Conversion and baptism immerse us in Christ's Easter mystery, and involve us in his death and resurrection. Easter calls for the reborn, the resurrected; the rebirth and the resurrection of which baptism is not only the beginning, but also offers the grace for its progressive and complete fulfillment.
As Christians we are never finished being converted, reborn and risen again; the condition of our life on earth is the tension of a continual regeneration in Christ, conforming us more and more to his death and resurrection.
A Christian's striving is never ended; we ourselves says the Apostle who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption (Romans 8:23). We shall have full and complete redemption only in heaven, for only then shall we be assimilated in an enduring way into Christ's paschal mystery and die to sin, once for all. . .and be alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:10-11).
Divine Intimacy Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD
A few thoughts of Pope Benedict on the meaning of the Resurrection:
Until that moment Christ's death remained almost an enigma, whose outcome was still uncertain. In the Pascal mystery the words of Scripture are fulfilled, that is, this death realized "according to the Scriptures" is an event that carries a "logos" in itself, a logic: Christ's death testifies that the Word of God became human "flesh," human "history," without reserve. How and why this happened, we understand from the other addition Paul makes: Christ died "for our sins." With these words the Pauline text takes up the prophecy of Isaiah contained in the fourth song of the Servant of God (cf. Isaiah 53:12). The Servant of God -- the song says -- "surrendered himself to death," bore "the sins of the world," and interceding for the "guilty" was able to bring the gift of reconciliation among men and between men and God: his is a death therefore that puts an end to death; the way of the cross leads to the resurrection.
In the verses that follow, the Apostle pauses over the Lord's resurrection. He says that Christ "rose on the third day according to the Scriptures." Again: "according to the Scriptures!" Not a few exegetes see in the expression "[he] rose on the third day according to the Scriptures" a significant reference to Psalm 16, where the Psalmist proclaims: "You will not abandon me in the netherworld, nor let his faithful one undergo corruption" (16:10). This is one of the texts of the Old Testament that was cited by early Christians to prove Jesus' messianic character. Since, according to the understanding of Judaism, corruption began after the third day, the word of Scripture is fulfilled in Jesus who rises on the third day, that is, before corruption set in. St. Paul, faithfully transmitting the doctrine of the Apostles, stresses that the victory of Christ over death happens through the creative power of God's Word. This divine power brings hope and joy: this is the definitive liberating content of the Easter revelation. God reveals himself and the power of the trinitarian love that annihilates the destructive forces of evil and death in the events of Easter.
And with humble confidence let us pray: "Jesus, who, rising from the dead, anticipated our resurrection, we believe in you!"
... the proverbial scene of the doubting Thomas that occurred eight days after Easter is very well known. At first he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and said: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn 20: 25).
Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus' identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.
As we know, Jesus reappeared among his disciples eight days later and this time Thomas was present. Jesus summons him: "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (Jn 20: 27).
Thomas reacts with the most splendid profession of faith in the whole of the New Testament: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20: 28). St Augustine comments on this: Thomas "saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed the other" (In ev. Jo. 121, 5).
The Evangelist continues with Jesus' last words to Thomas: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20: 29). This sentence can also be put into the present: "Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe".
In any case, here Jesus spells out a fundamental principle for Christians who will come after Thomas, hence, for all of us.
It is interesting to note that another Thomas, the great Medieval theologian of Aquinas, juxtaposed this formula of blessedness with the apparently opposite one recorded by Luke: "Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!" (Lk 10: 23). However, Aquinas comments: "Those who believe without seeing are more meritorious than those who, seeing, believe" (In Johann. XX lectio VI 2566).
In fact, the Letter to the Hebrews, recalling the whole series of the ancient biblical Patriarchs who believed in God without seeing the fulfilment of his promises, defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11: 1).
The Apostle Thomas' case is important to us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any uncertainty; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.
A final point concerning Thomas is preserved for us in the Fourth Gospel, which presents him as a witness of the Risen One in the subsequent event of the miraculous catch in the Sea of Tiberias (cf. Jn 21: 2ff.).
On that occasion, Thomas is even mentioned immediately after Simon Peter: an evident sign of the considerable importance that he enjoyed in the context of the early Christian communities.
Indeed, the Acts and the Gospel of Thomas, both apocryphal works but in any case important for the study of Christian origins, were written in his name.
Lastly, let us remember that an ancient tradition claims that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia (mentioned by Origen, according to Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 3, 1) then went on to Western India (cf. Acts of Thomas 1-2 and 17ff.), from where also he finally reached Southern India.
Let us end our reflection in this missionary perspective, expressing the hope that Thomas' example will never fail to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Our God.
(Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience 27 July 2006)
On one occasion Saint Faustina heard these words of the Lord:
"My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will I contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy." (Diary 699)
If [God] had no need of the flesh, why did He heal it? And what is most forcible of all, He raised the dead. Why? Was it not to show what the resurrection should be? How then did He raise the dead? Their souls or their bodies? Manifestly both. If the resurrection were only spiritual, it was requisite that He, in raising the dead, should show the body lying apart by itself, and the soul living apart by itself. But now He did not do so, but raised the body, confirming in it the promise of life. Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, "Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I"; and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honey-comb and fish. And when He had thus shown them that there is truly a resurrection of the flesh, wishing to show them this also, that it is not impossible for flesh to ascend into heaven (as He had said that our dwelling-place is in heaven), "He was taken up into heaven while they beheld," as He was in the flesh. If, therefore, after all that has been said, any one demand demonstration of the resurrection, he is in no respect different from the Sadducees, since the resurrection of the flesh is the power of God, and, being above all reasoning, is established by faith, and seen in works.
Saint Justin Martyr, before A.D. 165, from some lost fragments on the Ressurection
Redemption has been offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey. The promise of Christ is not only a reality that we await, but a real presence.
We speak about how things ought to be or what is not going well and "we do not start from the affirmation that Christ has won the victory." To say that Christ has won, that Christ has risen, signifies that the meaning of my life and of the world is present, already present, and time is the profound and mysterious working of its manifestation.
It is fundamental for our faith and our Christian witness that we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real, historical event. His resurrection was not a simple return to existence, but an entrance into a new dimension of life meant to transform every human being, all history and the whole cosmos.
Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 15 April 2009
All Catholics are familiar with the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), the best known devotion on Fridays in Lent following the Lord to His death on the cross. It must be said it's a very appropriate devotion each Friday through the year. On Good Friday there's usually a mega-observance of the Way of the Cross in parish churches, in the Roman Coliseum with the Pope or in New York City sponsored by Communion & Liberation.
As we know Pope John Paul II was big on the Via Crucis as a daily spiritual exercise; other spiritual giants did the same and I think we all would benefit from keeping the Cross in front us by praying the Via Crucis. What is little known is that John Paul also advocated a devotion called the Via Lucis (Way of Light): The Stations of the Resurrection. The Via Lucis is an apt way to recall the saving events of the Paschal Triduum. While there are no physical objects called "Stations of the Resurrection" to follow in our churches (at least not yet) there is no reason why we can't create them. Let me say from the outset, the Via Lucis is not merely a nice thing to do in the Easter season but an essential practice for getting to know the Lord better so as to live the Christian faith more intensely because we are the witnesses to the world of the fact of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001) says:
A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus - from his Resurrection to his Ascension - in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Lk 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church.
Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith - the resurrection of Christ - and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Col 1, 13; Ef 5, 8).
For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fixed its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Pascal event, namely the Lord's Resurrection.
The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since "per crucem ad lucem". Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God's plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man's true end: liberation, joy and peace which are essentially paschal values.
The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a "culture of life" which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a "culture of death", despair and nihilism. (153)
The Via Lucis
1. Jesus Rises From the Dead (Matthew 28:1-7)
2. The Disciples Find the Tomb Empty (John 20:1-9)
3. The Risen Lord Appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
4. The Risen Lord Appears to Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27)
5. The Risen Lord Is Recognized at the Breaking of Bread (Luke 24:28-35)
6. The Risen Lord Appears to His Disciples (Luke 24:36-43)
7. The Lord Gives the Power to Forgive Sins (John 20:19-23)
8. The Lord Confirms the Faith of Thomas (John 20:24-29)
9. The Risen Lord Meets His Disciples on the Shore of Lake Tiberias (John 21:1-13)
10. The Risen Lord Confers the Primacy on Peter (John 21:15-17)
11. The Risen Lord Entrusts to His Disciples the Mission to the World (Matthew 28:16-20)
12. The Risen Lord Ascends to the Father (Acts 1:6-11)
13. Waiting for the Holy Spirit With Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:12-14)
14. The Risen Lord Sends the Holy Spirit Promised to the Disciples (Acts 2:1-13)
Good question. Read Tim Drake's article "Easter Evidence." What is under-estimated is the credibility of the witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. Establish the witness then you can speak of the authority of the Church which in turn leads to the biblical texts, etc. Without the witness of the apostles do we have anything to go on?
And it is finished...the sacred liturgies of the Easter Triduum...
And looking up they saw that the stone had been rolled back, for it was very large, alleluia.
O God, on this day through Thine only-begotten Son has overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life, do Thou follow with Thine aid the desires which Thou does put into our minds and by Thy continual help bring the same to good effect.
The Marian Antiphon concluding Compline during Eastertide is the Queen of Heaven Rejoice.
V. Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia: R. For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, V. Has risen, as He said, alleluia. R. Pray for us to God, alleluia..
Let us pray: O God, who by the resurrection of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant, we beg You, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through Christ our Lord.
Read about this prayer here; it has an interesting history.
The sacred Liturgy follows the biblical pattern of prayer: sundown to sundown. You will notice that our Jewish brothers and sisters do the same. So one's following the liturgical life of the Church needs to remember that telling time is a bit different in that a liturgical day does not begin with sunrise to sundown. Consequently, the sacred Triduum we've just celebrated started with the Mass of the Lord's Supper and ends not with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday but at second Vespers on Easter Sunday. This is a topic some family and friends don't easily comprehend.
The essay "Liturgical Time and Space" in The Handbook for Liturgical Studies (in 5 vols) edited by Anscar J. Chupungco, OSB is an excellent resource for these matters liturgical.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,
From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, "Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra - the resurrection of the Lord is our hope" (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).
Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today's solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." He goes on to say: "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.
The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his "Passover", his "passage", that has opened a "new way" between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.
The proclamation of the Lord's Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the "emptiness" would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord's resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: "Is there a thing of which it is said, 'See, this is new'?" (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed. "Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus - Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel: the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant." This is what is new! A newness that changes the lives of those who accept it, as in the case of the saints. This, for example, is what happened to Saint Paul.
Many times, in the context of the Pauline year, we have had occasion to meditate on the experience of the great Apostle. Saul of Tarsus, the relentless persecutor of Christians, encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and was "conquered" by him. The rest we know. In Paul there occurred what he would later write about to the Christians of Corinth: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Cor 5:17). Let us look at this great evangelizer, who with bold enthusiasm and apostolic zeal brought the Gospel to many different peoples in the world of that time. Let his teaching and example inspire us to go in search of the Lord Jesus. Let them encourage us to trust him, because that sense of emptiness, which tends to intoxicate humanity, has been overcome by the light and the hope that emanate from the resurrection. The words of the Psalm have truly been fulfilled: "Darkness is not darkness for you, and the night is as clear as the day" (Ps 139 :12). It is no longer emptiness that envelops all things, but the loving presence of God. The very reign of death has been set free, because the Word of life has even reached the "underworld", carried by the breath of the Spirit (v. 8).
If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease. I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation - difficult, but indispensable - is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ's Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.
Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra! The resurrection of Christ is our hope! This the Church proclaims today with joy. She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place, especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace. She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good, even when it costs, especially when it costs. Today the Church sings "the day that the Lord has made", and she summons people to joy. Today the Church calls in prayer upon Mary, Star of Hope, asking her to guide humanity towards the safe haven of salvation which is the heart of Christ, the paschal Victim, the Lamb who has "redeemed the world", the Innocent one who has "reconciled us sinners with the Father". To him, our victorious King, to him who is crucified and risen, we sing out with joy our Alleluia!
Christians understand: yes indeed, in the resurrection, the Son of God has emerged as the Light of the world. Christ is the great Light from which all life originates. He enables us to recognize the glory of God from one end of the earth to the other. He points out our path. He is the Lord's day which, as it grows, is gradually spreading throughout the earth. Now, living with him and for him, we can live in the light.
But once Christ is risen, the gravitational pull of love is stronger than that of hatred; the force of gravity of life is stronger than that of death.
(From Pope Benedict XVI's Easter Vigil Homily, 11 April 2009)
Are there any who are devout lovers of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay. For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends. Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day! You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hell when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below." Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (circa AD 400)
Exult O you divine mysteries: and let the saving trumpet resound for the victory of so great a King. Let the earthly realm also be joyful, made radiant by such flashings like lightning: and, made bright with the splendor of the eternal King, let it perceive that it has dismissed the entire world's gloom.
Let Mother Church rejoice as well, adorned with the blazes of so great a light: and let this royal hall ring with the great voices of the peoples. Wherefore, most beloved brothers and sisters, you here present to such a wondrous brightness of this holy light, I beseech you, together with me invoke the mercy of Almighty God.
Let Him who deigned to gather me in among the number of the Levites, by no merits of mine, while pouring forth the glory of His own light enable me to bring to fullness the praise of this waxen candle.
Deacon: The Lord be with you! Response: And with your spirit! D: Raise your hearts on high! R: We now have them present to the Lord! D: Let us then give thanks to the Lord our God! R: This is worthy and just!
Truly it is worthy and just to resound forth with the whole of the heart, disposition of mind, and by the ministry of the voice, the invisible God the Father Almighty, and His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, on our behalf, resolved Adam's debt to the Eternal Father and cleansed with dutiful bloodshed the bond of the ancient crime.
For these are the Paschal holy days, in which that true Lamb is slain, by Whose Blood the doorposts of the faithful are consecrated.
This is the night in which first of all You caused our forefathers, the children of Israel brought forth from Egypt, to pass dry shod through the Red Sea. This is the night which purged the darkness of sins by the illumination of the pillar. This is the night which today restores to grace and unites in sanctity throughout the world Christ's believers, separated from the vices of the world and the darkness of sins. This is the night in which, once the chains of death were undone, Christ the victor arose from the nether realm. For it would have profited us nothing to have been born, unless it had been fitting for us to be redeemed.
His Beatitude, Archbishop Fouad Twal Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
We have arrived at the doorstep of Holy Week, the great week, which is the summit of the Christian year. During this blessed week, God gives us the grace to relive the event of our salvation: with Jesus, and in Jesus, we pass from death to life, we strip off the old man in order to clothe ourselves with the new man. This week is the synthesis of our entire Christian life.
Let's be clear about this. The account of the Passion, of the Death and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus does not just relate to historical events already completed, events that we drag out from a dusty tome in order to give pious remembrance to them, but which nonetheless remain outside of the real drama and tragedies that are being played out in our lives. No, in these feasts we find ourselves on the inside of the drama, the same drama that is being played out within us. We are participants in the mystery of salvation, and the mystery of salvation is accomplished in us! This is because we recognize ourselves very well in each one of the characters of the Pascal event: in Jesus and his suffering, those same sufferings that each one of us must undergo in the course of our lives: hunger, betrayal, exhaustion, injustice... in Peter, so impulsive and generous, but ever so vulnerable; in Judas and the apostles; in Pilate and in the chief priests, who judge and strike out without mercy; in the crowd that now is cheering and then roaring in its hate; in the Virgin Mary, whose heart is pierced by a sword, but who accompanies Jesus along his way of the cross and stays by his side in the most dramatic moments in a total and confident abandonment; in the soldiers who mock him, strike him and are completely indifferent to the sufferings of the Christ; in Veronica and the other holy women who weep and attempt to assuage the sufferings of his Mother; in Simon the Cyrene and Joseph of Arimathea; in the good thief who calls on Jesus and manages, in the very last moments of his life, to snatch for himself paradise itself... In the course of our lives, we are in turn each one of these characters.
But the One who attracts us most of all, who touches us, moves us and transforms what is inside of us, this is Jesus the Christ. It is He. During all this Holy Week, we must never allow ourselves to take our eyes off of Him... For it is towards Jesus that we have to turn our eyes and hearts "to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Phil 3:10-11)
Here we have Jesus, the Messiah, the one who we cheered so much just a few days ago on Palm Sunday, who staggers out of Pilate's house bearing upon his shoulders the heavy cross. His path moves through those narrow, winding and steep streets of Jerusalem. We follow this scene, but from a distance; in this way no one notices our presence... We are too afraid of ending up like him, suffering and dying. The soldiers shout and strike the Lord in order to stir up within him the last dregs of energy that he has left. Look, Jesus falls. To see our Lord fall, the same one who we beheld in all his glory on MountTabor... Three times he falls, but struggles up again and just barely manages to continue on his "via crucis."
He finally arrives at Golgotha, and there is crucified between two criminals. Mary his mother is near him, with two other women. John is there also. What a terrible sight. It is too much to bear... Our hearts are torn between compassion and revulsion - compassion for the Master who suffers this martyrdom though "he has done nothing wrong."(Is 53:9) On the contrary: "He always went about doing good."(Acts ). How things have turned around, that this Lord here, who so many times showed his power in words, lets these men have their way with him and stands there mute "like a sheep before its shearers." This Lord here who so many times revealed his power in gestures, hangs there impotent... We too sometimes are tempted to say with the chief priests: "Let him come down from the cross now! Save yourself, you who saved so many others! (Mt 27:42)
Seeing Jesus on the cross really puts our faith to the test. He performed so many signs during his public ministry... but this time, where is the sign? What can be the meaning of all this? And here is Jesus shouting out in a loud voice: "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" (Mt 27:26) Then he expires. He is dead. It is finished.
Why stay here to watch this, to look upon this pitiful failure? Let's go home.
Today is Holy Saturday. It is all emptiness. The Lord is dead. Our fondest hopes have taken flight and departed. We are gathered here with the apostles and their disciples, and we brood over our sadness, our disappointment but also our shame and our guilt at not having "been up to the task." The only comfort that we find in our midst comes from Mary his Mother. She suffers, you can see that, but at the same time she is at peace. She invites us to believe, to hope against all hope. Jesus can neither be deceived nor deceive us. The truth will come to light. When? How? And what has all this been for? This is the day of "why's", but still no answer comes. Still there is Mary whose mother's heart beats with an unutterable premonition. Mary believes with her whole heart, with her whole soul and with all her strength. We do as she does.
Resurrection Sunday: We have trouble believing what Mary Magdalene and the women have come to tell us. They say that they have seen the Lord alive! They say that we are to wait for him in Galilee. Women's talk, nothing more...
And yet... And yet, if it's true...
Here are Peter and John racing to the tomb. We follow them. Our hearts are pounding in our chests... What has happened? Has someone taken his corps off somewhere? The Romans? The Sanhedrin? No, no we have an inkling that something else has happened. The fragments and half phrases of the Lord, which were lying dormant in us, rush back to our memory. "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day." (Mt 17:22) Are not those the same words that the angels spoke to the women? But whatever can it mean to "be raised" from the dead? In the tomb, the corps has disappeared! And this cannot have been a robbery since, just as the women and Mary Magdalene confirmed, everything is in its place: there is the shroud, empty on the inside, in the very same place where the corps had been lain... there is the cloth that surrounded the Lord's head, collapsed in on itself...
Could the women, then, have been telling the truth? The Lord, who was dead, could he be alive? With the eleven disciples, we hurry on to Galilee, to the mountain that Jesus mentioned. The Lord is waiting for us in Galilee. Galilee, our Church, our home, it is there that we performed our service; Galilee, that is the place where the Lord sent us to be joyous witnesses of His death and resurrection.
We come to the mountain. The Lord is there! Yes, it is really him! He is different and yet the same. Yes, it is really us! The same, and yet so different. With Thomas we cry out: "My Lord and my God!" With Mary, we say with our whole heart: "Rabbi." Yes, Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
The adventure now continues. Or rather, it now begins again, all new! For ourselves, for
our country, for our Church. Salvation has been accomplished and must be proclaimed to all men. Once again, Easter has taken place in our Churches, in our houses, in our towns and villages, in our parish communities, monasteries and convents, in our souls and our hearts, on the beautiful faces of all of our dear pilgrims and tourists. Halleluiah rings out once again far and wide!
This is our feast! And participating in our joy, Jesus says to each one: "I am with you always, until the end of the age."
The Sunday of the Lord's Passion is upon us. First Vesper's has me thinking of what the Christian life is all about and the horizon to which all Christians are facing: Christ fulfilling the Father's promise of life eternal. We're not talking about a fiction here, but reality.
Let God's people then recognize that they are a new creation in Christ, and with all vigilance understand by Whom they have been adopted and Whom they have adopted. Let not the things, which have been made new, return to their ancient instability; and let not him who has 'put his hand to the plough' forsake his work, but rather attend to that which he sows than look back to that which he has left behind. Let no one fall back into that from which he has risen, but, even though from bodily weakness he still languishes under certain maladies, let him urgently desire to be healed and raised up. (Saint Leo the Great, Easter Homily)
But the Son rose again! History is for us the continuity of Christ's resurrection. Every moment of history, by now, is for us the way in which the mystery of the resurrection is accomplished. And at the end of this moment, i.e., at the end of history, the world, everything, everything there is, will be convinced of the intelligence that God has chosen to manifest and the grace that binds us together with which He has filled our hearts.
Do not be afraid; let us not be afraid to serve the Lord, to serve Christ with all the possibility He has given us. (Monsignor Luigi Giussani, March 11, 2003)
Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.