Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday

liturgy. But the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is an intercessory prayer on the basis of the Passion of Christ, and the Image of the Divine Mercy (before which the Novena is usually recited) is primarily a manifestation of the Risen Christ. The Novena of Chaplets (with the Image), therefore, focuses our minds and hearts on the Paschal Mystery – the death and resurrection of Christ. Nothing could be more appropriate at this time in the liturgical year! In a similar way, reciting the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and the Tre Ore devotions, which often include meditations on the seven last words of Christ – while in no way required by the Missal – are good liturgical customs that amplify the meaning of this important time in the Church’s liturgical year. They do not compete with, nor distract from, the official liturgy for Good Friday. Some times the fear is expressed that the prominence of the Easter Candle as the chief visual symbol of Christ risen and living among us might be reduced by the display and veneration of the Image of The Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday. But no such competition exists. The Paschal Candle is a symbol of the risen Christ. The Image of The Divine Mercy, on the other hand, is an icon or holy image, a pictorial representation of the risen Christ. As such, it is helpful to us in a different way.In a sense, we direct our prayers through an icon to the person they represent (Catechism, 2132, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas: “The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.”). We do not, however, generally use symbols, such as the Easter Candle, in quite the same way. In other words, Easter Candle is an ancient and abiding symbol of the presence of the risen Christ, living among us, while the icon manifests in particular the personal and merciful love of the risen Christ for us, and thereby elicits a response of trust and of prayer. In short, what the Holy Father has done by establishing “Divine Mercy Sunday” is not create an alternate theme or celebration for the Easter Season. All he has done is recover an ancient tradition of celebrating The Octave Day of Easter as a summary of the whole Paschal Mystery, and the merciful love of God that shines through that Mystery. In so far as the revelations and devotional forms given to St. Faustina direct us to, and amplify for us, this same Paschal Mystery, and this same merciful love, then her witness is an aid and not a hindrance to the People of God in their celebration of this great solemnity. Robert Stackpole, STD Director John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy