The message of Easter offers everyone the chance to begin again following the “dark months of the pandemic”, Pope Francis has said.
During the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s Basilica, the liturgical high point of the Church’s year, Francis stressed that faith must not remain confined to memories from the past, but that God is alive and full of surprises.
“It is always possible to begin anew, because there is a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures. From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art,” Francis said during a vigil which was attended by around a hundred people and thirty cardinals.
“In these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the Risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and never lose hope.”
Covid-19 restrictions meant there were none of the customary baptisms or receptions into the Church during the vigil, although the Pope blessed the water that will be used for baptisms in the future.
The liturgy began with the basilica in engulfed darkness before gradually moving into the light, a process that symbolises the resurrection. The vigil’s readings then recalled the crossing of the red sea in the Book of Exodus, the Lord’s promise of cleansing water in the Book of Ezekial, and the amazement of Mary Magdalene and two other women in discovering Jesus’ empty tomb.
“Faith is not an album of past memories,” Francis saidd during his homily. “Jesus is not outdated. He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams. He opens new doors when you least expect it, he urges you not to indulge in nostalgia for the past or cynicism about the present.”
Faith, the Pope said, cannot be “made up of habits, things from the past” but means “setting out on new paths”.
The Pope reflected on the line in Mark’s Gospel where the women are told that Jesus “is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him, just as he told you.” Going to Galilee, Francis said, means “going to the peripheries” which he described as “the settings of daily life, the streets we travel every day, the corners of our cities.”
He went on: “Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is there at every moment of our lives. Having made himself present in the heart of our world, he invites us to overcome barriers, banish prejudices and draw near to those around us every day in order to rediscover the grace of everyday life. Let us recognise him here in our Galilees, in everyday life. With him, life will change.”
Meanwhile, the tradition of the Dutch government sending flowers to the Vatican at Easter has continued although, like last year, they will not adorn St Peter’s Square but be displayed inside the basilica. This year, Holland has sent Avalanche roses which, are seen as a symbol of hope, purity, strength, connection, and humility. The roses have also been sent to care homes for the elderly in Novara, in northwest Italy, and Rome given the elderly are close to the Pope’s heart.