Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulchri
CARDINAL O’BRIEN’S EASTER PASTORAL LETTER
In almost breathless terms St. Gregory describes the fourth century event he
witnessed in his home city of Nyssa:
What have we seen! A light like a cloud of fire
of the candles burning during the night.
All night our ears have resounded with prolonged
hymns and spiritual chants; it was like a river of
joy running through our ears to our soul, and filling
us with blessed hope.
This good bishop was describing his experience, many centuries ago, at
the Easter Vigil, one similar to which many of you will participate in the
coming days. This night’s Vigil, the Church insists, is “the greatest and most
notable of all solemnities” and while all of us might not experience the grace
of “a river of joy running through our ears to our soul” it is my prayer that
the Easter Solemnity will “fill us all with blessed hope”. For as the Exultet
of the Vigil proclaims:
This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars
of death and rose victorious from the
The sanctifying power of this night dispels
washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen,
and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord,
and brings down the mighty.
Do we, can we, Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
catch this uniquely Christian spirit of hope? Is our Faith alive in us enough,
to fill our hearts with thanksgiving for this Glorious Mystery of Christ’s
Resurrection? As members of this Order, we have a special claim on this
Mystery! In spite of the darkness, the wickedness and the hatred that threaten
to capture lives and hearts in the Holy Land, in the midst of it all there is an
Empty Tomb – empty because Christ has emerged from it eternally and fully
alive. Whatever the darkness there – or in our hearts – he announces the
message of hope: “Do not fear! I have overcome the world!”
To accept the Cape of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is solemnly to
commit ourselves to announcing that message of hope by the way of life we lead
as Catholic women and men and by the steps we take to bring hope to the Holy
In the midst of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and at the
high point of the Church’s liturgical year, Knights and Dames would do well to
review the intensity both of a) our personal faith and b) our commitment to the
goals of our Order.
a) As members of the Order we are seen in the public
eye as Catholic leaders – and expected to be such by the Church, as evidenced
by our personal lives:
· how intense is our sacramental life as seen in a notable devotion to the Mass
and the Blessed Sacrament as well as in frequent participation in the Sacrament
· are we growing personally in our knowledge of and full commitment to Christ
teachings and discipline?
· how active are we in the programs of our parish and diocese, especially in
carrying out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy?
b) We have also taken upon ourselves further commitments,
especially as regards to the Holy Land:
· in what ways are we contributing to “breaking the bars of death” driving out
hatred and fostering concord there?
· is our Lieutenancy up to date on the status and struggles of our Christian
brethren there and what are we doing to bring these to the attention of our
· when appropriate, do we wear our capes and insignia at local Church functions
(e.g. Good Friday) and make available to fellow Catholics information about the
Order and its spiritual and material support of our suffering fellow Christians
· what are we doing to attract younger members
and to involve them in the
activities of the Order?
Along with our Governor General and others in our central staff, I am uniquely
aware of the genuine striving for holiness on the part of members throughout the
world. With Patriarch Fouad Twal we are impressed and inspired by the zeal of
so many in keeping the flame of Faith alive in the Holy Land.
In establishing the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis centered on Jesus and his
mission then and now:
The signs he works, especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the
sick and the suffering, are all meant to
teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.
May this be said as well of our Order of the Holy Sepulchre and each of
A Blessed Easter Season.
Edwin Cardinal O’Brien
00120 - Città del Vaticano
Tel. 39 - 06 - 6877347
Fax 39 - 06 - 6877632