Easter Through the Octave

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 6 April 1988, the Holy Father reflected on Easter Day as the day that has no end.

Dear brothers and sisters:

1. I am pleased to greet all those present at this general audience, which today takes on a special meaning both because of the joyous spiritual climate, typical of the party we celebrated last Sunday, and because of the number of participants. I am addressing in particular the pilgrims from various countries, with whom I have lived Easter next to the tomb of Saint Peter and I wish to live it throughout the Octave. Your pilgrimage to Rome is dominated by the Easter motif that continues to place our spirits before the unique event, pivotal for all human history and for the destiny of each one of us: this event is the Resurrection of Christ. The joy of Christians that explodes in the song of Alleluia it is founded on the fact that Jesus, the One who was cruelly scourged, who died on the cross and was buried, rose from the dead on the dawn of the third day!

"This is the day on which Christ the Lord acted!", we have sung in the Easter Sunday liturgy. But Easter day continues, moreover, it has no end. It is the day of Christ's victory over the devil, over sin and over death: the day that opens the entire cycle of time, the endless perspective of eternal life, where the slain Lamb offered himself and continues to offer himself to the Father for us, for our love.

Thus the liturgy celebrates Easter day throughout the Octave in the mystery of the ogdoade, of the Octave — as the Pastors and Teachers of the ancient Church splendidly commented — the entire mystery of salvation is summed up; in it is synthesized the flow that transports time to eternity, the corruptible to incorruption, the mortal to immortality. Everything is new, everything is holy, because Christ, our Passover, has immolated himself. In this Easter today, the eternal today of Paradise is anticipated.

These concepts are splendidly expressed in poetic form by the ancient Stichira of the Byzantine liturgy, which in the 9th century were also performed in Rome before the Pope, on Easter, and which this year have been sung again in the Vatican Basilica: "Today a divine Easter has been revealed to us / a new and holy Easter, a mysterious Easter. / The most solemn Easter of Christ the Redeemer. / Immaculate and great Easter. Easter of the faithful. / Easter that opens the gates of Paradise for us."

2. During the Easter season the Church returns to contemplate this ineffable mystery with her thought, with her reflection, and above all with her prayer. Furthermore, she returns to it every Sunday of the year, because every Sunday is a little Easter, which remembers and represents the death and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, Easter is not an isolated episode, but is linked to our destiny and our salvation. Easter is a feast of our own that affects us interiorly, because, as Saint Paul says: "Christ was delivered for our sins, and was raised for our justification" ( Rom . 4, 25). Thus Christ's fate becomes ours, his passion becomes ours, and his resurrection our resurrection.

3. We believers live this wonderful reality through the sacraments of Christian initiation. It begins with the baptism that we remember at the Easter Vigil; the sacrament that makes us reborn from on high (cf. Jn 3, 3), the sacrament that mystically reproduces in each believer the death and resurrection of the Lord, as Saint Paul himself writes: "So we went with Him buried by baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might live a new life" ( Rom 6:4).

That is why in the celebration of Easter night we "renew" the baptismal promises.

4. Then, confirmation, tightening the bond that unites us to Christ, our Redeemer, makes us his witnesses: just as the Apostles are the witnesses of the resurrection, and the Church lives by their testimony, so Christians are called to live in the light of Easter. Jesus, who exhales the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the very afternoon of Resurrection Sunday, continues to give us his Spirit, which has been fully poured out within us with the gift of confirmation.

That is why we have to be witnesses of the reality that comes to us from Easter. Jesus, bidding farewell to his disciples and announcing the coming of the Holy Spirit, said to them: "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" ( Acts 1, 8). And the first testimony that the disciples gave was precisely the one that referred to the event of the resurrection. In the first speeches of the Apostles, its central part is always dedicated to the testimony of the death and resurrection of Christ. You too bring this testimony to your communities and you have before your eyes the glorious figure of the risen Christ, when in the liturgical assemblies you repeat the song of the Paschal Alleluia .

5. Later, in the Eucharist it is also Jesus who, as in the house of Emmaus, breaks bread with us, feeds us with his Body and with his immolated Blood, stays with us, and transforms our poor life with his sacramental presence. of everyday. The Eucharist unites us to Christ and to our brothers, it makes us a single family, it makes us forget ourselves in order to give ourselves to others, it makes us think concretely of those who suffer, those who are sick, those who he lacks what is necessary; in the brothers tested by war, by hunger, by terrorism, by the lack of essential freedoms, among which the first place is that of professing one's faith. That is why the Byzantine liturgy has also sung:

"Day of the Resurrection. / Let us shine the joy of this feast, / Let us embrace each other, brothers, / Let us call our brothers even those who hate us, / Let us forgive everything for the sake of the Resurrection".

Thus, the Easter season must also engage us, as in other times the disciples of Emmaus, in a new journey of faith alongside the Risen One, along the path that leads to where the Lord manifests himself in the breaking of the bread: "Their eyes were opened and they recognized him" (24, 31) says the Evangelist Luke. This time is, therefore, marked in a special way by a more demanding commitment to live in greater depth the life of Christ, the life in grace; it is the time when Christians are called to feel more intensely the newness and the joy, the serenity and the seriousness of the Christian life; the requirement of its authenticity, its fidelity and its coherence. Living the mystery of the risen Christ also demands our conformation with Him in the way we think and act.Col 3, 1-2).

6. Dear brothers and sisters: In this Easter of the Marian Year, the Holy Virgin, who lived the joy of the Easter event more intensely, precedes us on the pilgrimage of faith in the Risen Christ. She has been given to us as Mother at the foot of the cross: "She emerges from the definitive maturation of the paschal mystery of the Redeemer. The Mother of Christ, finding herself in the direct field of this mystery that encompasses man —each one and all— , is given to man — to each one and to all — as a Mother" ( Redemptoris Mater , 23).

Mother of the Redeemer, crucified and risen, Mother who became ours at the moment when Christ, dying, fulfilled the supreme act of his love for men: Help us! Pray for us! We need to live with you as resurrected. We must and want to leave all humiliating commitment to sin; we must and want to walk with you following Christ. "Succurre cadenti, surgere qui curat populo!". The ancient Advent antiphon joins the Paschal one today: "Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia! Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia!"

Your Son has risen; Pray for us to your Son. We too have risen with Him; we also want to live as resurrected. Help us in this "constant challenge to human consciences...: The challenge to follow the path of 'not falling' in ways always old and always new, and of 'getting up'" ( Redemptoris Mater , 52).

Ora pro nobis Deum ! As this third Christian millennium approaches, pray for us to God! Deliver us from evil; of war, of hatred, of hypocrisy, of mutual misunderstanding, of hedonism, of impurity, of selfishness, of hardness of heart. Deliver us!

Ora pro nobis Deum! Hallelujah.

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