Tag Archives: Easter

Urbi et Orbi of Pope Benedict XVI, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,

Resurrection Tintoretto.jpgFrom 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.

Christ & St Mary Magdalen.jpgThe 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.

Conversion St Paul Caravaggio.jpgMany 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 [138]: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!

Love is stronger than death

Pope incenses Resurrection icon.jpgChristians 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)

Christ is risen!

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Easter woman.jpgLet 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.
Resurrection Vivarini.jpgHe 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 you angels, exult you Church, exult all creation: Christ is Risen!

Exsultet.jpgExult now O you angelic throngs of the heavens:

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.

Exultet Roll, Montecassino Barberini.jpgFor 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.

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What moves us is Jesus Christ

The Easter Message 2009

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.


Pierced Side.jpgLet’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 usWe 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 Mount Tabor… 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 10:38).  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.


Lamentation.jpgToday 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 GalileeGalilee, 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
eucharist.jpgour 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.”

About the author

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.
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