Saint George's Day - April 23, 2017

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for Easter 2009


Saint Peter's Square
Easter Sunday, 12 April 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Christ, our Paschal lamb, has been sacrificed!” (1 Cor 5:7). On this day, Saint Paul’s triumphant words ring forth, words that we have just heard in the second reading, taken from his First Letter to the Corinthians. It is a text which originated barely twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and yet – like many Pauline passages – it already contains, in an impressive synthesis, a full awareness of the newness of life in Christ. The central symbol of salvation history – the Paschal lamb – is here identified with Jesus, who is called “our Paschal lamb”. The Hebrew Passover, commemorating the liberation from slavery in Egypt, provided for the ritual sacrifice of a lamb every year, one for each family, as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. In his passion and death, Jesus reveals himself as the Lamb of God, “sacrificed” on the Cross, to take away the sins of the world. He was killed at the very hour when it was customary to sacrifice the lambs in the Temple of Jerusalem. The meaning of his sacrifice he himself had anticipated during the Last Supper, substituting himself – under the signs of bread and wine – for the ritual food of the Hebrew Passover meal. Thus we can truly say that Jesus brought to fulfilment the tradition of the ancient Passover, and transformed it into his Passover.

On the basis of this new meaning of the Paschal feast, we can also understand Saint Paul’s interpretation of the “leaven”. The Apostle is referring to an ancient Hebrew usage: according to which, on the occasion of the Passover, it was necessary to remove from the household every tiny scrap of leavened bread. On the one hand, this served to recall what had happened to their forefathers at the time of the flight from Egypt: leaving the country in haste, they had brought with them only unleavened bread. At the same time, though, the “unleavened bread” was a symbol of purification: removing the old to make space for the new. Now, Saint Paul explains, this ancient tradition likewise acquires a new meaning, once more derived from the new “Exodus”, which is Jesus’ passage from death to eternal life. And since Christ, as the true Lamb, sacrificed himself for us, we too, his disciples – thanks to him and through him – can and must be the “new dough”, the “unleavened bread”, liberated from every residual element of the old yeast of sin: no more evil and wickedness in our heart.

“Let us celebrate the feast … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. This exhortation from Saint Paul, which concludes the short reading that was proclaimed a few moments ago, resounds even more powerfully in the context of the Pauline Year. Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the Apostle’s invitation; let us open our spirit to Christ, who has died and is risen in order to renew us, in order to remove from our hearts the poison of sin and death, and to pour in the life-blood of the Holy Spirit: divine and eternal life. In the Easter Sequence, in what seems almost like a response to the Apostle’s words, we sang: “Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere” – we know that Christ has truly risen from the dead. Yes, indeed! This is the fundamental core of our profession of faith; this is the cry of victory that unites us all today. And if Jesus is risen, and is therefore alive, who will ever be able to separate us from him? Who will ever be able to deprive us of the love of him who has conquered hatred and overcome death?

The Easter proclamation spreads throughout the world with the joyful song of the Alleluia. Let us sing it with our lips, and let us sing it above all with our hearts and our lives, with a manner of life that is “unleavened”, that is to say, simple, humble, and fruitful in good works. “Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet vos in Galileam” – Christ my hope is risen, and he goes before you into Galilee. The Risen One goes before us and he accompanies us along the paths of the world. He is our hope, He is the true peace of the world. Amen!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

Jesus Christ is Risen Today (Easter Hymn) sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, arranged by Sir David Willcocks.  From album "Hymns from Kings"


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Regina Coeli performed by the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Royal Marines

I discovered this 350th Anniversary tribute a few years after the fact, but it is worth seeing nevertheless. I will never forget seeing the bands of the Royal Marines and the Black Watch when they toured the United States during our bicentenary year, and I doubt there is in all the world a smarter uniform than that of the Royal Marines. Theirs is a glorious history and they have been vital and valorous partners to our American armed forces throughout the world.

The Easter Message of Patriarchs and Head of Churches in Jerusalem

We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, join together in proclaiming the triumphant victory of our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ from the dead. The message of Easter, which was first announced in Jerusalem, and has echoed down the centuries, now resounds again in Jerusalem, the city of the Resurrection.

This year we have witnessed the restoration of the Holy Aedicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, two centuries after the last renovation, and almost one hundred years after steel girders were installed to support it. The completion of this challenging work is testament to the support from around the globe involved in the project, and to thank them for their prayers and support.

The service to celebrate the unveiling of the restored Holy Aedicule was a testimony to our spirit of Ecumenism and a celebration of our unity in Christ. We stood together, as one body, one voice, around the empty tomb. We stood as Christians united in offering hope, perseverance and determination to transform this world under the banner of Christ who conquered all evil through his Resurrection. The sacred history of Jerusalem, and particularly of the Holy Sepulchre, is a constant reminder for the whole world that in this place and at a certain time, the Resurrection was proclaimed for all people and for all time. The Resurrection inspires a resolute steadfastness in the living stones (local Christians) as living witnesses in the Holy Land.

It is our prayer that the hope established through our risen Lord will enlighten the leaders and nations of the whole world to see this light, and to perceive new opportunities to work and strive for the common good and recognize all as created equal before God. This light of Christ draws the whole human family towards justice, reconciliation and peace, and to pursue it diligently. It draws us all to be unified and to be at harmony with one another. The power and resonance of the Resurrection permeates all suffering, injustice and alienation, bringing forth hope, light and life to all.

Through the Resurrection and the empty tomb, we need to remember that pain, suffering, and death do not have the final word, it is God – who has the first word, and the last. This was the message of the Easter angel, who challenged the first disciples – both women and men – “Why do you look for the living among the dead? [Jesus] is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24.5).
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate
+Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Msgr. Georges Dankaye’, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
Easter 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Father Rutler: Let Us Open the Gates of Our Hearts

The first Psalm engraved in my memory was the 24th, which as a child I found especially cheerful. Our grammar school principal, Miss Booth, would ring a large handbell to summon us in from the playground for the opening exercises of Scripture-reading, prayers and the Pledge to the Flag. This was a public school in a time untouched by the neurotic political separation of the Creator and his creatures. Miss Booth’s favorite Psalm obviously was the 24th, because it was the only one in the whole Psalter she seemed to know by heart. She may have thought it the best for starting the day, especially on occasions when the Superintendent of Schools arrived: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:9).

The whole meaning of that song of David became clear when the real King of Glory entered Jerusalem, with children joining adults in waving palm branches. But on the same day, that King wept over Jerusalem for the indifference of most of its people.

A few days ago I spent some good hours in the company of David Alton, with whom I have often corresponded, while he was visiting our city. Now Lord Alton of Liverpool, he has been a major champion of pro-life causes in the House of Lords and has promoted awareness of the genocide of Christians in the Middle East and the modern slave trade.

Just as the persecution of Christians is nervously ignored in our social climate, so are most people unaware that there are more slaves now than in all previous centuries combined: by varying estimates between 21 million and 46 million laboring in domestic servitude, forced labor, sex trafficking, child labor, indentured servitude and forced marriage. Certainly the angels of the millions of victims of legalized infanticide always behold the Father’s face (Matthew 18:10), and the modern martyrs join them. Those enslaved know that Christ can set them free morally, even as societies enchain them physically. While such enslavement is most common in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia and Qatar, this bondage exists nearly everywhere in clandestine and subtle forms.

On Palm Sunday, Christ enters New York and every city, and in each one there are those who joyfully greet him, and others whose sullen indifference or contempt move his human nature to tears. That is the drama of free will, which is why each of us is a kind of city unto ourselves, and the gates of our hearts may either open or close to him. He is never alone, for the Father is always with him, but he wants us to be with him too. I am indebted to my old principal Miss Booth for ringing that school bell and leading that Psalm.