The sacred days leading to Easter Sunday are occasions to revive within us the great hope: The Crucified Christ is risen and has conquered the world.
On Wednesday, 19 March , prior to the General Audience, the Holy Father delivered the following Address, translated from Italian and Spanish, to students of the International “UNIV 2008” Conference in St. Peter’s Basilica.
I offer a cordial welcome to all of you who have come to Rome from various countries and universities to celebrate Holy Week together and to take part in the International “UNIV” Congress. In this way you will be able to benefit from moments of common prayer, cultural enrichment and a helpful exchange of the experiences gained from your association with the centres and activities of Christian formation sponsored by the Prelature of Opus Dei in your respective cities and nations.
You know that with a serious personal commitment inspired by Gospel values it is possible to respond adequately to the great issues of our time. Christians know that there is an inseparable bond between truth, ethics and responsibility. Every authentic cultural expression helps form the conscience and encourages the person to surpass himself in order to improve society.
Thus, one feels responsible before the truth, to whose service one must dedicate one’s personal freedom. This is certainly a demanding mission and to carry it out Christians are required to follow Jesus, cultivating an intense friendship with him through prayer and contemplation.
Being Christ’s friends and bearing witness to him wherever we meet him demands the additional effort to go against the tide, remembering the Lord’s words: you are in the world but not of the world (cf. In 15:19). Thus, do not be afraid when necessary to be non-conformist at university, at school and everywhere.
Dear young people of “UNIV”, be leaven of hope in this world that is longing to encounter Jesus, sometimes without even realizing it. In order to improve it, strive first of all to change yourselves through an intense sacramental life, especially by receiving the Sacrament of Penance and by assiduously taking part in the Eucharistic celebration.
I entrust each one of you and your families to Mary, who never ceased to contemplate the Face of her Son Jesus. Upon each one of you I invoke the protection of St. Josemaria and of all your countries’ Saints, as I warmly wish you Happy Easter!
The Pope then went to the Paul VI Hall and delivered the following Catechesis in Italian, a translation follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have arrived at the eve of the Easter Triduum. The next three days are commonly called “holy” because they make us relive the central event of our Redemption; in fact, they lead us back to the essential nucleus of the Christian faith: the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are days we can consider as a single day: they constitute the heart and fulcrum of the entire liturgical year as well as of the Church’s life. At the end of the journey through Lent, we too are preparing to enter the same atmosphere that Jesus lived then in Jerusalem.
Let us reawaken within us the vivid memory of the suffering Jesus bore for our sake and prepare ourselves to celebrate with joy next Sunday, “the true Passover which Christ’s Blood has covered in glory, the Passover on which the Church celebrates the Feast that is the origin of all feasts”, as the Preface for Easter Day says in the Ambrosian rite.
Tomorrow, Holy Thursday, the Church commemorates the Last Supper, during which the Lord instituted on the eve of his Passion and death the Sacrament of the Eucharist and that of the Priestly Ministry. That same night, Jesus bequeathed to us the new commandment, “mandatum novum“, the commandment of brotherly love.
Tomorrow morning, before entering the Holy Triduum but already in close connection with it, the Chrism Mass, will take place in every diocesan Community, during which the Bishop and priests of the diocesan presbyterate renew the promises of their Ordination.
In addition, the oils for the celebration of the sacraments are blessed: the oil of the catechumens, the oil of the sick and the holy chrism. It is a particularly important moment for the life of every diocesan Community which, gathered around its Pastor, strengthens its own unity and its own faithfulness to Christ, the one Eternal High Priest.
In the evening, the Mass of the Cena Domini is the commemoration of the Last Supper when Christ gave himself to all of us as the food of salvation, the drug of immortality: it is the mystery of the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life.
In this Sacrament of salvation the Lord offered and brought about for all who believe in him the closest possible union between our life and his life. The humble and especially expressive gesture of the washing of the feet invites us to recall all that the Lord did for his Apostles: in washing their feet he proclaimed in a concrete manner the primacy of love that becomes a service even to the gift of self, thereby also anticipating the supreme sacrifice of his life which was to be consummated the following day on Calvary. In accordance with a beautiful tradition, the faithful end Holy Thursday with a prayer vigil and Eucharistic Adoration in order to relive more intimately Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.
Good Friday is the day when the Passion, Crucifixion and death of Jesus are commemorated. On this day the liturgy of the Church does not provide for the celebration of Holy Mass, but the Christian assembly gathers to meditate on the great mystery of evil and sin which oppress humanity in order to retrace, in the light of God’s Word and assisted by moving liturgical actions, the Lord’s suffering that expiated this evil.
After hearing the narrative of Christ’s Passion, the community prays for all the needs of the Church and the world, adores the Cross and receives the Eucharist, consuming the species preserved from the previous day’s Mass of the Cena Domini.
As a further invitation to meditate on the Passion and death of the Redeemer and to express the love and participation of the faithful in Christ’s suffering, the Christian tradition has Oven life to various manifestations of popular piety, processions and Passion plays that aim to impress sentiments of true participation in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice ever more deeply in the souls of the faithful.
The Way of the Cross stands out among these. It is a pious practice which in the course of the years has been enriched with a multitude of spiritual and artistic expressions linked to the sensitivities of the different cultures.
Thus, in many countries, shrines have come into being with the name of “Calvary” which are reached after a steep climb that recalls the sorrowful way of the Passion, enabling the faithful to participate in the Lord’s ascent towards the Mount of the Cross, the Mount of Love, impelled to the very end.
Holy Saturday is marked by a profound silence. Churches are bare and no special liturgics are planned. While believers wait with expectation for the great event of the Resurrection, they persevere with Mary in prayer and meditation.
In fact, a day of silence is necessary in order to meditate on the reality of human life, on the forces of evil and on the great force of good that flowed from the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.
On this day great importance is given to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, an indispensable means of purifying the heart and preparing oneself to celebrate Easter profoundly renewed. We need the inner purification of this renewal of ourselves at least once a year.
This Saturday of silence, with meditation, forgiveness and reconciliation, flows into the Easter Vigil which ushers in the most important Sunday of history, the Sunday of Christ’s Pasch. The Church watches beside the new lire that. is blessed and meditates on the great promise, contained in the Old and New Testaments, of definitive liberation from the ancient slavery of sin and death.
In the darkness of the night, the paschal candle is lit from this fire, a symbol of Christ who rises in glory. Christ the light of humanity dispels the darkness of the heart and the spirit and illumines every person who comes into the world. Next to the Paschal candle the great Easter proclamation rings out in the Church: Christ is truly risen, death no longer has any power over him. With his death he defeated evil for ever and made a gift to all human beings of God’s life itself.
Following an ancient tradition, catechumens receive Baptism during the Easter Vigil to emphasize Christians’ participation in the mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection. From the resplendent night of Easter, Christ’s joy, light and peace expand in the life of the faithful of every Christian community and reach every point in space and time.
Dear brothers and sisters, in these unique days let us direct our lives with determination towards a generous and convinced adherence to the Heavenly Father’s plans; let us renew our “yes” to the divine will as Jesus did with his sacrifice on the Cross.
The evocative riles of Holy Thursday, of Good Friday, the silence rich in prayer of Holy Saturday and the solemn Easter Vigil give us the opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian vocation which flows from the Paschal Mystery and to put it into practice by faithfully following Christ in every circumstance, even to the point of generously wing our lives as he did.
Commemorating the mysteries of Christ also means living in profound and supportive adherence to the today of history, convinced that what we celebrate is a living, actual reality. Let us therefore carry in our prayers the drama of the events and situations which in these days afflict so many of our brethren in every part of the world. We know that hatred, divisions and violence never have the last word in the events of history.
May these days revive within us the great hope: the Crucified Christ is risen and has conquered the world! Love is stronger than hate, it has overcome it, and we must associate ourselves with this victory of love. We must therefore start out afresh from Christ and work in communion with him for a world founded on peace, justice and love. In this commitment which involves us all may we let ourselves be guided by Mary, who accompanied her divine Son on the way of the Passion and the Cross and took part, with the strength of her faith, to carry out his saving plan.
With these sentiments, I express from this moment my most cordial good wishes for a happy and holy Easter to you all, your loved ones and your Communities.
Weekly Edition in English
26 March 2008, page 15
L’Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:
The Cathedral Foundation
L’Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069