Thursday, April 1, 2010
Bishop Felipe Estevez
One of the titles that attract me most about the person of Jesus is “salvator mundi,” the savior of the world. Sometimes I think that Christians assume that Christ died and rose from the dead only for us believers. Anyone who reads the first letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians will realize that for the first Christian philosophers, Christ’s death and resurrection had a cosmic impact and affected the well-being of all humanity. That is why every human being can say: Christ loved me and surrendered himself for me on the cross.
There is no other date like the Paschal Triduum, given that Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday encompass all of salvation. No other date in the calendar surpasses the richness of this great gift, maybe with the exception of Christmas: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, St. John would say in the synthesis prologue of his Gospel.
Holy Thursday is about Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, the ones he “loved to the extreme,” as he not only washed their feet, revealing to them the depths to which the Lord of Glory could go, but also transformed the bread and the cup into a permanent memorial of his passion. With how much emotion and solemnity did Paul write to the Corinthians, when explaining that this sacrificial supper is the most sacred legacy of the apostolic tradition for all Christian communities!
Today, there is among us a renewed interest in the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. This is a logical development; before such a gift, how could the disciple not long for Christ’s presence? Anyone who loves experiences an immense sweetness in looking at the loved one. St. Augustine said it brilliantly when commenting on Psalm 98:9: “no one eats that flesh unless first he adores it; we do sin by not adoring it,” an affirmation that His Holiness Benedict XVI has repeated tirelessly throughout his teachings.
Every Good Friday we listen to the Passion according to St. John. We pray as a universal brother, respecting the Jewish people, those who do not believe in Christ or God, and others. Then, everyone gathers in a procession to kiss the cross. The language of the liturgy is precise; the cross is not venerated but worshipped, “for the wood of the cross has brought joy to the world,” says the chorus in the antiphon preceding the versicles.
Today, those who persecute the Holy Father Benedict XVI, those Christians in fundamentalist totalitarianism or where religious freedom is restricted, think that believers will be intimidated. They are wrong; the cross is what encourages and strengthens us most, as it is so well expressed in the chant of the adoration of the Holy Cross: “Faithful Cross above all others, one and only noble tree, splendid, fruitful like no other, in foliage nor in blossom.”
After Good Friday, we enter into an indescribable silence until the night of Holy Saturday, when we celebrate the Paschal Vigil, “the mother of all vigils.” The silence of Holy Saturday is not well understood among us, even though the relatives of a loved one who has been buried are the ones who could help us most to understand that feeling of emptiness full of memories. If we went to the church, we would find the altar without flowers or cloth; there is no Mass. I think that we should direct our prayer to Mary. She keeps all those things in her contemplative and silent heart. She is the best instrument to live the waiting for the “great Sunday”.
The Paschal Vigil is unknown by most Catholics who fill the churches the following day. Nevertheless, the Vigil’s liturgy is the richest expression of the ecclesial joy for the resurrection of Jesus the Lord. It is the luminous night. The majestic Paschal candle that comes into the dark assembly full of smaller candles sings to Christ, light of the world, and the people give thanks for this Good News. Death has been destroyed and the deepest hope for each human being is born; Christ lives forever. And it is followed by the Paschal praise, the most beautiful hymn of the liturgy, the famous Exsultet. Rejoice!
From that moment, the Church begins a feast of fifty days; Lent’s Miserere is transformed into the paschal joy. That is the victory of faith! The cross is prolific and glorious; Christ, our paschal lamb, has been immolated. Let’s celebrate Easter! Alleluia! Alleluia!