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Christmas - Natale - Navidad - Noël 1999

Pope St John Paul II's Homily at Midnight Mass at the beginning of the Great Jubilee Year
when the Holy Door at St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican, was opened
24th December 1999 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. “Hodie natus est nobis Salvator mundi” (Responsorial Psalm).

For twenty centuries this joyful proclamation has burst forth from the heart of the Church. On this holy night the Angel repeats it to us, the men and women living at the end of a millennium: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy... to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” (Lk 2, 10-11). We have prepared to welcome these comforting words during the season of Advent: in them the “today” of our redemption becomes a reality.

At this hour, the word “today” rings out with a unique sound: it is not only the commemoration of the birth of the Redeemer; it is the solemn beginning of the Great Jubilee. We are spiritually linked to that unique moment of history when God became man, taking to himself our flesh.

Yes, the Son of God, of one being with the Father, God from God and Light from Light, eternally begotten of the Father, became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and assumed our human nature. He was born in time. God entered history. The incomparable eternal “today” of God has become present in everyday human life.

2. “Hodie natus est nobis Salvator mundi” (cf Lk 2, 10-11).

We fall down in adoration before the Son of God. We unite ourselves in spirit to the wonder of Mary and Joseph. As we adore Christ, born in a stable, we make our own the faith, filled with astonishment, of the shepherds of that time; we feel their same amazement and their same joy.

It is difficult not to be overcome by the eloquence of this event: we remain enthralled. We are witnesses of that instant of love which unites the eternal to history: the “today” which begins the time of jubilation and hope, for “to us a son is given; and dominion is laid upon his shoulders” (Is 9, 6), as we read in the text of Isaiah.

At the feet of the Word Incarnate let us place our joys and fears, our tears and hopes. Only in Christ, the new man, is true light shed upon the mystery of human existence.

With the Apostle Paul, let us contemplate the fact that in Bethlehem “the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all” (Titus 2, 11). This is the reason why on Christmas night songs of joy ring out in every corner of the earth, in every language.

3. Tonight, before our eyes we see fulfilled what the Gospel proclaims: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him... might have eternal life” (Jn 3, 16).

His Only-begotten Son!

You O Christ, are the Only-begotten Son of the living God, come among us in the stable of Bethlehem! After 2000 years, we re-live this mystery as a unique and unrepeatable event. Among all the children of men, all the children born into the world down the centuries, you alone are the Son of God: in an ineffable way, your birth has changed the course of human events.

This is the truth which on this night the Church wants to pass on to the third millennium. And may all you who will come after us accept this truth, which has totally changed history. Ever since the night of Bethlehem, humanity knows that God became Man: he became Man in order to give man a share in his divine nature.

4. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! On the threshold of the third millennium, the Church greets you, the Son of God, who have come into the world to triumph over death. You have come to illuminate human life through the Gospel. The Church greets you and with you she wishes to enter the third millennium. You are our hope. You alone have words of eternal life.

You who came into the world on Bethlehem night, remain with us!
You who are the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, guide us!
You who came from the Father, lead us to him in the Holy Spirit, along the path which you alone know and which you have revealed to us, that we might have life and have it in abundance.

You O Christ, the Son of the living God, be for us the Door!
Be for us the true Door, symbolized by the door which on this Night we have solemnly opened!
Be for us the Door which leads us into the mystery of the Father. Grant that no one may remain outside his embrace of mercy and peace!

“Hodie natus est nobis Salvator mundi”: it is Christ who is our only Saviour! This is the message of Christmas 1999: the “today” of this Holy Night begins the Great Jubilee.

Mary, dawn of the new times, be at our side as we trustingly take our first steps into the Jubilee Year! Amen!"

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's Urbi et Orbi Message on Christmas Day
St Peter's Square, 25 December 1999 - in English, French, German, ItalianPortuguese & Spanish

"1. "To us a child is born,
to us a son is given" (Is 9, 6).
Today the "good news" of Christmas
rings out in the Church and in the world.
It rings out in the words of the Prophet Isaiah,
called the "evangelist" of the Old Testament,
who speaks of the mystery of the redemption
as if he saw the events of seven centuries later.
Words inspired by God, surprising words
which come down through history,
and today, on the threshold of the Year 2000,
re-echo all through the earth,
proclaiming the great mystery of the Incarnation.

2. "To us a child is born".
These prophetic words are fulfilled
in the narrative of the Evangelist Luke,
who describes the "event", full of ever new wonder and hope.
On that night in Bethlehem,
Mary gave birth to a Child, whom she called Jesus.
There was no room for them in the Inn;
and so the Mother gave birth to the Son
in a stable, and laid him in a manger.
The Evangelist John, in the Prologue of his Gospel,
penetrates the "mystery" of this event.
The One born in the stable is the eternal Son of God.
He is the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God,
the Word who was God.
All things that were made were made through him (cf Jn 1, 1-3).
The eternal Word, the Son of God,
took the nature of man.
God the Father "so loved the world
that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3, 16).
When the Prophet Isaiah says: "to us a child is born",
he reveals, in all its fulness, the mystery of Christmas:
the eternal generation of the Word of the Father,
his birth in time through the work of the Holy Spirit.

3. The circle of the mystery widens:
the Evangelist John writes:
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1, 14);
and he adds: "to all who received him, who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God" (1, 12).
The circle of the mystery widens:
the birth of the Son of God is the sublime gift,
the greatest grace for man’s benefit
that the human mind could ever have imagined.
Remembering the birth of Christ on this holy Day,
we live, together with this event,
the "mystery of man’s divine adoption"
through the work of Christ who comes into the world.
For this reason, Christmas Night and Christmas Day
are perceived as "sacred" by those who seek the truth.
We Christians profess them to be "holy",
because in them we recognize
the unmistakable stamp of the One who is Holy,
full of mercy and goodness.

4. This year there is yet another reason
which makes more holy this day of grace:
it is the beginning of the Great Jubilee.
Last night, before Holy Mass,
I opened the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica.
A symbolic act, which inaugurates the Jubilee Year,
a gesture which highlights with singular eloquence
something already present in the mystery of Christmas:
Jesus, born of Mary in the poverty of Bethlehem,
He, the Eternal Son given to us by the Father,
is, for us and for everyone, the Door!
The Door of our salvation,
the Door of life,
the Door of peace!
This is the message of Christmas and the proclamation of the Great Jubilee.

5. We turn our gaze to you, o Christ,
Door of our salvation,
as we thank you for all the good of the years,
centuries and millennia which have passed.
We must however confess
that humanity has sometimes sought the Truth elsewhere,
invented false certainties, and chased after deceptive ideologies.
At times people have refused to respect and love
their brothers and sisters of a different race or faith;
they have denied fundamental rights to individuals and nations.
But you continue to offer to all the splendour of the Truth which saves.
We look to you, O Christ, Door of Life,
and we thank you for the wonders
with which you have enriched every generation.
At times this world neither respects nor loves life.
But you never cease to love life;
indeed, in the mystery of Christmas, you come to enlighten people’s minds,
so that legislators and political leaders,
men and women of good will, may be committed
to welcoming human life as a precious gift.
You come to give us the Gospel of Life.
We lift our eyes to you, O Christ, Door of peace,
as, pilgrims in time,
we visit all the places of grief and of war,
the resting places of the victims
of brutal conflicts and cruel slaughter.
You, Prince of Peace,
invite us to ban the senseless use of arms,
and the recourse to violence and hatred
which have doomed individuals, peoples and continents.

6. "To us a son is given".
You, Father, have given us your Son.
And you give him to us again today,
at the dawn of the new millennium.
For us he is the Door.
Through him we enter a new dimension
and we reach the fulness of the destiny of salvation
which you have prepared for all.
Precisely for this reason, Father, you gave us your Son,
so that humanity would know what it is that you wish to give us in eternity,
so that human beings would have the strength to fulfill
your mysterious plan of love.
Christ, Son of the ever Virgin Mother,
light and hope of those who seek you even when they do not know you,
and of those who, knowing you, seek you all the more.
Christ, you are the Door!
Through you, in the power of the Holy Spirit,
we wish to enter the third millennium.
You, O Christ, are the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf Heb 13, 8).

St JPII - St Peter's Square, the Vatican, Christmas Day, 25th December 1999, at the beginning of the Great Jubilee

St John Paul II's Homily at Christmas Mass in St John Lateran's Basilica
when the Holy Door at St John Lateran's Basilica, Cathedral of Rome, was opened
25 December 1999 - in English, French, German, Italian & Portuguese

"1. "That which was from the beginning ... which we have ... touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life ... we proclaim to you" (1 Jn 1, 1-2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
On this solemn day on which we are commemorating the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, we perceive the truth, the power and the joy of the Apostle John's words.

Yes, in faith, our hands have touched the Word of Life; they have touched the One who, as we recited in the canticle, is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. Through him and in him all things were created. This is the mystery of Christmas that we perceive with deep emotion, especially today, the beginning of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

God entered human history and came to walk the paths of this earth, to enable everyone to become God's children.

I ardently hope that this mystery of holiness and hope will fill with its unfading radiance the hearts of Rome's entire diocesan community, gathered in spirit in this Basilica for the solemn opening of the Holy Door.

At this intensely spiritual moment, I would like to extend my affectionate good wishes and greetings to the Cardinal Vicar, my first co-worker in caring for the faithful of the Church in the city. With him, I greet the Vicegerent, and the Auxiliary Bishops who work with him in the pastoral service of the Diocese. I also extend a cordial greeting to the Lateran Chapter, to the parish priests, to the entire Roman clergy, to the seminary, and to all, men and women religious and lay pastoral workers who are the chosen part of our Church of Rome, called to preside in charity and to excel in fidelity to the Gospel.

I greet the Mayor and the authorities and representatives of the public administration who have wished to be present. I greet the Romans, the pilgrims and everyone who, via television, has joined us for this event of great historical and spiritual importance.

2. After opening the Holy Door in the Vatican Basilica last night, I have just opened the Holy Door of this Lateran Basilica, "omnium Ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis Mater et Caput", Mother and Head of all the churches of Rome and of the world and of the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. It was here, in 1300, that Pope Boniface VIII solemnly inaugurated the first Holy Year in history. Here, in the Jubilee of 1423, Pope Martin V opened the Holy Door for the first time. Here is the heart of that special dimension of the history of salvation which is linked to the grace of the Jubilees and the historical memory of the Church of Rome.

We have entered through this Door, which represents Christ himself: in fact, he alone is the Saviour, sent by God the Father, who enables us to pass from sin to grace, bringing us into the full communion which unites him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

Let us give thanks to God, rich in mercy, who gave us his only Son as the Redeemer of man.

3. We could say that this evening's rite takes on a more familiar dimension. Indeed the diocesan family is setting out on its own jubilee journey, in special unity with the Churches spread throughout the world. It has been preparing for this great event for a long time, first through the Synod and then with the City Mission. The devout participation of the city and of the whole diocese testifies that Rome is aware of the mission of universal concern and of exemplarity in faith and love which God's Providence has entrusted to it. Rome knows well that this service is rooted in the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul and has always found new sustenance in the witness of the multitude of martyrs and saints who have marked the history of our Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Holy Year, which begins today, calls us too to continue on this road. It invites us to respond joyfully and generously to the call to holiness, to be increasingly a sign of hope in today's society, on its way to the third millennium.

4. During the Holy Year there will be many occasions for believers to deepen this religious commitment, which is closely connected with the Jubilee programme.

First of all, the diocesan Jubilee, which will take place on 28 May in St Peter's Square. Another event, entrusted in a particular way to the diocese of Rome, is the International Eucharistic Congress, which will be held, please God, from 18 - 25 June.

5. The third significant event is the 15th World Youth Day.

With young people and families. My thoughts turn to the World Meeting of Families which will be held on 14 - 15 October 2000.

Thus so many important events await us! Let us entrust them all to the motherly intercession of Mary, Health of the Roman People. May she accompany us and guide our steps so that this year will be a time of extraordinary spiritual grace and social renewal.

6. Church of Rome, today the Lord comes to visit you to open before you this year of grace and mercy! In crossing the threshold of the Holy Door in humble pilgrimage, may you receive his gifts of forgiveness and love. May you grow in faith and in missionary zeal: this is the principal legacy of the Apostles Peter and Paul. How many times during your 2000 year-old history have you experienced the marvels of the coming of Christ, who made you mother in the faith and a beacon of civilization for many peoples! May the Great Jubilee, with which you are preparing to begin the new millennium, strengthen you, Rome, in the joy of faithfully following your Lord, and give you an ever ardent desire to proclaim his Gospel. This is your particular contribution to building an era of justice, peace and holiness. Amen!"