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Wednesday, April 15, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 11 APR 2009 (VIS) - At 9 p.m. today in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the solemn Easter vigil during which he administered the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to a number of catechumens from various countries.

  The celebration began in the atrium of the basilica where the Holy Father blessed the new fire and lighted the Easter candle. This was followed by the procession towards the altar with the singing of the "Exultet." Then came the Liturgy of the Word and the Baptismal and Eucharistic Liturgies which the Holy Father concelebrated with cardinals.

  In his homily, the Holy Father explained how the Easter vigil shows the meaning of the Resurrection through three symbols: "light, water, and the new song - the Alleluia".

  "God's creation", he said, "begins with the command: 'Let there be light!' Where there is light, life is born, chaos can be transformed into cosmos. ... The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light. Death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One Himself is Light, the Light of the world. ... Beginning with the resurrection, God's light spreads throughout the world and throughout history".

  "At the Easter Vigil", the Pope went on, "the Church represents the mystery of the light of Christ in the sign of the Paschal candle, whose flame is both light and heat. ... The Paschal candle burns, and is thereby consumed: Cross and Resurrection are inseparable. From the Cross, from the Son's self-giving, light is born, true radiance comes into the world. ... In Him we recognise what is true and what is false, what is radiance and what is darkness. With Him, there wells up within us the light of truth, and we begin to understand.

  "On one occasion", he added, "when Christ looked upon the people who had come to listen to Him, seeking some guidance from Him, He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Amid the contradictory messages of that time, they did not know which way to turn. What great compassion He must feel in our own time too - on account of all the endless talk that people hide behind, while in reality they are totally confused. Where must we go? What are the values by which we can order our lives? The values by which we can educate our young, without giving them norms they may be unable to resist, or demanding of them things that perhaps should not be imposed upon them? He is the Light. The baptismal candle is the symbol of enlightenment that is given to us in Baptism. ... Let us pray to the Lord that the fragile flame of the candle He has lit in us, the delicate light of his word and His love amid the confusions of this age, will not be extinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with Him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up our time".

  The Holy Father continued: "The second symbol of the Easter Vigil - the night of Baptism - is water" which appears in two forms. One is the sea, an "element of death. ... Christ descended into the sea, into the waters of death, as Israel did into the Red Sea. ... With Christ we, as it were, descend into the sea of death, so as to rise up again as new creatures.

  "The other way in which we encounter water is in the form of the fresh spring that gives life, or the great river from which life comes forth. ... St. John tells us that a soldier with a lance struck the side of Jesus, and from His open side - from His pierced heart - there came out blood and water. The early Church saw in this a symbol of Baptism and Eucharist flowing from the pierced heart of Jesus. In His death, Jesus Himself became the spring. ... From Him the great river pours forth, which in Baptism renews the world and makes it fruitful; the great river of living water, His Gospel which makes the earth fertile. ... In Baptism, the Lord makes us not only persons of light, but also sources from which living water bursts forth. ... Let us ask the Lord, Who has given us the grace of Baptism, for the gift always to be sources of pure, fresh water, bubbling up from the fountain of His truth and his love!

  "The third great symbol of the Easter Vigil is ... the singing of the new song - the Alleluia. ... What happens when a person is touched by the light of the Resurrection, and thus comes into contact with Life itself, with Truth and Love? He cannot merely speak about it. Speech is no longer adequate. He has to sing. The first reference to singing in the Bible comes after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has risen out of slavery. ... It is as it were reborn. It lives and it is free. ... At the Easter Vigil, year after year, we Christians intone this song after the third reading, we sing it as our song, because we too, through God's power, have been drawn forth from the water and liberated for true life".

  The image of crossing the Red Sea, Benedict XVI concluded, could be compared with "the situation of the disciples of Jesus Christ in every age, the situation of the Church in the history of this world. ... And must not the Church, so to speak, always walk on the sea, through the fire and the cold? Humanly speaking, she ought to sink. But while she is still walking in the midst of this Red Sea, she sings - she intones the song of praise of the just ... in which the Old and New Covenants blend into harmony. ... She is standing on history's waters of death and yet she has already risen. Singing, she grasps at the Lord's hand, which holds her above the waters. And she knows that she is thereby raised outside the force of gravity of death and evil - a force from which otherwise there would be no way of escape - raised and drawn into the new gravitational force of God, of truth and of love. At present she is still between the two gravitational fields. 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. Perhaps this is actually the situation of the Church in every age? It always seems as if she ought to be sinking, and yet she is always already saved. ... The Lord's saving hand holds us up".
BXVI-HOLY WEEK/EASTER SATURDAY/...            VIS 20090415 (1150)

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