by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Easter icons of the Eastern Church show how Christ enters the world of the dead. He is clothed with light, for God is light….
Entering the world of the dead, Jesus bears the stigmata, the signs of his passion. His wounds, his suffering, have become power: they are love that conquers death.
He meets Adam and all the men and women waiting in the night of death….
At this moment, he brings the journey of the Incarnation to its completion. By his death, he now clasps the hand of Adam, the hand of every man and woman who awaits him, and brings them to the light.
But we may ask: what is the meaning of all this imagery? What was truly new in what happened through Christ? The soul of man was indeed immortal before the death and resurrection of Christ.
His own powers, however, are insufficient to lift him up to God. We lack the wings needed to carry us to those heights.
And yet, nothing else can satisfy man eternally except being with God. An eternity without this union with God would be a punishment…. Man cannot attain those heights on his own, yet he yearns for them….
Only the Risen Christ can bring us to complete union with God…. Truly, Christ puts the lost sheep upon his shoulders and carries it home. Clinging to his Body, we have life, and in communion with his Body we reach the very heart of God.
Only thus is death conquered, we are set free, and our life is hope.
This is the joy of the Easter Vigil: we are free. In the Resurrection of Jesus, love has been shown to be stronger than death, stronger than evil. Love made Christ descend, and love is also the power by which he ascends; the power by which he brings us with him.
In union with his love, borne aloft on the wings of love, as persons of love, let us descend with him into the world’s darkness, knowing that in this way, we will also rise up with him.
On this night, then, let us pray: Lord, show us that love is stronger that 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. Help us to say the "yes" of love, the love that makes us descend with you and, in so doing, also to rise with you. Amen.
—Excerpted from the homily for the Mass of the Easter Vigil, April 7, 2007.
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