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1. We are on the eve of the paschal Triduum, already immersed in the spiritual atmosphere of Holy Week. From tomorrow until Sunday, we will live the principal days of the liturgy, which again propose to us the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. In their homilies, the Fathers make special reference to these days that, as St. Athanasius observes, introduce us "in that time that takes us and makes us know a new beginning, the day of the holy Passover, in which the Lord was immolated." Thus he describes the period we are living in his paschal Letters (Lett. 5,1-2; PG 26, 1379). The Easter Preface next Sunday will make us sing with great strength "by rising he restored our life."
At the heart of this sacred Triduum is the "mystery of an unbounded love," namely, the mystery of Christ who, "having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end" (John 13:1). I have proposed this overwhelming and sweet mystery again to priests in the Letter that I have sent them, as I do every year, on the occasion of Holy Thursday.
I invite you also to reflect on this same love, to prepare yourselves to relive worthily Jesus´ last earthly moments. Tomorrow we will enter the Cenacle to receive the extraordinary gift of the Eucharist, of the Priesthood, and of the new commandment. On Good Friday, we will walk on the Via Dolorosa that leads to Calvary, where Christ will consummate his sacrifice. On Holy Saturday, we will await in silence to be introduced in the solemn Easter Vigil.
2. "He loved them to the end." These words of John the Evangelist express and qualify in a peculiar way the liturgy of tomorrow, Holy Thursday, contained in the celebration of the morning Chrism Mass and the evening Mass of the Lord´s Supper, which opens the holy Triduum.
The Eucharist is the eloquent sign of this total, free, generous love, and offers each one the joy of the presence of Him who makes us also capable of loving, in imitation of him, "to the end." The love that Jesus proposes to his disciples is demanding.
In this our meeting, we have heard the echo again in the words of Matthew the Evangelist: "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12). Even today, to love "to the end" means to be ready to face exhaustion and difficulty in the name of Christ. It means not to fear insults or persecutions, and to be ready to "love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). All this is a gift of Christ, who offered himself for every man as the sacrificial victim on the altar of the Cross.
3. "He loved them to the end." From the Cenacle to Golgotha: Our reflection leads us to Calvary, where we contemplate a love whose fulfillment is the gift of life. The Cross is the clear sign of this mystery, but at the same time, and because of this, it becomes a symbol that challenges and disquiets consciences. When we celebrate the Lord´s Passion next Friday, and take part in the Via Crucis, we will not be able to forget the force of this love that gives itself without measure.
In the apostolic Letter for the conclusion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I wrote: "In contemplating Christ´s face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of his mystery, as it emerges in his last hour, on the Cross. The mystery within the mystery, before which we cannot but prostrate ourselves in adoration" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," 25). And this is the most consequent interior attitude to prepare to live the commemorative day of the passion, crucifixion and death of Christ.
4. "He loved them to the end." Sacrificed for us on the Cross, Jesus rises and become the first fruit of the new creation. We will live Holy Saturday in silent waiting for the encounter with the Risen One, meditating on the words of the Apostle Paul: "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, [...] he was buried, [...] he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In this way, we will be able to prepare better for the solemn Easter Vigil, when the shining light of the risen Christ will burst forth in the middle of the night.
May Mary, the Virgin who always remained faithful next to her Son, accompany us in this last stretch of the penitential road, especially in the days of the Passion. May she teach us to love "to the end," following in Jesus´ footsteps, who saved the world by his death and resurrection.
[Translation by ZENIT]