Wednesday, March 28, 2018

General Audience on the Easter Triduum

This morning's General Audience began at 9:30am (3:30am EDT) in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope added his meditation on the Easter Triduum (1 Cor 5:7-8).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, I want to focus and to meditate on the Pascal Triduum which will begin tomorrow, in order to deepen a little bit, what these most important days in the liturgical year represent for us believers.  I want to ask you a question: which feast is more important for our faith: Christmas or Easter?  Easter, because it is the feast of our salvation, the feast of God's love for us, the feast, the celebration of his death and Resurrection.  This is the reason why I want to reflect with you on this feast, on these days, which are Easter days, leading to the Lord's Resurrection.  These days constitute the celebrated memory of a great and unique mystery: the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  The Triduum begins tomorrow with the Mass of the Lord's Supper and concludes with Vespers (Evening Prayer) on Easter Sunday.  Then there is Pasquetta (Easter Monday) another chance to celebrate this great feast: one more day.  But his is post-liturgical: it is a family celebration, a civil celebration.  It marks the fundamental stages of our faith and of our vocation in the world, and all Christians are called to live these three holy days - Thursday, Friday, Saturday; and Sunday - of course, but Saturday is the resurrection - the three holy days, so to speak, the matrix of their personal life, of their community life; just as our Jewish brothers lived them during the exile in Egypt.

These three days re-propose to the Christian people the great events of salvation at work in Christ, and thus they project him into the horizon of his future destiny and strengthen him in his commitment to bear witness in history.

On Easter morning, retracing the steps experienced throughout the Triduum, the Easter Sequence - a hymn or a kind of Psalm, solemnly announces the resurrection; it says: Christ, our hope, is risen and is going ahead of us to Galilee.  This is the great affirmation: Christ is risen.  For many people throughout the world, especially in Eastern Europe, people greet one another on Easter Sunday not by saying good morning or good evening, but rather with the words Christ is risen, in order to affirm the great Easter greeting.  Christ is risen.  In these words - Christ is risen - the Triduum culminates in emotional exultation.  These words are not only a proclamation of joy and hope, but also a call to responsibility and mission.  It does not end with a cake, an egg or with a party - even if these things are good because they are part of our family celebration - but it doesn't end there.  Our missionary journey begins there, with the proclamation: Christ is risen.  This proclamation, to which the Triduum leads, prepares us so that we can prepare to welcome it, and the focus of our faith is our hope, the nucleus is proclamation, it is - the difficult word, but a word that says it all - is kerygma, because the Church continually evangelizes and we in turn are all invited to evangelize.

Saint Paul summarizes the Easter event with this expression: Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7), like a lamb.  He was sacrificed.  Therefore - Saint Paul continues - old things have passed and are born again (2 Cor 5:15).  Reborn.  And for this reason, people were baptized on Easter Sunday.  This Saturday, in the evening, I will baptize here, in Saint Peter's, eight adults who will begin their Christian lives.  It all starts with them being reborn.  Saint Paul also explains: Christ was consigned to death because of our sins and he was raised for our justification (Rom 4:25).  Christ is the only one, the only one who justifies us, the only one in whom we are reborn again.  No one else.  For this reason, we don't have to pay anything, because justification - getting things right - is free.  This is the great thing about Jesus' love: he freely gives us life in order to make us all saints, to renew us, to forgive us.  And this is the nucleus - the heart - of the Easter Triduum.  In the Easter Triduum, the memory of this fundamental event becomes a celebration full of gratitude, and at the same time, it renews within each one of the baptized, the sense of their new condition, which the Apostle Paul expresses this way: If you are risen with Christ, seek the things that are above ... and not ... the things that are of the earth (Col 3:1-3).  Look upward, look to the horizons, broaden your horizons: this is our faith, this is our justification, this is the state of grace!  In fact, through Baptism, we are risen with Jesus and we are dead to things and to the logic of this world; we are reborn as new creatures: a reality that seeks to become concretely visible day after day.

A Christian who truly allows him- or herself to be washed by Christ, who truly allows him- or herself to be stripped of the old self in order to walk in a new life, all the while remaining a sinner - for we are all sinners - can no longer be corrupt, the justification of Jesus saves us from corruption; we are sinners but we are not corrupt; we can no longer live with the death of our souls, and neither can we be the cause of someone else's death. Here, I must tell you something sad and painful ... There are fake Christians: those who say that Jesus is risen, and that I was justified by Jesus, who say that they are living a new life, but they are living a corrupt life.  These fake Christians will never succeed.  I repeat: a Christian is a sinner - we are all sinners, I am a sinner - but we have the surety that when we ask the Lord to forgive us, he forgives us.  Someone who is corrupt might try to make us believe that he or she is an honourable person, but, in the end, in his or her heart there is something rotting.  Jesus gives us a new life.  A Christian cannot live with death in his or her soul, nor can he or she be the cause of death.  Let us think for a moment - we don't have to go far - let us think about our own homes, let us think about so-called mafia Christians.  Such Christians don't have anything: they say that they are Christians, but they carry death in their souls and they bring death to others.  Let us pray for them, that the Lord may touch their souls.  Our neighbours, especially those who are smallest and those who suffer most, become the concrete faces of those who share the love that Jesus has given to us.  The world becomes a space for our new risen life.  We are risen with Jesus: standing on our feet, holding our heads high, and we can share the humiliation of those who even today, like Jesus, are suffering, naked, in need, alone, dying, in order to become, thanks to Him and with Him, instruments of redemption and hope, signs of life and of resurrection.  In many countries - here in Italy and also in my own country - we have the habit that when we hear that it is Easter day, we hear the bells, the mothers the grandmothers who take their children to wash their ears with the water, with the water of life, as a sign that they can see the things of Jesus, new things.  This Easter, let us allow ourselves to wash our souls, to wash our eyes in love, so that we can see beautiful things, and do beautiful things.  And this would be marvellous!  This is what it truly means to live Jesus resurrection, after his death which was the price he paid to save all of us.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us prepare ourselves to live this Easter Triduum well - beginning tomorrow - in order to be more profoundly plunged into the mystery of Christ, who died and rose again for us.  May the Most Holy Virgin accompany us on this spiritual voyage, she who followed Jesus in his passion - She was there, watching, suffering ... she was present and united with him under his cross, but she was not ashamed of her son.  A mother is never ashamed of her son!  She was there, and she received in her maternal heart the immense joy of the resurrection.  May she obtain for us the grace of inwardly participating in the celebrations of these coming days, so that our hearts and our lives may truly be transformed.

In leaving these thoughts with you, I offer all of you my most sincere greetings for a happy and a holy Easter, together with your communities and those who are dear to you.

And may I suggest: on Easter morning, bring your children to the tap and have them wash their eyes.  It will be a sign of how they can see the Risen Jesus.

Summaries of the Holy Father's catechesis were then translated into various languages and His Holiness offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States of America. I offer a special greeting to the delegates taking part in the Seminar organized by the Vatican Observatory in preparation for the forthcoming UNISPACE+50 Conference. May this Holy Week lead all of us to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. God bless you!

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