By Ann Schneible
ROME, OCTOBER 11, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily for the opening Mass of the Year of Faith, recalled how the Second Vatican Council was "animated by a desire… to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man."
The Year of Faith, which the Holy Father commenced today with Mass in Saint Peter's Square, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. To commemorate these two occasions together, Pope Benedict said in his homily, the celebrations were reminiscent of the Council through a variety of signs, such the enthronement of a copy of the Book of the Gospels used at the Council, and the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council. "These signs," Pope Benedict "help us not only to remember, they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the Church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history."
Today's commencement of the Year of faith is "linked harmoniously with the Church’s whole path over the last fifty years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the one Savior, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and profound convergence, precisely upon Christ as the centre of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world."
The Council, Pope Benedict recalled, was "animated by a desire, as it were, to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man. The Servant of God Paul VI, two years after the end of the Council session, expressed it in this way: 'Even if the Council does not deal expressly with the faith, it talks about it on every page, it recognizes its vital and supernatural character, it assumes it to be whole and strong, and it builds upon its teachings. We need only recall some of the Council’s statements in order to realize the essential importance that the Council, consistent with the doctrinal tradition of the Church, attributes to the faith, the true faith, which has Christ for its source and the Church’s Magisterium for its channel.'" (General Audience, 8 March 1967)
At the time of the Council, the Holy Father continued, "there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time."
Pope Benedict said that he believed that the most important thing "is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression."
"If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization," the Holy Father continued, "it is not to honor an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers, and contained in its documents."
Pope Benedict referred to the first reading of Mass today, which "spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren – as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years."
"How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys?" the Pope asked. "Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago."