Pope Benedict XVI was born 90 years ago on April 16, 1927, which happened to also be Holy Saturday. On that same day, Pope Benedict’s parents brought him to the church to be baptized at the Easter Vigil ceremonies, a providential occurrence as he was born at 8:30 in the morning and at the time the anticipated liturgy was also celebrated in the morning.
As a result, his first full day of life, both on earth and in the Church, was Easter. It is a special connection that has lasted his whole life and has resulted in many profound reflections on the “feast of all feasts” in the liturgical year.
Here are nine inspiring quotes from Pope Benedict on the great mystery of Easter that we can reflect on this day as well as on the remaining 50 days of this glorious season in the Church.
1) “The day I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was still customary to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would still be followed by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of light in a day of darkness, could almost be an image of the history of our times. On the one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the ‘yes’ of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear him speak, and through the darkness of his absence we glimpse his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the middle of an evolving history is the power that points out the way to us and helps us to go forward.”2) “Faith in the resurrection of Jesus says that there is a future for every human being; the cry for unending life which is a part of the person is indeed answered … God exists: that is the real message of Easter. Anyone who even begins to grasp what this means also knows what it means to be redeemed.”3) “In the Baroque period the liturgy used to include the risus paschalis, the Easter laughter. The Easter homily had to contain a story that made people laugh, so that the church resounded with a joyful laughter. That may be a somewhat superficial form of Christian joy. But is there not something very beautiful and appropriate about laughter becoming a liturgical symbol? And is it not a tonic when we still hear, in the play of cherub and ornament in Baroque churches, that laughter which testified to the freedom of the redeemed? And is it not a sign of an Easter faith when Haydn remarked, concerning his church compositions, that he felt a particular joy when thinking of God: ‘As I came to utter the words of supplication, I could not suppress my joy but loosed the reins of my elated spirits and wrote “allegro” over the Miserere, and so on?’”4) “Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,’ as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: ‘Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God’ (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader.”5) “The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs. First there is the fire that becomes light. As the procession makes its way through the church, shrouded in the darkness of the night, the light of the Paschal Candle becomes a wave of lights, and it speaks to us of Christ as the true morning star that never sets – the Risen Lord in whom light has conquered darkness. The second sign is water. On the one hand, it recalls the waters of the Red Sea, decline and death, the mystery of the Cross. But now it is presented to us as spring water, a life-giving element amid the dryness. Thus it becomes the image of the sacrament of baptism, through which we become sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”6) “Indeed, the cure for death does exist. Christ is the tree of life, once more within our reach. If we remain close to him, then we have life. Hence, during this night of resurrection, with all our hearts we shall sing the alleluia, the song of joy that has no need of words. Hence, Paul can say to the Philippians: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!’ (Phil 4:4). Joy cannot be commanded. It can only be given. The risen Lord gives us joy: true life.”7) “But once Christ is risen, the gravitational pull of love is stronger than that of hatred; the force of gravity of life is stronger than that of death. Perhaps this is actually the situation of the Church in every age, perhaps it is our situation? It always seems as if she ought to be sinking, and yet she is always already saved. Saint Paul illustrated this situation with the words: ‘We are as dying, and behold we live’ (2 Cor 6:9). The Lord’s saving hand holds us up, and thus we can already sing the song of the saved, the new song of the risen ones: alleluia!”8) “And ever anew we must withdraw our hearts from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high: in truth and love. At this hour, let us thank the Lord, because through the power of his word and of the holy Sacraments, he points us in the right direction and draws our heart upwards. Let us pray to him in these words: Yes, Lord, make us Easter people, men and women of light, filled with the fire of your love. Amen.”9) “On this night, then, let us pray: Lord, show us that love is stronger than hatred, that love is stronger than death. Descend into the darkness and the abyss of our modern age, and take by the hand those who await you. Bring them to the light! In my own dark nights, be with me to bring me forth! Help me, help all of us, to descend with you into the darkness of all those people who are still waiting for you, who out of the depths cry unto you! Help us to bring them your light!”