Journey to Easter: Spiritual Reflections for the Lenten Season
by Pope Benedict XVI (2005; originally as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in 1987 (English) & 1985 (Italian))
This book opens with the text of homily-like talks that Cardinal Ratzinger delivered to Pope John Paul II and members of the Curia in a retreat that took place during the first full week of Lent in 1983. That alone makes this book remarkable and unique. Ratzinger is extraordinarily consistent: whether it is a formal academic work or the saved text of a speech, the quality and depth is characteristically world class. He can be a bit challenging to read at times, but this book is not one of them.
An excerpt from Chapter 12, “The Paschal Mystery”, should help solidify the point:
The Pasch was celebrated at home. Jesus did so too. But after the meal he got up and went out, went beyond the limits of the Law by crossing the brook Kidron, the boundary of Jerusalem. He went out into the night. Not fearing chaos, nor hiding from it, rather he went into its depths, even into the jaws of death. “He descended into hell, ” as we say in the Creed. He went out. And this means to say accordingly, though the ramparts of the Church are the faith and love of Jesus Christ, the Church is not a fortified citadel but an open city. And hence to believe means also to go out with Jesus Christ, not fearing chaos, because he is stronger, because he has gone there, and we, as we go out into it, are following him. To believe means to pass beyond the wall and into the midst of the chaotic world, to create with the strength of Jesus Christ a space for faith and love.
The Lord went out. This is a sign of his strength. He went out into the night of Gethsemane, into the night of the Cross, the night of the tomb. He went out because his love bears within it the love of God, which has greater power than the forces of destruction. It is therefore precisely in this going forth, along the way of the Passion, that the victorious deed lies, and already in this mystery is to be found the mystery of paschal joy. He is the stronger; there is no power which could resist him and no place which he is not. He calls us to attempt the way with him because where there is faith and love, there he is, and there too is the strength of peace which overcomes death and emptiness.
– pg. 109