VATICAN CITY, APRIL 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Just as Jews remove unleavened bread from their households at Passover to signify a new beginning, Christians should remove from their hearts the “yeast of old sin,” says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this in his homily for Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, in which he reflected on a passage of 1 Corinthians: “Christ, our Paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.” He said the passage “contains, in an impressive synthesis, a full awareness of the newness of life in Christ.”
“The central symbol of salvation history — the Paschal lamb — is here identified with Jesus, who is called ‘our Paschal lamb,'” the Pontiff explained. He noted the Jewish practice of sacrificing a lamb each year at Passover, “commemorating the liberation from slavery in Egypt.”
“In his passion and death, Jesus reveals himself as the Lamb of God, ‘sacrificed’ on the Cross, to take away the sins of the world,” said the Holy Father. “He was killed at the very hour when it was customary to sacrifice the lambs in the Temple of Jerusalem.
“The meaning of his sacrifice he himself had anticipated during the Last Supper, substituting himself — under the signs of bread and wine — for the ritual food of the Hebrew Passover meal. Thus we can truly say that Jesus brought to fulfillment the tradition of the ancient Passover, and transformed it into his Passover.”
Room for the new
Basing himself on this interpretation of the Paschal feast, Benedict XVI then continued to reflect on St. Paul’s interpretation of the “leaven.”
He explained that during Passover the Jewish custom is to remove every scrap of leavened bread from the household, which serves as a reminder of when their forefathers left Egypt, taking with them only unleavened bread.
“At the same time, though,” the Pope added, “the ‘unleavened bread’ was a symbol of purification: removing the old to make space for the new.”
The Holy Father said that St. Paul explains that the ancient tradition acquires a new meaning with Christ, “once more derived from the new ‘Exodus,’ which is Jesus’ passage from death to eternal life.”
“Since Christ, as the true Lamb, sacrificed himself for us, we too, his disciples — thanks to him and through him — can and must be the ‘new dough,’ the ‘unleavened bread,’ liberated from every residual element of the old yeast of sin: no more evil and wickedness in our heart,” he said.
“Let us open our spirit to Christ, who has died and is risen in order to renew us,” Benedict XVI urged,” in order to remove from our hearts the poison of sin and death, and to pour in the life-blood of the Holy Spirit: divine and eternal life.”
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