Monday, 1 April 2013

Proclaiming the Resurrection; Appealing for Peace

The repeated message of the homilies during my participation in the celebration of the Triduum and Easter Sunday was that, if the Mysteries being celebrated meant anything to us, we would go out of that Church onto the streets outside and proclaim that Christ is risen. These homilies represented a clear call to each of us to undertake an act of "primary proclamation" by speaking explicitly of Christ to others.

The Easter flowers in my front window are a somewhat feeble effort at this. I should point out that double decked buses pass in the street outside roughly every five minutes and my flowers will be on ready view to any on the top deck.

On Sunday morning, in a St Peter's Square transformed into an Easter Garden by the flowers donated from the Netherlands, the Successor of Peter took part in the "Resurexit" rite, re-enacting the first appearance of the risen Lord to the first St Peter. It occurs between about 12 minutes and 15 minutes of the video on the Vatican Youtube Channel: Easter Mass. It is particularly moving as the Deacon sings that "He has truly risen and has appeared to Simon".

Pope Francis chose not to preach during Mass. Instead he opened his Urbi et Orbi address - at the beginning of which he explicitly greeted both the people of the city of Rome and the whole world - with an insistent proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ. Watch the first four or five minutes here: Urbi et Orbi.
What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons …

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.
It is the reference to hell in the next paragraphs that particularly fascinates me, echoing for me at least the experience of Adrienne von Speyr and the writing of Hans Urs von Balthasar:
This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell - to the abyss of separation from God - this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).
Some have wanted to say that Pope Francis has simplified the celebration of the Papal liturgy, in contrast to his predecessor, who instead wanted to aggrandise it. Such a perception seems to me unfair to both Francis and Benedict XVI. Pope Francis Easter Sunday Mass is full of splendour - the flowers, the music, the "Resurrexit" rite. Pope Francis has retained the "Benedictine arrangement" of candles and crucifix on the altar, whose prime intention is to express the orientation of the celebration towards the Father through the Son, though with the adjustment of moving the candles more to the side. My own assessment is that, more than anything else, Pope Francis has been anxious to remove from the Papal liturgy those moments that might in some way manifest a privileging of some persons over others (though, of course, a priest or deacon has a certain privilege that derives from their office rather than from their particular person). This would explain his not distributing Holy Communion himself, his opening of his daily Mass to (not-quite) all comers rather than to invitees, his wish to wash the feet of young detainees, a certain simplicity in the choice of vestments.

For the full report of Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi address see here: Urbi et Orbi Message, Easter 2013. The appeal for peace in the world, that was more widely reported in the main stream media than the proclamation of the Resurrection, follows on from the passages quoted above.

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