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Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Summary of Christmas reports from Rome
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 On Christmas Eve the Holy Father celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica. During the 'Gloria', children coming from the five continents brought flowers to the image of Baby Jesus. In his homily, Benedict XVI said: "The Lord said to me: You are my son; this day I have begotten you". With these words of the second Psalm, the Church begins the Vigil Mass of Christmas, at which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Redeemer in a stable in Bethlehem. This Psalm was once a part of the coronation rite of the kings of Judah. The people of Israel, in virtue of its election, considered itself in a special way a son of God, adopted by God. Just as the king was the personification of the people, his enthronement was experienced as a solemn act of adoption by God, whereby the King was in some way taken up into the very mystery of God. At Bethlehem night, these words, which were really more an expression of hope than a present reality, took on new and unexpected meaning. The Child lying in the manger is truly God's Son. God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving". "But there is more: in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself became man. (...) God's everlasting today has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God's eternal today. God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. (...) This is Christmas: "You are my son, this day I have begotten you". God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him. As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger (...) And on every child shines something of the splendour of that "today", of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield - it shines on every child, even on those still unborn". "Let us listen to a second phrase from the liturgy of this holy night, one taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: "Upon the people who walked in darkness a great light has shone". (...) But first, light means knowledge; it means truth, as contrasted with the darkness of falsehood and ignorance. Light gives us life, it shows us the way. But light, as a source of heat, also means love. Where there is love, light shines forth in the world; where there is hatred, the world remains in darkness. In the stable of Bethlehem there appeared the great light which the world awaits". "The light of Bethlehem has never been extinguished. In every age it has touched men and women, "it has shone around them". Wherever people put their faith in that Child, charity also sprang up - charity towards others, loving concern for the weak and the suffering, the grace of forgiveness. From Bethlehem a stream of light, love and truth spreads through the centuries. (...) In that Child, God countered the violence of this world with his own goodness. He calls us to follow that Child". "On this night, when we look towards Bethlehem, let us pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there. We wish to pray for peace in the Holy Land: Look, O Lord, upon this corner of the earth, your homeland, which is so very dear to you! Let your light shine upon it! Let it know peace!" "The word "peace" brings us to a third key to the liturgy of this holy Night. The Child foretold by Isaiah is called "Prince of Peace". His kingdom is said to be one "of endless peace". The shepherds in the Gospel hear the glad tidings: "Glory to God in the highest" and "on earth, peace...". At one time we used to say: "to men of good will". Nowadays we say "to those whom God loves". What does this change mean?" (...) We would do better to ask: who are those whom God loves, and why does he love them? (...) The Gospel answers these questions by pointing to some particular people whom God loves. There are individuals, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Simeon and Anna. But there are also two groups of people: the shepherds and the wise men from the East, the Magi". "Tonight let us look at the shepherds. (...) In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court. But really, who were they? To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue. They were simple souls. The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful. This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night. But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God's word. Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open. In some way, deep down, they were waiting for him. Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness - a readiness to listen and to set out. They were waiting for a light which would show them the way. That is what is important for God. He loves everyone, because everyone is his creature". "Among Christians, the word "peace" has taken on a very particular meaning: it has become a name for the Eucharist. There Christ's peace is present. In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world. The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself. When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the house of bread". Pope's Christmas message At noon on Christmas Day the Pope addressed the traditional Nativity message from the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, the first one of his pontificate and transmitted by 111 television stations from 68 nations. The Holy Father said: "On this solemn day, the Angel's proclamation rings out once again, inviting us, the men and women of the third millennium, to welcome the Saviour. May the people of today's world not hesitate to let him enter their homes, their cities, their nations, everywhere on earth!". Benedict XVI stated that "men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart. That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the Birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being". "Wake up, O men and women of the third millennium! At Christmas, the Almighty becomes a child and asks for our help and protection. His way of showing that he is God challenges our way of being human. By knocking at our door, he challenges us and our freedom; he calls us to examine how we understand and live our lives." "Men and women of today, humanity come of age yet often still so frail in mind and will, let the Child of Bethlehem take you by the hand! Do not fear; put your trust in him! The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships. May his love guide every people on earth and strengthen their common consciousness of being a family called to foster relationships of trust and mutual support". The Pope assured that "a united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet". Looking at the situations in the different continents, the Holy Father asked "for peace, integral development and the prevention of fratricidal conflicts, for the consolidation of the present, still fragile political transitions, and the protection of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crises, such as those in Darfur and in other regions of central Africa". Benedict XVI also asked God to "lead the peoples of Latin America to live in peace and harmony. May he grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom; may he favour the process of dialogue on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere in the countries of Asia, so that, by the settlement of dangerous disputes, consistent and peaceful conclusions can be reached in a spirit of friendship, conclusions which their peoples expectantly await". The Pope also imparted his blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to Rome and to the World) with this message in 32 languages. Pope's Boxing Day message At noon on 26 December, before thousands of people in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope spoke these words before the Angelus: "After having celebrated the solemnity of Christ's Birth yesterday, today we remember Saint Stephen's rise to heaven, the first martyr". "In an atmosphere of Christmas joy, remembering the martyrdom of Saint Stephen should not seem out of place. In fact, already the shadow of the Cross falls over the Manger in Bethlehem. This is announced by the poverty of the stall where the Baby cries, the prophecy by Simeon about the contradiction and the sword destined to pierce the Virgin's soul, the persecution by Herod that will make flight from Egypt a necessity". Benedict XVI pointed out that "we should not be surprised if one day, this Child, becoming an adult, would ask his disciples to follow him on the path of the Cross with complete trust and faithfulness. Attracted by his example and supported by the love of many Christians, already from the beginning of Christianity, they would testify their faith with a profusion of blood. Other martyrs followed the first ones throughout the centuries until today". "How can we avoid acknowledging that also today, in various parts of the world, to profess the Christian faith requires the heroism of martyrs? How can we not say that everywhere, even where there is no persecution, to live the Gospel with coherence bears a high cost with it?". "Contemplating the Divine Child in Mary's arms and looking at the example of Saint Stephen, we ask God for the grace to live our faith with coherence, always ready to answer anybody asking us the reason for the hope which is in us". Today's General Audience Today, 28 December, 20,000 persons participated in Wednesday's General Audience, in Saint Peter's Square. Benedict XVI, once again, spoke about the Psalms. The Pope said: "Psalm 138, (...) knowledgeable hymn of intense beauty and passion, points at the highest and most admirable reality of the entire universe, man, defined as the "prodigy" of God. A theme completely in harmony with the Christmas atmosphere (...) when we celebrate the great mystery of the Son of God, made man for our salvation". Benedict XVI reminded that throughout this psalm runs the recurrent symbol of the pottery maker and the sculptor that "form and model the artistic creation, the masterpiece" and adds that in the text the "idea that God already sees all the future of that still unformed embryo is extremely potent: in the book of the life of the Lord, already the days that creature will live has been written and would fill with works during his worldly existence. Thus the transcendent greatness of Divine knowledge re-emerges, which not only embraces the past and the present of humanity, but also the entire range hidden by the future". The Pope concluded quoting the reflection by Saint Gregory Major on this psalm which represents "a meditation on those who are weakest in their spiritual path in the Christian community". No matter how "imperfect or small they may be, according to their capabilities, they love God and their brethren (...) contributing to the edification of the Church (...) This is a message of hope for all, even for those who continue with difficulty along the path of spiritual and ecclesial life". After the catechesis, the Pope welcomed the pilgrims in various languages and in particular remembered "the dear populations hit by the tsunami a year ago, which caused many victims and great damage to the environment. We pray the Lord for them and for those, even in other areas of the world, that have suffered natural calamities, and await our concrete and active solidarity". Source: VIS
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