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The Grand Pardon or the Jubilé du Puy 2005

Pilgrimage to the Diocese of Le Puy

May 21-23, 2005

Today, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, is being celebrated in an exceptional year. On March 25th, 2005, a coincidence, rarely seen, occurred: the commemoration of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary of Nazareth took place on the same day as Good Friday, the day we remember the Lord’s death. Your ancestors used this rare conjunction of two mysteries to reflect on the meaning both of the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God and the universal Redemption he accomplished by his death on the Cross.

The religious sense of the medieval Christians of this Diocese served them well. The realties of the Incarnation and the Redemption are worthy of the deepest meditation and contemplation. But your ancestors went beyond reflection, prayer and contemplation. They called these rare years the time of Le Jubilé du Puy or Grand Pardon. Why did they take that step? Lengthy reflection on God’s self-abnegation in the Incarnation and the Redemption led them to ponder a related mystery.

What did they discover? They discovered the depths of God’s love in his mercy and forgiveness. The mysteries of the Incarnation spoke to them afresh of God becoming flesh for us and the mystery of the Redemption spoke anew of God’s dying for our salvation in misery and shame. No one had expected God to give himself in such total self-surrender. The conjunction of the two mysteries revealed the depth of God’s self-emptying and even of his shame. He not only became one of us; but he suffered and died a criminal’s death for us.

Your ancestors then asked themselves: Why did God do this? During the Jubilé 2005 we ask the same question. Our response will be the same as theirs in the Jubilé 1407. God entered into the chaos of our humanity because of the ‘folly’ of his love. He chose human beings without reason. His choice reveals the totally unexpected essence of God. For the mystery of the Incarnation speaks of a divine Love that stoops down. For God, the Incarnation and even more the redemption of mankind were no ‘increase’, but only an ‘emptying’. St. Paul says this openly, “Christ Jesus ..... though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.”

Christ Jesus did not hold on to the condition of being in the form of God, even though that was precious and inalienable and all his own. The Son of God was capable of freely renouncing his divine glory. He died voluntarily. It was the heavenly Father himself who delivered Jesus over to his enemies, as the third reading today says, “God loved the word so much that he gave his only Son”. Indeed the Holy Spirit is himself described as the ‘Gift’ of both Father and Son to the Church.

The Grand Pardon 2005 or Le Jubilé du Puy is a celebration of the sovereign freedom and power of the Triune God. Your ancestors took a dramatic, new step by establishing a Grand Pardon in the years of the concurrence of the Annunciation and the Passion of Jesus. Their action contains profound lessons. God has taken the initiative on our behalf. While we were still sinners (Rom 5, 10), God pardoned us. In other words, through the Incarnation and the Passion of Jesus, the heavenly Father was disposed to pardon sinners without anticipating our repentance, despite our guilt.

In like manner, Jesus’s disciples today are called not to make their pardon of others dependent upon their repentance and sorrow for their offence. Rather we must offer them forgiveness unconditionally. For Jesus’s Blood flowing from the Cross is not simply a symbolic gesture of God’s pardon, but rather the work of first justification. When the Father granted unconditional pardon through the Cross of Christ, he did not condition his pardon upon the repentance of man. Rather the Father revealed his complete openness to send his Holy Spirit into the hearts of sinners.

In the year 2005, following your ancestors’ lead, you have devoted twelve months to reflection, prayer and contemplation on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption. You are also rediscovering that the ancient Grand Pardon or Le Jubilé du Puy marks a decisively new way of seeing God. But only the pure of heart can see God. He is unveiling for the pure of heart the deepest mystery of all: the Triune God , in his very essence, is eternal self-surrender and love. In the first reading, Israel illustrates a beginning, incomprehensible sense of God’s inner freedom, mightiness, and abundant vitality expressed in his gracious mercy, kindness and fidelity.

The Grand Pardon is realized in the Plenary Indulgence available to those today who, with hearts converted to God and under the usual conditions, participate in this jubilee celebration in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Puy. Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Indulgence discloses the fulness of the Father’s mercy, who offers everyone his love, expressed primarily in the forgiveness of sins” (Incarnationis Mysterium 9). The indulgence is also available on other specific days between now and August 15, 2005.

The revelation of the Trinity of Persons in God marks a decisive turn-about in the way of seeing God. In the first place, the Trinity reveals that God is not absolute power, but the unity of love. The Father, eternally begetting, is an original source of love that bestows itself infinitely; the Son, eternally begotten, is a self-declaration of love that receives and gives itself back infinitely; and the Holy Spirit is love that binds together infinitely, giving and receiving into accord and effecting their overflow into creation infinitely. In the second place, the sovereignty of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit displays itself not by holding on to what is their own but in its abandonment.

You should not flinch before the implications of this Trinitarian disclosure. By celebrating the coincidence in the 2005 liturgical calendar of these two mysteries, the diocese of Le Puy-in-Velay proposes two incomprehensible Trinitarian truths to the Catholic faithful:

1. In the uttermost form of a slave while on the Cross, the Son’s divine glory broke through. By going to the extreme in his own love and in the simultaneous revelation of the love of the Father for us, Christ Crucified manifests the mystery hidden for ages: that God wills to gather all men and women into the abyss of his own inner Trinitarian love

2. In the Incarnation God has not simply helped the world, but has disclosed himself in what is most deeply his own in his eternal life within the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ thereby reveals that the Triune God wills to be for us. Medieval Christians understood that the Incarnation of the Son of God was ordered to his Passion. The Son’s conception by the Holy Spirit and his birth of the Virgin Mary were for the sake of the Cross. The Body and Blood of Christ which he himself offered as priest and victim on the Cross for our salvation are truly the same body and blood which were conceived in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

Consequently , the various instructions of Jesus in the Sermon on the mountain - not to resist one who is evil, to show the other cheek to an enemy who has already struck one, to give to one who is suing not only what he wants but even more, to walk the extra mile with a bully - all represent forms of imitation of the Cross for his followers. Christians combine such acts of self-giving with prayer and penance on behalf of the conversion of the hard of heart. Only such actions are effective in moving sinners to repentance. St. Paul underlines the necessity of a “spirit of gentleness” to the Galatians, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6, 1). Our Father has surrendered his much beloved Son to the darkness of God-forsakenness and to the utter torture of the Cross. Just as Christ’s forgiving love on the Cross in its sovereign freedom transcends every why and wherefore, so should the love of each of his disciple for others.

Finally, one of the conditions for conversion is the disciples’ willingness to confess their sinfulness before God and the Church. This presupposes on the part of the penitent a readiness for unreserved openness and transparency before God and the Church represented by the Priest-confessor. The penitent is required to show unreluctant, freely executed self-disclosure out of faith and love.

Those who wish to know how to confess their sins should gaze upon Christ crucified. His attitude before the Father is the archetype of the disciples’ confession. Jesus became sin for us. On Calvary in the Spring of 30 AD, the shame, nakedness and suffering of Jesus Crucified before God and the world revealed the nature of sin and of forgiveness. He thereby disclosed to the Father sin taken as a whole and individually.

In other words, on Good Friday the Crucified Jesus exposed to his Father and to the world the nature of sin. By being stripped of his clothing he was exposed to every shame and suffering. So too the penitent in the confessional is to experience such nakedness of spirit. According to St. John of te Cross, “In this nakedness the spirit finds its quietude and rest.....because it is in the center of its humility.” As long as the sinner conceals himself, he remains in his sin. On the contrary, by disclosing himself in confession; the Christian returning to God seeks to become aware that God sees everything. The absolution which God gives penitents in the Sacrament of Confession is a perfect one. With the Father in the Spirit of the Son, in his Triune, eternal purity, Jesus gives to penitents a new purity.

Such is the opportunity you have during this extraordinary year, the year of the Grand Pardon, the Jubilé du Puy 2005. Let us pray for the intercession of Mary, Notre Dame du Puy, who is “the source of the Living Source, origin of the Beginning” (St. Peter Damien).

J. Francis Cardinal Stafford
Major Penitentiary