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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Papal Reflections for Holy Week

This morning, during his weekly Wednesday General Audience, Pope Benedict offered some beautiful reflections on the Paschal Triduum.   A prelate friend of mine noted that while ecclesial law does not obligate us to assist at the Paschal Triduum, we are bound by a deeper obligation, that of love.

Here is the unofficial Google translation of the Holy Father's words:

Dear brothers and sisters,
we have now reached the heart of Holy Week, the fulfillment of our Lenten journey. Tomorrow we enter the Paschal Triduum, the three holy days on which the Church commemorates the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus the Son of God, having made ​​man in obedience to the Father, becoming like us except sin (cf. Heb 4:15), has agreed to totally fulfill his will, to deal with our passion and love for the cross to make us partakers of his resurrection, so that in him and through him we can live forever, in the consolation and peace. I therefore urge you to accept this mystery of salvation, to participate intensively in the Easter Triduum, the fulcrum of the liturgical year and time of special grace for every Christian, I invite you to look in these days of recollection and prayer, so as to draw more deeply this source of grace. In this regard, in view of the upcoming holidays, every Christian is invited to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a moment of special attachment to the death and resurrection of Christ, in order to participate more fruitfully in the Holy Easter.

Holy Thursday is the day which commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. In the morning, each diocesan community, gathered around the Bishop in the Cathedral Church celebrates the Chrism Mass, which is blessed with the sacred chrism, the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick. Since the Easter Triduum and for the entire liturgical year, these oils are used for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the priestly and episcopal ordination and the anointing of the sick, in what is revealed as the salvation, transmitted by the sacramental signs , who came from the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in fact, we are redeemed through His death and resurrection and, through the Sacraments, will draw from that same source of salvation. During the Chrism Mass, tomorrow is also the renewal of priestly vows. Throughout the world, every priest renews the commitments it has taken on the day of ordination, to be totally dedicated to Christ in the exercise of sacred ministry in the service of others. We support our priests with our prayers.
On the afternoon of Holy Thursday actually begins the Easter Triduum with the memory of the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the memorial of his Pasch, fulfilling the Jewish Passover rite. According to tradition, every Jewish family, gathered at table on the feast of Easter, eating the roasted lamb, recalling the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, so in the upper room, aware of his impending death, Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, offers himself for our salvation (cf. 1 Cor 5:7). Saying the blessing over the bread and wine, he anticipates the sacrifice of the cross and expresses its intention to perpetuate its presence among the disciples, under the appearances of bread and wine, he makes himself present in a real way with his body and his blood shed. At the Last Supper, the Apostles are made ​​ministers of this sacrament of salvation to them Jesus washes the feet (cf. Jn 13:1-25), inviting them to love one another as he loved them, giving their lives for them. Repeating this gesture in the Liturgy, we are called to testify effectively the love of our Redeemer.

On Holy Thursday, finally, ends with Eucharistic adoration, in memory of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. Leaving the upper room, He withdrew to pray alone before the Father. In that moment of deep communion, the Gospels relate that Jesus experienced great anguish, suffering such as to make him sweat blood (cf. Mt 26,38). Aware of his imminent death on the cross, He felt a great anxiety and the proximity of death. In this situation, it is also an element of great importance for the whole Church. Jesus said to her: Stay here and keep watch, and this appeal to the supervisory concerns precisely this moment of anxiety, threat, where will the treacherous [traitor], but concerns the whole of Church history. It 'a permanent message for all time, because the drowsiness of the disciples was not only the problem at hand, but the problem is the whole story. The question is what this sleepy, what would be the supervision to which the Lord invites us. I would say that drowsiness is the story of the disciples on a certain the insensitivity of the  soul to the power of evil, the evil of insensitivity throughout the world. We do not want to leave too upset by these things, we want to forget: we think that it might not be so serious, and we forget. It is not only insensitive to the hurt, when we should watch for good, to fight for the power of good. It is insensitive to God: this is our very sleepy, and this insensitivity to the presence of God that makes us insensitive for evil. We do not hear God - disturb us - and so we do not hear, of course, the evil force and remain on the road to our comfort. The worship night of Holy Thursday, to be vigilant with the Lord, should be just the time for us to reflect on the sleepy disciples, the defenders of Jesus, the apostles, one of us, we do not see, do not want to see the full force of the evil, and we will not enter into his passion for good, for God's presence in the world, for the love of neighbor and of God

Then the Lord began to pray. The three apostles - Peter, James, John - sleep, but sometimes I wake up and hear the chorus of this prayer the Lord: "Not my will but your be realized. " What is this my will, what is this your will, which the Lord speaks? The mine will be "who should not die," that he be spared this cup of suffering is the human will, human nature, and Christ feels, with full awareness of his being, life, the abyss of death, the fear of nothingness, this threat of suffering. And he more than us, that we have this natural aversion to death, this natural fear of death, yet most of us feel the abyss of evil. He feels, with the death, including all suffering humanity. He feels that this is the cup must drink, has to drink himself, to accept the evil in the world, everything is terrible, the aversion to God, all sin. And we can understand how Jesus, with his human spirit, and terrified face of this reality, which perceives in all its cruelty to my will would not drink the cup, but my will is subject to your will, the will of God , the will of the Father, who is also the true will of the Son. And so Jesus becomes, in this prayer, the natural aversion, the aversion against the glass, against his mission to die for us, his will becomes the will of God in nature, in a "yes" to God's will Man itself is trying to oppose the will of God, that it intends to follow his own will, to be free only if it is standalone, opposes its independence against the heteronomy to follow the will of God This is all the drama of humanity. But in truth this is wrong and this autonomy to enter into God's will is not an opposition to itself, is not a slave who rapes my will, but in truth and love has come, for good. And he pulls our will, which is opposed to God's will, which seeks autonomy, we will pull this up at the will of God This is the drama of our redemption, Jesus pulls up our will , all of our aversion to the will of God and our aversion to death and sin, and unites with the will of the Father: "Not my will but your own . " In this transformation of the "no" to "yes", this will insert the creature in the will of the Father, He transforms and redeems humanity. It invites us to join in this movement: out of our "no" and enter "yes" to the Son. My will is there, but crucial is the will of the Father, because this is the truth and love.

Another element of this prayer seems important to me. The three witnesses have preserved - as it appears in the Bible - the Hebrew or Aramaic with which the Lord has spoken to the Father, called him "Abba, Father. But this formula, "Abba," is a familiar form of the word father, a form that is used only in a family that has never been used against God Here we see Jesus as he speaks in the depths of your family, truly speaks as the Son with the Father. Let the mystery of the Trinity: the Son who speaks to the Father and redeems humanity.

Further observation. The Epistle to the Hebrews has given us a profound interpretation of this prayer of the Lord, in this drama of Gethsemane. This Epistle tells us that, the tears of Jesus, this prayer, this cry of Jesus, this anguish, this is not simply a concession to the weakness of the flesh, as it were. Just like that makes the job of High Priest, because the High Priest must bring the human being, with all his problems and sufferings of God at the Epistle to the Hebrews says, with all these cries, tears, sufferings, prayers, the Lord has brought our reality to God (cf. Heb 5.7 ff). It uses this Greek word " prosferein , "which is the technical term for what to do for the High Priest offering to bring up his hands.

Just in this drama of Gethsemane, where it seems that God's strength is no longer present, Jesus fulfills the function of the High Priest. It also says that in this act of obedience, that is, the shape of the natural human desire to the will of God is perfected as a priest. It uses a new technique to sort the word priest. Just like that really becomes the High Priest of humanity and thus opens the door to heaven and resurrection.
If you think about this drama of Gethsemane, we can also see the great contrast between Jesus in his distress, his suffering, in comparison with the great philosopher Socrates, who remains peaceful, with no disturbance before death. And this seems ideal. We can see this philosopher, but the mission of Jesus was different. His mission was not this total indifference and freedom, his mission was to bring him in all our suffering, all the human drama. And why this humiliation of Gethsemane is essential to the mission of the Man-God. He carries our grief, our poverty, and transforms it according to the will of God that opens the gates of heaven, open heaven: this tent of the Blessed Sacrament, which so far has closed the man against God, is open for this suffering and obedience. These observations on Holy Thursday, for our celebration on the night of Holy Thursday.

On Good Friday we will remember the passion and death of the Lord, worship the crucified Christ, sharing in his sufferings with penance and fasting. Turning "look on him whom they have pierced" (cf. Jn 19:37), we can draw from his pierced heart that pours out blood and water as a source, from that heart from which flows the love of God for every person receiving the his Spirit. Then we accompany Jesus on Good Friday we also going up Calvary, let us be guided by Him to the cross, we receive the offer of her slain body. Finally, on the night of Holy Saturday, we will celebrate the solemn Easter Vigil, in which we announced the resurrection of Christ, his definitive victory over death that challenges us to be in him new men. By participating in this holy Sleep, Night focus of the entire liturgical year, we will remember our baptism, in which we too have been buried with Christ and rise with Him to participate in the banquet of heaven (cf. Rev 19.7 - 9).

Dear friends, we tried to understand the mood in which Jesus lived the moment of extreme test, to grasp what that guide their actions. The criterion that has guided every one of Jesus throughout his life has been a strong desire to love the Father, being one with the Father, and to be faithful, and this decision to respond to his love led him to embrace, in any single factor, the Father's plan, to do just the design of love entrusted to unite all things in him, to bring everything to him. In reviving the Holy Triduum, we dispose ourselves to welcome into our lives to God's will, knowing that God's will, even if it lasts, contrary to our intentions, we find our true good, the way of life. The Virgin Mother, guide us on this journey, and we obtain from her divine Son the grace to spend our lives for the love of Jesus, in the service of others. Thanks.

Wherever you are, if your circumstances permit, make time to be in Church during these great Three Days.  Let love compel you to make this journey with the Lord.

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