By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 April, 2014
In a symbolic re-enactment of the Easter story, Pope Francis entered a darkened St Peter’s Basilica on Saturday evening and from his single lighted candle proceeded to slowly illuminate the church by enkindling the candles of all those assembled for the Easter vigil.
The ritual at the beginning of the Easter vigil commemorates the darkness of Jesus’ crucifixion of Good Friday giving way to the light of his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
During the Mass, the Pope baptised ten new catechumens, the youngest of whom was a seven-year-old Italian and the eldest a fifty-eight-year-old from Vietnam. The other catechumens came from countries such as France, Belorussia, Lebanon and Senegal.
In his Easter vigil homily, the Pope urged the faithful to recall when they had first found their faith. “Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Look for it. You’ll find it,” he said.
Referring to the Gospel of the resurrection which begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath, the Pope cited the line, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee.”
Galilee, he said, is the place where they were first called, where everything began. To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory.
“To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.”
“For each of us, too, there is a ‘Galilee’ at the origin of our journey with Jesus. To go to Galilee means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.”
“To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.”
“From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.”
“In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential ‘Galilee’: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission.”
“In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realise that he loved me.”
“Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.”
“The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection.”
“This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.”
“Let us be on our way!” the Pontiff exhorted.
This morning, Easter Sunday, Pope Francis presides over Mass in St Peter’s Square at 10.15am and will then impart his traditional ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing, to the city and to the world from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.
Easter Sunday this year coincides with Easter in the Orthodox Church.