Pope Benedict XVI: April 2010 Archives

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This morning at the end of Holy Mass, we chanted Psalm 19 for the Holy Father on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of his election.

PSALM 19

The Lord listen to thee in thy time of need, *
the power of Israel's God be thy protection!

May he send thee aid from his holy place, *
watch over thee, there on mount Sion;

may he remember all thy offerings, *
and find savour in thy burnt sacrifice.

May he grant thee what thy heart desires, *
crown thy hopes with fulfilment.

So may we rejoice at thy deliverance, +
rallied in the name of the Lord our God; *
abundantly may he grant thy prayer.

Shall I doubt that the Lord protects the king he has anointed, +
will listen to him from his sanctuary in heaven? *
Is not his right hand strong to save?

Let others talk of horses and chariots; *
our refuge is the name of the Lord our God.

Stumbled and fallen they, *
while we stand firm on our feet.

O Lord, save the king, *
and hear us in the hour when we call upon thee.

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"Yet in his great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect."

The Holy Father's address to young people in Malta will not, in all likelihood, get much coverage in the secular media. And yet, how much the world needs to hear that hatred and anger can be swept away by the power of Christ's love!

Changed Forever

Saint Paul, as a young man, had an experience that changed him for ever. As you know, he was once an enemy of the Church, and did all he could to destroy it. While he was travelling to Damascus, intending to hunt down any Christians he could find there, the Lord appeared to him in a vision. A blinding light shone around him and he heard a voice saying, "Why do you persecute me? ... I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:4-5). Paul was completely overcome by this encounter with the Lord, and his whole life was transformed. He became a disciple, and went on to be a great apostle and missionary. Here in Malta, you have particular reason to give thanks for Paul's missionary labours, which spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean.

An Overwhelming Experience of Love

Every personal encounter with Jesus is an overwhelming experience of love. Previously, as Paul himself admits, he had "persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it" (Gal 1:13). But the hatred and anger expressed in those words was completely swept away by the power of Christ's love. For the rest of his life, Paul had a burning desire to carry the news of that love to the ends of the earth.

God Knows Our Strengths and Our Faults

Maybe some of you will say to me, Saint Paul is often severe in his writings. How can I say that he was spreading a message of love? My answer is this. God loves every one of us with a depth and intensity that we can hardly begin to imagine. And he knows us intimately, he knows all our strengths and all our faults. Because he loves us so much, he wants to purify us of our faults and build up our virtues so that we can have life in abundance. When he challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to him, he is not rejecting us, but he is asking us to change and become more perfect. That is what he asked of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. God rejects no one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in his great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect.

Do Not Be Afraid

Saint John tells us that perfect love casts out fear (cf. 1 Jn 4:18). And so I say to all of you, "Do not be afraid!" How many times we hear those words in the Scriptures! They are addressed by the angel to Mary at the Annunciation, by Jesus to Peter when calling him to be a disciple, and by the angel to Paul on the eve of his shipwreck. To all of you who wish to follow Christ, as married couples, as parents, as priests, as religious, as lay faithful bringing the message of the Gospel to the world, I say, do not be afraid! You may well encounter opposition to the Gospel message. Today's culture, like every culture, promotes ideas and values that are sometimes at variance with those lived and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ. Often they are presented with great persuasive power, reinforced by the media and by social pressure from groups hostile to the Christian faith. It is easy, when we are young and impressionable, to be swayed by our peers to accept ideas and values that we know are not what the Lord truly wants for us. That is why I say to you: do not be afraid, but rejoice in his love for you; trust him, answer his call to discipleship, and find nourishment and spiritual healing in the sacraments of the Church.

Aqua Sapientiae

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Tuesday of Pascha

Proper of the Mass

Those of you who follow the preaching of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will have noticed how consistently he comments on the Proper of the Mass. The Proper of the Mass -- the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Sequence (when there is one), Offertory, and Communion -- are those chants, drawn principally from Sacred Scripture, that form the context for the other variable elements of every Mass: the Collect, Prayer Over the Gifts, Postcommunion Prayer and, of course, the Word of God given us in the Lectionary.

One cannot ignore the Proper of the Mass without deconstructing the theological architecture of the celebration. The Proper Chants of the Mass are not decorative, they are structural. Decorative elements can be changed or moved at will; structural elements cannot. When they are displaced, the harmonious whole of the Mass disintegrates.

Paschal Introits

This being said, let us look at two elements in today's Mass: the Introit and the Sequence. Today we have the third Introit of Pascha. The first, on Easter Sunday morning, allowed us to hear, and participate in, the ineffable conversation of the Risen Son with His Father: "I arose and am still with you, alleluia: you have laid your hand upon me, alleluia: your knowledge is wonderful, alleluia, alleluia (Ps 138:18, 5-6).

The second, yesterday morning, was addressed to the newly-baptized: "The Lord has brought you into a land flowing with milk and honey, alleluia; that the law of the Lord may be ever in your mouth, alleluia, alleluia (Ex 13:5-9).

Water to Drink

Today's Introit, drawn from the book of Ecclesiasticus, recalls what happened to the catechumens baptized in the night of Pascha: "He gave them the water of wisdom to drink, alleluia: it shall be made strong in them and shall not be moved, alleluia, and it shall raise them up forever, alleluia, alleluia" (Ecclus 15:3-4).

This water of wisdom is the very water that Our Lord promised to the Samaritan woman on the Third Sunday of Lent. "He that shall drink of the water that I will give him," says Jesus, "shall not thirst for ever: but the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting" (Jn 4:13-14). It is the water of divine grace, the water of Trinitarian life that gushes from the Open Side of the Crucified and Risen Lord, irrigating the souls of the baptized, and making the Church resplendent with holiness. This is an unfailing stream of water. It is an impetuous torrent that will never dry up, because its source is in God. Those who yield to its power will be carried into God to live in His Love and in His Light forever.

The Sacraments

The Aqua sapientiae, the water of wisdom, reaches us, and irrigates our souls, through the channels of the sacraments. One who stays away from the sacraments will suffer from spiritual drought. The fruits of the Holy Spirit will become scarce. Those that do appear will be paltry and, in the end, will dry up. Sin creates a blockage in the irrigation of the soul. Confession and absolution removes the obstacles that clog the flow of grace. Many of you are looking toward the festival of Divine Mercy this coming Sunday: the Sacrament of Penance renews the grace of Baptism, and opens the heart to the living water that flows from the pierced Heart of the Merciful Christ.

Victimae Paschali Laudes

The second element of today's Mass that merits special attention is the Sequence. It is about one thousand years old. The word Sequence means something that follows another: the Sequence of the Mass follows the Alleluia and, in a sense, springs out of it.

Father Maurice Zundel writes of the Sequence in characteristically poetic terms. This is what he says:

When the Alleluia, having soared to its highest point, bends earthward once more to return to vocal chant, a rocket, as it were, dissolves into sparkling stars, the neums spread out into a shower and give rise to the Sequence.

The Easter Sequence, Victimae Paschali Laudes, is attributed to one Wipo (died c. 1050), a court chaplain of the emperors Conrad II and Henry III. It is the most popular of the medieval Sequences. It inspired countless para-liturgical dramas or vivid representations of Mary Magdalene in dialogue with the Apostles within the context of the liturgy itself.

Praise to the Lamb

The first and second verses of the Victimae Paschali Laudes call the sheep, all who share in the redemption wrought by Christ, to offer their praises to Christ the immolated Lamb. Jesus, the "lamb without blemish" (Ex 12:5), reconciles sinners, sheep marred by sin, to the Father (cf. Is 53:6).

Prince of Life

The third verse describes the Passion as an epic struggle between death and the Prince of Life. It echoes 1 Corinthians 15:54-55: "Death is swallowed up in victory." We call our Lord the Dux vitae, the Prince of Life, and the One who leads us into life with Himself.

Mary Magdalene

In the fourth verse, the Apostles interrogate Mary Magdalene: "Tell us, Mary, what thou sawest, as thou wentest on the way." Mary Magdalene, the apostola apostolorum, replies by singing of the glory of the risen Christ (cf. Jn 20:18), of bright angels (cf. Mk 16:5 and Lk 24:4) and of the empty tomb (cf. Jn 20:12-13). She proclaims to the apostles that "Christ, her hope is risen," and obedient to the Lord's injunction (Mt 28:10), announces that he goes before his own into Galilee.

The Victor King

The final verse, a triumphant confession of Christ's resurrection, is sung in unison by the entire chorus: the faithful, Mary Magdalene, and apostles. The very last line, a plea for mercy, addresses Jesus as Victor Rex, the Victor King (cf. Rev 19:16).

What Earlier Generations Held As Sacred

Pope Benedict XVI has given us a guiding principle that we need to put into practice with a joyful docility. Listen to what he says:

What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.

Past, Present, and Future

The Holy Father is setting an example for the whole Church by restoring, with serenity and determination, elements of our Catholic patrimony that were in danger of being relegated to museums. By doing this, he is teaching us that the Church remains forever young: that being Catholic means that nothing of what the Holy Spirit has given to the Church is locked in an irretrievable past. One who negates the past, or attempts to put its treasures into storage, negates the future, and impedes the grace of new life. "Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Dt 30:19). Christ, our Hope, is risen, and goes before us.


About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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