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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2007

New Year 2007 - 40th World Day of Peace
Theme: The Human Person, the Heart of Peace

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily
at the Te Deum & 1st Vespers of the Solemnity
31 December 2006 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Authorities, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are gathered in the Vatican Basilica to give thanks to the Lord at the end of the year and to sing the Te Deum together. I cordially thank all of you for wishing to join me on such an important occasion. In the first place, I greet the Cardinals, my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the men and women Religious, the consecrated persons and all the lay faithful who represent the entire Ecclesial Community of Rome. In particular I greet the Mayor of Rome and the other Authorities present. On this evening of 31 December, two different perspectives intersect: one is linked to the end of the civil year, the other to the liturgical Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, which concludes the Octave of Holy Christmas. The first event is common to all, the second concerns believers. Their intersection confers a special character upon this evening celebration, in a particular spiritual atmosphere that is conducive to reflection.

The first, most evocative, theme is linked to the dimension of time. In the last hours of every solar year we participate in some worldly "rites" which in the contemporary context are mainly marked by amusement and often lived as an evasion from reality, as it were, to exorcise the negative aspects and propitiate improbable good luck. How different the attitude of the Christian Community must be! The Church is called to live these hours, making the Virgin Mary's sentiments her own. With her, the Church is invited to keep her gaze fixed on the Infant Jesus, the new Sun rising on the horizon of humanity and, comforted by his light, to take care to present to him "the joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted" (Gaudium et Spes, n. 1).

Consequently, two different evaluations of the dimension of "time" confront each other, one quantitative and the other qualitative. On the one hand, the solar cycle with its rhythms; on the other, what St Paul called the "fullness of time" (cf. Gal 4: 4), that is, the culminating moment of the history of the universe and of the human race when the Son of God was born in the world. The time of the promises was fulfilled and, when Mary's pregnancy reached its term, "the earth", a Psalm says, "yielded its increase" (Ps 67[66]: [7]6) The coming of the Messiah, foretold by the Prophets, is qualitatively the most important event of all history, on which it confers its ultimate and full meaning. It is not historical and political coordinates that condition God's choice, but on the contrary, the event of the Incarnation that "fills" history with value and meaning. We, who come 2,000 years after that event, can affirm this, so to speak, also a posteriori, after having known the whole life of Jesus, until his death and Resurrection. We are witnesses at the same time of his glory and his humility, of the immense value of his coming and of God's infinite respect for us human beings and for our history. He did not fill time by pouring himself into it from on high, but "from within", making himself a tiny seed to lead humanity to its full maturation. God's style required a long period of preparation to reach from Abraham to Jesus Christ, and after the Messiah's coming, history did not end but continued its course, apparently the same but in reality visited by God and oriented to the Lord's second and definitive Coming at the end of time. We might say that Mary's Motherhood is a real symbol and sacrament of all this, an event at the same time human and divine.

In the passage from the Letter to the Galatians that we have just heard, St Paul said: "God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4: 4). Origen commented: "Note well that he did not say, "born by means of a woman' but "born of a woman'" (Comment on the Letter to the Galatians, PG 14, 1298). This acute observation of the great exegete and ecclesiastical writer is important: in fact, if the Son of God had been born only "by means of" a woman, he would not truly have taken on our humanity, something which instead he did by taking flesh "of" Mary. Mary's motherhood, therefore, is true and fully human. The fundamental truth about Jesus as a divine Person who fully assumed our human nature is condensed in the phrase: "God sent forth his Son born of woman". He is the Son of God, he is generated by God and at the same time he is the son of a woman, Mary. He comes from her. He is of God and of Mary. For this reason one can and must call the Mother of Jesus the Mother of God. This title, rendered in Greek as Theotokos, probably appeared for the first time in the very region of Alexandria, Egypt, precisely where Origen lived in the first half of the third century. However, she was dogmatically defined as such only two centuries later, in 431 by the Council of Ephesus, a city to which I had the joy of going on pilgrimage a month ago during my Apostolic Visit to Turkey. Indeed, thinking back to that unforgettable Visit, how could I fail to express all my filial gratitude to the Holy Mother of God for the special protection which she granted to me in those days of grace?

Theotokos, Mother of God: every time we recite the Hail Mary we address the Virgin with this title, imploring her to pray "for us sinners". At the end of a year, we feel a special need to call on the motherly intercession of Mary Most Holy for the city of Rome, for Italy, for Europe and for the whole world. Let us entrust to Mary, who is the Mother of Mercy incarnate, particularly those situations to which the Lord's grace alone can bring peace, comfort and justice. The Virgin heard the Angel announcing her divine Motherhood say to her: "With God nothing will be impossible" (Lk 1: 37). Mary believed and for this reason she is blessed (cf. Lk 1: 45). What is impossible to man becomes possible to the one who believes (cf. Mk 9: 23). Thus, as 2006 draws to a close and the dawn of 2007 can already be glimpsed, let us ask the Mother of God to obtain for us the gift of a mature faith: a faith that we would like to resemble hers as far as possible, a clear, genuine, humble and at the same time courageous faith, steeped in hope and enthusiasm for the Kingdom of God, a faith devoid of all fatalism and wholly set on cooperating with the divine will in full and joyful obedience and with the absolute certainty that God wants nothing but love and life, always and for everyone.

Obtain for us, O Mary, an authentic, pure faith. May you always be thanked and blessed, Holy Mother of God! Amen!"

Benedetto's Homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Monday 1 January 2007 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As in a mosaic, today's liturgy contemplates different events and messianic situations, but attention is especially focused on Mary, Mother of God. Eight days after Jesus' birth, we commemorate the Mother, the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to the Child who is King of Heaven and earth for ever. The liturgy today meditates on the Word made man and repeats that he is born of the Virgin. It reflects on the circumcision of Jesus as a rite of admission to the community and contemplates God who, by means of Mary, gave his Only-Begotten Son to lead the "new people". It recalls the name given to the Messiah and listens to it spoken with tender sweetness by his Mother. It invokes peace for the world, Christ's peace, and does so through Mary, Mediatrix and Cooperator of Christ.

We are beginning a new solar year which is a further period of time offered to us by divine Providence in the context of the salvation inaugurated by Christ. But did not the eternal Word enter time precisely through Mary? In the second reading we have just listened to, the Apostle Paul recalls this by saying that Jesus was born "of woman" (Gal 4: 4). In today's liturgy the figure of Mary, true Mother of Jesus, God-man, stands out. Thus, today's Solemnity is not celebrating an abstract idea but a mystery and an historic event: Jesus Christ, a divine Person, is born of the Virgin Mary who is his Mother in the truest sense.

Today too, Mary's virginity is highlighted, in addition to her motherhood. These are two prerogatives that are always proclaimed together, inseparably, because they complement and qualify each other. Mary is Mother, but a Virgin Mother; Mary is a virgin, but a Mother Virgin. If either of these aspects is ignored, the mystery of Mary as the Gospels present her to us, cannot be properly understood. As Mother of Christ, Mary is also Mother of the Church, which my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI chose to proclaim on 21 November 1964 at the Second Vatican Council. Lastly, Mary is the Spiritual Mother of all humanity, because Jesus on the Cross shed his blood for all of us and from the Cross he entrusted us all to her maternal care.

Let us begin this new year, therefore, by looking at Mary whom we received from God's hands as a precious "talent" to be made fruitful, a providential opportunity to contribute to bringing about the Kingdom of God. In this atmosphere of prayer and gratitude to the Lord for the gift of a new year, I am pleased to address my respectful thoughts to the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See .. For this World Day of Peace, I addressed the customary Message to the Governors and Leaders of Nations, as well as to all men and women of good will. Its theme this year is: The human person, the heart of peace.

I am deeply convinced that "respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism." This commitment is especially incumbent on every Christian who is called "to be committed to tireless peace-making and strenuous defence of the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights." Precisely because he is created in the image and likeness of God, every human individual without distinction of race, culture or religion, as a person is clothed in God's same dignity. For this reason he should be respected, nor can any reason ever justify an arbitrary use of him, as if he were an object. In the face of the threats to peace that are unfortunately ever present, the situations of injustice and violence that persist in various areas of the earth and the continuing armed conflicts often overlooked by the majority of public opinion, as well as the danger of terrorism that clouds the serenity of peoples, it is becoming more necessary than ever to work for peace together. This, as I recalled in my message, is "both gift and task": a gift to implore with prayer and a task to be carried out with courage, never tiring.

The Gospel narrative we have heard portrays the scene of the shepherds of Bethlehem, who after hearing the angel's announcement go to the grotto to worship the Child. Should we not look again at the dramatic situation marking the very Land in which Jesus was born? How can we not entreat God with insistent prayers for the day of peace to arrive as soon as possible in that region too, the day on which the current conflict that has lasted far too long will be resolved? If a peace agreement is to endure, it must be based on respect for the dignity and rights of every person. I express to the representatives of the nations present here my hope that the International Community will muster its forces so that a world may be built in God's Name in which the essential human rights are respected by all. For this to happen, people must recognize that these rights are not only based on human agreements but "on man's very nature and his inalienable dignity as a person created by God."  Indeed, were the constitutive elements of human dignity entrusted to changeable human opinions, even solemnly proclaimed human rights would end by being weakened and variously interpreted. "Consequently, it is important for international agencies not to lose sight of the natural foundation of human rights. This would enable them to avoid the risk, unfortunately ever-present, of sliding towards a merely positivistic interpretation of those rights."

"The Lord bless you and keep you... lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nm 6: 24, 26). This is the formula of the Blessing we heard in the first reading, taken from the Book of Numbers. The Lord's Name is repeated in it three times. This gives one an idea of the intensity and power of the Blessing, whose last word is "peace". The biblical term shalom, which we translate as "peace", implies that accumulation of good things in which consists the "salvation" brought by Christ, the Messiah announced by the Prophets. We Christians therefore recognize him as the Prince of Peace. He became a man and was born in a grotto in Bethlehem to bring peace to people of good will, to all who welcome him with faith and love. Thus, peace is truly the gift and commitment of Christmas: the gift that must be accepted with humble docility and constantly invoked with prayerful trust, the task that makes every person of good will a "channel of peace".

Let us ask Mary, Mother of God, to help us to welcome her Son and, in him, true peace. Let us ask her to sharpen our perception so that we may recognize in the face of every human person, the Face of Christ, the heart of peace!"

BXVI - 1st January 2007 - © Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus on 40th World Day of Peace
St Peter's Square, New Year's Day 2007 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the beginning of the New Year I am happy to greet all of you present here in St Peter's Square, and to those who are joined with us by radio and television, the most cordial wishes of peace and goodness. Congratulations to all of you: peace and goodness! May the light of Christ, the Sun that appeared on the horizon of humanity, illuminate your way and accompany you throughout the whole of 2007!

With fortunate intuition, my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, wished the year to open under the protection of Mary Most Holy, venerated as the Mother of God. The Christian community, which in these days has remained in prayerful adoration before the crib, looks with particular love to the Virgin Mary, identifying itself with her while contemplating the newborn Baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Like Mary, the Church also remains in silence in order to welcome and keep the interior resonances of the Word made flesh and in order not to lose the divine-human warmth that radiates from his presence. The Church, like the Virgin, does none other than show Jesus, the Saviour, to everyone, and reflects to each one the light of his face, the splendour of goodness and truth.

Today, we contemplate Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, in his prerogative of true "Prince of Peace" (Is 9: 6). He "is our peace", come to break down the "wall of separation" that divides humanity and peoples, which is "enmity" (Eph 2: 14). For this reason, Paul VI, of venerable memory, also wanted 1 January to become the World Day of Peace: so that each new year begins in the light of Christ, the great peacemaker of humanity.  Today, I renew my wish for peace to those governing and leading the nations and international organizations and to all men and women of good will. I do this particularly with the special Message that I have prepared, together with my collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and whose theme this year is: "The human person, heart of peace". It touches on an essential point, the value of the human person, which is the supporting column of the entire, great edifice of peace. Today, much is spoken of human rights, but it is often forgotten that they need a stable, not relative, not optional, foundation. And this can be none other than the dignity of the human person. Respect for this dignity begins with the recognition and protection of the person's right to life and to freely profess his or her own religion.

To the Holy Mother of God we confidently address our prayer, so that sacred respect for each human person and the firm refusal of war and violence may develop in consciences. Mary, you who have given Jesus to the world, help us to welcome his gift of peace and to be sincere and courageous builders of peace."

After the Angelus:

"Desidero anzitutto ricambiare le espressioni augurali che mi ha rivolto ieri sera il Presidente della Repubblica Italiana nel suo messaggio di fine anno. Per lui, per tutte le autorità civili e per l’intero popolo italiano assicuro il mio speciale ricordo nella preghiera.

Voglio poi manifestare la mia spirituale vicinanza alle molteplici iniziative promosse dalle Diocesi e da parrocchie, associazioni e movimenti in occasione della Giornata Mondiale della Pace. In particolare, ricordo quella della Conferenza Episcopale Italiana svoltasi ieri a Norcia alla luce del messaggio di san Benedetto. In questo contesto sono lieto di salutare i partecipanti alla marcia intitolata "Pace in tutte le terre", organizzata dalla Comunità di sant’Egidio qui a Roma e in altre città del mondo. Grazie, auguri! Spero che il Signore ci aiuti, ci dia la pace!

Aux pèlerins francophones réunis ce matin pour la prière de l’Angelus, j’adresse mes cordiales salutations. Puisse la nouvelle année vous inviter à ouvrir toujours davantage votre cœur au Christ Sauveur, à l’exemple de la Vierge Marie, Mère de Dieu, pour le servir généreusement dans vos frères. Heureuse et sainte année à tous!

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present for this Angelus on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Today we recall the wonderful mystery that through blessed Mary, virgin and mother, God has become man! Filled with awe, knowing that the world has been given a Saviour, we give thanks to God. Today is also the World Day of Peace. May Mary show us, in her Son, the way of peace, and enlighten our vision so that we may recognize Christ’s face in the face of every human person. Upon all of you, your families and communities I invoke God’s abundant blessings of comfort and joy. Happy New Year!

Herzlich heiße ich alle deutschsprachigen Besucher am Neujahrstag hier auf dem Petersplatz willkommen. Der Apostel Paulus stellt uns Jesus Christus, den Sohn Gottes, als „geboren von einer Frau und dem Gesetz unterstellt" (Gal 4, 4) vor Augen. Bitten wir den menschgewordenen Erlöser, uns an allen Tagen dieses neuen Jahres zu begleiten und zu führen, auf daß wir stets Wege des Friedens und der Verständigung gehen und die Menschenfreundlichkeit Gottes in der Welt aufscheinen lassen. Euch allen wünsche ich von Herzen ein gutes und gesegnetes Neues Jahr!

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española aquí presentes y a cuantos participan en el rezo del Angelus a través de la radio y la televisión. Que María nos enseñe en su Hijo el camino de la paz, e ilumine nuestros ojos para que sepan reconocer su Rostro en el rostro de cada persona humana, donde reside el corazón de la paz. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Serdecznie pozdrawiam Polaków. Wam tu obecnym, waszym rodakom w kraju i za granicą, składam najlepsze życzenia dobrego i owocnego Nowego Roku. Proszę Bożą Matkę, Królową Pokoju, by otaczała was swoją opieką. Trwajcie mocni w wierze! Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare i Giovani Orionini partecipanti al "Capodanno Alternativo" e il Movimento dell’Amore Familiare, che hanno vegliato questa notte in Piazza San Pietro pregando per la pace e l’unità in tutte le famiglie del mondo; come pure i giovani radunati dalle Suore di Sant’Anna, fondate proprio da due coniugi, i Servi di Dio Carlo Tancredi e Giulia di Barolo. Saluto inoltre gli amici e i volontari della Fraterna Domus. A tutti auguro di vivere il nuovo anno nella grazia e nella pace del Signore. In questo senso, felice anno nuovo a voi tutti!"


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