VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today at the general audience, during which he reflected on the mysteries of the life of Christ that Christians relive during Holy Week.
* * *
1. Tomorrow afternoon begins, with the Holy Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Easter triduum, fulcrum of the whole liturgical year. During these days, the Church recollects herself in silence, to pray and meditate on the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.
Participating in the rites of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, we retrace the last hours of Jesus’ earthly life, at the end of which shines the light of the resurrection.
In the canticle just proclaimed, we heard that Christ became “obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him” (Philippians 2:8-9). These words summarize the mysterious plan of God, which we shall relive in the coming days, mystery that gives meaning and fulfillment to human history.
2. While the Holy Chrism Mass, which is generally celebrated on Holy Thursday morning, highlights particularly the ministerial priesthood, the rites of the holy Mass of the Lord’s Supper are an urgent invitation to contemplate the Eucharist, central mystery of Christian faith and life. Precisely to underline the importance of this sacrament, I have written the encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” which I will have the joy of signing during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. With this text I wish to offer every believer an organic reflection on the eucharistic sacrifice, which encloses the whole spiritual good of the Church.
In the Cenacle, together with the Eucharist, the Lord instituted the ministerial priesthood, so that his sacrifice would be actualized throughout the centuries: “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). He then left us the new commandment of brotherly love. Through the washing of the feet, he taught his disciples that love must be translated in humble and selfless service toward one’s neighbor.
3. Good Friday, a day of penance and fasting, we will recall the passion and death of Jesus, remaining absorbed in adoration of the cross. “Ecce lignum Crucis, in quo salus mundi pependit — behold the wood of the Cross, from which salvation came to the world.” On Calvary, the Son of God took on the burden of our sins, offering himself to the Father as the victim of expiation. From the cross, source of our salvation, flows the new life of the children of God.
The drama of Friday is followed by the silence of Holy Saturday, a day charged with waiting and hope. With Mary, the Christian community watches in prayer next to the sepulcher, waiting for the fulfillment of the glorious event of the Resurrection.
In the holy night of Easter, everything is renewed in the risen Christ. From every corner of the earth the signing of the “Gloria” and the “Alleluia” will rise to heaven, while light will pierce the darkness of night. On Easter Sunday we will exult with the Risen One, receiving from him the greeting of peace.
4. Let us prepare ourselves, dear Brothers and Sisters, to celebrate worthily these holy days, and to contemplate the wonderful work accomplished by God in the humiliation and exaltation of Christ (see Philippians 2:6-11).
To recall this central mystery of faith also implies the commitment to actualize it in the concrete reality of our life. It means to recognize that the passion of Christ continues in the dramatic events that, unfortunately, also at this time afflict so many men and women in every part of the world.
The mystery of the cross and Resurrection assures us, however, that hatred, violence, blood, death do not have the last word in human affairs. The final victory is Christ’s and we must start afresh from him, if we wish to build a future of authentic peace, justice and solidarity for all.
May the Virgin, who shared intimately in the salvific plan, accompany us in the path of the passion and cross to the empty tomb, to meet her divine risen Son. Let us enter the spiritual atmosphere of the holy triduum, allowing ourselves to be led by her.
With these sentiments, I express my heartfelt wishes to all for a peaceful and holy Easter.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father gave this summary in English:]
Today’s canticle from Paul’s letter to the Philippians recalls Christ’s death on the Cross and his being raised in glory by God (see Philippians 2:6-11). These events, which the Church relives in the coming days, reveal the fullness of God’s plan of salvation and the meaning of human history.
The Easter Triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday — is the very heart of the liturgical year and invites us to recognize the Passion of Christ in the tragic situations facing many peoples today. The mystery of the Cross and Resurrection assures us that Christ is victorious over violence and death, and that in him we can build a future of authentic peace, justice, and solidarity. With his Blessed Mother as our guide, let us enter deeply into the spirit of Holy Week, that we may meet her divine Son, who has risen again.
I extend s special welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from Australia, Ireland, Norway, Scotland, and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I wish you a happy and holy Easter.
[original English text distributed by Vatican press office]