Pope: In Extreme Solitude, We Won't Be Alone

Reflects on Death During Visit to Shroud of Turin

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TURIN, Italy, MAY 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Even in the extreme solitude of death, there will be a voice that calls to us and a hand extended to us, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this reflection today during his visit to Turin where he venerated the Shroud, believed to be the cloth in which Christ was buried.

"This is a moment that I have been waiting for for quite some time," he said. "I have found myself before the sacred Shroud on another occasion but this time I am experiencing this pilgrimage and this pause with particular intensity: perhaps because the years make me more sensitive to the message of this extraordinary icon; perhaps, and I would say above all, because I am here as Successor of Peter, and I carry in my heart the whole Church, indeed, all of humanity."

The Shroud is on display for the first time in a decade. The exposition ends May 23.

The Holy Father expressed his thanks to God for the "gift of this pilgrimage," and he shared a reflection based on the title of the exposition: “The Mystery of Holy Saturday.” 

"One could say that the Shroud is the icon of this mystery, the icon of Holy Saturday," he proposed.

The Pontiff said that the "most obscure mystery of faith" is simultaneously "the most luminous sign of a hope without limits."

He explained: "Holy Saturday is the 'no man’s land' between death and resurrection, but into this 'no man’s land' has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man. [...]

"[The Shroud] witnesses precisely to the unique and unrepeatable interval in the history of humanity and the universe, in which God, in Jesus Christ, shared not only our dying, but also our remaining in death. The most radical solidarity."

A voice in the dark

Benedict XVI reflected how in "that 'time-beyond-time' Jesus Christ 'descended into hell' -- 'agli inferi.'"

What does this mean, he asked? "It means that God, made man, went to the point of entering into the extreme and absolute solitude of man, where no ray of love enters, where there is total abandonment without any word of comfort: 'hell' ('gli inferi'). Jesus Christ, remaining in death, has gone beyond the gates of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to go beyond it with him."

The Pope compared this solitude to the childhood experience of fear of the dark, when only the presence of a loved one could bring comfort.

"So, it is exactly this that happened in Holy Saturday," he said. "In the kingdom of death there resounded the voice of God. The unthinkable happened: that Love penetrated 'into hell -- 'negli inferi' -- that in the most extreme darkness of the most absolute human solitude we can hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes us and leads us out. 

"The human being lives by the fact that he is loved and can love; and if love even has penetrated into the realm of death, then life has also arrived there. In the hour of extreme solitude we will never be alone."

Power

The Pontiff affirmed that in the "heart of death there now beats life, inasmuch as love lives there."

And this, he said, is the "power of the Shroud."

"From the countenance of this 'Man of sorrows,' who takes upon himself man’s passion of every time and every place, even our passion, our suffering, our difficulties, our sins -- 'Passio Christi. Passio hominis' -- from this moment there emanates a solemn majesty, a paradoxical lordship," he said. 

"This face, these hands and these feet, this side, this whole body speaks, it is itself a word that we can hear in silence," the Pope continued. "How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who has been scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and wounded in his right side. 

"Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Especially that large mark near the side, made by blood and water that poured copiously from a great wound caused by a Roman spear, that blood and that water speak of life. It is like a spring that speaks in silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it, in the silence of Holy Saturday."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-29116?l=english