ITALY CELEBRATES PASQUETTA, LITTLE EASTER – POPE AT REGINA COELI: “THE RISEN JESUS WALKS BESIDE US”

ITALY CELEBRATES PASQUETTA, LITTLE EASTER

Today is Easter Monday – Little Easter or Pasquetta – and is also known here as Monday of the Angel, a big holiday in Italy. This day recalls the meeting between the women who went to Jesus’ tomb, sad to see it empty but then rejoicing when an angel comforted them, saying the Savior had risen!

Italians typically dedicate Easter Monday to family outings, most often celebrating a picnic meal at midday. If you google Pasquetta or Little Easter, chances are you’ll find more menus for picnics than you will information on its history! By the way, the noon prayer in this post-Easter time is the Regina Coeli, not the Angelus.

Those who work for the Vatican and Roman Curia began their Easter vacation on Holy Thursday and return to work only this coming Wednesday for a total of 6 days off. Some of the Italian employees will probably ask for another day off – Thursday April 25, Liberation Day, a national holiday.

Wednesday, May 1, Labor Day and the feast of St. Joseph, is also a big national holiday. Who knows how many Italians will take April 25 and May 1 – and the days in between – as a mini-vacation! The in between days are known as ponte, bridge – so April 25-May 1 is a very long ponte!

Allow me to offer some beautiful words pronounced by Pope Benedict on Easter Monday 2012, his last pasquetta as pontiff, that have always been seared into my mind and heart: He noted that the Gospel writers do not describe the Resurrection itself. “That event remains mysterious – not as something unreal, but as something beyond the reach of our knowledge – as a light so bright the eyes cannot bear it.”

Benedict said, “the Gospel narration begins with the morning after the sabbath when the women run to the sepulchre, find it empty and hear an angel tell them the Lord has risen. As they run in turn to tell the disciples, they meet Jesus….”

“In those days in Israel,” said Benedict, “women’s testimony could have no official legal value. Nevertheless, women have experienced a special bond with the Lord, that is fundamental to the day-to-day life of the Christian community, and this is always true, in every age, not only at the beginning of the Church’s pilgrim journey.”

The Pope emeritus stressed how, “in all the Gospels, women play a big role in the stories of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, and also in the passion and death of Jesus.”

POPE AT REGINA COELI: “THE RISEN JESUS WALKS BESIDE US”

Pope Francis prayed the Regina Coeli in St. Peter’s Square on Easter Monday and reflected on the Gospel of St. Matthew that describes the women meeting Jesus at the empty tomb.

Women the first witnesses
“The women, full of awe and joy, are leaving in a hurry to go and bring the news to the disciples; and at that moment Jesus presents Himself before them,” said Pope Francis. The Lord tells them not to be afraid and encourages them to go and announce to their friends what has happened.

“All the Gospels emphasize the role of women, Mary of Magdala and the others, as the first witnesses of the resurrection,” he said. They were the first to meet the Risen Christ “and to bring the message that He was alive.”

We too are called to be witnesses
Pope Francis said the words of Jesus addressed to the women resound for us today too: “Do not be afraid; go and proclaim…We too are called to meet Him personally and to become His heralds and witnesses. The risen Jesus walks beside us. He manifests Himself to those who call on Him and who love Him. We meet Jesus, first of all, in prayer, but also in simple joys lived with faith and gratitude,” sharing moments of friendship and welcome, or even contemplating nature.

The words of the Angels
Pope Francis reminded us of the words spoken to the women by the Angels at the empty tomb on that first day after the Sabbath: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen.”

Christ’s resurrection was “humanly unthinkable,” said Francis, describing it as “the most shocking event in human history.”

But the Resurrection of Jesus is also proof of the victory of God’s Love over sin and death, he said. It is what gives our hope of life “a rock-sold foundation”.