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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2000

XXXIII World Day of Peace
Theme: Peace on earth to those whom God loves!

St John Paul II's homily at 1st Vespers &
'Te Deum' of thanksgiving at end of year
Friday 31st December 1999 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4, 4).

What is "the fullness of time" of which the Apostle speaks? Experience teaches us that time passes relentlessly. All creatures are subject to the passage of time. Only man, however, is aware of his own passing in time. He realizes that his personal history is tied to the flow of days.

Aware of its own "passing", humanity writes its own history: the history of individuals, States and continents, the history of cultures and religions. Let us ask ourselves this evening: what, above all else, has marked the millennium now ending? How did the geography of countries, the situation of peoples and nations appear a thousand years ago? Who knew then of the existence of another great continent to the west of the Atlantic Ocean? The discovery of America, which gave rise to a new era in humanity's history, is certainly a distinctive element in evaluating the millennium now ending.

This last century has also been marked by profound and sometimes rapid upheavals, which have influenced culture and relations between peoples. Let it suffice to think of the two oppressive ideologies, responsible for countless victims, which have spent themselves in this century. What sufferings, what tragedies! But also what exalting achievements! These years, entrusted to humanity by the Creator, are marked by man's efforts, failures and triumphs (cf. Gaudium et spes, 2).

The greatest risk at this epochal turning point is perhaps that "many of our contemporaries are prevented by this complex situation from recognizing permanent values and duly applying them to recent discoveries" (Gaudium et spes, n. 4). This is a great challenge for us men and women on the point of entering the Year 2000.

2. "When the time had fully come!". The liturgy tells us of the "fullness of time" and enlightens us on the meaning of this "fullness". God chose to send his eternal Word into the history of the great human family, having him take on our human nature. It was through the sublime event of the Incarnation that human and cosmic time achieved true fullness: "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman ... that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4: 4-5). Here is the great mystery: the eternal Word of God, Verbum Patris, became present in the events that constitute man's history on earth. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, eternity entered time and human history was opened to a transcendent fulfilment in the absoluteness of God.

Thus to man is offered an inconceivable prospect: they can aspire to be sons of the Son, heirs with him to the same glorious destiny. The earthly pilgrimage is thus a journey that occurs in God's time. Its goal is God himself, the fullness of time in eternity.

3. In the eyes of faith, time assumes a religious meaning and even more so during the Jubilee Year which has just begun. Christ is the Lord of time. Every moment of human time is under the sign of the Redemption of the Lord, who, once and for all, entered the "fullness of time" (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 10). In this perspective let us thank God for all that has happened this year, this century and this millennium. In a special way, we give thanks for the continual progress in the spiritual world. Let us give thanks for the saints of this millennium: those raised to the honours of the altar and, even more numerous, those unknown to us who sanctified time by their faithful adherence to God's will. Let us also give thanks for all of humanity's triumphs and successes in the fields of science, technology, art and culture.

With regard to the Diocese of Rome, let us give thanks for the spiritual journey made in past years and, with a view to the Great Jubilee, for having completed the City Mission. I remember that evening of 22 May, the Vigil of Pentecost, when we prayed together to the Holy Spirit that in the new century this special pastoral experience would become a form and model for the Church's life and pastoral care in Rome and in all the other countries and cities of the world, at the service of the new evangelization.

As we give thanks to God, we feel the need at the same time to implore him to have mercy on the millennium which is ending. We ask forgiveness because unfortunately, technological and scientific discoveries, so important for genuine human progress, have frequently been used against man: Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri!

4. Two thousand years have passed since "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (Jn 1: 14). This is why the hymn of our praise and gratitude is unanimously raised: Te Deum laudamus.

We praise you, God of life and hope.

We praise you, Christ, King of glory, eternal Son of the Father.

Born of the Virgin Mother, you are our Redeemer, you became our brother for the salvation of man, and you will come in glory to judge the world at the end of time.

You, Christ, goal of human history, are the focal point of the expectations of every human being.

To you belong the years and the centuries. Yours is the time, O Christ, who are the same yesterday, today and for ever. Amen!"

Papa Juan Pablo II's homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, & the Opening of the Holy Door at Santa Maria Maggiore
Saturday 1 January 2000 - also in French, GermanItalian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4, 4).

Yesterday evening we paused to meditate on the meaning of Paul's words, taken from the Letter to the Galatians, and asked ourselves about the meaning of the "fullness of time" of which he speaks, in relation to the progress that marks man's way through history. The moment we are living is full of significance: at midnight the year 1999 entered the past, giving way to a new year. Here we are just a few hours into the Year 2000!

What does this mean for us? We are beginning to write a new page of history. Yesterday evening we looked back at the past, at how the world was when the second millennium began. Today, beginning the Year 2000, we cannot but wonder about the future: what direction will the great human family take in this new phase of its history?

2. Taking into account the start of a new year, today's liturgy expresses good wishes to all people of good will with these words: "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nm 6, 26).

May the Lord grant you peace! This is the Church's wish to all humanity on the first day of the new year, a day dedicated to the celebration of the World Day of Peace. In my Message for this Day I recalled some of the conditions and requirements for strengthening the peace process at the international level. This process is unfortunately always threatened, as we are reminded by the painful events that have marked the history of the 20th century on various occasions. This is why, more than ever, we must wish each other peace in God's name: may the Lord give you peace!

I am thinking at this moment of the prayer meeting for peace which gathered representatives of the world's main religions in Assisi, in October 1986. We were still in the period of the so-called "Cold War": together, we prayed to avert the great threat of a conflict which seemed to menace humanity. In a certain sense, we gave voice to everyone's prayer, and God heard his children's supplication. Even if we had to note the outbreak of dangerous local and regional conflicts, we were nonetheless spared the great world conflict which had loomed on the horizon. This is why, with greater awareness, we wish one another peace as we cross the threshold of the new century: may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you.

Year 2000 coming to meet us, may Christ grant you peace!

3. "The fullness of time"! St Paul says that this "fullness" was achieved when God "sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4: 4). Eight days after Christmas, today, the first day of the new year, we commemorate in a special way the "Woman" of whom the Apostle speaks, the Mother of God. In giving birth to the eternal Son of the Father, Mary contributed to achieving the fullness of time; she contributed uniquely to ensuring that human time would reach the measure of its fullness in the Incarnation of the Word.

On this most significant day, I have had the joy of opening the Holy Door in this venerable Liberian Basilica, the first one in the West to be dedicated to the Virgin Mother of Christ. A week after the solemn rite held in St Peter's Basilica, today it is as though the ecclesial communities of every nation and continent were gathering here in spirit, under the Mother's gaze, to cross the threshold of the Holy Door which is Christ.

It is, in fact, to her, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, that we wish to entrust the Holy Year just begun, to protect and encourage the journey of all who become pilgrims in this time of grace and mercy (cf. Incarnationis mysterium, n. 14).

4. The liturgy of today's solemnity has a profoundly Marian character, although this is rather soberly expressed in the biblical texts. The passage from the Evangelist Luke summarizes, as it were, what we heard on Christmas night. It says that the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the Child lying in the manger. After seeing him, they recounted what they had been told of him. And all were amazed at the shepherds' tale. "But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (2, 19).

It is worth reflecting on this sentence which expresses a wonderful aspect of Mary's motherhood. The entire liturgical year, in a certain sense, follows in the footsteps of this motherhood, beginning with the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, exactly nine months before Christmas. On the day of the Annunciation, Mary heard the Angel's words: "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.... The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1, 31-33, 35). And she answered: "Let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1, 38).

Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit. Like every mother, in her womb she carried that Son, whom she alone knew to be the Only-begotten Son of God. She gave birth to him in the night of Bethlehem. Thus began the earthly life of the Son of God and his mission of salvation in the world's history.

5. "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart".

How can we marvel that the Mother of God should remember all this in a special and indeed unique way? Every mother has a similar knowledge of the beginning of a new life within her. Every person's history is written first of all in his own mother's heart. It is no wonder that the same was true for the earthly life of the Son of God.

"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart".

Today, the first day of the new year, on the threshold of a new year, of this new millennium, the Church returns to this inner experience of the Mother of God. She does so not only by thinking back to the events of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, to the various stages, that is, of the Redeemer's earthly life, but also by considering all that his Life, Death and Resurrection have brought about in human history.

Mary was present with the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; she participated directly in the birth of the Church. Since then her motherhood accompanies the history of redeemed humanity, the journey of the great human family, for whom the work of Redemption is intended.

At the beginning of the Year 2000, as we move into the Jubilee season, we trust in your motherly "memory", O Mary! We set out on this special path of salvation history, which is kept alive in your heart as Mother of God. To you we entrust the days of the new year, the future of the Church, the future of humanity, the future of the entire universe.

Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Peace, watch over us.

Mary, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us.