Meditation on Easter Triduum

Pope Reflects on 3 Days at Heart of the Mystery of Salvation

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 7, 2004 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to a meditation on the events of the paschal triduum which begins on Holy Thursday.

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1. «Christ Jesus … humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him» (Philippians 2:8-9). We just heard these words of the hymn contained in the Letter to the Philippians. They present to us, in an essential and effective way, the mystery of the passion and death of Jesus; at the same time, they make us perceive the glory of the Easter of resurrection. They constitute, therefore, an introductory meditation to the celebrations of the Easter triduum, which begins tomorrow.

2. Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are preparing to relive in the next few days the great mystery of our salvation. Tomorrow morning, Holy Thursday, in all diocesan communities, bishops together with their presbyteries, will celebrate the Chrism Mass, in which the oils are blessed: the oil of catechumens, that of the sick, and the sacred chrism. In the evening we remember the Last Supper with the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. The «washing of the feet» reminds us that, with this gesture carried out by Jesus in the Cenacle, he anticipated the supreme sacrifice of Calvary, and left us as the new law, «mandatum novum,» his love. In keeping with a pious tradition, after the rites of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the faithful remain in adoration before the Eucharist well into the night. It is a singular vigil of prayer, which is united to the agony of Christ in Gethsemane.

3. On Good Friday the Church remembers the passion and death of the Lord.

The Christian assembly is invited to meditate on the evil and sin that oppress humanity and on the salvation effected by the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. The Word of God and some evocative liturgical rites, such as the adoration of the Cross, help us to reflect on the different stages of the Passion. Moreover, on this day Christian tradition has given life to various manifestations of popular piety. Striking among these are the penitential processions of Good Friday and the pious exercise of the «Via Crucis,» which help to internalize the mystery of the Cross.

A great silence characterizes Holy Saturday. In fact, no particular liturgies are planned on this day of expectation and prayer. Everything is silent in the churches, while the faithful, imitating Mary, prepare for the great event of the Resurrection.

4. As night falls on Holy Saturday, the solemn Easter Vigil begins, the «mother of all vigils.» After having blessed the new fire, the paschal candle is lit, symbol of Christ who illuminates every man, and the great proclamation of the Exsultet resounds joyously. The ecclesial community, while listening to the Word of God, meditates on the great promise of the final deliverance from the slavery of sin and death. There follow, afterward, the rites of baptism and confirmation for the catechumens, who have gone through a long course of preparation.

The proclamation of the resurrection bursts in the darkness of the night and the whole of created reality awakens from the sleep of death, to acknowledge the lordship of Christ, as the Pauline hymn underlines which give rise to our reflections: «at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord» (Philippians 2:10-11).

5. Dear brothers and sisters, these days are particularly opportune to make more profound the conversion of our heart to Him who out of love died for us. Let us allow Mary, the faithful Virgin, to accompany us; with her we stay in the Cenacle and remain next to Jesus on Calvary, to find him at last risen on the day of Easter. With these sentiments and auspices, I express my most cordial wishes for a happy and holy Easter to you here present, to your communities, and to all those dear to you.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the following summary was read by one of the Pope’s aides:]

Today’s reading from the Letter to the Philippians reminds us of the passion and death of Jesus, and at the same time, shows us the glory of his resurrection. During the next few days, we will relive the great mystery of our salvation. On Holy Thursday we will recall the Last Supper remembering the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. On Good Friday, we will revisit Christ’s passion and death on the cross. The great silence which characterizes Holy Saturday will allow us to imitate Mary, as we prepare for the Resurrection.

Finally, in the darkness of Saturday evening, we will celebrate the Easter Vigil, joyously proclaiming in the Exsultet that the light of the Resurrection has dispelled the darkness of night. Indeed, these days are a unique opportunity to turn our hearts to Jesus who died for love of us.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this audience, especially those from England, the Faroe Islands, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of health and joy and wish you a happy and holy Easter.

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