Eternal plan of God reaches its fulfilment
Our Lord's birth in Bethlehem and ascent of Calvary evoke
same mystery of God's love
On Holy Saturday, 22 April, the Holy Father celebrated the
liturgy of the Easter Vigil in St Peter's Square and baptized
catechumens from various countries during the sacred rite. In
announcing the joy of Easter, the Pope told the faithful:
"Christ is risen! So the Church proclaims at the end of this
Easter night, even as yesterday she proclaimed Christ's death on the
Cross". Here is a translation of his homily, which was given in
1. "You have a guard of soldiers; go and secure the tomb as
best as you can" (Mt 27:65).
The tomb of Jesus had been closed
and sealed. At the request of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees,
soldiers were placed on guard, lest anyone steal the body (Mt
27:62-64). This is the event from which the liturgy of the Easter
Those who had sought the death of Christ, those who considered
him an "imposter" (Mt 27:62), were keeping watch beside
the tomb. They wanted him and his message to be buried for ever.
Not far away, Mary was keeping watch, and with her the Apostles
and a few women. In their hearts they pondered the distressing
events which had just taken place.
2. The Church keeps watch this night, in every corner of the
world, and she re- lives the principal stages of salvation history.
The solemn liturgy which we are celebrating is the expression of
this "keeping watch" which, in a way, evokes the watch
kept by God himself. The Book of Exodus tells us: "It was a
night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of
Egypt. This night is a night of watching kept to the Lord in every
generation" (Ex 12:42).
In his provident and faithful love, which transcends time and
space, God keeps watch over the world. As the Psalmist sings:
"He sleeps not nor slumbers, Israelís guard.... The Lord is
your guard.... The Lord will guard you ... both now and for
ever" (Ps 121:4-5, 8).
The passage from the second to the third millennium, which we are
experiencing, is also guarded in the mystery of the Father. He
"is working still" (Jn 5:17) for the salvation of the
world, and through his Incarnate Son he leads his people from
slavery to freedom, from death to life. All the "work" of
the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is in some way linked to this
night of Vigil, which brings to fulfilment the night of the Lordís
Nativity. Bethlehem and Calvary evoke the same mystery of the love
of God, who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal
life" (Jn 3:16).
3. As she keeps watch on this Holy Night, the Church closely
scrutinizes the texts of Sacred Scripture. They portray Godís plan
from Genesis to the Gospel and, together with the liturgical rites
of fire and water, give this remarkable celebration a cosmic
dimension. The whole created universe is summoned to keep watch this
night at the tomb of Christ. The history of salvation passes before
our eyes, from Creation to the Redemption, from the Exodus to the
Covenant on Mount Sinai, from the Old to the New and Eternal
Covenant. On this Holy Night, Godís eternal plan reaches
fulfilment, the plan which embraces the history of humanity and of
4. At the Easter Vigil, "the mother of all vigils",
everyone can likewise acknowledge their own personal history of
salvation, which has its basic moment in our rebirth in Christ
In a very special way, this is your experience too,
dear brothers and sisters who are about to receive the Sacraments of
Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
come from various countries throughout the world: Japan, China,
Cameroon, Albania and Italy.
The variety of your native countries
points to the universality of the salvation brought by Christ. Soon,
dear friends, you will become intimate sharers in the mystery of the
love of God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. May your lives become a
song of praise to the Most Holy Trinity and a witness of love which
knows no limits.
5. "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the
salvation of the world: come, let us worship!". Yesterday the
Church chanted these words, lifting up the wood of the Cross,
"on which hung Christ, the Saviour of the world". "He
was crucified, died and was buried", as we say in the Creed.
The tomb! Behold the place where they buried him (cf. Mk 16:6).
There the community of the Church throughout the world is
spiritually present. We too are there with the three women going to
the tomb before dawn to anoint the lifeless body of Jesus (cf. Mk
16:1). Their loving concern is our concern too. With them we
discover that the large tombstone has been rolled away and that the
body is no longer there. "He is not here", the angel
proclaims, pointing to the empty tomb and the winding cloth on the
ground. Death no longer has power over him (cf. Rom 6:9).
Christ is risen! So the Church proclaims, at the end of this
Easter night, even as yesterday she proclaimed Christís death on
the Cross. It is a proclamation of truth and life.
risen from the tomb, who for our sakes hung upon the Cross.
Alleluia!". The Lord, who for us was nailed to the Cross, is
risen from the tomb!
Yes, Christ is truly risen and we are witnesses of this.
proclaim this witness to the world, so that the joy which is ours
will reach countless other hearts, kindling in them the light of the
hope which does not disappoint.
Christ is risen, alleluia!
Christos anesti, alleluia!