3. As she keeps watch on this Holy Night, the Church closely scrutinizes the texts of Sacred Scripture. They portray God’s plan from Genesis to the Gospel and, together with the liturgical rites of fire and water, give this remarkable celebration a cosmic dimension. The whole created universe is summoned to keep watch this night at the tomb of Christ. The history of salvation passes before our eyes, from Creation to the Redemption, from the Exodus to the Covenant on Mount Sinai, from the Old to the New and Eternal Covenant. On this Holy Night, God’s eternal plan reaches fulfilment, the plan which embraces the history of humanity and of the cosmos.
4. At the Easter Vigil, “the mother of all vigils”, everyone can likewise acknowledge their own personal history of salvation, which has its basic moment in our rebirth in Christ through Baptism.
In a very special way, this is your experience too, dear brothers and sisters who are about to receive the Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
You come from various countries throughout the world: Japan, China, Cameroon, Albania and Italy.
The variety of your native countries points to the universality of the salvation brought by Christ. Soon, dear friends, you will become intimate sharers in the mystery of the love of God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. May your lives become a song of praise to the Most Holy Trinity and a witness of love which knows no limits.
5. “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world: come, let us worship!”. Yesterday the Church chanted these words, lifting up the wood of the Cross, “on which hung Christ, the Saviour of the world”. “He was crucified, died and was buried”, as we say in the Creed.
The tomb! Behold the place where they buried him (cf. Mark 16:6). There the community of the Church throughout the world is spiritually present. We too are there with the three women going to the tomb before dawn to anoint the lifeless body of Jesus (cf. Mark 16:1). Their loving concern is our concern too. With them we discover that the large tombstone has been rolled away and that the body is no longer there. “He is not here”, the angel proclaims, pointing to the empty tomb and the winding cloth on the ground. Death no longer has power over him (cf. Romans 6:9).
Christ is risen! So the Church proclaims, at the end of this Easter night, even as yesterday she proclaimed Christ’s death on the Cross. It is a proclamation of truth and life.
“Christ is risen from the tomb, who for our sakes hung upon the Cross. Alleluia!”. The Lord, who for us was nailed to the Cross, is risen from the tomb!
Yes, Christ is truly risen and we are witnesses of this.
We proclaim this witness to the world, so that the joy which is ours will reach countless other hearts, kindling in them the light of the hope which does not disappoint.
Christ is risen, alleluia!
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
Holy Saturday, 14 April 2001
1. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5).
These words of the two men dressed “in dazzling apparel” rekindle the hope of the women who had rushed to the tomb at the break of dawn. They had experienced the tragic events culminating in Christ’s crucifixion on Calvary; they had felt the sadness and the confusion. In the hour of trial, however, they had not abandoned their Lord.
They go secretly to the place where Jesus was buried in order to see him again and embrace him one last time. They are moved by love, that same love that led them to follow him through the byways of Galilee and Judea, all the way to Calvary.
What blessed women! They did not yet know that this was the dawn of the most important day of history. They could not have known that they, they themselves, would be the first witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection.
2. “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb” (Luke 24:2).
So narrates the evangelist Luke, adding that, “when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (cf. 24:3). In one brief moment, everything changes. Jesus “is not here, but has risen”. This announcement, which changed the sadness of these pious women into joy, re-echoes with changeless eloquence throughout the Church in the celebration of this Easter Vigil.
A singular Vigil of a singular night. A Vigil, the mother of all vigils, during which the whole Church waits at the tomb of the Messiah, sacrificed on the Cross. The Church waits and prays, listening again to the Scriptures that retrace the whole of salvation history.
But on this night, it is not darkness that dominates but the blinding brightness of a sudden light that breaks through with the starling news of the Lord’s Resurrection. Our waiting and our prayer then become a song of joy: “Exultet iam angelica turba caelorum . . . Exult, O chorus of Angels!”
The perspective of history is completely turned around: death gives way to life, a life that dies no more. In the Preface we shall shortly sing that Christ “by dying destroyed our death, by rising restored our life”. This is the truth that we proclaim with our words, but above all with our lives. He whom the women thought was dead is alive. Their experience becomes our experience.
3. O Vigil imbued with hope, you fully express the meaning of the mystery! O Vigil rich in symbolism, you disclose the very heart of our Christian existence! On this night, everything is marvellously summed up in one name, the name of the Risen Christ.
O Christ, how can we fail to thank you for the ineffable gift which, on this night, you lavish upon us? The mystery of your Death and Resurrection descends into the baptismal waters that receive the old, carnal man and make him pure with divine youthfulness itself.
Into the mystery of your Death and Resurrection we shall shortly be immersed, renewing our baptismal promises; in a special way, the six catechumens will be immersed in this mystery as they receive Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
4. Dear Brother and Sister Catechumens, I greet you with all the warmth of my heart, and in the name of the Church gathered here I welcome you with brotherly affection. You come form different nations: Japan, Italy, China, Albania, the United States of America and Peru.
Your presence here in Saint Peter’s Square is indicative of the variety of cultures and peoples who have opened their hearts to the Gospel. On this night death gives way to life for you too, as for all the baptized. Sin is erased and a new life begins. Persevere to the end in fidelity and love. And do not be afraid when difficulties arise, for “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9).
5. Yes, dear Brothers and Sisters, Jesus lives and we live in him. For ever. This is the gift of this night, which has definitively revealed to the world the power of Christ, Son of the Virgin Mary, whom he gave to us as Mother at the foot of the Cross.
This Vigil makes us part of a day that knows no end. The day of Christ’s Passover, which for humanity is the beginning of a renewed springtime of hope.
“Haec dies quam fecit Dominus: exsultemus et laetamur in ea - This is the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice in it and be glad”. Alleluia!
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
Holy Saturday, 30 March 2002
1. "God said: ‘Let there be light’; and there was light" (Genesis 1:3).
An explosion of light, which God’s word brought forth from nothing, rent asunder the first night, the night of Creation.
The Apostle John will write: "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). God did not create darkness but light! And the Book of Wisdom, clearly revealing that God’s work has always had a positive purpose, puts it thus: "He created all things that they might exist; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth" (Wisdom 1:14).
In that first night, the night of Creation, is rooted the Paschal Mystery which, following the tragedy of sin, represents the restoration and the crowning of that first beginning. The divine Word called into existence all things and, in Jesus, became flesh for our salvation. And if the destiny of the first Adam was to return to the earth from which he had been made (cf. Genesis 3:19), the last Adam has come down from heaven in order to return there in victory, the first-fruits of the new humanity (cf. John 3:13; 1 Corinthians 15:47).
2. Another night constitutes the fundamental event of the history of Israel: it is the wondrous Exodus from Egypt, the story of which is read each year at the solemn Easter Vigil.
"The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. The people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left" (Exodus 14:21-22). The People of God was born from this "baptism" in the Red Sea, when it experienced the powerful hand of the Lord who snatched it from slavery in order to lead it to the yearned-for land of freedom, justice and peace.
This is the second night, the night of the Exodus.
The prophecy of the Book of Exodus is fulfilled today also for us, who are Israelites according to the Spirit, descendants of Abraham because of faith (cf. Romans 4:16). In his Passover, as the new Moses, Christ has made us pass from the slavery of sin to the freedom of the children of God. Having died with Jesus, with him we rise to new life, thanks to the power of his Spirit. His Baptism has become our baptism.
3. You too will receive this Baptism, which brings us into a new life, dear catechumens from different countries: from Albania, China, Japan, Italy, Poland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two of you, a Japanese mother and a Chinese mother, have each brought their child, so that, in the same celebration, the mothers and the children will be baptized together.
"On this most holy night", when Christ rose from the dead, you too will experience a spiritual "exodus": leave behind your former life and enter the "land of the living". This is the third night, the night of the Resurrection.
4. "Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!". We sang these words in the Easter Proclamation at the beginning of this solemn Vigil, the Mother of all Vigils.
After the tragic night of Good Friday, when "the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53) seemed to have prevailed over the One who is "the light of the world" (John 8:12), after the great silence of Holy Saturday, in which Christ, having completed his work on earth, found rest in the mystery of the Father and took his message of life into the pit of death, behold at last the night which precedes "the third day", on which, in accordance with the Scriptures, the Messiah would rise, as he himself had often foretold to his disciples.
"Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled to God!" (Easter Proclamation).
5. This is the night of nights, the night of faith and of hope. While all is shrouded in darkness, God – the Light – keeps watch. With him there keep watch all who hope and trust in him.
O Mary, this is truly your night! As the last lights of the Sabbath are extinguished, and the fruit of your womb rests in the earth, your heart too keeps watch! Your faith and your hope look ahead. Behind the heavy stone, they already detect the empty tomb; behind the thick veil of darkness, they glimpse the dawn of the Resurrection.
Grant, O Mother, that we too may keep watch in the silence of the night, believing and hoping in the Lord’s word. Thus shall we meet, in the fullness of light and life, Christ, the first-fruits of the risen, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Alleluia!
27 April 2014