Bookmark and Share

Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2008

New Year 2008 & 41st World Day of Peace
Theme: The Human Family, a Community of Peace

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily
at the Te Deum & 1st Vespers of the Solemnity
31 December 2007 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Also this year, at its close now, we are gathered in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. The liturgy makes this important Marian feast coincide with the end and the beginning of the solar year. Our hymn of gratitude for 2007 which is drawing to a close and for 2008 which we are already glimpsing is therefore combined with contemplation of the mystery of the divine motherhood. Time passes and its inexorable passing induces us to raise our gaze in deep gratitude to the One who is eternal, to the Lord of time. Let us thank Him together, dear brothers and sisters, on behalf of the entire diocesan community of Rome. I address my greeting to each one of you. In the first place, I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the auxiliary bishops, the priests and consecrated persons as well as all the lay faithful who are gathered here. I greet the Mayor and the authorities present, and I extend my thoughts to the entire population of Rome and in a special way to all those in conditions of difficulty and hardship. I assure them all of my cordial closeness, strengthened by constant remembrance in prayer.

In the short Reading from the Letter to the Galatians that we have just heard, speaking of the liberation of man brought about by God with the mystery of the Incarnation, St Paul very discreetly mentions the one through whom the Son of God entered the world: "when the time had fully come", he wrote, "God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4, 4). The Church contemplates in the "woman" the features of Mary of Nazareth, the singular woman because she was called to carry out a mission that brought her into very close contact with Christ: indeed, it was an absolutely unique relationship because Mary is Mother of the Saviour. Just as obviously, however, we can and must affirm that she is our Mother because, by living her very special maternal relationship with the Son, she shared in his mission for us and for the salvation of all people. In contemplating her, the Church makes out her own features: Mary lives faith and charity; Mary is also a creature saved by the one Saviour; Mary collaborates in the initiative of the salvation of all humanity. Thus, Mary constitutes for the Church her truest image: she in whom the ecclesial community must continually discover the authentic sense of its own vocation and its own mystery.

This short but intense Pauline passage then continues, showing how the fact that the Son assumed human nature unfolds the perspective of a radical change to the actual human condition. Paul says in it that "God sent forth his Son... to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4, 4-5). The Incarnate Word transforms human life from within, sharing with us his being as Son of the Father. He became like us in order for us to become like him: children of the Son, hence, people free from the law of sin. Is this not a fundamental reason to raise our thanksgiving to God? A thanksgiving which can only be even more motivated at the end of a year, considering the many benefits and his constant assistance that we have experienced over the period of the past 12 months. This is why every Christian community gathers together this evening and sings the Te Deum, a traditional hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity. This is what we shall also do at the end of this liturgical meeting of ours, before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

As we sing we will pray: "Te ergo, quæsumus, tuis famulis subveni, quos pretioso sanguine redemisti: Come then, Lord, and help your people, bought with the price of your own blood". This is our prayer this evening: Come with your mercy, Lord, to the aid of the inhabitants of our city in which, as elsewhere, serious needs and poverty weigh on the lives of people and families, preventing them from looking with trust to the future. Many, especially young people, are attracted by a false exaltation or rather by the profanation of the body and the trivialization of sexuality; so it is difficult to list the many challenges bound up with consumerism and secularism which call into question believers and people of good will. To say it in a word, in Rome one also notes that lack of hope and trust in life that constitutes the "obscure" evil of modern Western society.

But if the deficiencies are evident, there is no lack of light and reasons for hope on which to implore special divine blessings. Precisely in this perspective, in singing the Te Deum we shall pray: "Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuæ - Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance". O Lord, look upon and protect the diocesan community in particular, committed on the educational front to responding ever more vigorously to that great "educational emergency" of which I spoke last 11 June when I met the participants in the diocesan convention or, in other words, the increasing difficulty encountered in transmitting the basic values of life and upright conduct to the new generations (cf Address to the Diocese of Rome Convention, 11 June 2007). Let us calmly and with patient trust face this emergency first of all in the context of the family. Moreover, it is certainly comforting to note that the work undertaken in recent years by parishes, movements and associations for the pastoral care of the family is continuing to develop and bear fruit.

Also protect, Lord, the missionary initiatives which involve the world of youth: they are increasing and there are now an important number of young people who are assuming responsibility and the joy of proclamation and Gospel witness in the first person. In this context, how can we fail to thank God for the precious pastoral service offered to the world by the Roman universities? It would be appropriate to start something similar in schools, despite the numerous difficulties.

Bless, Lord, the many young men and adults who in recent decades have been ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rome. At the present time there are 28 deacons who are awaiting priestly ordination, scheduled for next April. Thus, the average age of the clergy is rejuvenated and it is also possible to respond to the increase in pastoral needs, such as going to the help of other dioceses. Especially in the suburbs, the need for new parish complexes is growing, and there are eight currently under construction, after I myself had the pleasure not long ago of consecrating the one most recently completed: the Parish of Santa Maria del Rosario ai Martiri Portuensi. It is lovely to be able to tangibly feel the joy and gratitude of the inhabitants of a neighbourhood as they enter their own new church for the first time.

"In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in æternum - Lord, show us your love and mercy; for we put our trust in you". The majestic hymn of the Te Deum ends with this cry of faith, of total trust in God, with this solemn proclamation of our hope. Christ is our "trustworthy" hope, and to this theme I dedicated my recent encyclical entitled Spe Salvi. But our hope is always essentially also hope for others, and only thus is it truly hope for each one of us (cf n 48). Dear brothers and sisters of the Church of Rome, let us ask the Lord to make each one of us authentic leaven of hope in our various milieus, so that it will be possible to build a better future for the whole city. This is my wish for everyone on the eve of a New Year, a wish that I entrust to the motherly intercession of Mary, Mother of God and Star of Hope. Amen!"

Benedetto's Homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Tuesday 1 January 2008 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we are beginning a new year and Christian hope takes us by the hand; let us begin it by invoking divine Blessings upon it and imploring, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, the gift of peace: for our families, for our cities, for the whole world. With this hope, I greet all of you present here, starting with the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who have gathered at this celebration on the occasion of the World Day of Peace. I greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and all members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am particularly grateful to them for their commitment to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace whose theme this year is: "The human family, a community of peace".

Peace. In the First Reading from the Book of Numbers we heard the invocation: "The Lord... give you peace" (6: 26); may the Lord grant peace to each one of you, to your families and to the whole world. We all aspire to live in peace but true peace, the peace proclaimed by the Angels on Christmas night, is not merely a human triumph or the fruit of political agreements; it is first and foremost a divine gift to be ceaselessly implored, and at the same time a commitment to be carried forward patiently, always remaining docile to the Lord's commands. This year, in my Message for today's World Day of Peace, I wanted to highlight the close relationship that exists between the family and building peace in the world. The natural family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, is "a "cradle of life and love'" and "the first and indispensable teacher of peace". For this very reason the family is "the primary "agency' of peace", and "the denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace" (cf. nn. 1-5). Since humanity is a "great family", if it wants to live in peace it cannot fail to draw inspiration from those values on which the family community is based and stands. The providential coincidence of various recurrences spur us this year to make an even greater effort to achieve peace in the world. Sixty years ago, in 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations published the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights"; 40 years ago my venerable Predecessor Paul VI celebrated the first World Day of Peace; this year, in addition, we will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the "Charter of the Rights of the Family". "In the light of these significant anniversaries" - I am repeating here what I wrote precisely at the end of the Message - "I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace" [n. 15].

Our thoughts now turn spontaneously to Our Lady, whom we invoke today as the Mother of God. It was Pope Paul VI who moved to 1 January the Feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, which was formerly celebrated on 11 October. Indeed, even before the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council, the memorial of the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth - as a sign of submission to the law, his official insertion in the Chosen People - used to be celebrated on the first day of the year and the Feast of the Name of Jesus was celebrated the following Sunday. We perceive a few traces of these celebrations in the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed, in which St Luke says that eight days after his birth the Child was circumcised and was given the name "Jesus", "the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in [his Mother's]... womb" (Lk 2: 21). Today's feast, therefore, as well as being a particularly significant Marian feast, also preserves a strongly Christological content because, we might say, before the Mother, it concerns the Son, Jesus, true God and true Man.

The Apostle Paul refers to the mystery of the divine motherhood of Mary, the Theotokos, in his Letter to the Galatians. "When the time had fully come", he writes, "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law" (4: 4). We find the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word and the Divine Motherhood of Mary summed up in a few words: the Virgin's great privilege is precisely to be Mother of the Son who is God. The most logical and proper place for this Marian feast is therefore eight days after Christmas. Indeed, in the night of Bethlehem, when "she gave birth to her first-born son" (Lk 2: 7), the prophesies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. "The virgin shall be with child and bear a son", Isaiah had foretold (7: 14); "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son", the Angel Gabriel said to Mary (Lk 1: 31); and again, an Angel of the Lord, the Evangelist Matthew recounts, appeared to Joseph in a dream to reassure him and said: "Do not fear to take Mary for your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son" (Mt 1: 20-21).

The title "Mother of God", together with the title "Blessed Virgin", is the oldest on which all the other titles with which Our Lady was venerated are based, and it continues to be invoked from generation to generation in the East and in the West. A multitude of hymns and a wealth of prayers of the Christian tradition refer to the mystery of her divine motherhood, such as, for example, a Marian antiphon of the Christmas season, Alma Redemptoris mater, with which we pray in these words: "Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem, Virgo prius ac posterius - You, in the wonder of all creation, have brought forth your Creator, Mother ever virgin". Dear brothers and sisters, let us today contemplate Mary, ever-virgin Mother of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father; let us learn from her to welcome the Child who was born for us in Bethlehem. If we recognize in the Child born of her the Eternal Son of God and accept him as our one Saviour, we can be called and we really are children of God: sons in the Son. The Apostle writes: "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4: 4).

The Evangelist Luke repeats several times that Our Lady meditated silently on these extraordinary events in which God had involved her. We also heard this in the short Gospel passage that the Liturgy presents to us today. "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2: 19).
The Greek verb used, sumbállousa, literally means "piecing together" and makes us think of a great mystery to be discovered little by little. Although the Child lying in a manger looks like all children in the world, at the same time he is totally different: he is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true man. This mystery - the Incarnation of the Word and the divine Motherhood of Mary - is great and certainly far from easy to understand with the human mind alone.

Yet, by learning from Mary, we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and minds do not manage to perceive or contain on their own. Indeed, this is such a great gift that only through faith are we granted to accept it, while not entirely understanding it. And it is precisely on this journey of faith that Mary comes to meet us as our support and guide. She is mother because she brought forth Jesus in the flesh; she is mother because she adhered totally to the Father's will. St Augustine wrote: "The divine motherhood would have been of no value to her had Christ not borne her in his heart, with a destiny more fortunate than the moment when she conceived him in the flesh" (De Sancta Virginitate, 3, 3). And in her heart Mary continued to treasure, to "piece together" the subsequent events of which she was to be a witness and protagonist, even to the death on the Cross and the Resurrection of her Son Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren. May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray, as we heard in the First Reading, that the Lord may "make his face to shine" upon us, "and be gracious" to us (cf. Nm 6: 24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!"

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus on 41st World Day of Peace
St Peter's Square, New Year's Day 2008 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have begun a new year and I hope that it may be serene and profitable for all. I entrust it to the heavenly protection of Mary, whom we invoke in today's liturgy with her most ancient and important title, that of Mother of God. With her "yes" to the Angel on the day of the Annunciation, the Virgin conceived in her womb, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Word, and on Christmas Night gave birth to him. At Bethlehem, in the fullness of time, Jesus was born of Mary; the Son of God was made man for our salvation, and the Virgin became the true Mother of God. This immense gift that Mary has received is not reserved to her alone, but is for us all. In her fruitful virginity, in fact, God has given "to men the goods of eternal salvation..., because by means of her we have received the Author of Life" (cf. Collect Prayer). Mary, therefore, after having given flesh to the Only-Begotten Son of God, became the mother of believers and of all humanity.

And it is precisely in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of humanity, that we have been celebrating for 40 years on the first day of the year the World Day of Peace. The theme I selected for this year's celebration is: "The human family, a community of peace". The same love that builds and unites the family, the vital cell of society, supports the construction between the peoples of the earth of those relationships of solidarity and collaboration that are suitable to members of the one human family. Vatican Council II recalls this when it affirms that "all people comprise a single community, and have a single origin.... One also is their final goal: God" (cf. Nostra Aetate, n. 1). A strict bond therefore exists between families, society and peace. "Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family", I note in the Message for this year's World Day of Peace, "undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary "agency' of peace" (n. 5). And then, "We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters" (n. 6). It is thus truly important that each one assumes the appropriate responsibilities before God and recognizes in him the original source of his own existence and that of others. From this knowledge flows a duty to make humanity into a true community of peace, based on a "common law..., one which would foster true freedom... and protect the weak from oppression by the strong" (n. 11).

May Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace, sustain the Church in her tireless work at the service of peace, and help the community of peoples, which celebrates in 2008 the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to travel a road of authentic solidarity and stable peace."

After the Angelus:

"Ringrazio cordialmente quanti mi hanno fatto pervenire espressioni augurali per il nuovo anno. In modo speciale sono riconoscente al Signor Presidente della Repubblica Italiana, che lo ha fatto ieri sera nel messaggio televisivo alla nazione. Ricambio ben volentieri il suo augurio, formulando ogni migliore auspicio per la sua alta missione e per la concordia e la prosperità dell’amato popolo italiano.

In occasione della Giornata Mondiale della Pace sono innumerevoli le iniziative promosse dalle Comunità ecclesiali in ogni continente. A tutti i promotori e i partecipanti giunga il mio apprezzamento, con l’incoraggiamento ad essere sempre e dovunque testimoni di pace e di riconciliazione. Saluto in particolare quanti hanno dato vita alla manifestazione denominata "Pace in tutte le terre", organizzata dalla Comunità di Sant’Egidio a Roma e in molte altre città del mondo.

À vous tous, chers pèlerins francophones, j’adresse mes salutations cordiales. Que la Vierge Marie soit votre guide chaque jour et que, comme elle, vous soyez disponibles à l’œuvre de l’Esprit Saint en vous. Priant pour que, tout au long des jours, le Seigneur vous accorde, ainsi qu’à vos familles, la paix et l’espérance, je vous souhaite une heureuse et sainte année. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique.

I greet all the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer on New Year’s Day. On this, the Octave of Christmas, the Church honours Mary, the ever-virgin Mother of God, whose complete openness to God’s saving plan bore fruit in the birth of the Prince of Peace. May the peace proclaimed by the angels at Bethlehem take ever deeper root in men’s hearts, and inspire the whole human family to live in harmony, justice and fraternal solidarity. To you and your families I offer cordial good wishes for a happy New Year!

Einen frohen Neujahrsgruß richte ich an alle deutschsprachigen Brüder und Schwestern. Unter ihnen grüße ich besonders die Sternsinger aus Deutschland und ihre Begleiter, die in diesen Tagen die 50. Aktion Dreikönigssingen des Kindermissionswerkes durchführen. Gott ist Mensch geworden, um durch sein Licht und seine Liebe unser Leben hell zu machen. Im Licht seines Angesichts wollen wir in diesem neuen Jahr unseren Weg gehen. Dabei schauen wir vertrauensvoll auf Maria, die uns Jesus Christus, den Urheber des Lebens, geboren hat und so zur Mutter des Heils für uns alle geworden ist. Von ganzem Herzen erbitte ich euch allen Gottes Segen für ein gutes und friedliches Neues Jahr.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española aquí presentes y a cuantos se unen al rezo del Angelus a través de la radio y la televisión. Al comenzar este nuevo año os expreso mis mejores deseos de paz, que tiene en la familia un fundamento insustituible. Confiemos este anhelado don a la intercesión de María, Madre de Dios y Madre de todos.¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

A todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, uma cordial saudação com votos de feliz Ano Novo, cheio das bênçãos do Céu que Jesus Cristo nos trouxe e oferece a todos!

Pozdrawiam wszystkich Polaków. Patronce dnia dzisiejszego Maryi Matce Bożej zawierzam rozpoczynający się rok. Niech będzie szczęśliwy i obfituje w łaski. Serdecznie wam błogosławię.

Saluto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare gli aderenti al Movimento dell’amore familiare, che questa notte hanno vegliato in Piazza San Pietro pregando per le famiglie e per la grande Famiglia della Chiesa; come pure i giovani Orionini, venuti dall’Italia e da altri Paesi europei per un Capodanno all’insegna dell’amicizia e dell’impegno. Saluto inoltre il Centro Sportivo Italiano e benedico volentieri la "Fiaccola della Pace", che un maratoneta recherà in Terra Santa. Estendo il mio pensiero al circolo culturale "Gente con l’anima", di Chioggia, e a tutti i presenti, augurando abbondanza di pace e di bene. Buon anno!"


© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana