"God Dwells on High, Yet He Stoops Down to Us!" . On the Homily he gave at Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican, Benedict XVI read Psalms (113 , 5ff.), which praises God's grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity. The Pontiff explained that “God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love.”
Benedict XVI mentioned the medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry who once said that God -- from the time of Adam -- saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now, this God who has become a child says to us: you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.
“In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love.” Continued the Holy Father, and he mentioned a great number of circumstances where children suffer: children who are denied the love of their parents, street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, those who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, others who are victims of the industry of pornography or any other form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their souls.
“The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children;” he said, ”to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated. Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.”
The Holy Father also remembered the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And he asked for prayers that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease.” Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened.” He continued “Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night.” VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008.
“I once more joyfully proclaim Christ's Birth”. Said Benedict XVI in his Christmas message delivered from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica today at noon before imparting the blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world).
“The grace of God has appeared. That is why Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born.”The Pope said that Jesus “is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history.”
“Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God's saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace.”
"May the many people who continue to dwell in darkness and the shadow of death," the Holy Father continued, "come to know the power of God's saving grace!”
Benedict XVI expressed a desire that this light bring transformation and renewal to the Holy Land, where the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians. May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East. He also mentioned other areas such as Zimbabwe, which he said has been "trapped for all too long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps worsening." The Democratic Republic of Congo, the war-torn region of Kivu, Darfur, in Sudan, and Somalia, "whose interminable sufferings are the tragic consequence of the lack of stability and peace."
”May it bring forth rich fruit from the efforts of all those who, rather than resigning themselves to the twisted logic of conflict and violence, prefer instead the path of dialogue and negotiation as the means of resolving tensions within each country and finding just and lasting solutions to the conflicts troubling the region.”
“Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking; wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity.”
"If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart," the Holy Father affirmed.
“Let us go, then, brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us; he has shown us his face, full of grace and mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain! Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart. Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!”
The Holy Father then extended Christmas greetings in 64 languages.VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008.
The Holy Father highlights key events of the year. During his traditional exchange of Christmas greetings with prelates and members of the Roman Curia, this year Benedict XVI touched on July's World Youth Day, October's synod of bishops; and his trips to the United States and France.
Parties Can Be Organized, But Joy Is a Gift. Speaking about the World Youth Day, he said that the youth events bring an understanding of the meaning of true celebration. He said that from this event "breaks forth a joy that is not comparable to a rock festival." The Pontiff recalled how St. Paul lists joy among the fruits of the Holy Spirit and in the same way, St. John unites the Spirit and joy. The mission of the Church, the Pope explained, "is nothing more than the impulse to communicate the joy that has been given us. May it always be alive in us, and then, may it irradiate to the world in its tribulations: This is my wish for the end of this year”.
The world Synod of Bishops celebrated in Rome in October was an opportunity to "experience that in the Church there is Pentecost also today," said Benedict XVI. The Pope suggested that the most important element of the synod was "rediscovering something that in day to day life we take for granted: the fact that God speaks, that God responds to our questions, the fact that he, though in human words, speaks in person and we can hear him and, in hearing him, learn to know and understand him." The Word of God, he continued, "directs itself to each one of us, speaks to the heart of each one."
He particularly mentioned the unprecedented participation of Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and of Shear Yashuv Cohen, chief rabbi of Haifa. He also recalled the "moving testimonies of laypeople from around the world, who not only live the Word of God but also suffer for it."
The Holy Father expressed his hope that "the experiences and accomplishments of the synod efficaciously influence the life of the Church."
Regarding his journeys to the United States in April and to France in September, the Pontiff said that "the Church made itself visible before the world and for the world, as a spiritual force that indicates the paths of life and, through the testimony of faith, brings light to the world." Those trips, he said, were days that "radiated light, radiated trust in the value of life and determination for the good."
He also mentioned the Pauline Jubilee Year -- which he launched on June 28, 2008, and which will run through June 29, 2009 -- he said that it is more than a recollection, It “is a year of pilgrimage, not only in the external sense of a journey to the Pauline sites, but rather also, and above all, a pilgrimage of the heart, together with Paul, toward Jesus Christ." "Certainly," he stated, "Paul teaches us also that the Church is the body of Christ, that the head and the body are inseparable and that there cannot be love for Christ without love for his Church and its living community."
Pontiff Warned Against New Theories of "Gender”. While protecting nature is an essential mission of the Church, it's no more important than protecting the nature of the person, said Benedict XVI. The Pope spoke today of what he termed an "ecology of man".The Pontiff added that while the Church needs to "defend the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us [... ], it must also protect the human being from his own destruction."
"It is necessary that there be something such as an ecology of man, understood in the proper manner," he said. This human ecology, he affirmed, is based on respecting the nature of the person, and the two genders of masculine and feminine. The Pope warned against the manipulation that takes place in national and international forums when the term "gender" is altered.
"When Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected." Benedict XVI affirmed, "It is not outmoded metaphysics,"
He said it has more to do with "faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation, the contempt of which will lead to the self destruction of humanity." VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2008.The Pontiff received the new ambassador to the Holy See from the Seychelles Islands. The African country is a major tourist destination and one of the world’s principal fiscal paradises. Despite being the richest in Africa, they are heavily in debt, with a public debt of 122.8% of the GDP. The Holy Father affirmed that reducing debt is an act of justice and an "important challenge" faced by future generations, "It would be unjust if the men of today neglected their responsibility and made the consequences of their choices or their lack of action weigh on generations that will come in the future," he said. Benedict XVI explained the twofold meaning that solidarity has in the Church’s social thought: "It refers not only to a just and adequate legislative context but also to the moral quality of every citizen." VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2008.
Model for believers and non believers alike. Benedict XVI proposes the Franciscan theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus as a model due to his search for harmony between faith and reason. The Holy Father's statement was sent on the occasion of a conference on the theologian held on the 7th Centennial of his death. The Latin-language letter was made public Saturday. VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2008.
A prayer for the Holy Father
Christ Jesus, King and Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Grant me the grace to love, live, and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen.
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