Friday, April 22, 2011

"I Have Promised You My Own Life... I Have Given You My Death"

At the close of tonight's traditional Good Friday Via Crucis at Rome's Colosseum -- their 2011 meditations written by an Italian Augustinian sister -- B16 wrapped up the gathering with the following reflection:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This evening, in faith, we have accompanied Jesus as he takes the final steps of his earthly journey, the most painful steps, the steps that lead to Calvary. We have heard the cries of the crowd, the words of condemnation, the insults of the soldiers, the lamentation of the Virgin Mary and of the women. Now we are immersed in the silence of this night, in the silence of the cross, the silence of death. It is a silence pregnant with the burden of pain borne by a man rejected, oppressed, downtrodden, the burden of sin that mars his face, the burden of evil. Tonight we have relived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin.
What remains now before our eyes? It is a crucified man, a cross raised on Golgotha, a cross which seems a sign of the final defeat of the One who brought light to those immersed in darkness, the One who spoke of the power of forgiveness and of mercy, the One who asked us to believe in God’s infinite love for each human person. Despised and rejected by men, there stands before us "a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity, one from whom others hide their faces" (Is 53:3).

But let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God's immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, he lowered himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out his hand and draw us to himself, to bring us all the way to himself. The cross speaks to us of the supreme love of God and invites, today, to renew our faith in the power of that love, and to believe that in every situation of our lives, our history and our world, God is able to vanquish death, sin and evil, and to give us new, risen life. In the Son of God’s death on the cross, we find the seed of new hope for life, like the seed which dies within the earth.

This night full of silence, full of hope, echoes God’s call to us as found in the words of Saint Augustine: “Have faith! You will come to me and you will taste the good things of my table, even as I did not disdain to taste the evil things of your table... I have promised you my own life. As a pledge of this, I have given you my death, as if to say: Look! I am inviting you to share in my life. It is a life where no one dies, a life which is truly blessed, which offers an incorruptible food, the food which refreshes and never fails. The goal to which I invite you … is friendship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the eternal supper, it is communion with me … It is a share in my own life (cf. Sermon 231, 5).

Let us gaze on the crucified Jesus, and let us ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the "old man" bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us "new men", men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love.
In keeping with the the liturgy's ancient custom for this day for every prelate -- preserved in the modern Ceremonial for Bishops -- the papal ring stayed off for the evening rite.

* * *
With the preacher of the Papal Household invariably delegated the preaching duties at today's Liturgy of the Passion, the end of the Via Crucis is normally the pontiff's lone unscripted intervention of the calendar's most difficult 24 hours.

This year, however -- in a fairly groundbreaking move (a là his BBC turn at Christmas) -- Benedict took his favored style of interaction to the airwaves on this Good Friday afternoon, answering seven questions on the state broadcaster RAI on topics that ranged from suffering, to peace to the Lord's death and resurrection.

The queries submitted by the network's audience, the Holy See quickly circulated a full English translation of the questions and the Pope's answers, which were aired at 3pm Italian time today.

SVILUPPO: And here, albeit with the standard-fare RAI commentary interspersed, video of the Pope's Question Time in its original Italian:

The above is the first of four parts of A Sua Immagine ("In His Image") -- the rest can be found here.

PHOTOS: Getty(1); Reuters(2)