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Holy Week Around the World: Bearing light in Beijing

Mark Ralston for AFP
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Photo of the Day, April 15, 2017

HOLY WEEK AROUND THE WORLD – China

BEIJING: Chinese Catholic choir girls hold candles during an Easter Vigil service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing on March 30, 2013. Experts estimate that there are as many as 12 million Catholics in China, with about half in congregations under the officially-administered Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The rest belong to non-sanctioned or so-called underground churches.

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light.” The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ Passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light,” says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of Baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called Baptism photismos – illumination.

Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights,” that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.
Holy Saturday homily of Pope Benedict XVI, 2012

Photo by Mark Ralston for AFP

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