"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Thursday 31 March 2016


Today is the 71st anniversary of the death of St Maria Skobtsova of Paris in Ravensbrück concentration camp. She was certain that there was no other path to heaven than participating in God’s mercy. As she wrote: “The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked. About every poor, hungry and imprisoned person the Savior says ‘I': ‘I was hungry and thirsty, I was sick and in prison.’ To think that he puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need.... I always knew it, but now it has somehow penetrated to my sinews. It fills me with awe.”

A short biography of her:
“Mother Maria of Paris: Saint of the Open Door” by Jim Forest

A few icons of her:

A page of links relating to her and her co-workers:

St Maria Skobstova Catholic Worker
"Caritas Westminster, Justice & Peace visit Calais refugee camp"

by Barbara Kent, Independent Catholic News / March 30, 2016


'Did you see anything extraordinary on your visit to the Refugee Camp?' a policeman asked the Westminster diocesan Caritas and Justice and Peace expedition at the Calais UK Border control on Easter Tuesday evening. The question kept us debating and laughing during the short tunnel journey back to the UK (after a two-hour hold-up as hundreds of travellers were asked the same thing).

Nine people from Caritas Westminster, St John Vianney Parish and Westminster Justice and Peace had just delivered a packed minibus full of food and clothing to the new Catholic Worker house dedicated to St Maria Skobstova, in Calais, for distribution to refugees under the supervision of Brother Johannes Maertens, formerly of the Catholic Worker House in Harringay, North London.

'Extraordinary' was code for 'extremist/terrorist', so of course our answer to the policeman was 'no'. But, 'yes', there were many extraordinary things about the trip: St John Vianney's had, in just over two weeks, collected £1300 in cash for the refugees. Likewise, at short notice, two minibuses were provided and crossing paid for by Caritas Westminster: one loaded to the roof with dried food, toiletries, clothing and bedding, packed over the Easter weekend by enthusiastic parishioners, and the other for the group to travel in.
Goods were donated by a variety of sources: Chipping Barnet Food Bank,
St John Vianney Parish, St Mellitus Parish, Sainsburys Local store in West Green Road N15, Haringey Migrant Centre and Justice and Peacem individuals. Hundreds of tins of soup, beans, fish, meatballs, were stacked under seats and above them, boxes of tea, coffee, sugar and pasta, topped with the bags of clothing and new bedding. Brother Johannes was delighted at the 'Aladdin's minibus' of goodies. To collect this and arrange the trip at such short notice was an extraordinary act of generosity and good organisation on the part of so many.

Likewise, we could have answered 'yes', when Johannes took us to the 'Jungle' camp that afternoon. The whole of the south area had been flattened, and we photographed bulldozers ploughing up traces of human life: a shoe, a jumper, a half-used tube of toothpaste, small signs of interrupted life, disappearing under heavy machinery, sand and gravel already being rolled over the vast open ground. 'Yes', it was extraordinary that the communal places were left standing, forlorn and isolated in this building site. You would have to cross large bulldozed furrows to reach a youth centre, a mosque, a school, an information centre. Johannes took us to the now famous Ethiopian church where we met Solomon, its creator and guardian, sitting with friends round a wood fire, protecting the compound of this sacred space. French authorities have left some communal buildings, but
destroyed the individual shacks and shelters.

Those who have followed Israeli-Palestinian events, with the bulldozing of villages on occupied land, or the Crossroads township erased under apartheid in South Africa, will recognise the scenario. Extraordinary to see it here, only a Channel tunnel away from our shores. Where the displaced have gone varies. Volunteers are trying to count the current inhabitants and estimate still around 4000. Container shelters have been built for up to 1500 people, which hold 12 beds per container and are fiercely metal-fenced off with security gates. Residents must go out for sanitation and for eating. The rest have either squashed up in the remaining space or tried to move on. A
small number have accepted the French government offer of being transported to other centres. But attempts to jump trains and vehicles to get to the UK still continue, as people continue to seek an end to the long migration trail.

An Afghan imam invited us into a small but solid 'café' and offered sweet tea. A generator operated cooking and storage facilities, as well as a TV tuned to an Asian station. Our hosts were Afghan and Pakistani, and many visitors have commented on the harmony which makes the camp work together. Johannes explained the rise of strong community leaders, who keep the peace and arbitrate disputes. Here in France they are non-persons, and therefore not entitled to normal civil or criminal procedures. He supports and initiates interfaith gatherings which bind the various nationalities. Given the desperate circumstances, criminality is very low - again extraordinary!

Back at Maria Skobstova House, which is owned by Secours Catholique/Caritas France, Johannes explained the help they offer: respite for refugees, accommodation for volunteers who go into the camp, and a place of prayer for and with refugees. Some, he said with
surprise, wanted to convert to Christianity. 'I see myself as offering pastoral support, not conversion. I am not sure yet how to handlethat!' He showed us a video available on Youtube, Lotus Flower - Don't Bulldoze the Jungle, which focuses on the fragile but amazing community spirit being forged in the camp. John Coleby, director of CARITAS Westminster, commented on this - the contrast between the 'hell-on-earth' of the landscape and the warmth of the communitieswhich have been forged to survive it.

The glaring void is of course the refusal of the UK or the French to install due process. There is no legitimate way these people, desperate to reach England, can apply for UK asylum, no British consul or Home Office outpost, due to the Dublin agreement. The UK government has supported French security to the tune of 60 million euros so far, and recently pledged a further 20 million. The French see the Calais refugees as non-people, and so do we. This is our Lesbos, our Lampedusa. It is, as Pope Francis says, a globalised indifference, So, really, what we saw on Easter Tuesday was not extraordinary.

For further information contact:

Justice and Peace via Fr Joe Ryan at 0208 888 5518 or Barbara Kentish
at 07758630961
or the Caritas Westminster website for ways to support refugees:

or Caritas Social Action Network for ways to contribute to the Calais
situation http://www.csan.org.uk/newsarticle/refugeecrisis/#.Vvvpk3qdD2Q

or London Catholic Worker at http://www.londoncatholicworker.org/

or Johanmaertens@hotmail.com

A Saint for Today 
Date of Lecture: March 15, 2016

About the Speakers:

Robert Ellsberg: 

Robert Ellsberg is editor in chief and publisher of Orbis Books, a leader in religious publishing. He worked alongside Day at the Catholic Worker House in New York City and as managing editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper during the last five years of her life. Ellsberg edited Day's “Selected Writings: By Little and By Little,” and more recently her diaries in “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day” and her letters in “All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day.” He has written books including “All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time,” “The Saints' Guide to Happiness: Practical Lessons in the Life of the Spirit”; and “Blessed Among All Women: Reflections on Women Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time.”

George Horton:

Holy Cross alumnus George Horton '67 is director of Catholic Charities’ Department of Social and Community Development for the Archdiocese of New York. He contributes to the Archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York, and serves as guest host for the JustLove radio program aired on The Catholic Channel Sirius Satellite Radio. Horton is working on Dorothy Day’s case on behalf of the Archdiocese of New York.

About the Event: Ellsberg talks about Day's life and service and lays out his argument for her canonization. Horton talks of the canonization process in New York and expectations moving forward.


Tuesday 29 March 2016


(Vatican Radio) At St Peter's Basilica, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., gave the homily for the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion.

In his reflection, Fr Cantalamessa focused on “reconciliation” – in particular, Christ’s work of reconciling God and man.

Below, please find the full text of Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa’s homily for Good Friday (English translation courtesy of Zenit):

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcp.

Good Friday Sermon, 2016, in St. Peter’s Basilica
God . . . through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. . . . We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation! (2 Cor 5:18–6:2)

These words are from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. The apostle’s call to be reconciled to God does not refer to the historical reconciliation between God and humanity (which, as we just heard, already occurred “through Christ” on the cross); neither does it refer to the sacramental reconciliation that takes place in Baptism and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It refers to an existential and personal reconciliation that needs to be implemented in the present. The call is addressed to baptized Christians in Corinth who belonged to the Church for a while, so it is therefore also addressed to us here and now. “The acceptable time, the day of salvation” for us, is the Year of Mercy that we are now in.

But what does this reconciliation with God mean in its existential and psychological dimension? One of the causes, and perhaps the main one, for people’s alienation from religion and faith today is the distorted image they have of God. What is the “predefined” idea of God in the collective human unconscious? To find that out, we only need to ask this question: “What ideas, what words, what feelings spontaneously arise in you without thinking about it when you say the words in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘May your will be done’”?

People generally say it with their heads bent down in resignation inwardly, preparing themselves for the worst. People unconsciously link God’s will to everything that is unpleasant and painful, to what can be seen as somehow destroying individual freedom and development. It is somewhat as though God were the enemy of every celebration, joy, and pleasure—a severe inquisitor-God.

God is seen as the Supreme Being, the Omnipotent One, the Lord of time and history, that is, as an entity who asserts himself over an individual from the outside; no detail of human life escapes him. The transgression of his law inexorably introduces a disorder that requires a commensurate reparation that human beings know they are not able to make. This is the cause of fear and at times hidden resentment against God. It is a vestige of the pagan idea of God that has never been entirely eradicated, and perhaps cannot be eradicated, from the human heart. Greek tragedy is based on this concept: God is the one who intervenes with divine punishment to reestablish the order disrupted by evil.

Of course in Christianity the mercy of God has never been disregarded! But mercy’s task is only to moderate the necessary rigors of justice. It was the exception, not the rule. The Year of Mercy is a golden opportunity to restore the true image of the biblical God who not only has mercy but is mercy.

This bold assertion is based on the fact that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16). It is only in the Trinity, however, that God is love without being mercy. The Father loving the Son is not a grace or a concession, it is a necessity; the Father needs to love in order to exist as Father. The Son loving the Father is not a mercy or grace; it is a necessity even though it occurs with the utmost freedom; the Son needs to be loved and to love in order to be the Son. The same can be said about the Holy Spirit who is love as a person.

It is when God creates the world and free human beings in it that love ceases for God to be nature and becomes grace. This love is a free concession; it is hesed, grace and mercy. The sin of human beings does not change the nature of this love but causes it to make a qualitative leap: mercy as a gift now becomes mercy as forgiveness. Love goes from being a simple gift to become a suffering love because God suffers when his love is rejected. "The LORD has spoken: ‘Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me’” (Is 1:2). Just ask the many fathers and mothers who have experienced their children’s rejection if it does not cause suffering—and one of the most intense sufferings in life.


But what about the justice of God? Has it been forgotten or underestimated? St. Paul answered this question once and for all. The apostle begins his explanation in the Letter to the Romans with this news: “Now the righteousness of God has been manifested” (Rom 3:21). We can ask, what kind of righteousness is this? Is it the righteousness that gives “unicuique suum,” each person his or her due, and distributes rewards and punishments according to people’s merits? There will of course come a time when this kind of divine righteous justice that gives people what they deserve will also be manifested. The apostle in fact wrote shortly before in Romans that God

will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (2:6-8

But Paul is not talking about this kind of justice when he writes, “Now the righteousness of God has been manifested.” The first kind of justice he talks about involves a future event, but this other event is occurring “now.” If that were not the case, Paul’s statement would be an absurd assertion that contradicts the facts. From the point of view of distributive justice, nothing changed in the world with the coming of Christ. We continue, said Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, to see the guilty often on the throne and the innocent on the scaffold. But lest we think there is some kind of justice and some fixed order in the world, although it is upside down, sometimes the reverse happens and the innocent are on the throne and the guilty on the scaffold.[1] It is not, therefore, in this social and historical sense that the innovation brought by Christ consists. Let us hear what the apostle says:

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:23-26)

God shows his righteousness and justice by having mercy! This is the great revelation. The apostle says God is “just and justifying,” that is, he is just to himself when he justifies human beings; he is in fact love and mercy, so for that reason he is just to himself—he truly demonstrates who he is—when he has mercy.

But we cannot understand any of this if we do not know exactly what the expression “the righteousness of God” means. There is a danger that people can hear about the righteousness of God but not understand its meaning, so instead of being encouraged they are frightened. St. Augustine had already clearly explained its meaning centuries ago: “The ‘righteousness of God’ is that by which we are made righteous, just as ‘the salvation of God’ [see Ps 3:8] means the salvation by which he saves us.”[2] In other words, the righteousness of God is that by which God makes those who believe in his Son Jesus acceptable to him. It does not enact justice but makes people just

Luther deserves the credit for bringing this truth back when its meaning had been lost over the centuries, at least in Christian preaching, and it is this above all for which Christianity is indebted to the Reformation, whose fifth centenary occurs next year. The reformer later wrote that when he discovered this, “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”[3] But it was neither Augustine nor Luther who explained the concept of “the righteousness of God” this way; Scripture had done that before they did:

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy” (Titus 3:4-5).

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our own trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (see Eph 2:4-5)

Therefore, to say “the righteousness of God has been manifested” is like saying that God’s goodness, his love, his mercy, has been revealed. God’s justice not only does not contradict his mercy but consists precisely in mercy!


What happened on the cross that was so important as to explain this radical change in the fate of humanity? In his book on Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI wrote, “That which is wrong, the reality of evil, cannot simply be ignored; it cannot just be left to stand. It must be dealt with; it must be overcome. Only this counts as a true mercy. And the fact that God now confronts evil himself because men are incapable of doing so—therein lies the ‘unconditional’ goodness of God.”[4]

God was not satisfied with merely forgiving people’s sins; he did infinitely more than that: he took those sins upon himself, he shouldered them himself. The Son of God, says Paul, “became sin for us.” What a shocking statement! In the Middle Ages some people found it difficult to believe that God would require the death of his Son in order to reconcile the world to himself. St. Bernard responded to this by saying, “What pleased God was not Christ’s death but his will in dying of his own accord”: “Non mors placuit sed voluntas sponte morientis.”[5] It was not death, then, but love that saved us!

The love of God reached human beings at the farthest point to which they were driven in their flight from him, death itself. The death of Christ needed to demonstrate to everyone the supreme proof of God’s mercy toward sinners. That is why his death does not even have the dignity of a certain privacy but is framed between the death of two thieves. He wants to remain a friend to sinners right up to the end, so he dies like them and with them.


It is time for us to realize that the opposite of mercy is not justice but vengeance. Jesus did not oppose mercy to justice but to the law of retaliation: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Ex 21:24). In forgiving sinners God is renouncing not justice but vengeance; he does not desire the death of a sinner but wants the sinner to convert and live (see Ez 18:23). On the cross Jesus did not ask his Father for vengeance.

The hate and the brutality of the terrorist attacks this week in Brussels help us to understand the divine power of Christ’s last words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:24). No matter how far the hate of human beings can go, the love of God always has been, and will be, greater. In these current circumstances Paul’s exhortation is addressed to us: “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).

We need to demythologize vengeance! It has become a pervasive mythic theme that infects everything and everybody, starting with children. A large number of the stories we see on the screen and in video games are stories of revenge, passed off at times as the victory of a good hero. Half, if not more, of the suffering in the world (apart from natural disasters and illnesses) come from the desire for revenge, whether in personal relationships or between states and nations.

It has been said that “Beauty will save the world.”[6] But beauty, as we know very well, can also lead to ruin. There is only one thing that can truly save the world, mercy! The mercy of God for human beings and the mercy of human beings for each other. In particular, it can save the most precious and fragile thing in the world at this time, marriage and the family.

Something similar happens in marriage to what happened in God’s relationship with humanity that the Bible in fact describes with the image of a wedding. In the very beginning, as I said, there was love, not mercy. Mercy comes in only after humanity’s sin. So too in marriage, in the beginning there is not mercy but love. People do not get married because of mercy but because of love. But then after years or even months of life together, the limitations of each spouse emerge, and problems with health, finance, and the children arise. A routine sets in that quenches all joy.

What can save a marriage from going downhill without any hope of coming back up again is mercy, understood in the biblical sense, that is, not just reciprocal forgiveness but spouses acting with “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience” (Col 3:12). Mercy adds agape to eros, it adds the love that gives of oneself and has compassion to the love of need and desire. God “takes pity” on human beings (see Ps 102:13). Shouldn’t a husband and wife, then, take pity on each other? And those of us who live in community, shouldn’t we take pity on one another instead of judging one another?

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, by the merits of your Son on the cross who “became sin for us” (see 2 Cor 5:21), remove any desire for vengeance from the hearts of individuals, families, and nations, and make us fall in love with mercy. Let the Holy Father’s intention in proclaiming this Year of Mercy be met with a concrete response in our lives, and let everyone experience the joy of being reconciled with you in the depth of the heart. Amen!

[1] See Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, “Sermon sur la Providence” (1662), in Oeuvres de Bossuet, eds. B. Velat and Y. Champailler (Paris: Pléiade, 1961), p. 1062. 

[2] See St. Augustine, The Spirit and the Letter, 32, 56, in Augustine: Later Works, trans. and intro. John Burnaby (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), p. 241; see also PL 44, p. 237.

[3] Martin Luther, Preface to Latin Writings, in Luther’s Works, vol. 34 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), p. 337.

[4] Joseph Ratzinger [Benedict XVI], Jesus of Nazareth, Part II (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), p. 133.

[5] St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Letter 190, “Against the Errors of Abelard,” in Anthony N. S. Lane, Theologian of the Cross (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013), pp. 201-202. See also PL 182, p. 1070.

[6] Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, III, 5, trans. Henry and Olga Carlisle (New York: New American Library, 1969), p. 402.

Saturday 26 March 2016


from the Benedictine Community of Pachacamac



Message of His Holiness Pope Francis
Urbi et Orbi
Easter Sunday, 27 March 2016
“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever”  (Ps 135:1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!
Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, out of love for us, died on the cross, and out of love he rose again from the dead.  That is why we proclaim today: Jesus is Lord!
His resurrection fulfils the prophecy of the Psalm: God’s mercy endures for ever; it never dies.  We can trust him completely, and we thank him because for our sake he descended into the depths of the abyss.
Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, before the chasms that open up in hearts and provoke hatred and death, only an infinite mercy can bring us salvation.  Only God can fill those chasms with his love, prevent us from falling into them and help us to continue our journey together towards the land of freedom and life.
The glorious Easter message, that Jesus, who was crucified is not here but risen (cf. Mt 28:5-6), offers us the comforting assurance that the abyss of death has been bridged and, with it, all mourning, lamentation and pain (cf. Rev 21:4).  The Lord, who suffered abandonment by his disciples, the burden of an unjust condemnation and shame of an ignominious death, now makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.  Our world is full of persons suffering in body and spirit, even as the daily news is full of stories of brutal crimes which often take place within homes, and large-scale armed conflicts which cause indescribable suffering to entire peoples.
The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord.  To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course, that good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society respectful of the dignity and rights of each citizen.  May the message of life, proclaimed by the Angel beside the overturned stone of the tomb, overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya.  May the image of the new man, shining on the face of Christ, favour concord between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, as well as patience, openness and daily commitment to laying the foundations of a just and lasting peace through direct and sincere negotiations.  May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the liberation of those who are detained.
The Lord Jesus, our peace (Eph 2:14), by his resurrection triumphed over evil and sin. May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire.  May he water the seeds of hope and prospects for peace in Africa; I think in particular of Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, marked by political and social tensions.
With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death.  His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all.  May his Easter message be felt ever more powerfully by the beloved people of Venezuela in the difficult conditions which they are experiencing, and by those responsible for the country’s future, that everyone may work for the common good, seeking spaces of dialogue and cooperation with all.  May efforts be made everywhere to promote the culture of counter, justice and reciprocal respect, which alone can guarantee the spiritual and material welfare of all people.
The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.  All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.  May the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit not fail to be centred on the human person and his or her dignity, and to come up with policies capable of assisting and protecting the victims of conflicts and other emergencies, especially those who are most vulnerable and all those persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons.
On this glorious day, “let the earth rejoice, in shining splendour” (cf. Easter Proclamation), even though it is so often mistreated and greedily exploited, resulting in an alteration of natural equilibria.  I think especially of those areas affected by climate change, which not infrequently causes drought or violent flooding, which then lead to food crises in different parts of the world.
Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: “Take courage; I have conquered the world! (Jn 16:33).  Today is the radiant day of this victory, for Christ has trampled death and destruction underfoot.  By his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light (cf. 2 Tim 1:10).  “He has made us pass from enslavement to freedom, from sadness to joy, from mourning to jubilation, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption.  Therefore let us acclaim in his presence: Alleluia!” (Melito of Sardis, Easter Homily).
To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning, to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: “See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life” (Rev 21:5-6).  May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters.

'The risen Jesus offers hope to all': Archbishop writes on meaning of Easter


            “Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and he believed.”

            What did the other disciple see and what did he believe? He saw nothing but an empty tomb with the linen cloths lying on the ground. At the end of the gospel we are told what he believed, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” and that we have life in his Name. On that first Easter Day, St John has the Beloved Disciple come to faith in the risen Lord on the evidence of an empty tomb alone. The Letter to the Hebrews says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

            The joy and beauty of our Easter celebrations cannot alter the fact that the true significance of this day is far harder for us to appreciate than the meaning of Christmas or Holy Week. We believe that God stepped into our world at Bethlehem to become part of human history and this causes a ray of light to fall even on those who do not share our faith. Passion and death are also easy to accept. They reflect the world in which we live and our own experience of suffering. Much as we try to avoid the thought, we know that death awaits us all and that one day we will give in to a force far greater than ourselves. So we celebrate Holy Week, especially Good Friday, without difficulty, grateful that God has shared with us the anguish and pain of suffering and death. But Easter is different. In his resurrection, Jesus has not entered into the ordinary life of human beings; rather he has broken through its limitations and entered a new realm beyond our understanding. This is unknown territory for us all. God leads us into a vast, uncharted expanse and encourages us to follow him. Since we are only acquainted with things on this side of the grave, there is nothing in our experience that connects us with the news that Jesus is risen from the dead.

            Easter centres on something unimaginable and, in human thought and language, inexplicable and indescribable. The doubts of the disciples and their confusion cry out to us from every page of the resurrection accounts, culminating in the words of Thomas, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” Then, like Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, there is their inability to recognise Jesus. Only when he was at table with them, were their eyes opened as they recognised him in the breaking of bread. One of the strangest features of the resurrection narratives is his otherness or unrecognisability. For most of the disciples, an encounter with the risen Christ begins as a meeting with a stranger and Jesus often condemns the inadequacy of their earlier understanding. Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardener and asks where he has put Jesus. Rowan Williams writes, “Jesus is not what they have thought him to be, and thus they must ‘learn’ him afresh, as if from the beginning. Once again, John crystallises this most powerfully by presenting the disciples in their fishing boats, as if they had never known Jesus: they must begin again.”

Neither the disciples nor the evangelists, nor has the Church ever tried to iron out the differences between the various accounts of the Resurrection. The risen Christ was not a projection of the hopes of the first Christian community. The Resurrection of Jesus remains the greatest of all mysteries and yet it lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” The Church has always translated the Easter message into symbols, which point to things that words cannot express. The Paschal fire and the Paschal candle, for wherever light conquers darkness, something of the Resurrection takes place. Water, which can be both lifegiving and life-threatening, is blessed for baptism so that we might die to sin and rise to new life in Christ. We bless people and things with holy water in order to establish oases of life and hope in the desert places of our world. With the constant singing of Alleluia, we join in the song of the angels in heaven, where every tear shall be wiped away and every sorrow and lament be ended.
            Like the beloved disciple, we have seen and have believed. We do not ask to see more than an empty tomb and we must be content to recognise Jesus in the breaking of bread and to hear his voice as he explains the Scriptures to us. Every day, encouraged by the celebration of the Easter mystery, we learn anew what it means to be a disciple of the Risen Saviour as we walk in faith. Faith is the greatest adventure there is, an invitation to go much further than we had anticipated or foreseen. It is a window that opens out onto eternal life. Jesus asks us not to be afraid, but to trust in him and follow him through darkness into light and from death to life. To Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, be glory and praise for ever. Alleluia. Amen.

Sunday 27th March 2016
my source: Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
In an article published in The Mail on Sunday today, Archbishop Justin writes about his recent visit to a refugee camp in Rwanda and the hope of Jesus' resurrection.

Read the article here:

Mahama refugee camp is in a dusty valley in the south-east corner of Rwanda. A year ago, there was only some subsistence agriculture – today there are 50,000 Burundian refugees.

Standing in the centre of the camp, I could see more people approaching. Among them were almost 2,000 unaccompanied children, separated from their parents during horrific attacks on the places where they lived. Each carried the story of a life turned upside down, probably altered for ever. They were the human cost of conflict among political leaders. On paper you would think this was one of the most hopeless places on Earth.

I was there earlier this month on a pastoral visit to meet the leaders of the Anglican Church in Burundi and to speak to politicians. Two days before arriving at the camp, I visited a suburb of the capital, Bujumbura, where there had been heavy fighting.

Surrounded by security, we drove through near-deserted streets. That in itself was extraordinary: more than 40 years of travel in Africa have accustomed me to seeing everything bustling, even in the heart of conflict zones. But too many people had fled.

We arrived at a smallish, makeshift church, packed to the doors. Inside we heard testimony of the suffering of local people – one who’d been shot, another beaten, many threatened. Bodies had been found in ditches. My heart sank. What could I say?

I did what I have learned is the best thing to do when among followers of Jesus Christ, however bad their circumstances, whether in that church or in the refugee camp: I spoke about Jesus Christ.

And because it was Jesus Christ that was being spoken about, not because of any speaking gifts that I have, the church quiet fell, with occasional murmurs of support and applause. At the end we sang again and the place lifted in worship, drums playing, people dancing. This was African 

Christianity, living out its reality in the face of need.

What these people had, in the midst of extraordinary suffering, was hope. Like countless others I have had the privilege of meeting in areas of conflict, they showed remarkable resilience and humanity despite facing extreme poverty and desperate danger, because they had hope. At the same time I have met many people with enormous wealth who confess their lives are empty. They have everything – except hope.

It seems as if hope is in short supply at the moment. Last week we saw the shocking attacks in Brussels, particularly poignant for taking place in the Holy Week of Christian prayer and reconciliation. Elsewhere we see the desolation of whole countries. At home the challenges are great. Easter renews hope.

The events of Holy Week culminated in Jesus of Nazareth lying dead in a tomb, having been put to death in public on a cross on Good Friday. To Jesus’s followers who witnessed his cruel execution, it looked as if everything he stood for – love, forgiveness, truth, joy, acceptance – had died with him. It seemed darkness and evil had won. They had given up hope.

Last week the attackers in Brussels claimed religious justification. A lie, of course, for we know that when people conscript God to violence the only thing they get is an empty idol, for God is love. The answer to this great challenge is found in Easter, in the empty tomb, not in fear, but in hope, because God raised Jesus from the dead and in doing so confirmed his claim that light overcomes darkness, that the life of God overcomes death, that the goodness of God overcomes evil, that the love of God overcomes hatred.

On the first Easter, Jesus was raised to life. It wasn’t that his body was resuscitated, having temporarily stopped working. Rather, as the New Testament scholar Bishop Tom Wright puts it, Jesus went ‘through death and out the other side into a new form of physicality’. Christians call this resurrection.

I am perfectly convinced the resurrection is as certain a fact as that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066 or Dunkirk in 1940. The accounts of eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus are clear. The impact on their lives is clearer still. And the church grew and developed in the first centuries of its life in a way that is inexplicable if it were not for the fact that at the centre of its faith was the risen, living Jesus Christ, offering hope to all.

Because Jesus is alive there is forgiveness on offer for all of us, the burdens of guilt we carry can be put down, for they have been buried with him. Our futures no longer have to be dominated by our past because here is a fresh start for everyone. Jesus is alive so there is forgiveness, grace, peace and joy for everyone. The horizon is not dominated by the past – but by what God can do. And God can raise the dead.

In so many parishes this Easter, people will come together in larger numbers than normal, and they will sing, they will praise, they will celebrate the reality of the life of Jesus Christ. Hope with a face, hands and a voice. Hope brought to us by one whose body bears all the marks of terrible suffering, but no longer knowing pain. This Jesus offers you and me true, real, solid hope today.

I remember in one parish when I was training for ordination, taking part in a baptism in a stream running through an industrial estate. The vicar and I immersed a man in the cold water and lifted him up, the Christian symbol of burial and rebirth to new life in Jesus Christ. Around us, the small church of people facing all kinds of struggles celebrated that Jesus is risen from the dead and so the man being baptised would also have life with God for ever.

And in parishes in places of comfort and wealth, where nevertheless people have the same struggles as everywhere else, as they come together today in worship there will be joy because of the hope Jesus brings. The bereaved will find the hope lifting that the person they loved may be with God. Those facing crises in their own lives through illness will find again that Jesus draws alongside and says: ‘Do not fear.’ He is our hope.

A week of sorrow for so many, in Belgium, in Turkey, in Burundi, has within it the promise of healing and hope. Easter is the day when we celebrate that God, having given himself to death for our sakes, overcame death that we might have life.

That life is offered freely and without condition to everyone who accepts the gift. We need only turn from our own failures and preoccupations, stretch out our hands in prayer and say ‘yes’ and receive the gift of hope.

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

Great and Holy Saturday

Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath.

The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:
God blessed the seventh day.
This is the blessed Sabbath.
This is the day of rest,
on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . . .
(Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.
Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day — Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another — Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.
In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.
We sing that Christ is ". . . trampling down death by death" in the troparion of Easter. This phrase gives great meaning to Holy Saturday. Christ’s repose in the tomb is an "active" repose. He comes in search of His fallen friend, Adam, who represents all men. Not finding him on earth, He descends to the realm of death, known as Hades in the Old Testament. There He finds him and brings him life once again. This is the victory: the dead are given life. The tomb is no longer a forsaken, lifeless place. By His death Christ tramples down death.

The traditional icon used by the Church on the feast of Easter is an icon of Holy Saturday: the descent of Christ into Hades. It is a painting of theology, for no one has ever seen this event. It depicts Christ, radiant in hues of white and blue, standing on the shattered gates of Hades. With arms outstretched He is joining hands with Adam and all the other Old Testament righteous whom He has found there. He leads them from the kingdom of death. By His death He tramples death.

Today Hades cries out groaning:"I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary."He came and destroyed my power."He shattered the gates of brass."As God, He raised the souls I had held captive."Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord!
(Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

The Vespers of Holy Saturday inaugurates the Paschal celebration, for the liturgical cycle of the day always begins in the evening. In the past, this service constituted the first part of the great Paschal vigil during which the catechumens were baptized in the "baptisterion" and led in procession back into the church for participation in their first Divine Liturgy, the Paschal Eucharist. Later, with the number of catechumens increasing, the first baptismal part of the Paschal celebration was disconnected from the liturgy of the Paschal night and formed our pre-paschal service: Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great which follows it. It still keeps all the marks of the early celebration of Pascha as baptismal feast and that of Baptism as Paschal sacrament (death and resurrection with Jesus Christ — Romans 6).
On "Lord I call" the Sunday Resurrectional stichira of tone 1 are sung, followed by the special stichiras of Holy Saturday, which stress the death of Christ as descent into Hades, the region of death, for its destruction. But the pivotal point of the service occurs after the Entrance, when fifteen lessons from the Old Testament are read, all centered on the promise of the Resurrection, all glorifying the ultimate Victory of God, prophesied in the victorious Song of Moses after the crossing of the Red Sea ("Let us sing to the Lord for gloriously has He been glorified"), the salvation of Jonah, and that of the three youths in the furnace.
Then the epistle is read, the same epistle that is still read at Baptism (Romans 6:3-11), in which Christ’s death and resurrection become the source of the death in us of the "old man," the resurrection of the new, whose life is in the Risen Lord. During the special verses sung after the epistle, "Arise O God and judge the earth," the dark Lenten vestments are put aside and the clergy vest in the bright white ones, so that when the celebrant appears with the Gospel the light of Resurrection is truly made visible to us, the "Rejoice" with which the Risen Christ greeted the women at the grave is experienced as being directed to us.
The Liturgy of St. Basil continues in this white and joyful light, revealing the Tomb of Christ as the Life-giving Tomb, introducing us into the ultimate reality of Christ’s Resurrection, communicating His life to us, the children of fallen Adam.
One can and must say that of all services of the Church that are inspiring, meaningful, revealing, this one — the Vespers and Liturgy of St. Basil the Great on the Great and Holy Saturday — is truly the liturgical climax of the Church. If one opens one’s heart and mind to it and accepts its meaning and its light, the very truth of Orthodoxy is given by it, the taste and the joy of that new life which shown forth from the grave.

Rev. Alexander Schmemann

Great and Holy Saturday. Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Prepared by Rev. Paul Lazar. Introduction by Rev. Alexander Schmemann. Department of Religious Education, New York, 1976


Benedict knelt in prayer before the Shroud of Turin, then spoke on the mystery of Holy Saturday, of which he saw the Shroud to be an icon. The meaning of Holy Saturday is perhaps especially dear to Benedict—between having been born and baptized on Holy Saturday of 1927, and having collaborated so closely with Hans Urs von Balthasar, whose theological imagination was certainly captured by the same mystery.

What resulted on that day in Turin in 2010 was a deeply pastoral account of Christ’s death and Resurrection, which explored some of the same central messages that he recently revisited in the last days of his papacy.

In Turin, Benedict observed that “humanity has become particularly sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday,” because the “hiddenness of God” has become so much a part of our contemporary experience of Christ that it functions existentially, almost subconsciously, in our spirituality. During a time when the problem of evil confronts us constantly, Benedict continued, we must all wrestle with Nietzsche’s proclamation that “God is dead!”: “After the two World Wars, the lagers and the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our era has ever increasingly become a Holy Saturday. This day’s darkness challenges all those who question life, and it challenges us believers in particular.”

Insofar as the Shroud symbolizes Christ’s suffering and death, however, it also conveys a message of hope and life. Benedict mused that the image on the Shroud functions like a photographic negative, its contrast of dark and light being essential. So too with the paschal mystery, wherein “the darkest mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous symbol of boundless hope. Holy Saturday is the ‘no man’s land’ between death and Resurrection, but One has entered into this ‘no man’s land.’” And the One who has entered has come to share in our death, in a historic and unrepeatable gesture of “the most radical solidarity.”

Benedict sees this to be the true power of the Shroud and what it represents: that in his descent, Christ takes on our suffering, our sins”“ Passio Christi. Passio hominis.” (The phrase served as a refrain throughout Benedict’s trip to Turin, as it was the theme of the Shroud’s exhibit.)

On Holy Saturday, God incarnate entered “the absolute and extreme solitude of mankind.” Here Benedict pointed out that we have all experienced that terrifying feeling of abandonment, which is why we fear death”similarly to how, “as children, we are afraid of being alone in the dark, and the only thing that can comfort us is the presence of a person who loves us.” And that is precisely what happened on Holy Saturday, he said. Even in the darkest of times, “we can hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes ours and leads us out.” If love can penetrate to the very depths of hell, we are never alone or hopeless.

This assurance of God’s constant light and love has been a theme during the end of Benedict’s papacy. On his birthday last year, he confided, “I find myself before the last leg of my life’s journey, and I don’t know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God is here, that He is risen, that his light is stronger than every darkness; that the goodness of God is stronger than every evil in this world.” In the same vein, he spoke during his final general audience of God’s constancy in steering the barque of the Church, while expressing his gratitude that God has never left him or us “without his consolation, his light, his love.”

Pope Benedict concluded his meditation in Turin by describing the Shroud as an “icon written in blood . . . . The image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of his life. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life.” He referred to the especially large stain at the corpse’s side as representing a “spring that murmurs in the silence; and we can hear it, we can listen to it amid the silence of Holy Saturday.” Indeed, when Benedict reflected on Holy Saturday as the day of his baptism, he made a similar statement: that “through God’s silence, still we hear him speak, and through the darkness of his absence, we glimpse his light.”

Ratzinger had seen the Shroud of Turin more than once before this occasion, but he named this particular experience of prayer before it, in May 2010, an especially moving one. The difference? This time, he carried in his heart “the whole Church, or rather, the whole of humanity”—just as he continues to do today in his newfound ministry.

Now is the time to look back on Benedict’s papacy and glean from it as much as we can, as we prayerfully look forward to how the Holy Spirit will work in our Church under a new pontiff. Like Benedict, we do not know what awaits us, but by reflecting on his theology of Holy Saturday, we can find a deeper understanding of what anticipation in the life of the Church is all about. And whatever this new leg of the Church’s journey brings, we can share in Benedict’s certainty that God’s guiding light and saving love will never leave us.

Tania M. Geist is editorial coordinator at the International Qur’anic Studies Association.

Holy Week is memorial of God's infinite mercy, pope says at audience
By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
3.23.2016 11:01 AM ET

Pope Francis blesses a woman while meeting the disabled during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God's love is limitless and the church's Holy Week services offer Christians a deeper understanding of his infinite mercy, Pope Francis said.
The Easter Triduum is a memorial to a love story "that gives us the certainty that we will never be abandoned in life's trials," he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square March 23.
Continuing a series of talks dedicated to God's mercy, the pope reflected on each day of the Triduum leading to the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. In remembering the washing of the feet and the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, he said, Christians recall how Christ shows his disciples that the "Eucharist is love that is done through service" to others.
"In giving himself to us as food, Jesus attests that we must learn to break this nourishment with others so that it may become a true communion of life with those who are in need. He gives himself to us and asks us to remain in him in order to do the same," he said.
Good Friday, he continued, is the "climactic moment" of the love of God who offers salvation to the whole world; a love that "embraces all and excludes no one." The pope added that in remembering Christ's passion and death, Christians "can and must love one another."
Christians are called to live Holy Saturday as a day of silence "like it was that very day, which was the day of God's silence," he said.
"Our Lady should be the icon for us of that Holy Saturday," the pope added. "Think a lot about how Our Lady lived that Holy Saturday: waiting."

In order to fully understand the great mystery of God's love and mercy, Pope Francis recalled the writings of Julian of Norwich, an English Christian mystic who experienced Jesus' passion and death through visions.
During her visions, he said, she thanked Jesus for suffering on the cross for all of humanity. Jesus told her that suffering the passion "is a joy, a bliss, an endless satisfaction to me; if I might suffer more, I would suffer more."

Pope Francis told the pilgrims gathered for his audience, "Let us allow ourselves to be enveloped by this mercy that comes to meet us. And in these days, while our gaze is fixed on the Lord's passion and death, let us welcome into our hearts the greatness of his love and, like Our Lady on (Holy) Saturday, in silence await the resurrection," the pope said. 


Sermon by Abbot Paul of Belmont Abbey (UK):

Holy Saturday 2016

            “When the women returned from the tomb, they told all this to the Eleven and to the others, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe.” “Pure nonsense”, that’s what we are celebrating tonight. And it’s the Gospel that says so. To start with, the apostles and the other disciples found the news of the empty tomb and the message of the angels to the women, that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead, simply impossible to believe, in fact, “pure nonsense”. So it doesn’t come as a surprise today when we read and hear all sorts of disparaging remarks about Jesus, the Resurrection, the Gospel, the Christian faith and the Church. It was the same from the beginning, starting with the scribes and Pharisees. For Christians, the more we hear Jesus blasphemed and insulted, the more we love him and want to be counted among his disciples. The more his Church is criticised and ridiculed, the more we love her and try to be faithful to her teaching and tradition. Persecution and martyrdom, whatever form they take, are the seedbeds of the Church, as Tertullian once said.

            We all learn by making mistakes and reflecting on personal experience. The same happened with the apostles. They listened closely to what the angels had told the women. “Why look among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here: he is risen. Remember what he told you; that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day.” To begin with, they didn’t know what to make of it. They had to see for themselves. Think of Thomas – “Unless I see the holes in his hands and can put my fingers into the holes and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.”

Then, early in the morning on the first day of the week, something finally twigged in Peter’s mind. Hadn’t he heard Jesus talk about this very moment many times before his Passion? So he went running to the tomb and, finding it empty, came back, amazed at what he had seen. His doubts began to evaporate in the first light of dawn. He was beginning to believe: faith was taking hold. Only gradually, as Jesus appeared first to one, then to another, then finally to all of them, did the disciples come to believe that he had risen from the dead. Even so, remember what Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.”

Tonight we give thanks to God for the gift of faith. It might still be “pure nonsense” for many, but for us Christians, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of our joy and the key that opens the door to the meaning of life and death, of suffering and of God’s ultimate purpose for Creation. In the Resurrection we see the light of truth.

Let us give St Paul, writing to the Romans, the last word. “When we were baptised, we went into the tomb with Christ Jesus, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. When he died, he died to sin once for all, so his life in now life with God. So you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive for God in Christ Jesus.”

On behalf of the Monastic Community I wish you all a joyful Easter. Christ is risen; he is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia. 


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