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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily
at the Te Deum & 1st Vespers of the Solemnity
31 December 2010 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of a year we meet this evening in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God and to raise a hymn of thanksgiving for the innumerable graces she has given us, but also and above all for Grace in person, namely for the living and personal Gift of the Father which is his beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is this gratitude for the gifts received from God in the time we are granted to live that helps us to discover a great value inscribed in time: marked in its annual, monthly, weekly and daily seasons, it is inhabited by the love of God, by his gifts of grace; it is the time of salvation. Yes, eternal God has entered and remains in human time. He has entered and remains in it with the Person of Jesus, the Son of God made man, the Saviour of the world. It is of this that the Apostle Paul has reminded us in the brief Reading just proclaimed: “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son… so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4, 4-5).

Thus the Eternal enters time and renews it from the roots, freeing man from sin and making him a son of God. Already “in the beginning”, that is, with the creation of the world and of man in the world, the eternity of God caused time, in which human history takes place, from generation to generation, to unfold. With the coming of Christ and with his redemption, we are now in the time that has “fully come”. As St Paul points out, with Jesus time fully comes, it reaches fulfilment, acquiring that meaning of salvation and grace for which it was desired by God before the creation of the world. Christmas reminds us of this “fullness” of time, in other words of the renewing salvation which Jesus brought to all mankind. It reminds us of it and, mysteriously but really, gives it to us ever anew. Our human time is full of evil, of suffering, every kind of tragedy — from those caused by the wickedness of human beings to those that derive from inauspicious natural events, — but henceforth and in a definitive and indelible manner it contains the joyful and liberating newness of Christ the Saviour. Precisely in the Child of Bethlehem we can contemplate in a particularly luminous and eloquent way the encounter of eternity with time, as the Church’s Liturgy likes to express it. Christmas makes us rediscover God in the humble, frail flesh of a Child. Is this not perhaps an invitation to rediscover God’s presence and his love which gives salvation even in the brief and stressful hours of our daily life? Is it not perhaps an invitation to discover that our human time — even in difficult and demanding moments — is ceaselessly enriched by the Lord’s grace, indeed by Grace, which is the Lord himself?

At the end of this year 2010, before consigning the days and hours to God and to his just and merciful judgement, I feel the need in my heart to raise our “thank you” to Him for his love for us. In this atmosphere of gratitude, I would like to address a special greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, to the Auxiliary Bishops, to the priests, to the consecrated people, as well as to the many lay faithful who are gathered here. I greet the Lord Mayor and the Authorities present. A special remembrance goes to all those who are in difficulty and are spending these feast days in hardship and suffering. I assure each and every one of my affectionate thoughts, which I accompany with prayer.

Dear brothers and sisters, our Church of Rome is committed to helping all the baptized to live faithfully the vocation they have received and to witness to the beauty of faith. In order to be authentic disciples of Christ, an essential aid comes to us in the daily meditation of the word of God which “is the basis”, as I wrote in my recent Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini “of all authentic Christian spirituality” (n 86). For this reason I wish to encourage everyone to cultivate an intense relationship with it, in particular through the lectio divina, in order to have that light we need to discern the signs of God in the present time and to proclaim the Gospel effectively. In Rome too, in fact, there is an ever greater need for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel so that the hearts of our city’s inhabitants may be opened to the encounter with that Child, who was born for us, with Christ, Redeemer of man. For, as the Apostle Paul recalls: “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10, 17), a useful help in this evangelizing action can come — as was previously experienced during the City Mission in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 — from “Centres for listening to the Gospel”, whose refoundation or revitalization I encourage, not only in condominiums but also in hospitals, in work places and in those where the new generations are formed and where culture is elaborated. Indeed, the Word of God became flesh for all and his truth is accessible to every human being and to every culture. I learned with appreciation of the most recent commitment of the Vicariate in organizing the “Dialogues in the Cathedral”, which have been held in the Basilica of St John Lateran. These important meetings express the Church’s desire to encounter all those who are in search of answers to the deep questioning of human existence.

The privileged place for listening to the Word of God is the celebration of the Eucharist. The Diocesan Convention last June, in which I took part, wanted to highlight the centrality of Holy Mass on Sundays in the life of every Christian community and offered guidelines so that the beauty of the divine mysteries might be more resplendent in the celebrative act and in the spiritual fruits that derive from it. I encourage parish priests and priests to put into practice what was pointed out in the pastoral programme: the formation of a liturgical group to animate the celebration and a catechesis that helps everyone to become better acquainted with the Eucharistic Mystery from which flows the witness of charity. Nourished by Christ, we too are attracted by the very act of total giving that impelled the Lord to give his life itself, revealing in this way the immense love of the Father. The witness of charity therefore possesses an essential theological dimension and is profoundly united with the proclamation of the word. At this celebration of thanksgiving to God for the gifts received during the year, I remember in particular the visit I made to the Caritas Hostel at Termini Station, where, through the service and generous dedication of numerous volunteers, so many men and women can tangibly feel God’s love. The present time is still giving rise to anxiety about the precarious plight of many families and asks the entire diocesan community to be close to those who are living in conditions of poverty and hardship. May God, infinite Love, enflame the heart of each one of us with that love which impelled him to give us his Only-Begotten Son.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are asked to look to the future and to look to it with that hope which is the last word of the “Te Deum”: “In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum! — O Lord, in you have I trusted, let me never be confounded”. It is always Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, who gives us Christ our Hope. May her arms, and especially her heart, continue to offer to the world Jesus, her Son and our Saviour, as they did to the shepherds and to the Magi. In Him is all our hope, because from Him salvation and peace have come for every man. Amen."

Benedetto XVI's Homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Sunday 1 January 2011 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Still immersed in the spiritual atmosphere of Christmas, in which we have contemplated the mystery of Christ’s birth, today we are celebrating the Virgin Mary, whom the Church venerates as Mother of God with the same sentiments since she gave flesh to the Son of the Eternal Father. The biblical readings of this solemnity put the emphasis mainly on the Son of God made man and on the “Name” of the Lord. The first reading presents to us the solemn blessing that the priests pronounced over the Israelites on the great religious feasts: it is marked, precisely, by the Name of the Lord, repeated three times, as if to express the fullness and power that derive from this invocation. This text of liturgical blessing, in fact, calls to mind the riches of grace and peace that God gives to man, with a benevolent attitude to him, and which is expressed by the “shining” of the divine face and his “turning” it to us.

Today the Church listens once again to these words, while she asks the Lord to bless the New Year that has just begun, in the awareness that in the face of the tragic events that mark history, in the face of the logistics of war that unfortunately have not yet been fully overcome, God alone can move the human spirit in its depths and assure hope and peace to humanity. By now it is a firm tradition, on the first day of the year, that the Church throughout the world raises a unanimous prayer to invoke peace. It is good to begin a new stretch of the journey by setting out with determination on the path of peace. Today let us respond to the cry of so many men, women, children and elderly people who are the victims of war, which is the most appalling and violent face of history. Let us pray today that peace, which the angels announced to the shepherds on Christmas night, may reach everywhere: “super terram pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis” (Lk 2, 14). For this reason, especially with our prayers, we wish to help every person and every people, in particular all those who have the responsibility of government, to walk with ever greater determination on the path of peace.

In the second reading St Paul sums up in the adoption as sons the work of salvation brought about by Christ in which the figure of Mary is honoured. Thanks to her the Son of God, “born of woman” (Gal 4, 4), was able to come into the world as a real man, in the fullness of time. This fulfilment, this fullness, concerns the past and the messianic expectations, which were brought about, but at the same time also refers to fullness in the absolute sense: in the Word made flesh, God said his ultimate and definitive Word. Thus on the threshold of a new year, the invitation to walk joyfully towards the light of the “day that shall dawn... from on high” (Lk 1, 78) resounds in this way, because in the Christian perspective all time is inhabited by God, there is no future that is not oriented to Christ and no fullness exists outside that of Christ.

Today’s Gospel passage ends with the imposition of the Name of Jesus, while Mary participates in silence, meditating in her heart upon the mystery of this Son of hers who in a completely unique way is a gift of God. But the Gospel passage we have heard particularly highlights the shepherds who returned “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Lk 2, 20). The Angel had announced to them that in the city of David, that is, Bethlehem, the Saviour was born and that they would find the sign: a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Having left in haste, they had found Mary and Joseph and the Child. Let us note that the Evangelist speaks of Mary’s motherhood starting with the Son, with that “babe wrapped in swaddling clothes”, because it is He — the Word of God (Jn 1, 14) — who is the reference point, the centre of the event that is being brought about, and it is He who ensures that Mary’s motherhood is described as “divine”.

This prevalent attention that today’s readings pay to the “Son”, to Jesus, does not lessen the Mother’s role, on the contrary, it puts it in the right perspective: Mary, in fact, is the true Mother of God precisely by virtue of her total relationship to Christ. Therefore, in glorifying the Son one honours the Mother and in honouring the Mother one glorifies the Son. The title of “Mother of God”, which the Liturgy highlights today, stresses the unique mission of the Blessed Virgin in the history of salvation: a mission that is at the root of the worship and devotion which the Christian people reserve for her. Indeed, Mary did not receive God’s gift for herself alone, but in order to bring him into the world: in her fruitful virginity, God gave men and women the gifts of eternal salvation. And Mary continually offers her mediation to the People of God, on pilgrimage through history towards eternity, just as she once offered it to the shepherds of Bethlehem. She, who gave earthly life to the Son of God, continues to give men divine life, which is Jesus himself and his Holy Spirit. For this reason she is considered the Mother of every man who is born to grace and at the same time is invoked as Mother of the Church.

It is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of men, that since 1 January 1968 the World Day of Peace has been celebrated throughout the world. Peace is a gift of God, as we heard in the first reading: May “the Lord… give you peace” (Nm 6, 26). It is a messianic gift par excellence, the first fruit of the love that Jesus gave us, it is our reconciliation and pacification with God. Peace is also a human value to be achieved at the social and political levels, but it is rooted in the mystery of Christ. In this solemn celebration, on the occasion of the 44th World Day of Peace, I am glad to address my respectful greeting to the distinguished ambassadors to the Holy See, with my best wishes for their mission. Then a cordial brotherly greeting goes to my Secretary of State and to the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, with a special thought for the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and for his collaborators. I would like to express to them my deep gratitude for their daily commitment to promote peaceful coexistence among the peoples and arouse an ever deeper awareness of peace in the Church and in the world. In this perspective, the ecclesial community is ever more committed to working, in accordance with the instructions of the Magisterium, to provide a reliable spiritual patrimony of values and principles in the continuous quest for peace.

I wished to recall in my Message for today’s Day, entitled “Religious freedom, the path to peace”: “The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels”. I therefore stressed that “religious freedom… is an essential element of a constitutional State; it cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone”.

Humanity cannot appear to be resigned to the negative power of selfishness and violence; it must not become accustomed to conflicts that claim victims and jeopardize the future of peoples. Before the threatening tensions of the moment and, especially, before the discrimination, abuse and religious intolerance that today are striking Christians in particular, I once again address a pressing invitation not to give in to discouragement and resignation. I urge everyone to pray so that the efforts made by various parties to promote and build peace in the world may be successful. For this difficult task words do not suffice; what is needed is the practical and constant effort of the leaders of nations, and it is necessary above all that every person be motivated by the authentic spirit of peace, to be implored ever anew in prayer and to be lived in daily relations in every environment.

In this Eucharistic celebration we have before our eyes, for our veneration, the image of Our Lady of the Sacro Monte di Viggiano, so dear to the peoples of Basilicata. May the Virgin Mary give us her Son, may she show us the Face of her Son, the Prince of Peace. May she help us to remain in the light of this face that shines upon us, in order to rediscover all the tenderness of God the Father; may it be she who supports us in invoking the Holy Spirit, so that he will renew the face of the earth and transform hearts, dissolving their hardness in the face of the disarming goodness of the Child who was born for us. May the Mother of God accompany us in this New Year; may she obtain for us and for the whole world the desired gift of peace. Amen."

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus on 45th World Day of Peace
St Peter's Square, New Year's Day 2011 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this first Angelus of 2011, I offer everyone my good wishes for peace and well-being as I entrust them to Mary Most Holy, whom we celebrate today as Mother of God. At the beginning of a new year the Christian people gathers in spirit at the Grotto in Bethlehem, where the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. We ask the Mother for her blessing and she blesses us by showing us the Son: indeed, He in person is the Blessing. In giving us Jesus, God has given us everything: his love, his life, the light of truth, the forgiveness of sins; he has given us peace. Yes, Jesus Christ is our peace (cf Eph 2, 14). He brought into the world the seed of love and peace, that is stronger than the seed of hatred and violence; stronger, because the Name of Jesus is superior to any other name, it contains the whole Lordship of God, as the Prophet Micah announced: “But you, O Bethlehem... from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler.... He shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.... And this shall be peace” (5, 1-4).

This is why on this day, in front of the icon of the Virgin Mother, the Church invokes from God, through Jesus Christ, the gift of peace: the World Day of Peace is a favourable opportunity to reflect together on the great challenges our epoch confronts humanity with. One such is religious freedom, dramatically urgent in our day. For this reason, this year I have chosen to dedicate my Message to the theme: “Religious freedom, the path to peace”. Today we are witnessing two opposing trends, two extremes, both negative: on the one hand, secularism which marginalizes religion in order to confine it to the private sphere; and on the other, fundamentalism which, on the contrary, would like to impose it upon everyone by force. In reality, “God calls to himself humanity with a loving plan that, while engaging the whole person in his natural and spiritual dimensions, calls for a free and responsible answer which engages the whole heart and being, individual and communitarian” (Message for the World Day of Peace 2011, 8). Wherever religious freedom is effectively acknowledged the dignity of the human person is respected at its root, and through a sincere search for the true and the good, the moral conscience and the institutions and civil coexistence themselves are strengthened (cf ibid, 5). Religious freedom is therefore a privileged path for building peace.
Dear friends, let us once again turn our gaze to Jesus in the arms of Mary, his Mother. In looking at the One who is the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9, 6), we understand that peace is not obtained with weapons nor with the power of economics, politics, culture or the media. Peace is achieved by consciences that are open to the truth and to love. May God help us to progress on this path in the New Year he is giving us to live."

After the Angelus:

"Cari fratelli e sorelle, nel Messaggio per l’odierna Giornata della Pace ho avuto modo di sottolineare come le grandi religioni possano costituire un importante fattore di unità e di pace per la famiglia umana, ed ho ricordato, a tale proposito, che in questo anno 2011 ricorrerà il 25° anniversario della Giornata Mondiale di Preghiera per la Pace che il Venerabile Giovanni Paolo II convocò ad Assisi nel 1986. Per questo, nel prossimo mese di ottobre, mi recherò pellegrino nella città di san Francesco, invitando ad unirsi a questo cammino i fratelli cristiani delle diverse confessioni, gli esponenti delle tradizioni religiose del mondo e, idealmente, tutti gli uomini di buona volontà, allo scopo di fare memoria di quel gesto storico voluto dal mio Predecessore e di rinnovare solennemente l’impegno dei credenti di ogni religione a vivere la propria fede religiosa come servizio per la causa della pace. Chi è in cammino verso Dio non può non trasmettere pace, chi costruisce pace non può non avvicinarsi a Dio. Vi invito ad accompagnare sin d’ora con la vostra preghiera questa iniziativa.

In questo contesto desidero salutare e incoraggiare quanti, da ieri sera e durante la giornata di oggi, in tutta la Chiesa pregano per la pace e per la libertà religiosa. In Italia, la tradizionale marcia promossa da CEI, Pax Christi e Caritas ha avuto luogo ad Ancona, città che ospiterà nel settembre prossimo il Congresso Eucaristico Nazionale. Qui a Roma, e in altre città del mondo, la Comunità di Sant’Egidio ha riproposto l’iniziativa “Pace in tutte le terre”: saluto di cuore quanti vi hanno preso parte. Saluto anche gli aderenti al Movimento dell’Amore Familiare, che stanotte hanno vegliato in Piazza San Pietro e nella diocesi de L’Aquila pregando per la pace nelle famiglie e tra le nazioni.

Je suis heureux de vous saluer, chers pèlerins francophones présents ce matin, ainsi que les personnes qui nous rejoignent par la radio et la télévision! En ce premier jour de l’année, nous fêtons Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, et nous prions particulièrement pour la paix. Puisse la Vierge Marie, Mère du Prince de la Paix, aider chaque personne à renouveler son engagement pour construire un monde toujours plus fraternel où tous soient libres de professer leur religion ou leur foi. Bonne et heureuse Année à tous!

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today. On the first day of the year the Church pays special honour to the Mother of God, recalling how in humble obedience to the Lord’s will she bore in her womb and gave birth to him who is the Light of the World. On this day, too, we pray especially for peace throughout the world, and I invite all of you to join in heartfelt prayer to Christ the Prince of Peace for an end to violence and conflict wherever they are found. Upon all of you, and upon your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings for the year that lies ahead. Happy New Year!

Einen frohen Neujahrsgruß richte ich an alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Gerne heiße ich heute die Sternsinger aus Mainz willkommen und grüße mit ihnen alle, die in den Pfarreien am Dreikönigssingen teilnehmen, um den Menschen das Ereignis der Geburt Christi zu künden. Es ist eine Botschaft der Freude und des Friedens für die ganze Welt. Gott will bei den Menschen sein. In seinem menschgewordenen Sohn wendet Gott uns sein Angesicht zu und schenkt uns Heil. So bitten wir ihn um seinen Segen und wollen dieses neue Jahr im Namen des Herrn beginnen. Gott geleite euch auf allen Wegen.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española que participan en esta oración mariana en este primer día del año, octava de la Navidad. La Iglesia celebra hoy la solemnidad de Santa María, Madre de Dios, y también la Jornada Mundial de la Paz. Os invito a entrar en la escuela de la Virgen Santísima, fiel discípula del Señor, para aprender de Ella a acoger en la fe y en la oración la salvación que Dios quiere derramar sobre los que confían en su paz y amor misericordioso. Feliz Año Nuevo.

Serdecznie pozdrawiam wszystkich Polaków. Wam obecnym tu w Rzymie, waszym rodakom w kraju i za granicą, życzę błogosławionego Nowego Roku. Niech spełnią się nadzieje i dobre plany, jakie w nim pokładamy. Proszę Maryję, Świętą Bożą Rodzicielkę, by uprosiła pokój dla świata, by otaczała was swoją opieką i wam przewodziła. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Saluto tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare i giovani dell’Opera Don Orione. Buon anno a tutti!"