At Wednesday audience in Holy Week, Pope Francis invokes writings of one of the Church’s great women mystics to describe Jesus’ joy in giving himself for us on the cross (FULL TEXT)
VATICAN CITY — As Christians around the world enter into the most sacred days of the liturgical year, Pope Francis today invoked one of the Church’s great woman mystics, Julian of Norwich, to describe the joy with which Jesus gave himself on the cross for each one of us.
In his Wednesday catechesis during Holy Week, the pope drew upon the English anchoress and mystic’s visions of the Lord’s passion, which (though illiterate) she set down in writing in Revelations of Divine Love. Written around 1395, these “sublime pages on the love of Christ” are the first book in the English language known to have been written by a woman.
Julian of Norwich may be familiar to readers for her famous quote: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
In his catechesis on the divine merciful love revealed in the Sacred Triduum, Pope Francis also focused on Holy Saturday, which he called “the day of God’s silence.”
“It should be a day of silence, and we should do everything so that it really is a day of silence for us, as it was at that time: the day of God’s silence.
“It will do us good,” the pope continued, “to think of the silence of Our Lady — ‘the Believer’ — who in silence was awaiting the Resurrection. Our Lady should be for us the icon of that Holy Saturday.”
Here below we publish an English translation of Pope Francis’ address.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Our reflection on the God’s mercy introduces us today to the Easter Triduum. We shall live Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as powerful moments that allow us to enter ever more deeply into the great mystery of our faith:the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything in these three days speaks of mercy, for it manifests how far God’s love can reach.
We will hear the account of the last days of Jesus’ life. The evangelist John offers us the key to understanding its profound meaning: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
God’s love has no limits. As St. Augustine repeated often, it is a love that goes “to the end, without end.” God truly offers himself totally for each one of us and doesn’t spare himself in anything. The Mystery that we worship in this Holy Week is a great love story that knows no obstacles. Jesus’ passion lasts until the end of the world, since it is a story of sharing the sufferings of all humanity, and a permanent presence in the events of the personal life of each of us. In short, the Easter Triduum is the memorial of a drama of love, that gives us the certainty that we will never be abandoned in the trials of life.
On Holy Thursday Jesus institutes the Eucharist, anticipating in the Passover feast his sacrifice on Golgotha. To make his disciples understand the love which inspires him, he washes their feet, again offering firsthand the example of how they themselves will have to act. The Eucharist is love that becomes service. It is the sublime presence of Christ, who wants to nourish every man, especially the weakest, to make them capable of a journey of witness amid the difficulties of the world. Not only this. In giving himself to us as food, Jesus attests that we must learn to break this nourishment with others, so that it becomes a true communion of life with all those in need. He gives himself to us and asks us to abide in him to do likewise.
Good Friday is the culminating moment of love. The death of Jesus, who on the cross surrenders himself to the Father to offer salvation to the whole world, expresses love given to the end, without end. A love that means to embrace everyone, without exception. A love that extends to every time and place: an inexhaustible source of salvation from which each of us, sinners, can draw. If God has shown us his supreme love in Jesus’ death, then we too, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, can and must love one another.
And lastly, Holy Saturday is the day of God’s silence. It should be a day of silence, and we should do everything so that it really is a day of silence for us, as it was at that time: the day of God’s silence. Jesus laid in the tomb shares with all humanity the drama of death. It is a silence that speaks, and expresses love as solidarity with the abandoned of every age, whom the Son of God reaches by filling the emptiness that only God the Father’s infinite mercy can fill. God is silent, but for love. On this day love — that silent love — becomes an awaiting of life in the resurrection. Let us consider Holy Saturday: It will do us good to think of the silence of Our Lady — “the Believer” — who in silence was awaiting the resurrection. Our Lady should be for us the icon of that Holy Saturday. Think very much about how Our Lady lived that Holy Saturday: in waiting. It is the love that does not doubt but hopes in the Lord’s word, that it might be revealed and made resplendent on Easter day.
It is all a great mystery of love and mercy. Our words are poor and insufficient to express its fullness. The experience of a young lady, who is not very well known, can help us. She wrote sublime pages on the love of Christ. Her name is Julian of Norwich. She was illiterate, this young lady who had visions of the Lord’s passion and then, having become a recluse, described in simple yet profound and intense language the meaning of merciful love. She said: “Then the good Lord asked me: ‘Are you happy that I suffered for you?’ I said: ‘Yes, good Lord, and I thank you very much; yes, good Lord, may you be blessed.’ Then Jesus, our good Lord, said: ‘If you are happy, I am too. To have suffered the passion for you is for me a joy, bliss, eternal delight; and if I could suffer more, I would.”
This is our Jesus, who says to each of us: “If I could suffer more for you, I would.”
How beautiful are these words. They permit us truly to understand the immense and limitless love the Lord has for each one of us. Let us allow ourselves to be enfolded by this mercy that comes to us. And over the course of these days, as we keep our gaze fixed on the Lord’s passion and death, let us welcome in our hearts the greatness of his love and, as Our Lady did on Holy Saturday: in silence, awaiting the resurrection.
Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition.