Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter Vigil in Rome

At 9:00pm local time tonight (3:00pm EDT), the Holy Father, Pope Francis presided over the Solemn Easter Vigil at the Altar of the Chair inside the Vatican Basilica.

The rite of Blessing of the fire took place at the foot of the Altar of the Confession.  The procession then made its way from the Altar of the Confession to the Altar of the Chair, passing by the Altar of Saint Joseph.  Because of the health emergency currently in force, the preparation of the Pascal candle was omitted from this evening's liturgy, as was the lighting of candles being held by other participants.  At the chanting of the Gloria, the lights inside the Basilica were lit.  During the ceremony, there were no Baptisms, only the renewal of Baptismal promises.

Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
during the celebration of the Easter Vigil

After the Sabbath (Mt 28: 1) the women went to the grave. This is how the Gospel of this Holy Vigil began, with the Sabbath. It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we most neglect, concerned as we are by the excitement about passing from the cross of Good Friday to the Easter Sunday Alleluia. This year, however, we are feeling more than ever on Holy Saturday, the day of great silence. We can mirror ourselves in the feelings of the women on that day. Like us, they had in their eyes the tragedy of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened too quickly. They had seen death and had death in their hearts. Their pain was accompanied by fear: would they also meet the same end as their Master had? And then there were fears for the future, everything had to be rebuilt. Wounded memories, stifled hopes. It was the darkest hour for them, as it is also for us.

But in this situation, the women were not paralyzed. They did not give in to the dark forces of lament and regret, they did not shut themselves up in pessimism, they did not flee from reality. They did something simple and extraordinary: in their homes they prepared perfumes for Jesus' body. They did not give up on love: in the darkness of the heart they ignited mercy. On Saturday, the Madonna, on the day that would be dedicated to her, prayed and hoped. In the midst of challenge and pain, she trusted in the Lord. Without knowing it, in the dark of that Saturday, these women prepared the dawn of the first day of the week, the day that would change history. Like a seed sown in the earth, Jesus was about to sprout new life in the world; and those women helped hope to blossom with their prayer and their love. In the sad days we are currently living, how many people have done and are doing like those women, sowing sprouts of hope! With small gestures of care, affection and prayer.

At dawn, the women went to the tomb. There, the angel said to them: Do not be afraid. He is not here, he is risen (Mt 28: 5-6). Standing in front of the grave they heard words of life ... And then they met Jesus, the author of hope, who confirmed the proclamation and said: Do not be afraid (Mt 28: 10). Do not be afraid, do not be afraid: here is the proclamation of hope. It is offered for us today. Today. These are the words that God repeats to us on the night we are going through.

Tonight we conquer a fundamental right, which will not be taken from us: the right to hope. It is a new, living hope that comes from God. It is not mere optimism, it is not a pat on the back or an encouragement of circumstance, with a passing smile. No. It is a gift from Heaven, which we could not receive ourselves. Everything will be fine, let us say these words tenaciously in these weeks, clinging to the beauty of our humanity and making words of encouragement rise from the heart. But as the days go by and fears grow, even the boldest hope can evaporate. Jesus' hope is different. He puts in his heart the certainty that God knows how to turn everything to good, because even from the grave he makes life come forward.

The grave is the place where those who enter do not leave. But Jesus came out of the tomb for us; he rose for us, to bring life where there was death, to start a new story where a stone had been placed. He, who overturned the boulder at the entrance of the tomb, can remove the boulders that seal the heart. Therefore we do not give in to resignation, we do not put a stone on our hope. We can and must hope, because God is faithful. He did not leave us alone, he visited us: he came to our every situation, in pain, in anguish, in death. His light illuminated the darkness of the tomb: today he wants to reach the darkest corners of life. Sister, brother, even if you have buried hope in your heart, don't give up: God is greater than your fears. Darkness and death do not have the last word. Take courage, with God nothing is lost!

Courage: it is a word that always comes from the mouth of Jesus in the Gospels. Only once do others pronounce it, to say to a needy person: Courage! Get up, Jesus is calling you! (Mk 10: 49). It is He, the Risen One, who raises us up when we are needy. If you are weak and fragile, if you fall, do not be afraid, God holds out his hand and says to you: Courage!. But you could say, like Don Abbondio: Courage, one cannot give courage (I Promessi Sposi, XXV). You cannot give it to yourself, but you can receive it as a gift. Just open your heart in prayer, just lift that stone that was placed at the mouth of your heart and let the light of Jesus enter. Just invite him: Come, Jesus, in the midst of my fears, and say to me too: Courage!  With You, Lord, we will be tried, but not disturbed. And, whatever sadness dwells in us, we know we have to hope, because with you the cross flows into resurrection, because you are with us in the darkness of our nights: you are certainty in the midst of our uncertainties, you are a Word in the midst of our silences, and nothing can ever rob us of the love you have for us.

This is is the Easter proclamation, a proclamation of hope. It contains a second part, the sending forth. Go and tell to my brothers that they must go to Galilee (Mt 28: 10). Jesus precedes you to Galilee (Mt 28: 7), the angel said. The Lord precedes us, he always precedes us. It is nice to know that he walks in front of us, that he has visited our life and our death in order to precede us on the way to Galilee, in the place, that is, that for him and for his disciples he recalled daily life, family, work. Jesus wants us to bring hope there, into everyday life. But Galilee for the disciples was also the place of memories, especially of their first call. To return to Galilee is to remember that we have been loved and called by God. Each of us has our own Galilee. We need to resume the journey, remembering that we are born and reborn from a free call that comes from love, there, in my Galilee. This is the point from which we can always start, especially in crises, in times of trial. In the memory of my Galilee.

But there is more. Galilee was the region furthest from where they were, from Jerusalem. And not only geographically: Galilee was the most distant place from the sacredness of the Holy City. It was an area populated by different people who practiced various cults: it was the Galilee of the Gentiles (Mt 4: 15). Jesus sent them there, asked them to start from there. What does this tell us? That the proclamation of hope should not be confined to our sacred precincts, but it should be brought to everyone. Because everyone needs to be heartened and, if we don't, we who have touched the Word of life (1 Jn 1: 1), who will do this? How nice it is to be Christians who console, who carry the burdens of others, who encourage: proclaimers of life in times of death! In every Galilee, in every region of that humanity to which we belong and which belongs to us, we bring the sing of life because we are all brothers and sisters! Let us silence the death cries, no more wars! Stop the production and trade of weapons, because we need bread and not rifles. Stop abortions, killing innocent life. Open the hearts of those who have, and teach them to fill the empty hands of those who lack the things they need.

In the end, the women embraced the feet of Jesus (Mt 28: 9), those feet that had come a long way to meet us, even to the extreme of entering and exiting the tomb. They embraced the feet that had trampled death and opened the way of hope. We pilgrims, who are in search of hope today, cling to you, the Risen Jesus. We turn our backs on death and open our hearts to you who are Life.
Testo originale nella lingua italiana
Texte en français
Texto en español
Texto em português
Text in Deutsch

No comments: