Skip to comments."A Cosmic Event" - text of pope's homily at last night's Vigil Mass (rare event)
Posted on 04/16/2006 11:48:30 AM PDT by NYer
The Vatican's custom is that the Pope does not preach at the liturgy of Easter morning so that the focus upon the Urbi et Orbi message which follows isn't diluted.
So here, in the English translation provided by the Holy See, is Benedict XVI's Easter homily, delivered at the Mother of all Vigils, held last night in the Basilica.
"You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here" (Mk 16:6). With these words, Gods messenger, robed in light, spoke to the women who were looking for the body of Jesus in the tomb. But the Evangelist says the same thing to us on this holy night: Jesus is not a character from the past. He lives, and he walks before us as one who is alive, he calls us to follow him, the living one, and in this way to discover for ourselves too the path of life.
"He has risen, he is not here." When Jesus spoke for the first time to the disciples about the Cross and the Resurrection, as they were coming down from the Mount of the Transfiguration, they questioned what "rising from the dead" meant (Mk 9:10). At Easter we rejoice because Christ did not remain in the tomb, his body did not see corruption; he belongs to the world of the living, not to the world of the dead; we rejoice because he is the Alpha and also the Omega, as we proclaim in the rite of the Paschal Candle; he lives not only yesterday, but today and for eternity (cf. Heb 13:8). But somehow the Resurrection is situated so far beyond our horizon, so far outside all our experience that, returning to ourselves, we find ourselves continuing the argument of the disciples: Of what exactly does this "rising" consist? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and the whole of history? A German theologian once said ironically that the miracle of a corpse returning to life - if it really happened, which he did not actually believe - would be ultimately irrelevant precisely because it would not concern us. In fact, if it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us? But the point is that Christs Resurrection is something more, something different. If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest "mutation", absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history.
The discussion, that began with the disciples, would therefore include the following questions: What happened there? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and for me personally? Above all: what happened? Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is in a totally new life. But how could this happen? What forces were in operation? The crucial point is that this man Jesus was not alone, he was not an "I" closed in upon itself. He was one single reality with the living God, so closely united with him as to form one person with him. He found himself, so to speak, in an embrace with him who is life itself, an embrace not just on the emotional level, but one which included and permeated his being. His own life was not just his own, it was an existential communion with God, a "being taken up" into God, and hence it could not in reality be taken away from him. Out of love, he could allow himself to be killed, but precisely by doing so he broke the definitiveness of death, because in him the definitiveness of life was present. He was one single reality with indestructible life, in such a way that it burst forth anew through death. Let us express the same thing once again from another angle. His death was an act of love. At the Last Supper he anticipated death and transformed it into self-giving. His existential communion with God was concretely an existential communion with Gods love, and this love is the real power against death, it is stronger than death. The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of "dying and becoming". It ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.
It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us. It is a qualitative leap in the history of "evolution" and of life in general towards a new future life, towards a new world which, starting from Christ, already continuously permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself. But how does this happen? How can this event effectively reach me and draw my life upwards towards itself? The answer, perhaps surprising at first but totally real, is: this event comes to me through faith and Baptism. For this reason Baptism is part of the Easter Vigil, as we see clearly in our celebration today, when the sacraments of Christian initiation will be conferred on a group of adults from various countries. Baptism means precisely this, that we are not dealing with an event in the past, but that a qualitative leap in world history comes to me, seizing hold of me in order to draw me on. Baptism is something quite different from an act of ecclesial socialization, from a slightly old-fashioned and complicated rite for receiving people into the Church. It is also more than a simple washing, more than a kind of purification and beautification of the soul. It is truly death and resurrection, rebirth, transformation to a new life.
How can we understand this? I think that what happens in Baptism can be more easily explained for us if we consider the final part of the short spiritual autobiography that Saint Paul gave us in his Letter to the Galatians. Its concluding words contain the heart of this biography: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). I live, but I am no longer I. The "I", the essential identity of man - of this man, Paul - has been changed. He still exists, and he no longer exists. He has passed through a "not" and he now finds himself continually in this "not": I, but no longer I. With these words, Paul is not describing some mystical experience which could perhaps have been granted him, and could be of interest to us from a historical point of view, if at all. No, this phrase is an expression of what happened at Baptism. My "I" is taken away from me and is incorporated into a new and greater subject. This means that my "I" is back again, but now transformed, broken up, opened through incorporation into the other, in whom it acquires its new breadth of existence. Paul explains the same thing to us once again from another angle when, in Chapter Three of the Letter to the Galatians, he speaks of the "promise", saying that it was given to an individual - to one person: to Christ. He alone carries within himself the whole "promise". But what then happens with us? Paul answers: You have become one in Christ (cf. Gal 3:28). Not just one thing, but one, one only, one single new subject. This liberation of our "I" from its isolation, this finding oneself in a new subject means finding oneself within the vastness of God and being drawn into a life which has now moved out of the context of "dying and becoming". The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live ones own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil. The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to one anothers hands, and we become one single subject, not just one thing. I, but no longer I: this is the formula of Christian life rooted in Baptism, the formula of the Resurrection within time. I, but no longer I: if we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a programme opposed to corruption and to the desire for power and possession.
"I live and you will live also", says Jesus in Saint Johns Gospel (14:19) to his disciples, that is, to us. We will live through our existential communion with him, through being taken up into him who is life itself. Eternal life, blessed immortality, we have not by ourselves or in ourselves, but through a relation - through existential communion with him who is Truth and Love and is therefore eternal: God himself. Simple indestructibility of the soul by itself could not give meaning to eternal life, it could not make it a true life. Life comes to us from being loved by him who is Life; it comes to us from living-with and loving-with him. I, but no longer I: this is the way of the Cross, the way that "crosses over" a life simply closed in on the I, thereby opening up the road towards true and lasting joy.
Thus we can sing full of joy, together with the Church, in the words of the Exsultet: "Sing, choirs of angels . . . rejoice, O earth!" The Resurrection is a cosmic event, which includes heaven and earth and links them together. In the words of the Exsultet once again, we can proclaim: "Christ . . . who came back from the dead and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever". Amen!
The whole, blessed tradition - from Lent through Holy Week -- Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday -- had a life changing impact on me.
Once again, after so many times before, I think to myself, "how did I live so long without knowing this was here? How can people take this for granted -- this awesome Church? Why didn't someone make me see it sooner?"
I really didn't begin to live until I came back to the Church.
Bump for later. First Easter for Pope Benedict XVI, first Easter for Vlad the Usurper :-).
I think to myself, "how did I live so long without knowing this was here?
Recall the Parable of the Sower. The seeds were all there. It took time for them to be watered and fed. Many of us slip and slide throughout our lives. Our loving and merciful Savior patiently calls us back. You are not alone!
This is the first year that I attempted to partake of the Easter Triduum. I was blown away. "Easter Sunday" -- in the sense I was raised with and took for granted was what "Easter" is all about, doesn't begin to even touch on it.
Like you, I also threw myself into the sublime mysteries of the Easter Triduum this year, though through a Maronite Catholic Church. It all culminated last night at Midnight Mass (that's the time it began) when Father rolled back the stone from the empty tomb. Like you - I really didn't begin to live until I came back to the Church.
The challenge now is to hold fast to this awesome experience and allow it to carry you through the entire liturgical year - until next Lent - when we will take stock of our shortcomings and renew our commitment to Christ, our Divine Savior, who called to us out of Love.
Easter blessings to you and your family!
Thank you for posting that, it's a wonderful witness. I am really stunned by how many people seem to have found (or re-discovered) the True Faith this year. Despite all the difficulties in the Church, the Truth shines out and is defeating the darkness, and people are seeing it and recognizing it.
All of our parishes here (North Florida) have had large numbers of converts or people coming back, and I read somewhere that the Diocese of Miami received 1200 people last night. Many of them have said in interviews published here in the press that it was what they saw of the Church during the death of JPII - and his enormous courage and faith during that time - and the beauty of the funeral liturgies, combined with admiration for BXVI and his forthright orthodoxy, that has brought them into the Church or back to it. I was talking to a friend from Atlanta today and she said the same thing. They received 60 people in her parish last night!
As newcomers to the Eastern Rite, my little family and I have had one magnificent experience after another throughout this whole season. Today's Divine Liturgy was simply indescribable. Several times, I was profoundly reminded of just what it really was that we were celebrating. The harmony of the chants was close and very beautiful. We are truly blessed.
My oldest daughter and I attended a Greek Orthodox devotion to the Blessed Mother a week ago Friday, on the advice of FReeper Koloko-whatever. I thought it was beautiful, and I plan to spend more time meditating on the texts of the liturgy during the Easter season, and include some of it in our family devotions.
My daughter is 15, and she thought an electric guitar would be a good addition :-).
"The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of "dying and becoming"."
Preparation, no doubt!
Ain't it great?? :) :) :)
Welcome! May God continue to shower you with His gift of abundant blessings!
I'm one of them -- I entered full communion, was confirmed and received Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time at the Vigil last night! I don't even have words to describe the feeling.
Congratulations and a very big welcome! BTW, I am really happy because it seems that all of my favorite Freepers (that is, folks whose posts I like!) are coming home to the Church now!
What a great feeling going to Communion for the first time. You have so many discoveries ahead of you! And you have 2000 years of history behind you to draw upon. It is truly wonderful. Welcome once again, and my prayers for you.
**The whole, blessed tradition - from Lent through Holy Week -- Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday -- had a life changing impact on me.**
Amen! And welcome back home!
**Why didn't someone make me see it sooner?" **
Because you weren't hanigng out on FR -- LOL! No, seriously, we have an awesome Religion Forum here. Lots of learning opportunities.
Check out all the links as you go down the thread -- Catholic Culture has the most.
Congratulations and Welcome Home!
Thanks! In this case, I meant the Greek Orthodox Akathist, but I'll remember you have activities on the daily readings threads! We have a daily lectionary, so we always start with that, but then I try to add different things so the offspring don't get bored.
No, I realized you can't see it unless you're looking for it.