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Listening to the Word and to the Spirit in cosmic revelation

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 2 August 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "How greatly to be desired are all his works, and how sparkling they are to see!... Though we speak much we cannot reach the end, and the sum of our words is: "He is the all'.... He is greater than all his works" (Sir 42: 22; 43: 27-28). These wonderful words of Sirach sum up the hymn of praise, sung in every age and under every sky, to the Creator who reveals himself through the immensity and splendour of his works.

Although in still imperfect ways, many voices have recognized in creation the presence of its Author and Lord. An ancient Egyptian king and poet, addressing his sun god, exclaimed:  "How manifold it is, what thou hast made! They are hidden from the face (of man). O sole god, like whom there is no other! Thou didst create the world according to thy desire, whilst thou wert alone" ("The Hymn to Aton", in J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd ed. [Princeton 1969], pp. 369-371). A few centuries later, a Greek philosopher also celebrated in a marvellous hymn the divinity manifest in nature and especially in man:  "We are your offspring, and we have speech as a reflection of your mind, we alone of all the animate beings who live and move on the earth" (Cleanthes, Hymn to Zeus, vv. 4-5). The Apostle Paul would take up this acclamation, citing it in his discourse at the Areopagus of Athens (cf. Acts 17: 28).

2. The Muslim believer is also required to hear the word that the Creator has entrusted to the works of his hands:  "O men, adore your Lord, who has created you and those who have gone before you:  fear him who has made the earth a bed for you and the sky a dome, and has sent down water from the sky to bring forth fruits for your sustenance" (Koran, II, 21-23). The Jewish tradition which flourished in the fertile soil of the Bible, would discover God's personal presence in every corner of creation:  "Where I wander - You! Where I ponder - You! Only You, You again, always You! ... Sky is You! Earth is You! You alone! You below! In every trend, at every end, only You, You again, always You!" (M. Buber, Tales of the Hasidim [Italian ed., Milan 1979, p. 276]).

3. Biblical revelation is set within this broad experience of religious awareness and human prayer, putting the divine seal upon it. In communicating the mystery of the Trinity to us, it helps us perceive in creation itself not only the marks of the Father, source of all life, but also those of the Son and the Spirit. The Christian's gaze now turns to the whole Trinity when he contemplates the heavens with the Psalmist:  "By the word of the Lord" - that is, by his eternal Word - "the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth" - that is, by his Holy Spirit - "all their host" (Ps 33: 6). Thus "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge. Not a word nor a discourse whose voice is not heard; through all the earth their voice resounds, and to the ends of the world, their message" (Ps 19: 2-5).

The ear of the soul must be free of noise in order to hear this divine voice echoing in the universe. Along with revelation properly so-called, contained in Sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night. Nature too, in a certain sense, is "the book of God".

4. We can ask ourselves how it is possible in Christian experience for contemplation of the Trinity to be fostered through creation, discerning there not only the reflection of the one God in a generic sense, but also the marks of the individual divine persons. If it is true, in fact, that "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle" (Council of Florence, DS 1331), it is also true as well that "each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property" (CCC, 258).

So when we contemplate with wonder the universe in its grandeur and beauty, we must praise the whole Trinity, but in a special way our thoughts turn to the Father from whom everything flows, as the source and fullness of being itself. If we then reflect on the order that governs the cosmos and admire the wisdom with which the Father created it, endowing it with laws that regulate its existence, we naturally think of the eternal Son, presented to us by Scripture as the Word (cf. Jn 1: 1-3) and divine Wisdom (cf. 1 Cor 1: 24, 30). In the marvellous hymn sung by Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs, which was presented at the start of our meeting, she says:  "Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning" (Prv 8: 23). Wisdom is present at the moment of creation "like a master workman" (Prv 8: 30), ready to delight "in the sons of men" (cf. Prv 8: 30-31). From these aspects Christian tradition has seen in Wisdom the face of Christ, "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; ... all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1: 15-17; cf. Jn 1: 3).

5. In the light of the Christian faith, creation particularly calls to mind the Holy Spirit in the dynamism that marks the relations between things, within the macrocosm and the microcosm, and is apparent especially wherever life is born and develops. Because of this experience, even in cultures far removed from Christianity, the presence of God is perceived in a way as the "spirit" which gives life to the world. Vergil's words are famous in this regard:  "spiritus intus alit", "the spirit nourishes from within" (Aeneid, VI, 726).

The Christian knows well that this reference to the Spirit would be unacceptable if it meant a sort of "anima mundi" taken in a pantheistic sense. However, while excluding this error, it remains true that every form of life, activity and love refers in the last analysis to that Spirit who, as Genesis tells us, "was moving over the face of the waters" (Gn 1: 2) at the dawn of creation and in which Christians, in the light of the New Testament, see a reference to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, the biblical concept of creation "includes not only the call to existence of the very being of the cosmos, that is to say the giving of existence, but also the presence of the Spirit of God in creation, that is to say the beginning of God's salvific self-communication to the things he creates. This is true first of all concerning man, who has been created in the image and likeness of God" (Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 12).

Before the unfolding of cosmic revelation, we proclaim God's work in the words of the Psalmist:  "When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth" (Ps 104: 30)."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

I extend a special welcome to the Ecumenical Jubilee pilgrimage from the Diocese of Portsmouth, and to the large group of pilgrims from Hong Kong. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially from England, from Gozo in Malta and from the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones, notamment les coopérateurs de l’Œuvre de Sainte-Dorothée, venus du Cameroun, du Burundi, et du Congo démocratique, priant pour que l’Afrique toute entière retrouve la paix. À tous, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

Liebe Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache! Nützt die Zeit Eurer Ferien, um den dreifaltigen Gott in seinen Werken neu zu entdecken. Dabei wünsche ich Euch schöne und erholsame Tage. Gerne erteile ich Euch und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan oder das Fernsehen verbunden sind, den Apostolischen Segen.

Saúdo os peregrinos aqui presentes de língua portuguesa, em particular os grupos de visitantes vindos de Portugal e do Brasil; desejo a todos felicidades, paz e graça no Senhor! Grato pela vossa presença, desejo-vos todo o bem; e que Roma vos confirme na fé e nos propósitos de vida e de testemunho cristão. É o que imploro para todos, por Nossa Senhora, com a Bênção Apostólica.

  Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española, especialmente los grupos venidos de España, México, El Salvador y Chile. A todos deseo que la contemplación de las maravillas de la creación y su recto uso os ayude a descubrir la presencia providente de la Trinidad.

Saluto in lingua ungherese ai pellegrini ungheresi provenienti da Miskolc, Mórahalom, Vác e Tura(Arcidiocesi di Eger, diocesi di Szeged-Csongrád e Vác): 

Szeretettel köszöntöm a magyar zarándokokat Miskolc, Mórahalom, Tura és Vác helységekbôl. Isten hozott Benneteket! Megváltásunk Nagy Jubileumának méltó ünneplése legyen Számotokra égi kegyelmek forrása. Szeretettel adom Rátok apostoli áldásomat. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus! 

Versione italiana del saluto in lingua ungherese

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini ungheresi da Miskolc, Mórahalom, Tura e Vác.La celebrazione degna del Grande Giubileo sia per voi fonte di elette grazie celesti. 

Vi imparto di cuore la Benedizione Apostolica. 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua croata:

Draga braƒo i sestre, Jubilej, koji upravo slavimo, poziva nas da vjeru pretvaramo u djela …injeni…no se zalañuƒi na svim podru…jima osobnoga ñivota, ñivota obitelji, Crkve i društva. Plodovi ƒe našega zalaganja biti obilni ako dopustimo da nas u tome vodi Duh Sveti, koji u ljudskoj obitelji nastavlja ostvarivati velebna djela spasenja.

Srda…no pozdravljam sestre sluñavke maloga Isusa iz Sarajeva te hodo…asni…ke skupine iz Ogulina, Splita, ðrnovnice i Lasinje. Svima rado udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov.

Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Versione italiana del testo croato:

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, il Giubileo, che stiamo celebrando, ci invita a tradurre la fede in opere, impegnandoci concretamente in tutti i settori della vita personale, della famiglia, della Chiesa e della società. I frutti del nostro impegno saranno abbondanti se ci lasciamo guidare dallo Spirito Santo, che continua a compiere le meraviglie della salvezza nella famiglia umana.

Saluto cordialmente le Suore Ancelle del Bambin Gesù di Sarajevo, come pure i gruppi di pellegrini provenienti da Ogulin, Split, ðrnovnica e Lasinja. A tutti volentieri imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Saluto ai pellegrini slovacchi

S láskou vitam pútnikov zo Slovenska: z Nitry a Bratislavy, z Kysúc a Povañia.

Bratia a sestry, obdobie dovoleniek a prázdnin je vhodným …asom na obnovenie síl tela a ducha. Prajem vám dni telesného i duševného odpo…inku a odporú…am vám venovaÙ vä…ší priestor modlitbe a rodine.

K tomu rád udeµujem apostolské poñehnanie vám i všetkýim vašim drahým.

Pochválený bu‹ Jeñiš Kristus!

Versione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca:

Con affetto do il benvenuto ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Slovacchia: da Nitra e Bratislava, da Kysuce e Povañie.

Fratelli e Sorelle, il tempo delle vacanze e delle ferie è propizio per ritemperare le forze del corpo e dello spirito. Vi auguro giorni di riposo fisico e spirituale e vi invito a dedicare più spazio alla preghiera e alla famiglia.

Con questi auspici imparto volentieri la Benedizione Apostolica a voi e a tutti i vostri cari.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!


* * *

Saluto i pellegrini di lingua italiana. Anzitutto, i religiosi e le religiose presenti, in particolare, i partecipanti ai Capitoli Generali delle Congregazioni delle Suore Collegine della Sacra Famiglia, delle Missionarie Figlie del Calvario, delle Suore Domenicane di Santa Caterina da Siena e delle Suore di Gesù Redentore. Nell'invocare la benedizione di Dio sulle rispettive assemblee capitolari, auspico di cuore che questo nostro incontro sia per tutti di stimolo a seguire il Vangelo con rinnovato entusiasmo, sostenuti ed illuminati sempre dalla grazia del Signore.

Saluto, poi, i fedeli della diocesi di Patti che, guidati dal Vescovo, il caro Monsignor Ignazio Zambito, sono venuti per il loro pellegrinaggio giubilare. Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, grazie per la vostra visita. Questa sosta presso i luoghi sacri della Città eterna sia ricca di frutti spirituali e pastorali per voi e per l'intera comunità diocesana, alla quale invio un benedicente ed affettuoso pensiero augurale.

Mi rivolgo, infine, ai giovani, agli ammalati ed agli sposi novelli.

Cari giovani, impiegate il periodo estivo, che è tempo di viaggi, di visite culturali, di pellegrinaggi, di ritiri spirituali e di campi-scuola o di lavoro, come momenti preziosi di crescita umana e religiosa.

Cari ammalati, il Signore vi conceda conforto e sollievo, in questo periodo spesso più difficile per voi, e vi renda ancor più consapevoli della forza salvifica della sofferenza.

E voi, cari sposi novelli, profittate dell'estate per vivere intensamente la comunione familiare, dedicando più tempo alla preghiera e all'ascolto reciproco.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.



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