and the Discipline of the Sacraments
on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
Principles and Guidelines
148. Easter Sunday, the greatest solemnity in the liturgical year, is often associated with many displays of popular piety: these are all cultic expressions which proclaim the new and glorious condition of the risen Christ, and the divine power released from his triumph over sin and death.
The Risen Christ meets his Mother
149. Popular piety intuits a constancy in the relationship between Christ and his mother: in suffering and death and in the joy of the resurrection.
The liturgical affirmation that God replenished the Blessed Virgin Mary with joy in the resurrection of her Son(153), has been translated and represented, so as to speak, in the pious exercise of the meeting of the Risen Christ with His Mother: on Easter morning two processions, one bearing the image of Our Lady of Dolours, the other that of the Risen Christ, meet each other so as to show that Our Lady was the first, and full participant in the mystery of the Lord's resurrection.
What has already been said in relation to the processions of "the dead Christ" also applies to this pious exercise: the observance of the pious exercise should not acquire greater importance than the liturgical celebration of Easter Sunday nor occasion inappropriate mixing of liturgical expressions with those of popular piety(154).
Blessing of the Family Table
150. The Easter liturgy is permeated by a sense of newness: nature has been renewed, since Easter coincides with Spring in the Northern hemisphere; fire and water have been renewed; Christian hearts have been renewed through the Sacrament of Penance, and, where possible, through administration of the Sacraments of Christian initiation; the Eucharist is renewed, so as to speak: these are signs and sign-realities of the new life begun by Christ in the resurrection.
Among the pious exercises connected with Easter Sunday, mention must be made of the traditional blessing of eggs, the symbol of life, and the blessing of the family table; this latter, which is a daily habit in many Christian families that should be encouraged(155), is particularly important on Easter Sunday: the head of the household or some other member of the household, blesses the festive meal with Easter water which is brought by the faithful from the Easter Vigil.
Visit to the Mother of the Risen Christ
151. At the conclusion of the Easter Vigil, or following the Second Vespers of Easter, a short pious exercise is kept in many places: flowers are blessed and distributed to the faithful as a sign of Easter joy. Some are brought to the image of Our Lady of Dolours, which is then crowned, as the Regina Coeli is sung. The faithful, having associated themselves with the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin in the Lord's Passion and Death, now rejoice with her in His resurrection.
While this pious exercise should not be incorporated into the liturgical action, it is completely in harmony with the content of the Paschal Mystery and is a further example of the manner in which popular piety grasps the Blessed Virgin Mary's association with the saving work of her Son.
The Annual Blessing of Family Homes
152. The annual blessing of families takes places in their homes during Eastertide - or at other times of the year. This pastoral practice is highly recommended to parish priests and to their assistant priests since it is greatly appreciated by the faithful and affords a precious occasion to recollect God's constant presence among Christian families. It is also an opportunity to invite the faithful to live according to the Gospel, and to exhort parents and children to preserve and promote the mystery of being "a domestic church"(156).
The Via Lucis
153. A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus - from his Resurrection to his Ascension - in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Lk 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church.
Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith - the resurrection of Christ - and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Col 1, 13; Ef 5, 8).
For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fixed its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Pascal event, namely the Lord's Resurrection.
The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since "per crucem ad lucem". Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God's plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man's true end: liberation, joy and peace which are essentially paschal values.
The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a "culture of life" which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a "culture of death", despair and nihilism.
Devotion to the Divine Mercy
154. In connection with the octave of Easter, recent years have witnessed the development and diffusion of a special devotion to the Divine Mercy based on the writings of Sr. Faustina Kowalska who was canonized 30 April 2000. It concentrates on the mercy poured forth in Christ's death and resurrection, fount of the Holy Spirit who forgives sins and restores joy at having been redeemed. Since the liturgy of the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday - as it is now called(157) - is the natural locus in which to express man's acceptance of the Redeemer's mercy, the faithful should be taught to understand this devotion in the light of the liturgical celebrations of these Easter days. Indeed, "the paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of mercy, his living sign which is both historico-salvific and eschatological. At the same time, the Easter liturgy places the words of the psalm on our lips: "I shall sing forever of the Lord's mercy" (Ps 89 2)"(158).
The Pentecost Novena
155. The New Testament tells us that during the period between the Ascension and Pentecost "all...joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1, 14) while they awaited being "clothed with the power from on high" (Lk 24, 49). The pious exercise of the Pentecost novena, widely practised among the faithful, emerged from prayerful reflection on this salvific event.
Indeed, this novena is already present in the Missal and in the Liturgy of the Hours, especially in the second vespers of Pentecost: the biblical and eucological texts, in different ways, recall the disciples' expectation of the Paraclete. Where possible, the Pentecost novena should consist of the solemn celebration of vespers. Where such is not possible, the novena should try to reflect the liturgical themes of the days from Ascension to the Vigil of Pentecost.
In some places, the week of prayer for the unity Christians is celebrated at this time(159).
156. Eastertide concludes with Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day, and its commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (cf. Acts 2, 1-4), the Church's foundation, and the beginning of its mission to all nations and peoples. The protracted celebration of the vigil Mass has a particular importance in cathedrals and some parishes, since it reflects the intense persevering prayer of the Christian community in imitation of the Apostles united in prayer with Mother of Jesus(160).
The mystery of Pentecost exhorts us to prayer and commitment to mission and enlightens popular piety which is a "continued sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. He arouses faith, hope and charity, in the hearts [of the faithful] and those ecclesial virtues which make popular piety valuable. The same Spirit ennobles the numerous and varied ways of transmitting the Christian message according to the culture and customs of all times and places"(161).
The faithful are well used to invoking the Holy Spirit especially when initiating new undertakings or works or in times of particular difficulties. Often they use formulas taken from the celebration of Pentecost (Veni Creator Spiritus, Veni Sancte Spiritus)(162) or short prayers of supplication (Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur). The third glorious mystery of the Rosary invites the faithful to meditate on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Confirmation they are conscious of receiving the Spirit of wisdom and counsel to guide and assist them; the Spirit of strength and light to help them make important decisions and to sustain the trials of life. The faithful are also aware that through Baptism their bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit to be respected and honoured, even in death, and they know that the body will be raised up on the last day through the power of the Holy Spirit.
While the Holy Spirit gives access to communion with God in prayer, he also prompts us towards service of our neighbour by encountering him, by reconciliation, by witness, by a desire for justice and peace, by renewal of outlook, by social progress and missionary commitment(163). In some Christian communities, Pentecost is celebrated as a "day of intercession for the missions"(164).