By Michael McKenna, Director, Office of Liturgy
In addition to the occasion of his election as Holy Roman pontiff, the Pope imparts at Christmas and Easter each year his Urbi et Orbi Blessing (trans: 'To the city of Rome, and to the world'). Indeed, by the willful grace and intent of the Holy Father a plenary indulgence is granted, on the usual conditions, to those who devoutly receive this blessing either directly in the Square or through the various direct media available to us in this modern world.
Traditionally imparted at noon from the central loggia of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, in the remarks that precede it the Pope draws our attention to human tragedy in the world. Last year, Pope Francis reminded us in his Easter Urbi et Orbi that the Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6).
The Christian message to the world is that in Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death. Pope Francis said “that is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love; it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”; Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.”
In proclaiming Christ Jesus, the Church makes use of the words that the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, first witness of the risen Christ that Easter morning. Running to the other disciples she breathlessly announces: “I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18).
Pope Benedict said “Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity.”
Mary Magdalene calls Jesus “my hope” recognising that in Him all of the goodness we so naturally desire finds a real possibility of fulfilment. Though we live in a world where hope cannot avoid confronting the harshness of evil, as Christians we must never cease to proclaim unyieldingly to the city of Rome and to the World the paschal victory. Come and see: “Surrexit Christus, spes mea” – “Christ, my hope, has risen” (Easter Sequence).