Monday, 24 December 2012
St. Peter's Square Fourth Sunday of Advent , December 23, 2012
[ Video ]
Dear brothers and sisters!
In this fourth Sunday of Advent, which came shortly before the birth of the Lord, the Gospel narrates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. This episode is not a simple act of courtesy, but shows very simply the meeting of the Ancient with the New Testament. The two women, both pregnant, in fact embody the expectation and the Awaited. The elderly Elizabeth symbolizes Israel awaiting the Messiah, while the young Mary brings with it the fulfillment of this expectation, for the benefit of all mankind. The two women meet and recognize first of all the fruit of their wombs, John and Christ. Comment the Christian poet Prudentius: "The child in the womb senile greets content, through the mouth of his mother, the Lord Son of the Virgin" ( Apotheosis , 590: PL 59, 970). The exultation of John in Elizabeth's womb is the sign of fulfillment of the God is going to visit his people.Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary of Elizabeth's pregnancy (cf. Lk 1:36) as proof of the power of God, infertility, despite his advanced age, was transformed into fertility.
Elizabeth, welcoming Mary, recognize that you are bringing the promise of God to humanity, and exclaims: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! What do I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? "( Lk 1.42 to 43). The term "blessed are you among women" is referred to in the Old Testament Jael ( Judges 5:24) and Judith ( Judith 13:1), two warrior women who work to save Israel. Now it's addressed to Mary, a young girl who is peaceful to generate the Savior of the world. So also the leap of joy of John (cf. Lk 1:44) refers to the dance that King David did when he accompanied the entrance of the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Chr 15:29). The Ark, which contained the tablets of the Law, the manna and the rod of Aaron (cf. Heb 9:4), was a sign of God's presence among his people. The unborn John leaps for joy before Mary, Ark of the New Covenant, which is carrying Jesus, the Son of God made man.
The scene of the Visitation also expresses the beauty of reception: where there is mutual acceptance, listening, make room for another, there is no God and the joy that comes from Him Let us imitate Mary in the Christmas season, visiting to those who live an uncomfortable, especially the sick, the imprisoned, the elderly and children. It also imitate Elizabeth welcomes guests as God: without desire we will never know the Lord, without waiting for do not meet, without seeking not find him. With the same joy that Mary hurries to Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39), we go to meet the Lord who comes. Let us pray that all men seek God and found that it is God Himself first to come to visit us. To Mary, Ark of the New and Eternal Covenant, we entrust our hearts, because it makes it worthy to receive the visit of God in the mystery of his birth.
After the Angelus
Chers pèlerins francophones, en cette Année de la Foi, et à l'approche de Noël, recevons l'appel à notre coeur pour convertir Feter the Christ dans l'Enfant de Bethléem. Croire en Dieu dans demande de reconnaître Celui here goes naître, the Tout puissant here vient nous sauver. Le Mystère de l'Incarnation est au coeur de notre foi. Puisse cette fête de la Nativité the fortifier!Dépassons the souci des préparatifs extérieurs et l'aspect superficiel suivre pour la Vierge Marie et son recueillement silence dans son! Avec elle, préparons-nous à accueillir the Sauveur. Je vous de Benis grand coeur!
I greet all the visitors and Inglese-speaking pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. Today, as we approach the Solemnity of our Lord's Birth among us, let us strive again to make room in our hearts to welcome the Christ child with love and humility before such a great gift from on high. In anticipation, let me wish you and your families Already a holy and peaceful Christmas!
Gerne heiße ich und die Pilger Gäste deutscher Sprache willkommen. "Der Herr ist nahe" in beten wir diesen Tagen vor Weihnachten. Schon leuchtet Glanz der Nacht auf der Heiligen, und wir sein dürfen GEWISS: Gott die Welt kommt in, er wird einer von uns, um uns Frieden und Menschen zu bringen Heil. Wie wir wollen Mary Wort und Gottes Willen gläubig annehmen, damit der Herr und bei uns uns auch in wohnen kann. Brüder Schwestern Christi und Als wir unseren möchten Mitmenschen Liebe und seine Gegenwart weiterschenken, besonders den Kranken, und den Notleidenden Bedürftigen. Allen wünsche ich ein und frohes gnadenreiches Weihnachtsfest.
Saludo cordially lengua española de los fieles presentes en esta oración Marian. El evangelio de la Visitacion, que la Iglesia nos proposes este domingo, nos muestra the consigo el doble alegría this lleva anuncio de la salvación: the de quien, como la Santisima Virgen de Jesucristo noticia acepta la buena y en chimney if it poses para proclaim , y the de Aquellos que, como en el vientre Juan de Isabel de gozo Saltan the escuchar to quien les draws to El Salvador. Invitation to a todos acoger to Señor, y quiere que llega colmar los corazones the inefable Jubilo del Espíritu Santo. Que Dios os bendiga.
Drodzy Polacy, the coals siostry! Juz wkrótce duch Bozego Narodzenia przeniknie wasze domy, rodziny, wspólnoty. Połączy was wiara the radość z narodzin Zbawiciela. Każdemu z was, in szczególnie samotnym, chorym, tym, którym w życiu jest Trudno, życzę pokoju, ciepła the miłości; wszystkim ducha nadziei, przebaczenia the pojednania. Niech Światło płynące z betlejemskiego żłóbka opromienia w tym szczególnym Roku - Roku Wiary - Cala Polskę, wasze Życie the serca.Niech Boze Dziecię wszystkim wam błogosławi.
We join our faith and the joy of the birth of the Savior.I wish each of you - and especially to people who are lonely, the sick, those who face the challenges of life - peace, warmth and love, all the hope, forgiveness and reconciliation. The light that comes from the stable of Bethlehem radiate in this special year - Year of Faith - on the whole of Poland, in your life and in your hearts. The Divine Child bless you all! ]Lastly, I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I wish you all a good Sunday and a lot of peace of mind for the coming holidays of Christmas. Have a good Sunday!
© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vatican
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
ON THE OCCASION OF CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
TO THE ROMAN CURIA
Friday, 21 December 2012
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with great joy that I meet you today, dear Members of the College of Cardinals, Representatives of the Roman Curia and the Governorate, for this traditional event in the days leading up to the feast of Christmas. I greet each one of you cordially, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his kind words and for the warm good wishes that he extended to me on behalf of all present. The Dean of the College of Cardinals reminded us of an expression that appears frequently during these days in the Latin liturgy: Prope est iam Dominus, venite, adoremus! The Lord is already near, come, let us adore him! We too, as one family, prepare ourselves to adore the Child in the stable at Bethlehem who is God himself and has come so close as to become a man like us. I willingly reciprocate your good wishes and I thank all of you from my heart, including the Papal Representatives all over the world, for the generous and competent assistance that each of you offers me in my ministry.
Once again we find ourselves at the end of a year that has seen all kinds of difficult situations, important questions and challenges, but also signs of hope, both in the Church and in the world. I shall mention just a few key elements regarding the life of the Church and my Petrine ministry. First of all, as the Dean of the College of Cardinals mentioned, there were the journeys to Mexico and Cuba – unforgettable encounters with the power of faith, so deeply rooted in human hearts, and with the joie de vivre that issues from faith. I recall how, on my arrival in Mexico, there were endless crowds of people lining the long route, cheering and waving flags and handkerchiefs. I recall how, on the journey to the attractive provincial capital Guanajuato, there were young people respectfully kneeling by the side of the road to receive the blessing of Peter’s Successor; I recall how the great liturgy beside the statue of Christ the King made Christ’s kingship present among us – his peace, his justice, his truth. All this took place against the backdrop of the country’s problems, afflicted as it is by many different forms of violence and the hardships of economic dependence. While these problems cannot be solved simply by religious fervour, neither can they be solved without the inner purification of hearts that issues from the power of faith, from the encounter with Jesus Christ. And then there was Cuba – here too there were great liturgical celebrations, in which the singing, the praying and the silence made tangibly present the One that the country’s authorities had tried for so long to exclude. That country’s search for a proper balancing of the relationship between obligations and freedom cannot succeed without reference to the basic criteria that mankind has discovered through encounter with the God of Jesus Christ.
As further key moments in the course of the year, I should like to single out the great Meeting of Families in Milan and the visit to Lebanon, where I consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation that is intended to offer signposts for the life of churches and society in the Middle East along the difficult paths of unity and peace. The last major event of the year was the Synod on the New Evangelization, which also served as a collective inauguration of the Year of Faith, in which we commemorate the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, seeking to understand it anew and appropriate it anew in the changed circumstances of today.
All these occasions spoke to fundamental themes of this moment in history: the family (Milan), serving peace in the world and dialogue among religions (Lebanon) and proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ in our day to those who have yet to encounter him and to the many who know him only externally and hence do not actually recognize him. Among these broad themes, I should like to focus particularly on the theme of the family and the nature of dialogue, and then to add a brief observation on the question of the new evangelization.
The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world. It was noticeable that the Synod repeatedly emphasized the significance, for the transmission of the faith, of the family as the authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint of human existence. This is something we learn by living it with others and suffering it with others. So it became clear that the question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human. The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for? Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his “I” ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.
The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.
At this point I would like to address the second major theme, which runs through the whole of the past year from Assisi to the Synod on the New Evangelization: the question of dialogue and proclamation. Let us speak firstly of dialogue. For the Church in our day I see three principal areas of dialogue, in which she must be present in the struggle for man and his humanity: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – which includes dialogue with cultures and with science – and finally dialogue with religions. In all these dialogues the Church speaks on the basis of the light given her by faith. But at the same time she incorporates the memory of mankind, which is a memory of man’s experiences and sufferings from the beginnings and down the centuries, in which she has learned about the human condition, she has experienced its boundaries and its grandeur, its opportunities and its limitations. Human culture, of which she is a guarantee, has developed from the encounter between divine revelation and human existence. The Church represents the memory of what it means to be human in the face of a civilization of forgetfulness, which knows only itself and its own criteria. Yet just as an individual without memory has lost his identity, so too a human race without memory would lose its identity. What the Church has learned from the encounter between revelation and human experience does indeed extend beyond the realm of pure reason, but it is not a separate world that has nothing to say to unbelievers. By entering into the thinking and understanding of mankind, this knowledge broadens the horizon of reason and thus it speaks also to those who are unable to share the faith of the Church. In her dialogue with the state and with society, the Church does not, of course, have ready answers for individual questions. Along with other forces in society, she will wrestle for the answers that best correspond to the truth of the human condition. The values that she recognizes as fundamental and non-negotiable for the human condition she must propose with all clarity. She must do all she can to convince, and this can then stimulate political action.
In man’s present situation, the dialogue of religions is a necessary condition for peace in the world and it is therefore a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities. This dialogue of religions has various dimensions. In the first place it is simply a dialogue of life, a dialogue of being together. This will not involve discussing the great themes of faith – whether God is Trinitarian or how the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures is to be understood, and so on. It is about the concrete problems of coexistence and shared responsibility for society, for the state, for humanity. In the process, it is necessary to learn to accept the other in his otherness and the otherness of his thinking. To this end, the shared responsibility for justice and peace must become the guiding principle of the conversation. A dialogue about peace and justice is bound to move beyond the purely pragmatic to become an ethical struggle for the truth and for the human being: a dialogue concerning the values that come before everything. In this way what began as a purely practical dialogue becomes a quest for the right way to live as a human being. Even if the fundamental choices themselves are not under discussion, the search for an answer to a specific question becomes a process in which, through listening to the other, both sides can obtain purification and enrichment. Thus this search can also mean taking common steps towards the one truth, even if the fundamental choices remain unaltered. If both sides set out from a hermeneutic of justice and peace, the fundamental difference will not disappear, but a deeper closeness will emerge nevertheless.
Two rules are generally regarded nowadays as fundamental for interreligious dialogue:
1. Dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at understanding. In this respect it differs from evangelization, from mission;
2. Accordingly, both parties to the dialogue remain consciously within their identity, which the dialogue does not place in question either for themselves or for the other.
These rules are correct, but in the way they are formulated here I still find them too superficial. True, dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at better mutual understanding – that is correct. But all the same, the search for knowledge and understanding always has to involve drawing closer to the truth. Both sides in this piece-by-piece approach to truth are therefore on the path that leads forward and towards greater commonality, brought about by the oneness of the truth. As far as preserving identity is concerned, it would be too little for the Christian, so to speak, to assert his identity in a such a way that he effectively blocks the path to truth. Then his Christianity would appear as something arbitrary, merely propositional. He would seem not to reckon with the possibility that religion has to do with truth. On the contrary, I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.
Finally, at least a brief word should be added on the subject of proclamation, or evangelization, on which the post-synodal document will speak in depth, on the basis of the Synod Fathers’ propositions. I find that the essential elements of the process of evangelizing appear most eloquently in Saint John’s account of the calling of two of John the Baptist’s disciples, who become disciples of Jesus Christ (1:35-39). First of all, we have the simple act of proclamation. John the Baptist points towards Jesus and says: “Behold the Lamb of God!” A similar act is recounted a few verses later. This time it is Andrew, who says to his brother Simon “We have found the Messiah” (1:41). The first and fundamental element is the straightforward proclamation, the kerygma, which draws its strength from the inner conviction of the one proclaiming. In the account of the two disciples, the next stage is that of listening and following behind Jesus, which is not yet discipleship, but rather a holy curiosity, a movement of seeking. Both of them, after all, are seekers, men who live over and above everyday affairs in the expectation of God – in the expectation that he exists and will reveal himself. Stimulated by the proclamation, their seeking becomes concrete. They want to come to know better the man described as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist. The third act is set in motion when Jesus turns round, approaches them and asks: “What do you seek?” They respond with a further question, which demonstrates the openness of their expectation, their readiness to take new steps. They ask: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus’ answer “Come and see!” is an invitation to walk with him and thereby to have their eyes opened with him.
The word of proclamation is effective in situations where man is listening in readiness for God to draw near, where man is inwardly searching and thus on the way towards the Lord. His heart is touched when Jesus turns towards him, and then his encounter with the proclamation becomes a holy curiosity to come to know Jesus better. As he walks with Jesus, he is led to the place where Jesus lives, to the community of the Church, which is his body. That means entering into the journeying community of catechumens, a community of both learning and living, in which our eyes are opened as we walk.
“Come and see!” This saying, addressed by Jesus to the two seeker-disciples, he also addresses to the seekers of today. At the end of the year, we pray to the Lord that the Church, despite all her shortcomings, may be increasingly recognizable as his dwelling-place. We ask him to open our eyes ever wider as we make our way to his house, so that we can say ever more clearly, ever more convincingly: “we have found him for whom the whole world is waiting, Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and true man”. With these sentiments, I wish you all from my heart a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you.
© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
ARTICLE BY THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES
A time for Christians to engage with the world
"Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes. His questioners, of course, were laying a trap for him. They wanted to force him to take sides in the highly-charged political debate about Roman rule in the land of Israel. Yet there was more at stake here: if Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah, then surely he would oppose the Roman overlords. So the question was calculated to expose him either as a threat to the regime, or a fraud.
Jesus’ answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth. His audience needed to be reminded that the Messiah was not Caesar, and Caesar was not God. The kingdom that Jesus came to establish was of an altogether higher order. As he told Pontius Pilate, "My kingship is not of this world."
The Christmas stories in the New Testament are intended to convey a similar message. Jesus was born during a "census of the whole world" taken by Caesar Augustus, the Emperor renowned for bringing the Pax Romana to all the lands under Roman rule. Yet this infant, born in an obscure and far-flung corner of the Empire, was to offer the world a far greater peace, truly universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time.
Jesus is presented to us as King David’s heir, but the liberation he brought to his people was not about holding hostile armies at bay; it was about conquering sin and death forever.
The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience. At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?
Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the Child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognize God made Man.
It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or the Stock Exchange. Christians shouldn’t shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.
Christians fight poverty out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life. Christians work for more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources out of a belief that, as stewards of God’s creation, we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable. Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. Christian belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all.
Because these goals are shared by so many, much fruitful cooperation is possible between Christians and others. Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the Emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the last century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God. When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated world-view. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.
In Italy, many crib scenes feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background. This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love. He brings hope to all those who, like himself, live on the margins of society. He brings hope to all who are vulnerable to the changing fortunes of a precarious world. From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of good will can help to build here on earth.
I have met many young saints recently. The ones in their twenties all have something in common...they are not afraid. Why is the lack of fear a mark of real holiness? This characteristic is not foolishness or naivete. This lack of fear arises from a deep conviction of faith in Divine Providence, a gift of the beginnings of the illuminative state. Love casts out fear. St. Paul knew this and experienced this certitude of the loving care of God. Mary's Magnificat reflects this security, only her state was that of the unitive...perfect oneness with God through grace. Love and fear cannot exist side-by-side in the heart. Either one KNOWS God and His love or one fears....The young saints walk in love.
The Church describes Joseph as a just man. Our present generations do not understand justice or what it means to be just. Justice is righteousness. Justice is purity. Being just means having the heart and mind of God. Joseph had conformed his mind and heart to the Mind and Heart of God. His state of being just was a state of virtue and the moral clarity of a hero. He responded quickly to the inspirations and dreams from God because his entire focus was on doing the will of God. We need just men in the Church now more than ever. We need more men like Joseph.