Wednesday, 18 February 2004 - Comment on the Canticle which opens St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

Canticle cf
Ep 1,3-10 - "Blessed be the Lord!'

1. The splendid hymn of "blessing" that opens the Letter to the Ephesians and is proclaimed every Monday in the Liturgy of Vespers will be the subject of a series of extended meditations as we journey forward. For now, let us be content with a general look at this solemn, well-structured text as a whole, almost like an impressive building destined to exalt the marvellous work of God which is accomplished for us in Christ.

It starts with a "before" that precedes time and creation: this is divine eternity in which a plan is conceived that transcends us, a "predestination", or in other words, the loving and gratuitous design of a saving and glorious destiny.

2. In this transcendent plan that embraces the Creation and Redemption, the cosmos and human history, God "in his goodness" preordained that he would "unite all things in [Christ]", that is, that he would restore order and deep meaning to all things in heaven and on earth (cf. Ep 1,10). Of course, he is "head of the Church, which is his body" (Ep 1,22-23), but he is also the vital principle of reference for the universe.

Thus, Christ's lordship extends to both the cosmos and that more specific horizon which is the Church. Christ's is a role of "fulfilment" so that the "mystery" (Ep 1,9) hidden down the ages may be revealed in him, and all reality may actualize - in its specific order and at its own level - the plan conceived by the Father from eternity.

3. As we will have an opportunity to see later, this kind of New Testament "psalm" focuses above all on the history of salvation that is the expression and living sign of "good will" (cf. Ep 1,9), "approval" (cf. Ep 1,6) and divine love.

Here, then, is the exaltation of the "redemption through his blood" on the Cross, the "forgiveness of our sins", the abundant outpouring of the "riches of his grace" (cf. Ep 1,7). This is the divine sonship of Christians (cf. Ep 1,5) and the "insight" into "the mystery of [God's] will" (Ep 1,9) through which we enter into intimacy with the Trinitarian life itself.

13 4. Having taken a general look at the hymn that opens the Letter to the Ephesians, we will now listen to St John Chrysostom, an extraordinary teacher and orator, a fine Sacred Scripture exegete who lived in the fourth century and also became Bishop of Constantinople amid every kind of difficulty, and was even exiled twice.

In his First Homily on the Letter to the Ephesians, commenting on this Canticle, he reflects with gratitude on the "blessings" with which we have been blessed "in Christ": "Indeed, what do you lack? You have become immortal, you have become free persons, you have become sons, you have become righteous, you have become brothers, coheirs who reign with him and with him you are glorified. All this has been given to us and, as it is written, "...will he not also give us all things with him?' (
Rm 8,32). Your first fruit (cf. 1Co 15,20 1Co 15,23) is adored by angels, cherubim and seraphim: so what could you possibly lack?" (PG 62,11).

God has done all this for us, St John Chrysostom continues, "according to the consent of his will". What does this mean? It means that God passionately desires and ardently longs for our salvation. "And why does he love us like this? Why does he feel such great affection for us? Out of goodness alone: in fact, "grace' is part of goodness" (ibid., 13).

For this very reason, the ancient Father of the Church concludes, St Paul says that everything was brought about for the "praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in his Beloved Son". Indeed, "not only did God free us from sin, but he also made us lovable...: he adorned our soul and made it beautiful, desirable and lovable". And when Paul declares that God did so through the blood of his Son, St John Chrysostom exclaims: "Nothing is greater than all this: that for our sake God poured out his blood. Greater than our adoption as sons and his other gifts is the fact that God did not spare his own Son (cf. Rm 8,32). It is indeed a great thing that sins have been forgiven: but even greater is what happened through the Blood of the Lord" (ibid., 14).

To the English-speaking pilgrims

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the United States of America. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To special groups

May the example and intercession of this humble disciple of St Dominic be an encouragement to you, dear young people, to live your Christian vocation faithfully. May Fra Angelico help you, dear sick people, to offer up your sufferings in union with those of Christ for the salvation of humanity, and may he sustain you, dear newly-weds, in your daily commitment to reciprocal fidelity.

I greet with affection Cardinal Vlk and the other Cardinals as well as the Bishops Friends of the Focolare Movement, who are present here with Miss Chiara Lubich during the annual meeting on the theme of holiness as the first requirement to propose to all the members of the People of God.

14 Dear Friends, may the Blessed Virgin Mary, for whom I know you have a filial devotion, be the sublime model that will always inspire you. I entrust each one of you, dear and venerable Brothers, to her motherly protection, and wish you every good for your days of spirituality and study.

                                                                                  March 2004

Wednesday, 10 March 2004 - Psalm 20£[19] "Grant victory, O Lord!'

Ps 20

1. The final invocation: "Give victory to the king, O Lord, give answer on the day we call" (Ps 20,10 [19]), reveals to us the origin of Psalm 20[19] that we have just heard and upon which we will now meditate. We are looking, therefore, at a royal Psalm of ancient Israel that was proclaimed during a solemn rite in the Temple of Zion. It invokes the divine blessing upon the king especially "in the time of trial" (Ps 20,2); that is, the time when the entire nation has fallen prey to deep distress caused by the nightmare of a war. Indeed, chariots and horses (cf. Ps 20,8) are mentioned and seem to be advancing on the horizon; however, the king and his people put their trust in the Lord who marches with the weak, the oppressed, those who are victims of the arrogant conquerors.

It is easy to understand how Christian tradition transformed this Psalm into a hymn to Christ the King, the "consecrated one" par excellence, "the Messiah" (cf. Ps 20,7). He comes into the world without armies, but with the strength of the Spirit. He launches the definitive attack against evil and guile, against arrogance and pride, against lies and egoism. The words Christ addressed to Pilate, emblem of sovereign earthly power, reverberate in our ears: "I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice" (Jn 18,37).

2. In reviewing the structure of this Psalm, we notice that it reveals in filigree a liturgical celebration being held in the Temple of Jerusalem. It depicts the assembly of the sons of Israel who pray for the king, head of the nation. Indeed, it opens with a fleeting reference to a sacrificial rite, one of the many sacrifices and holocausts offered by the king to the "God of Jacob" (Ps 20,2 [19]), who does not abandon "his anointed" (Ps 20,7), but protects and supports him.

The prayer is deeply marked by the conviction that the Lord is the source of security: he goes to meet the confident desire of the king and of the entire community, bound by the terms of the covenant. The threat of war hangs in the air, with all the fears and risks to which it gives rise. The Word of God does not appear as an abstract message, but rather a voice that adapts to humanity's miseries, great and small. It is for this that the Psalm uses military language and reflects the oppressive climate of war in Israel (cf. Ps 20,6), thus adapting to the feelings of men in difficulty.

3. In verse 7 of the Psalm, there is a turning point. While the previous verses implicitly invoke God (cf. Ps 20,2-5), verse Ps 20,7 affirms the certainty of an answer obtained: "I am sure now that the Lord will give victory to his anointed, will reply from his holy heaven". The Psalm does not specify what sign was given for this assurance.

However, it clearly expresses a contrast between the position of the enemies, who depend on the material strength of their chariots and horses, and that of the Israelites, who place their trust in God; for this they are victorious. Immediately the mind's eye sees the famous scene of David and Goliath: against the weapons and the arrogance of the Philistine warrior, the young Hebrew calls upon the name of the Lord, who defends the weak and defenceless. In fact, David says to Goliath: "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts... the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's" (1S 17,45 1S 17,47).

15 4. Although tied to the logic of battle in its historical reality, the Psalm can be taken as an invitation never to allow oneself to be attracted by violence. Isaiah himself exclaimed: "Woe to those who... rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord" (Is 31,1).

The righteous one counteracts every form of evil with faith, goodness, forgiveness, the offering of peace. The Apostle Paul will advise Christians: "Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all" (Rm 12,17). When commenting on our Psalm, Eusebius of Caesarea, a Church historian of the early centuries (3rd-4th centuries), will extend his gaze even to the evil of death that the Christian knows he is able to overcome by Christ's doing: "All evil powers and the enemies of God, hidden and invisible, who have turned their backs and fled from the same Saviour, will fall. Instead, all those who have received salvation will rise from their ancient ruin. For this, Simeon said: He "is set for the fall and rising of many' (Lc 2,34): that is, for the destruction of his enemies and for the resurrection of those who have fallen but through him have risen" (PG 23,197).

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

My thought then goes to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.

May the Lenten journey we have undertaken lead you, dear young people, to a more living faith in Christ; may hope in Christ Crucified, your strength in trial, grow in you, dear sick people; may it help you, dear newly-weds, to make family living a mission of faithful and unselfish love.

To the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience. I greet particularly the members of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. My greeting goes also to the groups from Denmark and from the United States, and especially to the numerous young people present. Upon all of you I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ, who calls us to share in his victory over evil.

Wednesday, 17 March 2004 - Psalm\b\i 21£[20] - "For the king trusts in the Lord!'

16 Ps 21

1. At the heart of Psalm 21[20], the Liturgy of Vespers has left out the part we have just heard and omitted another section with an imprecatory tone (cf. Ps 21,9-13). The remaining preserved part speaks in the past and in the present of the favours God has granted the king, while the omitted part speaks of his future victory over his enemies.

The text that is the subject of our meditation (cf. Ps 21,2-8 Ps 21,14) belongs to the category of the royal Psalms. It is therefore centred on God's work for the Hebrew sovereign, perhaps portrayed on the solemn day of his enthronement. At the beginning (cf. Ps 21,2) and at the end (cf. Ps 21,14), the acclamation of the entire gathering almost seems to ring out, whereas the heart of the canticle has the tone of a thanksgiving hymn which the Psalmist addresses to God for the favours he has granted the king: "goodly blessings" (Ps 21,4), "length of days" (Ps 21,5), "glory" (Ps 21,6) and "joy" (Ps 21,7).

It is easy to perceive that this hymn, as occurred with other royal Psalms in the Psaltery, was given a new interpretation when the monarchy in Israel disappeared. In Judaism it had already become a hymn in honour to the Messiah-king, thus paving the way to the Christological interpretation which is precisely used in the liturgy.

2. However, let us first take a look at the original meaning of the text. Given the solemnity of the event, we breathe a joyful atmosphere in which songs ring out: "In your strength the king rejoices, O Lord; and in your help how greatly he exults!... We will sing and praise your power" (Ps 21,2 Ps 21,14).

Then comes a reference to God's gifts to the sovereign: God has heard his prayers (cf. Ps 21,3), sets a crown of gold upon his head (cf. Ps 21,4). The splendour of the king relates to the divine light that enfolds him like a protective mantle: "Splendour and majesty do you bestow upon him" (Ps 21,6).

In the ancient Near East, it was believed that kings were encircled by a luminous halo that testified to their participation in the very essence of divinity. Of course, for the Bible the sovereign is indeed a "son" of God (cf. Ps 2,7), but only in the metaphorical and adoptive sense. Thus, he must be the lieutenant of the Lord who safeguards justice. It is for this very mission that God surrounds him with his beneficial light and blessing.

3. The blessing is an important subject in this brief hymn: "You meet him with goodly blessings... you make him most blessed for ever (Ps 21,4 Ps 21,7 [20]). The blessing is a sign of the divine presence active in the king, who thereby becomes a reflection of God's light in humanity's midst.

The blessing in the biblical tradition also includes the gift of life, which is precisely poured out upon the consecrated person: "He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days for ever and ever" (Ps 21,5). The Prophet Nathan had also assured David of this blessing, a source of stability, support and safety, and David had prayed in these words: "May it please you to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue for ever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed for ever!" (2S 7,29).

4. As we recite this Psalm, we can discern behind the portrait of the Hebrew king the silhouette of the face of Christ, the Messianic King. He "reflects the glory" of the Father (He 1,3). He is the Son in the full sense of the word, and therefore, the perfect presence of God in humanity's midst. He is light and life, as St John proclaims in the Prologue to his Gospel: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (Jn 1,4).

Along these lines, St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, commenting on this Psalm, was to apply the theme of life (cf. Ps 21,5 [20]) to Christ's Resurrection: "Why does the Psalmist say: "Life you have asked for', since Christ was about to die? In this way, the Psalmist proclaims his Resurrection from the dead and his immortality after rising from th dead. In fact, he entered life in order to rise again, and through the space of time in eternity, so as to be incorruptible" (Esposizione della Predicazione Apostolica, 72, Milan, 1979, p. 519).

It is also on the basis of this certitude that Christians foster their hope in the gift of eternal life.

To the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, especially those from England, Wales, Denmark, Japan, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord's Blessings of health and joy.

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

Lastly, an affectionate greeting goes to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.
May the example of St Joseph, whom we will commemorate the day after tomorrow, help you, dear young people, to live up to the desire of the Lord; may it be a support to you, dear sick people, in your suffering; and may it be an encouragement to you, dear newly-weds, to be ever docile to the divine designs.

Wednesday, 24 March 2004 - Reflection on the Solemnity of the Annunciation

1. Tomorrow we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation that leads us to contemplate the Incarnation of the Eternal Word made man in Mary's womb. The Virgin's "yes" opened the doors to the implementation of the heavenly Father's saving plan, a plan of redemption for all men and women.

If this feast, which this year falls in the middle of Lent, takes us back, on the one hand, to the beginnings of salvation, it invites us, on the other, to turn our gaze to the Paschal Mystery. Let us look at the crucified Christ who redeemed humanity, obeying the will of the Father to the very end. On Calvary, in the last moments of his life, Jesus entrusted Mary to us as Mother and gave us to her as children.

Since she is associated with the Mystery of the Incarnation, Our Lady shares in the Mystery of the Redemption. Her fiat, which we will commemorate tomorrow, echoes that of the Incarnate Word. In close harmony with the fiat of Christ and of the Virgin, each one of us is called to say our own "yes" to the mysterious designs of Providence. Indeed, that joy and true peace which all ardently hope for even in our times only springs forth in full acceptance of the divine will.

2. On the eve of this feast which is both Christological and Marian, I am thinking back to several significant moments at the beginning of my Pontificate: to 8 December 1978, when I entrusted the Church and the world to Our Lady at St Mary Major's; and to 4 June the following year, when I renewed this entrustment at the Shrine of Jasna Gora. I am thinking in particular of 25 March 1984, the Holy Year of the Redemption. Twenty years have passed since that day in St Peter's Square when, spiritually united with all the Bishops of the world who had been "convoked" beforehand, I wanted to entrust all humanity to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in response to what Our Lady asked at Fatima.

18 3. Humanity was then going through difficult times that were giving rise to deep distress and uncertainty. Twenty years later, the world is still frighteningly streaked by hatred, violence, terrorism and war. Among the many victims recorded in the news every day, many are defenceless persons, struck as they go about their duties. On today's Day dedicated to remembrance and prayer for the "Missionary Martyrs", we cannot but recall the priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful who died in mission lands during 2003. So much blood is still being poured out in many parts of the world. It is still urgently necessary for people to open their hearts and to work courageously for reciprocal understanding. The expectation of justice and peace in every part of the earth is always growing greater. How can we respond to this thirst for hope and love other than by turning to Christ, through Mary? I also repeat to the Blessed Virgin today the plea I made to her then.

"Mother of Christ, let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful Love! May it put a stop to evil! May it transform consciences! May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of hope!" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 2 April 1984, p. 10).

To special groups

I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, including groups from England, Sweden and the United States of America. May your visit to Rome be a time of spiritual enrichment. Entrusting you to the protection of Mary, I invoke upon you the grace and peace of her Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Lastly, I address a fond greeting to you, dear young people, to you, dear sick people, and to you, dear newly-weds.

May today, the day dedicated to the commemoration of the Missionary Martyrs, be for each one of you a favourable opportunity for rediscovering faith in Christ the one Saviour, and to nourish hope in a more just and fraternal world.

Wednesday, 31 March 2004 - Canticle in Chapters 4: 11 and 5: 9-12 of the Book of Revelation

"Worthy is the lamb who was slain!'

1. The Canticle we have just heard and are now meditating upon is part of the Liturgy of Vespers whose Psalms we are commenting on in our weekly catecheses. As often happens in liturgical praxis, prayerful compositions are born from the artificial piecing together of biblical fragments that belong to larger passages.

In our case, we have taken up certain verses of chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Revelation, in which is described a great and glorious heavenly scene. At the centre is a throne on which is seated God himself, whose name is not spoken out of reverence (cf.
Ap 4,2). Later, on that throne was to be seated a Lamb, the symbol of the risen Christ: indeed, "a Lamb... as though it had been slain", but "standing" up, alive and glorious (Ap 5,6).

These two divine figures are surrounded by the chorus of the heavenly court, represented by four "living creatures" (Ap 4,6) who perhaps call to mind the angels of the divine presence in the cardinal points of the universe, and by "twenty-four elders" (Ap 4,4), in Greek presbyteroi, that is, the leaders of the Christian community whose number recalls both the 12 tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles; in other words, this is a synthesis of the Old and New Covenants.

2. This assembly of the People of God sings a hymn to the Lord, exalting the "glory and honour and power" expressed in his act of creating the universe (cf. Ap 4,11). At this point, a particularly important symbol is introduced: biblíon in Greek, that is, a "scroll" [or book], but which is completely inaccessible: indeed, it has seven seals that prevent it from being read (cf. Ap 5,1).

Thus, we are dealing with a secret prophecy. That scroll contains the whole series of divine decrees that must be accomplished in human history to make perfect justice prevail. If the scroll remains sealed, these decrees can be neither known nor implemented, and wickedness will continue to spread and oppress believers. Hence, the need for an authoritative intervention: it would be made precisely by the slain and risen Lamb. He was able "to take the scroll and to open its seals" (cf. Ap 5,9).

Christ is the great interpreter and lord of history, the revealer of the hidden plan of divine action which unfolds within it.

3. The hymn continues by showing us the foundation of Christ's power over history. It is nothing other than his Paschal Mystery (cf. Ap 5,9-10): Christ was "slain" and with his blood "ransomed" all humanity from the power of evil. The word "ransom" refers to Exodus, to the freeing of Israel from Egyptian slavery. In the ancient law, the duty to ransom a person was incumbent on the closest relative. In the case of his People, this was God himself, who called Israel his "first-born son" (Ex 4,22).

Christ then carried out this duty for all humanity. The redemption he brought about does not only serve to redeem us from our evil past, to heal our wounds and to relieve our wretchedness. Christ gives us a new inner being: he makes us priests and kings who share in his own dignity.

Alluding to the words that God proclaimed on Sinai (cf. Ex 19,6 Ap 1,6), the hymn reasserts that the redeemed People of God is made up of kings and priests who must guide and sanctify all creation. This consecration is founded in the Passover of Christ and fulfilled in Baptism (cf. 1P 2,9). From it comes an appeal to the Church to become aware of her dignity and her mission.

4. The Christian tradition has constantly applied the image of the paschal Lamb to Christ. Let us listen to the words of a second-century Bishop, Melito of Sardis, a city in Asia Minor, who said in his Homily on Easter: "Christ came down to earth from Heaven out of love for suffering humanity.

He put on our humanity in the womb of the Virgin and was born like a man.... It is he who as a lamb was taken away and as a lamb was slaughtered, thereby redeeming us from the slavery of the world.... It is he who brought us from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light, from death to life, from oppression to eternal kingship; and he made us a new priesthood and a chosen people forever.... It is he, the silent Lamb, the slain Lamb, the Son of Mary, the Lamb without stain. He was seized by the flock, led to his death, slain towards evening and buried at night" (nn. 66-71: SC 123, pp. 96-100).

In the end, Christ himself, the slaughtered Lamb, calls to all peoples: "So come, you of all races of men who are ensnared by your sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. Indeed, I am your forgiveness, the Passover of your salvation; I am the Lamb slain for you, I am your redemption, your way, your resurrection, your light, your salvation and your king. It is I who lead you to the heights of Heaven, I who will show you the Father who exists from eternity, I who will raise you to life with my right hand" (n. 103,: ibid., p. 122).

To special groups

I offer a warm welcome to the Felician Sisters from various countries meeting in Rome for their Biennial Assembly. My greeting also goes to the priests of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. I also welcome the Lutheran pilgrims from Sweden and Finland. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Denmark, Japan and the United States, I cordially invoke God's blessings of grace and peace.

Lastly, I address a cordial greeting to you, young people, sick people and newly-weds. In this last stretch of Lent, I ask you, dear young people, to intensify your witness of love for the Cross of Christ; I urge you, dear sick people, and I am thinking in particular of those afflicted by Sclerodermic diseases represented by a large group here, to live the trial of pain as an act of love for the crucified and risen Jesus; and I ask you, dear newly-weds, to imitate in your spousal union the lasting fidelity of the Lord for his Bride the Church.

                                                                                  April 2004

Wednesday, 7 April 2004 - Comment on the reading from the Letter to the Philippians (2: 8-9)

20 Ph 2,8-9

Holy Week

1. "Christ Jesus... humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him..." (Ph 2,8-9).

We have just heard these words of the hymn contained in the Letter to the Philippians. They essentially and effectively present to us the mystery of the passion and death of Jesus; at the same time, they allow us to glimpse the glory of the Resurrection. Thus, they constitute a meditation that introduces us into the celebrations of the Easter Triduum that begins tomorrow.

2. Dear brothers and sisters, we are preparing ourselves to relive the great mystery of our salvation. Tomorrow morning, Holy Thursday, the Bishop in every diocesan community will celebrate with his priests the Chrism Mass during which the oils are blessed: the oil of the catechumens, the oil for the anointing of the sick and the holy Chrism. In the evening we will commemorate the Last Supper with the Institution of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood. The "washing of the feet" reminds us that with this gesture Jesus in the Upper Room anticipated his supreme Sacrifice on Calvary and bequeathed his love to us as a new law, mandatum novum. According to a pious tradition, after the rites of the Mass of the Lord's Supper, the faithful stay in adoration before the Eucharist late into the night. It is a unique prayer vigil which goes back to the agony of Christ in Gethsemane.

3. On Good Friday, the Church commemorates the passion and death of Our Lord. The Christian assembly is invited to meditate upon the evil and sin that oppress humanity and upon the salvation brought about by the redemptive Sacrifice of Christ. The Word of God and certain evocative liturgical rites, such as the Adoration of the Cross, help us to contemplate the various stages of the Passion. In addition, Christian Tradition has brought to life on this day various expressions of popular devotion. Outstanding among these are the penitential processions of Good Friday and the pious stations on the Way of the Cross, which help us to interiorize the mystery of the Cross.

Deep silence is a feature of Holy Saturday. In fact, no special liturgies are proposed for this day of expectation and prayer. Everything in the Church is still while the faithful, in imitation of Mary, prepare for the great event of the Resurrection.

21 4. The solemn Easter Vigil, "mother of all vigils", begins at nightfall on Holy Saturday. After blessing the new fire, the celebrant lights the paschal candle which symbolizes Christ who brings light to every person, and the great proclamation of the Exsultet rings out joyfully. The ecclesial community, listening to the Word of God, meditates upon the important promise of definitive liberation from the slavery of sin and death. This is followed by the rites of Baptism and Confirmation for the catechumens who have undergone a long process of preparation.

The proclamation of the Resurrection scatters the darkness of the night and the whole of created reality awakens from the slumber of death to recognize Christ's lordship, as the Pauline hymn that has inspired our reflections brings to the fore: "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (
Ph 2,10-11).

5. Dear brothers and sisters, these days are particularly suitable for intensifying the conversion of our hearts to the One who out of love died for our sake.

Let us allow Mary, the faithful Virgin, to accompany us; let us reflect with her in the Upper Room and stay beside Jesus on Calvary, to meet him risen at last on Easter Day.

With these sentiments and hopes, I express my most cordial wishes for a happy and holy Easter to you who are present here, to your communities and to all your loved ones.

To special groups

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, especially those from England, the Faroe Islands, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord's blessings of health and joy and wish you a happy and holy Easter.
I address a special greeting to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.

I hope that you, dear young people, will not be afraid to follow Christ, even when he asks you to embrace the Cross. May meditating on the passion of Jesus, a mystery of suffering transfigured by love, be a comfort to you, dear sick people. And may the death and Resurrection of the Lord renew in you, dear newly-weds, the joy and commitment of the marriage bond.