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Pope Benedict: The Icon of Holy Saturday

From Pope Benedict’s 2010 address during his pastoral visit to the Shroud of Turin.

Dear Friends: This is a moment to which I have been looking forward. I have stood before the Holy Shroud on various occasions but this time I am experiencing this Pilgrimage and this moment with special intensity: perhaps this is because the passing years make me even more sensitive to the message of this extraordinary Icon; perhaps and I would say above all this is because I am here now as the Successor of Peter, and I carry in my heart the whole Church, indeed, the whole of humanity.

One could say that the Shroud is the Icon of this mystery, the Icon of Holy Saturday. Indeed it is a winding-sheet that was wrapped around the body of a man who was crucified, corresponding in every way to what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.

Holy Saturday is the day when God remains hidden, we read in an ancient homily: “What has happened? Today the earth is shrouded in deep silence, deep silence and stillness, profound silence because the King sleeps. . . .God has died in the flesh, and has gone down to rouse the realm of the dead.” (Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday, PG 43, 439).

In the Creed, we profess that Jesus Christ was “crucified under Pontius Pilate, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day, He rose again.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in our time, especially after having lived through the past century, humanity has become particularly sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. The concealment of God is part of contemporary man’s spirituality, in an existential almost subconscious manner, like a void in the heart that has continued to grow larger and larger.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead! And we killed him!” This famous saying is clearly taken almost literally from the Christian tradition. We often repeat it in the Way of the Cross, perhaps without being fully aware of what we are saying.

After the two World Wars, the lagers and the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become increasingly a Holy Saturday: this day’s darkness challenges all who are wondering about life and it challenges us believers in particular. We too have something to do with this darkness.

Yet the Death of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive, a source of comfort and hope. And this reminds me of the fact that the Holy Shroud acts as a “photographic” document, with both a “positive” and a “negative.” And, in fact, this is really how it is: the darkest mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a never-ending hope.

Read more at The Catholic Thing

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