8 Apr 2012
The Lord is Risen!
The cult of the icon of the Most Holy Saviour, unlike that of the Veronica veil kept in the Vatican Basilica or other ancient Roman icons, was the only one to become part of the official celebrations of the Roman Liturgy. This is evident from the Liber Politicus (Ordo Romanus XI), a ceremonial book written between 1143-1144, and the Liber Censuum Romanae Ecclesiae (Ordo Romanus XII), compiled about 1192 by Cencius Camerarius, the future Pope Honorius III.
These ceremonial books not only show that a procession with the Acheiropita took place on the night of the Assumption, but also that the icon was venerated during Holy Week.
On Easter morning, the Pope, vested in pontificals, entered the Sancta Sanctorum, opened the small silver doors covering the feet of the icon (the doors are still sealed) and kissed the feet three times. He then chanted the versicle: Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro, alleluia, to which the assembly responded: Qui pro nobis pependit in ligno, alleluia. The Cross, which had bee removed on Good Friday, was then placed on the altar for the Pope’s veneration.
After the Pope, the members of the papal entourage venerated the icon and the Cross and then approached the Supreme Pontiff for the kiss of peace. The Pope gave the sign of peace reciting the versicle: Surrexit Dominus vere, to which each person responded: Et apparuit Simoni. Meanwhile the choir chanted a series of antiphons. Following these rites the papal procession was formed along the Via Merulana while the Pope was informed by a notary of the Baptisms which had been celebrated the previous night.
When the Apostolic See moved to Avignon, the rite of the Resurrexit fell into disuse. With the return of the Popes to Rome, the Easter statio was transferred to the Basilica of Saint Peter.
The basis and the authentic significance of these ritual sequences can be found in the words of the Gospel of Luke which describe Peter’s amazement at seeing the empty tomb and the testimony of the Eleven that the Lord was truly risen and had appeared to Simon (cf. Lk 24:12,34; Jn 20:3-10). The appearance of the Risen Lord to Peter and to the other witnesses is the theological foundation of the Church’s Easter faith (cf. Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor 15:3-6).
The Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, likewise meets the Risen Lord in the icon of the Most Holy Saviour and, after the solemn Easter proclamation of the previous night’s Vigil, he becomes on Easter Day the «first» witness to all the Church of the Gospel of the Lord’s Resurrection.
The rite of papal veneration the icon of the Resurrexit was restored for Easter of the Great Jubilee in 2000.