Pope Benedict XVI: December 2009 Archives

Lux fulgebit hodie super nos, quia natus est nobis Dominus.
(A light will shine on us this day, the Lord is born for us.)

(Roman Missal, Christmas, Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)

The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon "us", the same "us" for whom the Child of Bethlehem "is born". This "us" is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Savior, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.

B16 Urbi.jpgAt first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that "us" was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light "that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the "sign" of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the "us" of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an "us" which welcomes God's love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth's lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: "Let us go to Bethlehem" (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The "us" of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The "us" of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the "little flock" of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one's neighbour. The "us" of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the "us" of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the "us" of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, "God with us", came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!

Benedictus PP XVI, Christmas 2009

The Holy Father's annual address to the Roman Curia -the Cardinals and bishops resident in Rome and other officials of the Roman Curia who assist him in his governance of the Universal Church-- took place yesterday. In it the Pope points to some notable concerns that he thinks that ought to be the concern of all of us who believe faith is central our lives. Namely, belief and unbelief, doubt and certainty and freedom with regard to God and humanity's search for God. In my humble opinion, this papal address should be an essential point in any diocesan, parish or ecclesial movement's pastoral plan in 2010 and beyond. In part the Holy Father said,

Even the people who describe themselves as agnostics or atheists must be very important to us as believers. When we talk about a new evangelization, these people may become afraid. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission, nor do they want to renounce their freedom of thought or of will. But the question about God nonetheless remains present for them as well, even if they cannot believe in the concrete nature of his attention to us. 

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In Paris, I talked about the search for God as the fundamental motive from which Western monasticism was born, and with it, Western culture. As the first step in evangelization, we must try to keep this search alive; we must take pains that man not set aside the question of God as an essential question of his existence. Take pains that he accept this question and the longing concealed within it.

Here I am reminded of the words that Jesus quoted from the prophet Isaiah, that the temple should be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17). He was thinking about what was called the court of the gentiles, which he cleansed of extraneous business so that it could be the space available for the gentiles who wanted to pray to the one God there, even if they could not take part in the mystery, for service of which the interior of the temple was reserved.

A place of prayer for all peoples: by this was meant the people who know God, so to speak, only from afar; who are dissatisfied with their gods, rites, myths; who desire the Pure and the Great, even if God remains for them the "unknown God" (cf. Acts 17:23). They needed to be able to pray to the unknown God, and so be in relation with the true God, although in the midst of obscurities of various kinds.

I think that the Church should also open today a sort of "court of the gentiles" where men can in some manner cling to God, without knowing him and before they have found the entryway to his mystery, which the interior life of the Church serves. To the dialogue with the religions it must above all add today a dialogue with those for whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is unknown, and who nonetheless would not like simply to remain without God, but at least to approach him as the Unknown.

Almost two weeks ago Pope Benedict sent a message to the president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, who is chairing a meeting where the agenda is talking about God, of all things. Well, it beats talking about bishops, nuns and the environment all the time. This topic interests me not in the sense of mere curiosity but because it is taking seriously my seeking the face of God (this topic ought to concern all people who consider themselves Catholic, spiritual and/or religious). To say God interests me sounds like an academic exercise; it is and it is not entirely that. God is interesting to me because seeking God is like no other search I know of, for it concerns my entire self and it intersects all that I do in the world. Is God totally unknowable, the Mystery and desirous of a personal relationship with me (and you)? The Pope makes some great points in these few paragraphs. The curious points are emphasized below.

On the occasion of the Congress "God Today: With or Without Him Everything Changes," which is taking place in Rome from December 10-12, I wish to express to you, venerated Brother, to the Italian Episcopal Conference and, in particular, to the Committee for the Cultural Project, my profound appreciation for this important initiative, which addresses one of the great topics that has always fascinated and questioned the human spirit.

Vision of John the Evangelist JAlbergno.jpg

The question of God is also central in our time, in which man is often reduced to one dimension, the "horizontal," considering openness to the Transcendent as irrelevant for his life. The relationship with God, instead, is essential for humanity's journey and, as I have had the occasion to affirm many times, the Church and every Christian, in fact, have the task to make God present in this world, to attempt to open to men access to God.

Planned from this perspective is the international event of these days. The breadth of the approach to the important topic that characterizes the meeting, will make possible the sketching of a rich and articulated picture of the question of God, but above all it will be a stimulation for a profound reflection on God's place in the culture and life of our time.

On one hand, in fact, an attempt is being made to show the different ways that lead to affirming the truth about the existence of God, that God which humanity has always known in some way, even in the chiaroscuro of his history, and who revealed himself with the splendor of his face in the covenant with the people of Israel and, beyond that, in every measure and hope, in a full and definitive way, in Jesus Christ.

He is the Son of God, the Living who enters into the life and history of man to illumine him with his grace, with his presence. On the other hand, the desire is precisely to bring to light the essential importance that God has for us, for our personal and social life, for understanding ourselves and the world, for the hope that illumines our way, for the salvation that awaits us beyond death.

Directed to these objectives are the numerous interventions, according to the many points of view which will be the object of study and exchange: from philosophical and theological reflection on the witness of the great religions; from the impulse to God, which finds its expression in music, literature, the figurative arts, the cinema and television; to the development of the sciences, which attempt to read in depth the mechanisms of nature, fruit of the intelligent work of God the Creator; from the analysis of the personal experience of God to the consideration of the social and political dynamics of an already globalized world.

In a cultural and spiritual situation such as the one we are living in, where the tendency grows to relegate God to the private sphere, to consider him irrelevant and superfluous, or to reject him explicitly, it is my heartfelt hope that this event might at least contribute to disperse that semi-darkness that makes openness to God precarious and fearful for the men of our time, though he never ceases to knock on our door.

The experiences of the past, although not remote to us, teach us that when God disappears from man's horizon, humanity loses its direction and runs the risk of taking steps to its own destruction. Faith in God opens man to the horizon of certain hope, which does not disappoint; it indicates a solid foundation on which to base life without fear; it calls for abandoning oneself with confidence in the hands of the Love which sustains the world.

To you, cardinal, to all those who have contributed to prepare this congress, to the speakers and to all the participants I express my cordial greeting with the desire for the full success of the initiative. I support the works with prayer and with my apostolic blessing, propitiator of that light from on High, which makes us capable of finding God, our treasure and our hope.

Pope Benedict has asked us to pray for these two intentions for the month of December. So, our prayer is united with his before the Divine Majesty asking that His Will be done and for these two points of intercession.

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The general intention

That children may be respected, loved, and never exploited.

The missionary intention

That during Christmas the peoples of the earth may recognize the Incarnate Word as the light that illuminates every person, and that every nation may open its doors to Christ, the Savior of the world.

Have you connected with the Apostleship of Prayer? It is a good organization to link yourself to: faithful to the Gospel and Church.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Pope Benedict XVI category from December 2009.

Pope Benedict XVI: November 2009 is the previous archive.

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