Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Christmas Homily of Pope Benedict XVI



Vatican Basilica
December 24, 2010

Dear brothers and sisters!

"You are my son, today I have begotten you" - with these words of the second Psalm, the Church begins the liturgy of the Holy Night. She knows that this phrase belongs, originally, the rite of coronation of the king of Israel. The king, who alone is a human being like other men, becomes a "son of God through the call and enthronement in its function: it is a sort of adoption by God, a record of decision in which he gives this man a new life, drawing them into your own being. Even more clear, reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we have just heard, has the same process in a situation of distress and threat to Israel: "A child is born to us a son is given to us. Has power over his shoulder "(9, 5). The royal enthronement function is like a new birth. And just like baby for God's personal decision, as a child of God, the king is a hope. The future rests on their shoulders. It is the keeper of the promise of peace. On the night of Bethlehem, this prophetic word was held in a way that at the time of Isaiah, he would have been unimaginable. Yes, now the one on whose shoulders lies the power is truly a boy. In him appears the new royalty that God creates in the world. This boy truly born of God. It is the eternal Word of God, which unites mutually humanity and divinity. For this boy, are valid evidence of the dignity which it assigns the coronation hymn of Isaiah: "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (9, 5). Yes, this king does not need advisers belonging to the worldly wise. Himself brings the wisdom and counsel of God. Precisely the weakness of boy he is, He is strong and so God shows us, given the pretentious world powers, the strength of God itself.

In fact, the words of the rite of coronation in Israel were mere ritual words of hope, that far predicting a future that would be given by God. None of the kings, so honored, corresponded to the sublimity of such words. Them, all the expressions about affiliation to God, enthroned on the heritage of the people on the field of distant lands (Ps 2, 8) remained only a portent of the future - as if panel flags of hope, signs pointing to a future which then was still inconceivable. So keeping one's word, which begins on the night of Bethlehem, is at once vastly larger and - from the viewpoint of the world - more humble than let the prophetic word intuit. It is larger, because this boy is truly the Son of God, is truly "God from God, Light from Light, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father." Is conquered the infinite distance between God and man. God did not merely tilt the look down, as the Psalm says, he "fell" truly entered the world, became one of us to draw all to himself "This kid is truly the Emmanuel, God- us. His realm extends to the ends of truly earth. Universal in the immensity of the Holy Eucharist, he truly established islands of peace. Everywhere where it is celebrated, we have an island of peace, that peace which is God himself. This kid lit, in men, the light of kindness and gave them the strength to resist the tyranny of power. In every generation, He builds his kingdom from within, from the heart. But it is also true that "the baton of the oppressor 'has not been broken. Also today the shoe noisy march of soldiers and we have constantly to 'dress stained with blood "(Isaiah 9: 3-4). So part of the joy of this night by the closeness of God. We thank God because, as a child, If you trust in our hands, as it were begging for our love, infuses his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, fulfill your promise fully. Break down the rod of the oppressor. Burn the noisy footwear. Grant that the time of blood-stained garments over. Accomplishment the promise of "peace without an end" (Isaiah 9, 6). We thank you for your kindness, but also ask Thee, shew your strength. Institutes in the world the domain of your truth, your love - the "kingdom of justice, love and peace."

"Mary gave birth to her firstborn son" (Lk 2, 7). With this sentence, Saint Luke recounts, in an absolutely sober, the big event that the prophetic words in the history of Israel, had envisioned beforehand. Luke refers to the boy as "the firstborn". In language that was formed in the Scriptures of the Old Covenant, "the firstborn" does not mean the first of a series of other children. The word "firstborn" is a title of honor, whether to follow after other brothers and sisters or not. Thus, in the Book of Exodus, Israel is called by God "my firstborn" (Ex 4, 22), expressing themselves in this way to his election, his unique dignity, particularly the love of God the Father The early Church knew that the word gained a new depth in Jesus, which are summed up in him the promises made to Israel. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus "the firstborn" simply in order to qualify, then the preparations in the Old Testament as the Son of God sending to the world (Heb 1, 5-7). The oldest belongs in a special way to God, and therefore - as happens in many religions - should be delivered in a special way to God and redeemed by a sacrifice of substitution, as St. Luke says in the episode of Jesus' presentation in the temple. The firstborn belongs to God in particular, as it is for the sacrifice. In the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, takes place in a unique way the fate of the firstborn. Himself, Jesus offers humanity to God, uniting man and God in such a way that God may be all in all. São Paulo, in the Letters to the Colossians and Ephesians, broadened and deepened the idea of Jesus as firstborn: Jesus - tell us those letters - is the firstborn of creation, the true archetype according to which God formed the man-creature. Man may be the image of God because Jesus is God and Man, the true image of God and man. He is the firstborn from the dead: yet tell us those letters. In Resurrection, crossed the wall of death for us all. Opened to man the size of eternal life in communion with God. Finally, we are told: He is the firstborn of many brothers. Yes, now he is also the first in a series of brothers, ie the first that opens for us the life in communion with God. Creates true brotherhood, no fraternity, distorted by sin, Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, but the new brotherhood in which we are the very family of God. This new family of God begins the moment Mary involves the 'firstborn' in the tracks and recline in the manger. Let us pray to Him, Lord Jesus, you who have wished to be born as the first of many brothers, give us the true brotherhood. Help us to become like Thee. Help us to recognize another one that needs me, those who suffer or are abandoned, all men, your face, and live together with you as brothers and sisters to become a family, your family.

In the end, the Christmas Gospel tells us that a multitude of the heavenly host of angels praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he loves" (Lk 2, 14). The church expanded in the hymn "Glory ...», this praise the angels sang the sight of the holy night of the event, making it a hymn of jubilation about the glory of God. "We thank you for your glory." We thank you for beauty, for greatness, for thy goodness, which, tonight, become visible to us. The manifestation of beauty, beautiful, makes us happy that we should not wonder about its usefulness. The glory of God, whence all beauty, explodes in us the wonder and joy. Who sees God, feel joy, and tonight, we see something from your light. But the message of the angels on that Holy Night also tells men: "Peace to those whom God loves." The Latin translation of this phrase that we use in the liturgy and goes back to St. Jerome interprets differently: "Peace to men of good will." Just during the last decades, the words' men of good will in particular entered the vocabulary of the Church. But what is a fair translation? We read together, the two versions, only then we rightly understand the words of the angels. It would be a wrong interpretation that would recognize only the unique act of God, as if he had not called the man a free and loving response. But it would be wrong also an uplifting response, whereby a man with such good will power it would, so to speak, to redeem himself. The two things go together: grace and freedom, love of God that precedes us and without whom we can love Him not, and our response, which he hopes and prays it up in the birth of his son. The intertwining of grace and freedom, the entanglement of appeal and response can not divide it into parts separated from one another. Both are inseparably interwoven with each other. So this sentence is both promise and appeal. God preceded us with the gift of his Son. And ever anew and unexpectedly, God goes before us. Never ceases to seek, to stand up every time you need it. Do not abandon the lost sheep in the desert, where they lost. God is not confused by our sin. Again and again starts with us. However expects us to love Him with Love us so that we can become the people they love with him and thus could be peace on earth.

Lucas did not say that the angels sang. Very soberly, writes that the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God on high ..." (Lk 2, 13-14). But men have always heard that the talk of angels is different from that of men, and that precisely this evening of joyful message, such talk was a corner in which shone the sublime glory of God. So from the beginning, this song of angels is understood to music coming from God, nay, an invitation to come together in the corner with his heart in joy because we are loved by God. Saint Augustine says: Cantare Amantis est - singing is for one who loves. Thus over the centuries, the song of angels became ever again a song of love and joy, a corner of loved ones. At this time, Let us join together, full of gratitude, this chanting of all ages, that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, Lord, we give you thanks for your glory. We thank you for your love. Make us more and more people that love with you and therefore, people of peace. Amen.

Image Source: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

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