On the Paschal Mystery
"Let Yourselves Be Enthralled by Him"
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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2010 (Zenit.org).- 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.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[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.
[Translation by ZENIT]