Paschal Triduum Is "Fulfillment of Human History"

Papal Address at General Audience

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2002 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address at today´s general audience. He gave the address in Italian.

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1. The Paschal Triduum, which will make us relive the central event of our salvation, begins tomorrow. These will be days of more intense prayer and meditation in which, aided by the moving rites of Holy Week, we will reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

In the paschal mystery is the meaning and fulfillment of human history. «Therefore,» the Catechism of the Catholic Church underlines, «Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ´Feast of feasts,´ the ´Solemnity of solemnities,´ just as the Eucharist is the ´Sacrament of sacraments´ (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter ´the Great Sunday´ (Ep. fest. 329) and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week ´the Great Week.´ The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him» (No. 1169).

2. Tomorrow, Holy Thursday, we will contemplate Christ, who in the Cenacle, on the eve of his passion, made a gift of himself to the Church, instituted the ministerial priesthood, and left his disciples a new commandment, the commandment of love. Thus, he wished to remain with us in the sacrament of the Eucharist, making himself our food of salvation. Following the moving Holy Mass of the Lord´s Supper, we will keep a vigil of adoration with the Lord, obeying the wish that he expressed to the apostles in the Garden of Olives: «Remain here and keep watch with me» (Matthew 26:38).

On Good Friday we will relive the tragic developments of the passion of the Redeemer until the crucifixion on Golgotha. The adoration of the cross will enable us to understand more profoundly the infinite mercy of God. Consciously experiencing that immense sorrow, the only-begotten Son of the Father became the definitive proclamation of salvation for humanity. The cross is certainly a difficult way. And yet, only there are we given the mystery of the death that gives life.

The recollected and silent atmosphere of Holy Saturday will give us, later, the occasion to await, praying with Mary, the glorious event of the Resurrection, already beginning to experience inner joy.

When singing the «Gloria» in the Easter Vigil, the splendor of our destiny will be revealed: to constitute a new humanity, redeemed by Christ, who died and rose for us.

When on the day of Easter in the Churches in every corner of the earth is sung «Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus,» «the Lord of life was dead; but now, alive, he triumphs» (Sequence), we will be able to understand and love the cross of Christ to the end: On it Christ has vanquished sin and death forever!

3. In the Paschal Triduum we will fix our gaze more intensely on the face of Christ, a suffering and agonizing face, which enables us to understand better the dramatic nature of the events and situations that also in these days afflict humanity. A face resplendent with light, which gives renewed hope to our existence.

In the apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte,» I wrote: «Two thousand years after these events, the Church relives them as if they had happened today. Gazing on the face of Christ, the Bride contemplates her treasure and her joy. ´Dulcis Iesus memoria, dans vera cordis gaudia´: how sweet is the memory of Jesus, the source of the heart´s true joy!» (No. 28).

In Gethsemane we will feel singularly in tune with those lying under the weight of anguish and solitude. Meditating on the process to which Jesus was subjected, we will remember all those who are persecuted for their faith and for the sake of justice.

Accompanying Christ to Golgotha, on the sorrowful way, our confident prayer will be raised for those who are weighed down in body and spirit by the weight of evil and sin.

In the supreme hour of the sacrifice of the Son of God, we will confidently place at the foot of the cross the longing that is in everyone´s heart: the desire for peace!

Mary Most Holy, who faithfully followed her Son all the way to the cross, will lead us, after having contemplated together with her the suffering face of Christ, to enjoy the light and joy that emanate from the splendor of the face of the Risen One.

This is my wish: May it be a truly Holy Triduum, to live a happy and consoling Easter!

[Translation by ZENIT]

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[At the end of the audience, the Pope read the following summary of his address in English.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Easter Triduum beginning tomorrow, we relive the central event of our salvation, the Death and Resurrection of Christ, which reveals the true meaning of human history. On Holy Thursday, Christ gave himself to the Church in the Eucharist, and left us his commandment of love. On Good Friday we recall the tragic events which led to the Redeemer’s Death on Calvary, and we adore his Cross as the sign of God’s infinite mercy. We proclaim the mystery of a death which gives life! Through the silence of Holy Saturday we wait in prayer with Mary for the glory of the Resurrection, which breaks forth at the Easter Vigil, as we celebrate a new humanity, restored in Christ. During these days, we contemplate the Savior´s face, full of sorrow but radiant with joy. We shall also be close to all who suffer and are persecuted as Jesus was, and we shall lay at his feet our deep desire for peace! May this be for us a truly Holy Week, full of the consolations of Easter!

I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, especially those from England, Norway and the United States of America. May these holy days be a time of peace for you and your families. May it be a time of peace for the whole world! Happy Easter to you all!

[Original text: English; distributed by Vatican Press Office]

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