Today, on Holy Saturday at night, the Holy Father Benedict XVI presided for the first time as Pope, over the Solemn Easter vigil of the Holy Night in the patriarcal basílica of Saint Peters.
During the vigil, he baptized seven people from various countries, and performed the traditional ritual of lighting the Paschal candle. Here are excerpts from the Homily given by Pope Benedict XVI during the vigil.
Benedict XVI started his homily with the words of the angel to the women looking for Jesus: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here" (Mk 16:6) “But the Evangelist says the same thing to us on this holy night: Jesus is not a character from the past. He lives,” the Pontiff said.
In the homily, the Holy Father wished first to explain the reason of the joy of this most solemn feast: “At Easter we rejoice because Christ did not remain in the tomb; we rejoice because he is the Alpha and also the Omega,; he lives not only yesterday, but today and for eternity (cf. Heb 13:8).
The pontiff then contemplated the wonder of the resurrection of the body, asking “Of what exactly does this "rising" consist? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and the whole of history? “
It is the greatest "mutation"-he answered- absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history”
He then continued to question this mystery by asking “What happened there? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and for me personally?
“The crucial point is that this man Jesus was not alone, he was not an "I" closed in upon itself. He was one single reality with the living God, so closely united with him as to form one person with him. His own life was not just his own, it was an existential communion with God,(..) he broke the definitiveness of death, because in him the definitiveness of life was present. He was one single reality with indestructible life, in such a way that it burst forth anew through death,” the pope answered.
"His death was an act of love," the pontiff continued, "the Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of "dying and becoming". It ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges."
Pope Benedict reminded the actuality of this mystery, stressing its crucial place in the history of mankind, “It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, It is a qualitative leap in the history of "evolution" and of life in general towards a new future life, towards a new world which, starting from Christ, already continuously permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself."
The questioning continued, as he asked “But how does this happen? How can this event effectively reach me and draw my life upwards towards itself?"
The pontiff related the wonder of the revelation of the resurrection to our personal faith and Baptism, “For this reason Baptism is part of the Easter Vigil, as we see clearly in our celebration today. Baptism means precisely this, that we are not dealing with an event in the past, but that a qualitative leap in world history comes to me, seizing hold of me in order to draw me on. It is truly death and resurrection, rebirth, transformation to a new life.”
"How can we understand this?" he asked, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). I live, but I am no longer I. The "I", the essential identity of man - of this man, Paul - has been changed. My "I" is taken away from me and is incorporated into a new and greater subject. This means that my "I" is back again, but now transformed, broken up, opened through incorporation into the other, in whom it acquires its new breadth of existence."
"The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced."
Concluding, he renewed this call to celebrate the mystery of the resurrection: "The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak."
Pope Benedict ended his homily proclaiming words of hope and joy, inviting the Church to celebrate: "Thus we can sing full of joy, together with the Church, in the words of the Exsultet: "Sing, choirs of angels . . . rejoice, O earth!" The Resurrection is a cosmic event, which includes heaven and earth and links them together. In the words of the Exsultet once again, we can proclaim: "Christ . . . who came back from the dead and shed his peaceful light on all mankind."