Pontiff: Church Will Never Sink

Reflects on Symbolism of Easter Vigil

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- While many think the Church is dying, or ought to be dead already, it continues on, held up by the hands of Christ, says Benedict XVI.

The Pontiff said this as he reflected during his homily Saturday at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica on the three main symbols used at the Easter Vigil: light, water, and the new song — the Alleluia. During the Mass he baptized five adults: three Italians men, a woman from China and a woman from the United States.

“First of all,” he said, “there is light”: “Where there is light, life is born, chaos can be transformed into cosmos.”

“The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light,” he explained. “Death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One himself is Light, the Light of the world. With the resurrection, the Lord’s day enters the nights of history.

“Beginning with the resurrection, God’s light spreads throughout the world and throughout history. Day dawns. This Light alone — Jesus Christ — is the true light, something more than the physical phenomenon of light. He is pure Light: God himself, who causes a new creation to be born in the midst of the old, transforming chaos into cosmos.”

“At the Easter Vigil,” the Pontiff said, “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 symbolism of light is connected with that of fire: radiance and heat, radiance and the transforming energy contained in the fire — truth and love go together. The Paschal candle burns, and is thereby consumed: The cross and the resurrection are inseparable.”

Life and death

Benedict XVI said that the second symbol, water, has “two opposed meanings”: “On the one hand there is the sea, which appears as a force antagonistic to life on earth, continually threatening it; yet God has placed a limit upon it. Hence the book of Revelation says that in God’s new world, the sea will be no more.

“It is the element of death. And so it becomes the symbolic representation of Jesus’ death on the Cross: Christ descended into the sea, into the waters of death, as Israel did into the Red Sea. Having risen from death, he gives us life.

“This means that baptism is not only a cleansing, but a new birth: with Christ we, as it were, descend into the sea of death, so as to rise up again as new creatures.”

He said 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.”

“Without water there is no life,” the Pontiff affirmed. “It is striking how much importance is attached to wells in sacred Scripture. They are places from which life rises forth. Beside Jacob’s well, Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman of the new well, the water of true life.”

Benedict XVI then reflected on the third symbol, “the singing of the new song — the alleluia.”

“When a person experiences great joy, he cannot keep it to himself,” he explained. “He has to express it, to pass it on. But 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.”

“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,” he said.

A new song

Recalling the story from the Bible when Moses sang a song after Israel’s liberation from Egypt, the Pope said the “image describes the situation of the disciples of Jesus Christ in every age, the situation of the Church in the history of this world.”

“Humanly speaking, it is self-contradictory,” he explained. “On the one hand, the community is located at the Exodus, in the midst of the Red Sea, in a sea which is paradoxically ice and fire at the same time.

“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: the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in which the Old and New Covenants blend into harmony.

“While, strictly speaking, she ought to be sinking, the Church sings the song of thanksgiving of the saved. 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,” Benedict XVI reflected. “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,” he said. “St. Paul illustrated this situation with the words: ‘We are as dying, and behold we live.’ The Lord’s saving hand holds us up, and thus we can already sing the song of the saved, the new song of the risen ones: Alleluia!”

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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-25642?l=english

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