Bookmark and Share

Christmas - Natale - Navidad - Noël 2002

Pope Saint John Paul II's Homily at Midnight Mass
- in English, French, German, Italian, PolishPortuguese & Spanish

"1. "Dum medium silentium teneret omnia..."– "While earth was rapt in silence and night only half through its course, your almighty Word, O Lord, came down from his royal throne" (Antiphon to the Magnificat, 26 December).

On this Holy Night the ancient promise is fulfilled: the time of waiting has ended and the Virgin gives birth to the Messiah.

Jesus is born for a humanity searching for freedom and peace; he is born for everyone burdened by sin, in need of salvation, and yearning for hope.

On this night God answers the ceaseless cry of the peoples: Come, Lord, save us! His eternal Word of love has taken on our mortal flesh. "Your Word, O Lord, came down from his royal throne". The Word has entered into time: Emmanuel, God-with-us, is born.

In cathedrals and great basilicas, as well as in the smallest and remotest churches throughout the world, Christians joyfully lift up their song: "Today is born our Saviour".

2. Mary "gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger" (Lk 2, 7).

This is the icon of Christmas: a tiny newborn child, whom the hands of a woman wrap in poor cloths and lay in a manger.

Who could imagine that this little human being is the "Son of the Most High" (Lk 1, 32)? Only she, his Mother, knows the truth and guards its mystery.

On this night we too can "join" in her gaze and so recognize in this Child the human face of God. We too – the men and women of the third millennium – are able to encounter Christ and to gaze upon him through the eyes of Mary.

Christmas night thus becomes a school of faith and of life.

3. In tonight's second reading, the Apostle Paul helps us to understand the Christ-event which we celebrate on this radiant night. He writes: "The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men" (Tit 2, 11).

The "grace of God" appearing in Jesus is God's merciful love, which dominates the entire history of salvation and guides it to its definitive fulfilment. The self-revelation of God who "humbled himself to come among us as a man" is the anticipation, here on earth, of his glorious "appearing" at the end of time.

But there is more. The historical event which we are experiencing in mystery is the "way" given to us as a means of encountering the glorious Christ. By his Incarnation Jesus teaches us, as the Apostle observes, "to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope" (Tit 2, 12-13).

O Birth of the Lord, you have inspired Saints of every age! I think, among others, of St Bernard and his spiritual ecstasy before the touching scene of the Crib. I think of St Francis of Assisi, the inspired creator of the first live depiction of the mystery of Christmas night. I think of St Theresa of the Child Jesus, who by her "little way" suggested anew to the proud modern mind the true spirit of Christmas.

4. "You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Lk 2, 12).

The Child laid in a lowly manger: this is God's sign. The centuries and the millennia pass, but the sign remains, and it remains valid for us too – the men and women of the third millennium. It is a sign of hope for the whole human family; a sign of peace for those suffering from conflicts of every kind; a sign of freedom for the poor and oppressed; a sign of mercy for those caught up in the vicious circle of sin; a sign of love and consolation for those who feel lonely and abandoned.

A small and fragile sign, a humble and quiet sign, but one filled with the power of God who out of love became man.

5. Lord Jesus, together with the shepherds
we draw near to your Crib.
We contemplate you, wrapped in swaddling cloths
and lying in the manger.

O Babe of Bethlehem,
we adore you in silence with Mary,
your ever-Virgin Mother.
To you be glory and praise for ever,
Divine Saviour of the World! Amen."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's Urbi et Orbi Message on Christmas Day
St Peter's Square, 25 December 2002 - in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "To us a child is born,
to us a son is given" (Is 9, 5).
Today the mystery of Christmas is renewed:
this Child who brings salvation to the world
is also born for the men and women of our own time,
bringing joy and peace for all.
We approach the crib with emotion;
together with Mary we go to meet
the Long-Awaited of the Nations, the Redeemer of humanity.

Cum Maria contemplemur Christi vultum.
With Mary let us contemplate the face of Christ:
in that Child, wrapped in swaddling cloths
and laid in the manger (cf Lk 2, 7),
it is God himself who comes to visit us,
to guide our feet in the way of peace (cf Lk 1, 79).
Mary watches him, caresses him and keeps him warm,
pondering the meaning of the wondrous signs
which surround the mystery of Christmas.

2. Christmas is a mystery of joy!
The Angels sang in the night:
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Lk 2, 14).
To the shepherds they described the event
as "a great joy for all the people" (cf Lk 2, 10).
Joy, despite distance from home,
the poverty of the manger,
people’s indifference,
the hostility of power.
A mystery of joy nonetheless,
for in the City of David
"to you is born this day a Saviour" (Lk 2, 11).
The Church shares in this same joy,
surrounded today by the light of the Son of God:
the darkness can never obscure it.
It is the glory of the Eternal Word,
who out of love has become one of us.

3. Christmas is a mystery of love!
The love of the Father, who has sent into the world
his only-begotten Son,
to bestow on us the gift of his own life (cf 1 Jn 4, 8-9).
The love of "God-with-us", Emmanuel,
who came to earth in order to die on the Cross.
In the cold stable, wrapped in silence,
the Virgin Mother, with prophetic intuition,
already tastes the violent drama of Calvary,
the traumatic struggle between darkness and light,
between death and life, between hatred and love.
The Prince of Peace, born today in Bethlehem,
will give his life on Golgotha,
so that love may reign on earth.

4. Christmas is a mystery of peace!
From the cave of Bethlehem
there rises today an urgent appeal
to the world not to yield
to mistrust, suspicion and discouragement,
even though the tragic reality of terrorism
feeds uncertainties and fears.
Believers of all religions,
together with men and women of good will,
by outlawing all forms of intolerance and discrimination,
are called to build peace:
in the Holy Land, above all, to put an end once and for all
to the senseless spiral of blind violence, and in the Middle East,
to extinguish the ominous smouldering of a conflict
which, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided;
in Africa too, where devastating famines and tragic internal conflicts
are aggravating the already precarious conditions of entire peoples,
although here and there signs of hope are present;
in Latin America, in Asia, in other parts of the world,
where political, economic and social crises
disturb the serenity of many families and nations.
May humanity accept the Christmas message of peace!

5. Adorable mystery of the Incarnate Word!
Together with you, O Virgin Mother, may we stop and reflect
at the manger where the Child lies,
to share your own amazement
at the immense "condescension" of God.
Grant us your own eyes, O Mary,
that we may understand the mystery
hidden within the frail limbs of your Son.
Teach us to recognize his face
in the children of every race and culture.
Help us to be credible witnesses
of his message of peace and love,
so that the men and women of our own time,
still torn by conflicts and unspeakable violence,
may also recognize in the Child
cradled in your arms
the one Saviour of the world,
the endless source of that true peace
for which every heart profoundly yearns.

St JPII - St Peter's Square, the Vatican, Christmas Day, 25th December 2002