|The Sacred Triduum of the Church Teaches
Believers that Despite all the Darkness that Exists in the World, Evil
Never has the Last Word: Alleluia!
At the General Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, 12
April, the Holy Father commented on the Sacred Triduum and the role of
these holy days in preparing the faithful spiritually for the celebration
of Easter. The following is a translation of the Pope's special
Catechesis, given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Tomorrow begins the Easter Triduum, the fulcrum of the entire
liturgical year. With the help of the sacred rites of Holy Thursday, of
Good Friday and of the solemn Easter Vigil, we will relive the mystery of
the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord. These are fitting days
for reawakening within us a deeper desire to adhere to Christ and to
follow him generously, aware that he loved us to the point of giving his
life for us.
Indeed, what are the events that the Sacred Triduum presents to us
anew, other than the sublime manifestation of God's love for man? Let us
therefore prepare to celebrate the Easter Triduum by accepting St.
Augustine's exhortation: "Consider now with attention these three most
sacred days... of the Lord's Crucifixion, rest in the grave and
Resurrection. Of these three, that of which the Cross is the symbol is the
business of our present life: those things which are symbolized by his
rest in the grave and his Resurrection we hold by faith and hope" (Letter
55, 14, 24).
Holy Thursday: the Lord's Supper
The Triduum of Easter begins tomorrow, Holy Thursday, with the evening
Mass, "in Cena Domini", although in the morning another important
liturgical celebration is usually held, the Chrism Mass, during which the
entire presbyterate of every Diocese, gathered round the Bishop, renews
the priestly promises and participates in the blessing of the oils of the
catechumens, of the sick and of the Chrism, and we will do this too, here
in St. Peter's tomorrow morning.
In addition to the institution of the Priesthood the total offering
that Christ made of himself to humanity in the Sacrament of the Eucharist
is commemorated on this holy day.
As Holy Scripture records, on that same night on which he was betrayed,
he left us the "new commandment" —"mandatum novum" — of brotherly
love with the touching gesture of the washing of the feet, which is
reminiscent of the humble service of slaves. This unique day, which calls
to mind great mysteries, ends with Eucharistic Adoration, in memory of the
agony of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In the grip of profound anguish, the Gospel relates, Jesus asked his
disciples to watch and pray with him: "Remain here, and watch with me" (Mt
26:38), but the disciples fell asleep. Still today, the Lord says to us:
"Remain here, and watch with me"; and we realize that we too, disciples of
today, are frequently dozing. For Jesus, that was the hour of
abandonment and loneliness, followed by his arrest in the heart of the
night and the beginning of the painful journey to Calvary.
Good Friday: the Lord's Passion
Good Friday is focused on the mystery of the Passion. It
is a day of fasting and penance, completely oriented to contemplation of
Christ on the Cross. In churches, the Passion Narrative is proclaimed and
the words of the Prophet Zechariah ring out: "They shall look upon him
whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37). And on Good Friday we too desire to
truly turn our gaze to the pierced heart of the Redeemer, in which, St. Paul writes, "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col
2:3), indeed, "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col
As a result, the Apostle can affirm that he wants nothing except "Jesus
Christ and him crucified" (I Cor 2:2). It is true: the Cross shows "the
breadth and length and height and depth" — the cosmic dimensions is the
meaning — of a love that surpasses all knowledge, a love that goes beyond
what is known and fills us "with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:18-19).
In the mystery of the Crucified One "is the culmination of that turning of
God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and
save him. This is love in its most radical form" (Deus Caritas Est, n.
The Cross of Christ, Pope St. Leo the Great wrote in the fifth century,
"is the fount of all blessings, the source of all graces" (Discourse 8
on the Passion of the Lord, 6-8; PL 54,
The Vigil: the Lord's Resurrection
On Holy Saturday the Church, spiritually united with Mary, remains in
prayer at the tomb, where the Body of the Son of God is lying inert as it
were in a condition of repose after the creative work of redemption
brought about with his death (cf. Heb 4:1-13).
Late at night the solemn Easter Vigil will begin, during which the
joyful singing of the Gloria and Easter Alleluia will well up from the
hearts of the newly baptized and the entire Christian community, rejoicing
because Christ is risen and has conquered death.
Dear brothers and sisters, for a fruitful celebration of Easter, the
Church asks the faithful in these days to receive the Sacrament of
Penance, which is like a sort of death and resurrection for each one of
us. In the ancient Christian community, the Bishop presided at the Rite of
the Reconciliation of Penitents on Holy Thursday. Historical conditions
have certainly changed, but preparing oneself for Easter with a good
confession continues to be an action to make the most of, because it
offers us the possibility of giving our life a fresh start and of truly
having a new beginning in the joy of the Risen One and in the communion of
the forgiveness that he gives us.
Aware that we are sinners but trusting in divine mercy, let us be
reconciled by Christ, to enjoy more intensely the joy that he communicates
with his Resurrection. The forgiveness which Christ gives to us in the
Sacrament of Penance is a source of interior and exterior peace and makes
us apostles of peace in a world where divisions, suffering and the
tragedies of injustice, hatred and violence and the inability to be
reconciled to one another in order to start again with a sincere pardon,
However, we know that evil does not have the last word, because it was
the Crucified and the Risen Christ who overcame it, and his triumph is
expressed with the power of merciful love. His Resurrection gives us this
certainty: despite all the darkness that exists in the world, evil does
not have the last word. Sustained by this certainty, we will be able, with
greater courage and enthusiasm, to commit ourselves to work for the birth
of a more just world.
I whole heartedly formulate this wish for you, dear brothers and
sisters, as I express the hope that you will prepare yourselves with faith
and devotion for the Easter festivities that are now at hand. May you be
accompanied by Mary Most Holy, who, after following her divine Son in the
hour of the Passion and the Cross, shared in the joy of his Resurrection.