the Church this oil serves chiefly for the anointing of confirmation and ordination. Today’s liturgy links this oil with the promise of the prophet Isaiah: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God" (61:6). The prophet makes reference here to the momentous words of commission and promise that God had addressed to Israel on Sinai: "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). In and for the vast world, which was largely ignorant of God, Israel had to be as it were a shrine of God for all peoples, exercising a priestly function vis-à-vis the world. It had to bring the world to God, to open it up to him. In his great baptismal catechesis, Saint Peter applied this privilege and this commission of Israel to the entire community of the baptized, proclaiming: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people" (1 Pet 2:9f.) Baptism and confirmation are an initiation into this people of God that spans the world; the anointing that takes place in baptism and confirmation is an anointing that confers this priestly ministry towards mankind. Christians are a priestly people for the world. Christians should make the living God visible to the world, they should bear witness to him and lead people towards him. When we speak of this task in which we share by virtue of our baptism, it is no reason to boast. It poses a question to us that makes us both joyful and anxious: are we truly God’s shrine in and for the world? Do we open up the pathway to God for others or do we rather conceal it? Have not we – the people of God – become to a large extent a people of unbelief and distance from God? Is it perhaps the case that the West, the heartlands of Christianity, are tired of their faith, bored by their history and culture, and no longer wish to know faith in Jesus Christ? We have reason to cry out at this time to God: "Do not allow us to become a ‘non-people’! Make us recognize you again! Truly, you have anointed us with your love, you have poured out your Holy Spirit upon us. Grant that the power of your Spirit may become newly effective in us, so that we may bear joyful witness to your message!

For all the shame we feel over our failings, we must not forget that today too there are radiant examples of faith, people who give hope to the world through their faith and love. When Pope John Paul II is beatified on 1 May, we shall think of him, with hearts full of thankfulness, as a great witness to God and to Jesus Christ in our day, as a man filled with the Holy Spirit. Alongside him, we think of the many people he beatified and canonized, who give us the certainty that even today God’s promise and commission do not fall on deaf ears.

I turn finally to you, dear brothers in the priestly ministry. Holy Thursday is in a special way our day. At the hour of the last Supper, the Lord instituted the new Testament priesthood. "Sanctify them in the truth" (Jn 17:17), he prayed to the Father, for the Apostles and for priests of all times. With great gratitude for the vocation and with humility for all our shortcomings, we renew at this hour our "yes" to the Lord’s call: yes, I want to be intimately united to the Lord Jesus, in self-denial, driven on by the love of Christ. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Homily at Last Supper Mass
"At His Final Meal, More Than Anything Else, Jesus Prayed"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, held today at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). With these words Jesus began the celebration of his final meal and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus approached that hour with eager desire. In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himself – his expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf.Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things?

From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness. For us, the empty places at the table of the Lord’s wedding feast, whether excusable or not, are no longer a parable but a reality, in those very countries to which he had revealed his closeness in a special way. Jesus also knew about guests who come to the banquet without being robed in the wedding garment – they come not to rejoice in his presence but merely out of habit, since their hearts are elsewhere. In one of his homilies Saint Gregory the Great asks: Who are these people who enter without the wedding garment? What is this garment and how does one acquire it? He replies that those who are invited and enter do in some way have faith. It is faith which opens the door to them. But they lack the wedding garment of love. Those who do not live their faith as love are not ready for the banquet and are cast out. Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love; otherwise, even as faith, it is dead.

From all four Gospels we know that Jesus’ final meal before his passion was also a teaching moment. Once again, Jesus urgently set forth the heart of his message. Word and sacrament, message and gift are inseparably linked. Yet at his final meal, more than anything else, Jesus prayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke use two words in describing Jesus’ prayer at the culmination of the meal: “eucharístesas” and “eulógesas” – the verbs “to give thanks” and “to bless”. The upward movement of thanking and the downward movement of blessing go together. The words of transubstantiation are part of this prayer of Jesus. They are themselves words of prayer. Jesus turns his suffering into prayer, into an offering to the Father for the sake of mankind. This transformation of his suffering into love has the power to transform the gifts in which he now gives himself. He gives those gifts to us, so that we, and our world, may be transformed. The ultimate purpose of Eucharistic transformation is our own transformation in communion with Christ. The Eucharist is directed to the new man, the new world, which can only come about from God, through the ministry of God’s Servant.

From Luke, and especially from John, we know that Jesus, during the Last Supper, also prayed to the Father – prayers which also contain a plea to his disciples of that time and of all times. Here I would simply like to take one of these which, as John tells us, Jesus repeated four times in his Priestly Prayer. How deeply it must have concerned him! It remains his constant prayer to the Father on our behalf: the prayer for unity. Jesus explicitly states that this prayer is not meant simply for the disciples then present, but for all who would believe in him (cf. Jn 17:20). He prays that all may be one “as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). Christian unity can exist only if Christians are deeply united to him, to Jesus. Faith and love for Jesus, faith in his being one with the Father and openness to becoming one with him, are essential. This unity, then, is not something purely interior or mystical. It must become visible, so visible as to prove before the world that Jesus was sent by the Father. Consequently, Jesus’ prayer has an underlying Eucharistic meaning which Paul clearly brings out in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16ff.).

With the Eucharist, the Church is born. All of us eat the one bread and receive the one body of the Lord; this means that he opens each of us up to something above and beyond us. He makes all of us one. The Eucharist is the mystery of the profound closeness and communion of each individual with the Lord and, at the same time, of visible union between all. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity. Let me say it again: it is an extremely personal encounter with the Lord and yet never simply an act of individual piety. Of necessity, we celebrate it together. In each community the Lord is totally present. Yet in all the communities he is but one. Hence the words “una cum Papa nostro et cum episcopo nostro” are a requisite part of the Church’s Eucharistic Prayer. These words are not an addendum of sorts, but a necessary expression of what the Eucharist really is. Furthermore, we mention the Pope and the Bishop by name: unity is something utterly concrete, it has names. In this way unity becomes visible; it becomes a sign for the world and a concrete criterion for ourselves.

Saint Luke has preserved for us one concrete element of Jesus’ prayer for unity: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31). Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world. And we know that Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors. We know that Peter, who walks towards the Lord upon the stormy waters of history and is in danger of sinking, is sustained ever anew by the Lord’s hand and guided over the waves. But Jesus continues with a prediction and a mandate. “When you have turned again…”. Every human being, save Mary, has constant need of conversion. Jesus tells Peter beforehand of his coming betrayal and conversion.

But what did Peter need to be converted from? When first called, terrified by the Lord’s divine power and his own weakness, Peter had said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). In the light of the Lord, he recognizes his own inadequacy. Precisely in this way, in the humility of one who knows that he is a sinner, is he called. He must discover this humility ever anew. At Caesarea Philippi Peter could not accept that Jesus would have to suffer and be crucified: it did not fit his image of God and the Messiah. In the Upper Room he did not want Jesus to wash his feet: it did not fit his image of the dignity of the Master. In the Garden of Olives he wielded his sword. He wanted to show his courage. Yet before the servant girl he declared that he did not know Jesus. At the time he considered it a little lie which would let him stay close to Jesus. All his heroism collapsed in a shabby bid to be at the centre of things. We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous. All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.

After Peter was converted, he was called to strengthen his brethren. It is not irrelevant that this task was entrusted to him in the Upper Room. The ministry of unity has its visible place in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Dear friends, it is a great consolation for the Pope to know that at each Eucharistic celebration everyone prays for him, and that our prayer is joined to the Lord’s prayer for Peter. Only by the prayer of the Lord and of the Church can the Pope fulfil his task of strengthening his brethren – of feeding the flock of Christ and of becoming the guarantor of that unity which becomes a visible witness to the mission which Jesus received from the Father.

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you”. Lord, you desire us, you desire me. You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us. Lord, awaken in us the desire for you. Strengthen us in unity with you and with one another. Grant unity to your Church, so that the world may believe. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Words At Conclusion of Good Friday Via Crucis
"Tonight We Have Relived, Deep Within Our Hearts, the Drama of Jesus"

ROME, APRIL 22, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address delivered today by Benedict XVI after the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This evening, in faith, we have accompanied Jesus as he takes the final steps of his earthly journey, the most painful steps, the steps that lead to Calvary. We have heard the cries of the crowd, the words of condemnation, the insults of the soldiers, the lamentation of the Virgin Mary and of the women. Now we are immersed in the silence of this night, in the silence of the cross, the silence of death. It is a silence pregnant with the burden of pain borne by a man rejected, oppressed, downtrodden, the burden of sin that mars his face, the burden of evil. Tonight we have relived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin.

What remains now before our eyes? It is a crucified man, a cross raised on Golgotha, a cross which seems a sign of the final defeat of the One who brought light to those immersed in darkness, the One who spoke of the power of forgiveness and of mercy, the One who asked us to believe in God’s infinite love for each human person. Despised and rejected by men, there stands before us "a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity, one from whom others hide their faces" (Is 53:3).

But let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God's immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, he lowered himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out his hand and draw us to himself, to bring us all the way to himself. The cross speaks to us of the supreme love of God and invites, today, to renew our faith in the power of that love, and to believe that in every situation of our lives, our history and our world, God is able to vanquish death, sin and evil, and to give us new, risen life. In the Son of God’s death on the cross, we find the seed of new hope for life, like the seed which dies within the earth.

This night full of silence, full of hope, echoes God’s call to us as found in the words of Saint Augustine: “Have faith! You will come to me and you will taste the good things of my table, even as I did not disdain to taste the evil things of your table... I have promised you my own life. As a pledge of this, I have given you my death, as if to say: Look! I am inviting you to share in my life. It is a life where no one dies, a life which is truly blessed, which offers an incorruptible food, the food which refreshes and never fails. The goal to which I invite you … is friendship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the eternal supper, it is communion with me … It is a share in my own life (cf. Sermon 231, 5).

Let us gaze on the crucified Jesus, and let us ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the "old man" bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us "new men", men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's "Urbi et Orbi" Message
"In Our Hearts There Is Joy and Sorrow, on Our Faces There Are Smiles and Tears"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Easter message delivered today at midday before he imparted his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world).

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"In resurrectione tua, Christe, coeli et terra laetentur! In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice!" (Liturgy of the Hours).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,

Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles.

Right down to our own time – even in these days of advanced communications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news, on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone that had been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers who testified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in the Upper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).

The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.

Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.

"In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice." To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the "heavens" respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace.

May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the light of the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person.

May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugees from various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dear to them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that the pressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concerted response in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort and appreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplary witness in this regard.

May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples of Ivory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliation and pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. May Japan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of the recent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have been tested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish.

May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those who suffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May the proclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.

Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.

Happy Easter to all of you!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Heart of the Christian Mystery
"Be Luminous Witnesses of This New Life That Easter Has Brought"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis that Benedict XVI gave on Wednesday during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope, who arrived by helicopter from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, focused his meditation on the meaning of Christ's resurrection.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these first days of Eastertide, which is prolonged until Pentecost, we are still full of the freshness and new joy that the liturgical celebrations brought to our hearts. Therefore, today I would like to reflect briefly with you on Easter, heart of the Christian mystery. Everything, in fact, begins from here: Christ risen from the dead is the foundation of our faith. Radiating from Easter, as from a luminous, incandescent center, is all the liturgy of the Church, bringing with it content and meaning. The liturgical celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ is not a simple commemoration of this event, but the actualization of the mystery, for the life of every Christian and every ecclesial community, for our life. In fact, faith in the Risen Christ transforms our existence, effecting in us a continuous resurrection, as St. Paul wrote to the first believers: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:8-9).

How can we then make Easter become "life"? How can our whole interior and exterior existence assume a paschal "form"? We must begin from a genuine understanding of Jesus' resurrection: Such an event is not a simple return to the preceding life, as it was for Lazarus, for Jarius' daughter or for the young man of Nain, but rather it is something completely new and different. Christ's resurrection is the door that leads to a life no longer subject to the transience of time, a life immersed in the eternity of God. Initiated with the resurrection of Jesus is a new condition of being a person, which illumines and transforms our everyday path and opens a qualitatively different and new future for the whole of humanity. Because of this, St. Paul not only links in an inseparable way the resurrection of Christians to that of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:16.20), but he also indicates how the paschal mystery must be lived in our daily life.

In the Letter to the Colossians, he says: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth" (3:1-2). At first sight, reading this text, it might seem that the Apostle intends to foster contempt for earthly reality, inviting, that is, to forget this world of sufferings, injustices, sins, to live in advance in a heavenly paradise. The thought of "heaven" would be in this case a sort of alienation. However, to understand the true meaning of these Pauline affirmations, suffice it not to separate them from the context. The Apostle specifies very well what he intends by "the things that are above," which the Christian must seek, and "the things of the earth" of which he must beware. Here are first of all "the things of the earth" that one must avoid: "Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry" (3:5-6). To put to death in us the insatiable desire for material goods, egoism, root of every sin. Hence, when the Apostle invites Christians to detach themselves with determination from the "things of the earth," he clearly wishes to make it understood that it belongs to the "old man" of whom the Christian must strip himself, to be clothed in Christ.

As he was clear in saying what the things are on which one must not fix one's heart, with like clarity St. Paul points out to us what the "things" are that are "above," which the Christian, instead, must seek and enjoy. They regard what belongs to the "new man," who is clothed in Christ once and for all in baptism, but who always has need of renewing himself "in the image of him who created him" (Colossians 3:10). Look how the Apostle of the Gentiles describes these "things from above": "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another. ... And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:12-14). Hence St. Paul is very far from inviting Christians, each one of us, to evade the world in which God has put us. It is true that we are citizens of another "city," where are true homeland is, but we must follow the path to this goal daily on this earth. Participating henceforth in the life of the Risen Christ, we must live as new men in this world, in the heart of the earthly city.

And this is the way not only to transform ourselves, but to transform the world, to give the earthly city a new face that fosters the development of man and of society according to the logic of solidarity, of goodness, in profound respect of the dignity of each one. The Apostle reminds us what the virtues are that must support Christian life; at the top is charity, to which all the others are correlated as to their source and matrix. It summarizes and abstracts "the things of heaven": charity, which with faith and hope, represents the great rule of the Christian's life and defines his profound nature.

Easter, therefore, bears the novelty of a profound and total passage from a life subject to the slavery of sin to a life of liberty, animated by love, the force that brings down every barrier and constructs a new harmony in one's heart and in one's relationship with others and with things. Every Christian, just as every community, if he lives the experience of this passage of Resurrection, cannot but be the ferment of a new world, giving himself without reservations for the most urgent and just causes, as the testimonies of saints demonstrate in every age and place.

The expectations of our times are so many: We Christians, believing firmly that Christ's resurrection has renewed man without taking him out of the world in which he builds his history, must be luminous witnesses of this new life that Easter has brought. Hence, Easter is a gift to receive ever more profoundly in faith, to be able to act in every situation, with the grace of Christ, according to the logic of God, the logic of love. The light of Christ's Resurrection must penetrate this world of ours, it must reach -- as a message of truth and life -- all men through our daily witness.

Dear friends, Yes, Christ is truly risen! We cannot keep only for ourselves the life and joy that he has given us in his Easter, but we must give it to all those we approach. It is our task and our mission: to arouse in our neighbor hope where there is despair, joy where there is sadness, life where there is death. To witness every day the joy of the Risen Lord means to live always in a "paschal way" and to make resound the happy proclamation that Christ is not an idea or a memory of the past, but a Person who lives with us, for us and in us, and with him, by and in him, we can make all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5).

Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Easter Monday
"The Lord’s Resurrection Marks the Renewal of Our Human Condition"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 29, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Easter Monday, April 25, before praying the Regina Caeli in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Surrexit Dominus vere! Alleluja! The Lord’s Resurrection marks the renewal of our human condition. Christ triumphed over death, caused by our sin, and restores us to immortal life. This event gave rise to the whole of the Church’s life and to the very existence of Christians.

On this day, Easter Monday, we read in the first missionary discourse of the nascent Church: "This Jesus", the Apostle Peter proclaimed, "God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear" (Acts 2:32-33).

One of the characteristic signs of faith in the Resurrection is the greeting among Christians during Eastertide, inspired by the ancient liturgical hymn: "Christ is risen! / He is truly risen!". It is a profession of faith and a commitment of life, as it was for the women described in Matthew’s Gospel: "And behold, Jesus met them and said: ‘Hail!’. And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’" (28: 9-10).

"The whole Church", the Servant of God Paul VI wrote, "receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole…. She remains as a sign -- simultaneously obscure and luminous -- of a new presence of Jesus, of his departure and of his permanent presence. She prolongs and continues him" (Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, n. 15.

How can we encounter the Lord and increasingly become his authentic witnesses? St Maximus of Turin stated: "Anyone who wishes to reach the Saviour must first, in his own faith, seat him at the right hand of the Divinity, and place him with heartfelt conviction in Heaven" (Sermon 39 a, 3: CCL 23, 157), in other words one must learn to focus the gaze of one’s mind and heart constantly on the heights of God, where the Risen Christ is. In this way God encounters man in prayer and adoration.

The theologian Romano Guardini noted that "adoration is not something additional, something secondary… it is a matter of the utmost importance, of feeling and of being. In adoration man recognizes what is valid in the pure, simple and holy sense" (cf. La Pasqua, Meditazioni, Brescia 1995, 62). Only if we are able to turn to God, to pray him, do we discover the deepest meaning of our life and the daily routine is illumined by the light of the Risen One.

Dear friends, today the Church in both the East and the West is celebrating St. Mark the Evangelist, a wise herald of the Word and a writer of Christ’s teaching -- as he was described in ancient times. He is also Patron of the city of Venice, where, please God, I shall make a Pastoral Visit on 7 and 8 of May. Let us now invoke the Virgin Mary, so that she may help us faithfully and joyfully carry out the mission which the Risen Lord entrusts to each one.

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