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Easter - Pasqua - Pâques - Pascua 1979

Pope Saint John Paul II's Homily at the Easter Vigil
St Peter's Basilica, Holy Saturday, 14 April 1979 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The word "death" sticks in one's throat. Although humanity has, during so many generations, become accustomed in a way to the reality of death and to its inevitability, it is, however, something overwhelming every time. Christ's death had deeply entered the hearts of those closest to him, and the consciousness of the whole of Jerusalem. The silence that followed it filled the Friday evening and the whole of the following day of Saturday. On this day, in accordance with Jewish regulations, no one had gone to the place of his burial. The three women, of whom today's Gospel speaks, well remember the heavy stone with which the entrance to the sepulchre had been closed. This stone, of which they were thinking and about which they would speak the next day on their way to the sepulchre, also symbolizes the weight that had crushed their hearts. The stone that had separated the Dead One from the living, the stone that marked the limit of life, the weight of death. The women, who go to the sepulchre in the early morning of the day after the Sabbath, will not speak of death, but of the stone. When they arrive at the spot, they will see that the stone no longer blocks the entrance to the sepulchre. It has been rolled back. They will not find Jesus in the sepulchre. They looked for him in vain! "He is not here; for he has risen, as he said" (Mt 28, 6).

They are to go back to the city and announce to the disciples that he has risen again and that they will see him in Galilee. The women are not able to utter a word. The news of death is spoken in a low voice. The words of the resurrection were even difficult for them to grasp. Difficult to repeat, so much has the reality of death influenced the thought and heart of man.

2. Since that night and even more since that morning which followed it, Christ's disciples have learned to utter the word "resurrection". And it has become the most important word, the central word, the fundamental word in their language. Everything takes its origin again from it. Everything is confirmed and is constructed again: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 117 (118), 22-24).

It is for this very reason that the paschal vigil — the day following Good Friday — is no longer only the day on which the word "death" is spoken in a low voice, on which the last moments of the life of the Dead Man are remembered: it is the day of a great Awaiting. It is the Easter Vigil: the day and the night of waiting for the Day which the Lord has made. The liturgical content of the Vigil is expressed by means of the various hours of the breviary and is then concentrated with all its riches in this liturgy of the night, which reaches its climax, after the period of Lent, in the first "Alleluia".

Alleluia: the cry that expresses paschal joy!

The exclamation that rings out again in the middle of the night of waiting and brings with it already the joy of the morning. It brings with it the certainty of resurrection. That which, at the first moment, the lips of the women in front of the sepulchre or the mouths of the apostles did not have the courage to utter, now the Church, thanks to their testimony, expresses with her Alleluia.

This song of joy, sung about midnight, announces to us the Great Day. (In some Slav languages, Easter is called the "Great Night" after the Great Night there arrives the Great Day: "the day which the Lord has made").

3. And now we are about to meet this Great Day with the paschal fire lit; we have lit the candle — Christ's light — from this fire and proclaimed beside it the glory of his Resurrection in the song of the Exsultet. Then we entered, by means of a series of readings, the process of the great announcement of creation, of the world, of man, of the People of God; we entered the preparation of the whole of creation for this Great Day, the day of the victory of good over evil, of Life over death. It is not possible to grasp the mystery of the Resurrection except by returning to the origins and following, thereafter, the whole development of the history of the economy of salvation up to that Moment! To the moment in which the three women of Jerusalem, stopping at the threshold of the empty sepulchre, heard the message of a young man dressed in a white robe "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here" (Mk 16, 5-6).

4. That great Moment does not allow us to remain outside ourselves; it compels us to enter our own humanity. Christ not only revealed to us the victory of life over death, but brought us, with his Resurrection, the New Life. He gave us this new life.

Here is how St Paul puts it: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6, 3-4).

The words: "(we) were baptized into his death" say a great deal. Death is the water in which Life is won back: the water "welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4, 14). It is necessary to "immerse oneself" in this water, in this Death, in order then to emerge from it as a New Man, as a New Creature, as a new being, that is, vivified by the Power of the Resurrection of Christ!

This is the mystery of the Water, which we bless tonight, which we cause to be penetrated with the "light of Christ, with the New Life; it is the symbol of the power of the Resurrection!

This Water becomes, in the Sacrament of Baptism, the sign of the victory over Satan, over sin; the sign of the victory that Christ won by means of the cross, by means of Death and which he then brings to each of us: "Our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom 6, 6).

5. This is the night of the Great Awaiting. Let us wait in Faith, let us wait with all our human being for Him, who at dawn broke the tyranny of death and revealed the Divine Power of Life: He is our Hope."

Catechesis by Pope Saint John Paul II in the Easter Octave
Wednesday 18th April 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Haec dies quam fecit Dominus"

All these days between Easter Sunday and the second Sunday after Easter "in Albis" constitute, in a certain sense, the One Day. The liturgy is concentrated on an Event, on the one Mystery. "He has risen, he is not here" (Mk 16, 6). He fulfilled the Passover. He revealed the meaning of the Passing. He confirmed the truth of his words. He spoke the last word of his message: the message of the Good News, of the Gospel. God himself, who is the Father, the author of life, God himself who does not want death (cf Ez 18, 23,32) and "created all things that they might exist" (Wis 1, 14), manifested his Love, in Him and through Him, right to the end. Love means Life.

The Resurrection is the definitive testimony of Life, that is, of Love.

"Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando / Dux vitae mortuus regnat Vivus"!

"Death and Life faced each other / in an amazing duel. The Lord of life had died; but now, alive, He triumphs" (Sequence).

"This is the Day which the Lord has made" (Psalm 117 (118), 24): "excelsior cunctis, lucidior universis, in quo Dominus resurrexit, in quo sibi novam plebem... regenerationis spiritu conquisivit, in quo singuloruin mentes gaudio et exsultatione perfudit" (more sublime than all, more luminous than all; on which the Lord rose again; on which he won for himself a new people... by means of the spirit of regeneration; on which he filled the soul of everyone with joy and exultation — St Augustine, Sermo 168, in Pascha X.1).

This One Day corresponds, in a certain way, to all the seven days, of which the book of Genesis speaks, and which were the days of creation (cf Gen 1-2). Therefore we celebrate them all on this one day. On these days during the octave we celebrate the mystery of the new Creation. This mystery is expressed in the Person of the Risen Christ. He himself is already this Mystery and is for us its announcement, the invitation to it. The leaven. By virtue of this invitation and of this leaven we all become in Jesus Christ the "new creation".

"Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven... but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor 5, 8).

2. Christ, after his resurrection, returns to the same place from which he had gone to his Passion and death. He returns to the Upper Room, where the apostles were. While the doors were closed, he came, stood among them and said: "Peace be with you". And he goes on: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20, 19-23).

How significant are these first words of Jesus after his Resurrection! The message of the Risen Christ is contained in them. When he says: "Receive the Holy Spirit", there comes into our mind the same Upper Room in which Jesus delivered the farewell address. Then he uttered the words pregnant with the mystery of his heart: "It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16, 7). He said so thinking of the Holy Spirit.

And now, after having made his sacrifice, his "departure" through the Cross, he comes again to the Upper Room to bring them the One he has promised. The Gospel says: "He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20, 22). He states the mature word of his Passover. He brings them the Gift of the Passion and the Fruit of Resurrection. With this gift he models them anew. He bestows on them the power of awakening others to Life, even when this Life is dead in them: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" (Jn 20, 23).

Fifty days will pass from the Resurrection to Pentecost. But the essential Gift and the Fruit of Pentecost are already enclosed in this One Day which the Lord has made (cf Ps 117 (118), 24). When Christ says: "Receive the Holy Spirit", he proclaims his paschal mystery to the end.

"Hoc autem est mysticum et secretissimum, quod nemo novit, nisi qui accipit, nec accipit nisi qui desiderat, nec desiderat, nisi quem ignos Spiritus Sancti medullitus inflammat, quem Christus misit in terram" (This is a mysterious and hidden reality, which no one knows but he who receives it, and no one receives it but he who desires it, and no one desires it but he who is inflamed in the innermost depths of his heart by the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent on the earth (St Bonaventure, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, cap. 7, 4).

3. The Second Vatican Council again illuminated the paschal mystery in the earthly pilgrimage of the People of God. It drew from it the full image of the Church, which always plunges its roots in this salvific mystery, and draws vital sap from it. "In the human nature united to himself, the son of God, by overcoming death through his own death and resurrection, redeemed man and changed him into a new creation (cf Gal 6, 15; 2 Cor 5, 17). For by communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation. In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his passion and glorification" (Lumen Gentium, 7).

The Church remains constantly in the mystery of the Son which was accomplished with the descent of the Spirit, at Pentecost.

The paschal octave is the Day of the Church!

Living this Day, we must accept, together with it, the words that rang out for the first time in the Upper Room where the Risen Christ appeared: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20, 21).

To accept the Risen Christ means accepting the mission, as those who were gathered at that moment in the Upper Room, the apostles, accepted it.

To believe in the Risen Christ means taking part in the same mission of salvation which he carried out with the paschal mystery. Faith is a conviction of the intellect and of the heart.

This conviction takes on its full meaning when participation in this mission, which Christ accepted from the Father, springs from it. To believe means accepting as a consequence this mission from Christ.

Among the apostles, Thomas was absent when the Risen Christ came for the first time to the Upper Room. This Thomas, who declared aloud to his brothers "Unless I see... I will not believe" (Jn 20, 25), was convinced by the next coming of the Risen Christ. Then, as we know, all his reservations vanished and he professed his faith with these words: "My Lord and my God" (Jn 20, 28). Together with the experience of the paschal mystery, he reconfirmed his participation in Christ's mission. As if, eight days afterwards, these words of Christ: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (cf Jn 20, 21), reached him, too.

Thomas became a mature witness to Christ.

4. The Second Vatican Council teaches the doctrine on the mission of the whole People of God, which has been called to take part in the mission of Christ himself (cf Lumen Gentium, 10-12). It is a triple mission. Christ — Priest, Prophet and King — expressed his mission to the end in the paschal mystery, in the Resurrection.

Each of us in this large community of the Church, of the People of God, takes part in this mission by means of the sacrament of Baptism. Each of us is called to faith in the Resurrection like Thomas: "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (Jn 20, 27).

Each of us has the duty of defining the meaning of his own life by means of this faith. This life has a very varied form. It is we ourselves who give it a determined form. And it is precisely our faith which brings it about that the life of each one of us is penetrated somewhere by this mission, which Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, accepted from the Father and shared with us. Faith brings it about that some part of the paschal mystery penetrates the life of each of us. A certain irradiation of it.

We must find this ray in order to live it every day for all this time, which began again on the Day which the Lord has made."

Ai giovani

"Un saluto particolarmente affettuoso va ora ai ragazzi, alle ragazze e a tutti i giovani venuti così numerosi ad allietare questa udienza generale. Carissimi, vi ringrazio di cuore per questa vostra significativa presenza e per la gioia che mi procurate col dono della vostra giovinezza e della vostra fede in Cristo risorto. In questo tempo pasquale, vi dirò con l’Apostolo Paolo: “Se dunque siete risorti con Cristo, cercate le cose di lassù, dove si trova Cristo assiso alla destra di Dio; pensate alle cose di lassù, non a quelle della terra” (Col 3,1-2).Cari giovani, in alto i cuori e sempre avanti nel nome del Signore!

Ai malati

Un pensiero, ormai consueto, ma sempre nuovo e vivamente sentito, desidero rivolgere a quanti di voi sono sofferenti. Le piaghe gloriose di Cristo risorto valgano ad illuminare e sanare le vostre ferite, fisiche e morali, tuttora aperte e doloranti. Ricordate la massima ascetica: “Per crucem ad lucem”, cioè: attraverso le sofferenze della Croce si giunge alla beatitudine della luce. Sappiate che Cristo con la sua Risurrezione ha riscattato e redento il dolore, il quale ha così acquistato la sua dignità, essendo stato chiamato ad uscire dalla sua inutilità e a diventare fonte positiva di bene e segno luminoso di speranza non fallace. Vi conforti sempre la mia speciale Benedizione Apostolica.

Agli sposi

Agli sposi novelli auguro che la gioia pasquale, che in questi giorni irradia nei nostri cuori, li accompagni per tutta la loro vita, e li aiuti a vincere i pericoli, sempre insorgenti, dell’egoismo, il grande male della vita familiare. Vi accompagni anche, lungo il corso della vostra vita, il canto dell’“alleluia”, che in questi giorni risuona nelle nostre chiese. Questo canto liturgico, che significa “Lodate il Signore”, risuoni sempre nelle vostre case e nei vostri cuori a testimonianza della letizia cristiana. Vi benedico di cuore.


Ancora una parola per invitarvi alla preghiera. Abbiamo gioito insieme per la vittoria di Cristo sulla morte, gustando la sovrabbondanza di grazia e di vita che ci è stata comunicata da lui. Pasqua è veramente una festa di gioia e di vita.

Eppure non possiamo dimenticare il dolore, la mestizia che hanno avvolto, proprio in questi giorni, con la perdita di vite umane, con sofferenze e privazioni di ogni genere, i popoli di alcune regioni del mondo: per un improvviso cataclisma, come il terremoto che ha colpito, la mattina di Pasqua, numerosi centri abitati in Jugoslavia e in Albania; oppure a causa dell’aggravarsi di tensioni politiche e sociali, di lotte armate, in Rhodesia, in Uganda, in Nicaragua; o per il riaccendersi di fiammate punitive, doloroso strascico di precedenti rivolgimenti.

Vorrei che la preghiera che insieme rivolgiamo al Signore, con l’intercessione di Maria regina dei cieli, potesse implorare pace ai morti, sollievo ai feriti e ai senza tetto, protezione alle popolazioni minacciate da incursioni o rappresaglie, umanità per i prigionieri e clemenza per i vinti, perdono e riconciliazione per tutti.