Easter: A time of peace, renewal

April 16, 2013

HOUSTON and VATICAN CITY — With Jesus' resurrection "love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious," Pope Francis said in his first Easter message "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world).

"Let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish," the pope said after celebrating Easter morning Mass March 31.

Pope Francis offered special prayers for peace in Syria and the rest of the Middle East, for an end to violence in Africa — especially in Mali, Nigeria, Congo and the Central African Republic — and in Asia, particularly on the Korean peninsula.

He prayed for "peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st century."

Pope Francis said he would like to bring the good news of Christ's resurrection to each person on earth, "to every house and every family, especially where suffering is greatest: in hospitals, in prisons."

Easter, he said, "means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom."

The Easter Triduum is the most important part of the Church year. From Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, Catholics around the world commemorate the suffering, death and resurrection of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Holy week in the Archdiocese began on March 26, when Catholics from across the Archdiocese joined Daniel Cardinal DiNardo to give thanks for Pope Francis and celebrate the annual Chrism Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

During the Mass, Cardinal DiNardo and the faithful gave thanks for a new leader of the Church. In addition, Cardinal DiNardo blessed and consecrated oils that were taken by priests to their parishes for the celebration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick and ordination, as well as at minor rites with catechumens and for the dedication of new churches and altars. Approximately 100 priests from the Archdiocese came to celebrate the blessing and consecration of 50 gallons of oil.

On Holy Thursday, priests wash the feet of parishioners to remember Jesus' act of love. Jesus also gave the Eucharist on this night. 

Good Friday is a day of fasting and remembrance of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus. While Mass is not celebrated, the faithful gather in adoration of the cross and celebrate a special liturgy. The faithful dress in red to symbolize the passion and blood of Jesus.

The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday celebrates the story of our salvation. Churches turn off all their lights, symbolizing the stillness before Christ's resurrection, also represented by a candle lit in the darkness. On this day churches also welcome new Catholics to the waters of Baptism and the table of the Eucharist.

Easter Sunday is a day of rejoicing! Christ has risen! The 50-day celebration begins with a renewal of baptismal promises.