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Christmas - Natale - Navidad - Noël 2012


Benedict XVI's Homily at Midnight Mass       
- in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Ever anew the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Ever anew we are moved by the fact that God makes Himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him and, as a child, He trustingly puts Himself into our hands. It is as if God were saying: I know that my splendour frightens you, that in front of my greatness you seek to assert yourself. Well, then, I come to you as a child, so that you can welcome me and love me.

Ever anew I am also touched by the words of the evangelist, said as if in passing, that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises as to how things would be, if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then we are reminded that the evangelist John has deepened and got to the essence of this apparently casual news about the lack of space in the inn that drives the Holy Family into the stable, by writing: “He came unto his own, and his own people did not welcome him” (Jn 1, 11). Thus the great moral question about how things are for us in regard to the homeless, refugees and migrants, takes on a still deeper meaning: do we truly have room for God, when He seeks to enter our home? Do we have time and space for Him? Is not perhaps God Himself actually rejected by us? It begins when we have no time for God. The faster we can move, the more efficient the time-saving tools become, the less time we have available. And God? The question regarding Him never seems urgent. Our time is already completely filled. But things go even deeper. Does God truly have a place in our thinking? The methodology of our thinking is structured in such a way that He, at the base, should not exist. Although He seems to knock at the door of our thinking, He must be removed with reasoning. So as to be taken seriously, thinking must be structured in such a way as to render the “God hypothesis” superfluous. There is no room for Him. Even in our feelings and will there is no room for Him. We want ourselves, we want the things that can be touched, happiness experienced, the success of our personal projects and of our intentions. We are completely “filled” with ourselves, so that there remains no space for God. And as such there is no space for others, for children, for the poor, for strangers. Starting from those simple words about the lack of room at the inn, we can realise how much we need St Paul’s exhortation: “Be transformed by renewing your way of thinking!” (Rom 12, 2). Paul speaks of renewal, of unlocking our intellect (nous); he speaks, in general, of the way in which we see the world and ourselves. The conversion we need must truly reach all the way to the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us pray to the Lord that we may become alert to his presence, that we may feel how softly yet insistently He knocks at the door of our being and of our will. Let us pray that in our innermost selves we make room for Him. And that in this way we can recognize Him also in those through whom He addresses us: in children, in the suffering and the abandoned, in the marginalized and in the poor of this world.

There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I would like to reflect with you: the hymn of praise which the angels sing after the message about the new-born Saviour: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men with whom He is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the splendour of truth and love. He is good. He is the true good, the good par excellence. The angels that surround Him in the first place simply transmit the joy of the perception of God’s glory. Their song is a radiation of the joy that fills them. In their words we hear, as it were, something of the melodious sounds of heaven. There there is no underlying question about the purpose/end, there is simply the datum of being heaped with happiness coming from the perception of the pure splendour of the truth and love of God. We want to let ourselves be touched by this joy: truth exists. Pure goodness exists. Pure light exists. God is good and He is the supreme power above all powers. From this fact we must simply rejoice in this night, together with the angels and shepherds.

The glory of God in the highest heaven is related to peace on earth among men. Where glory to God is not given, where He is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Today, however, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of violence and wars in the world; humanity must first be liberated from religions, so that peace can then be created; monotheism, faith in one God, is said to be arrogance, the cause of intolerance, because by its nature it would impose itself on everyone with its claim of unique truth. It is true that, in history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that a religion can sicken and thereby end up opposing its deepest nature, when man thinks he himself has to take God’s cause into his own hands, thus making of God his private property. Against these travesties of the sacred we must be vigilant. While a certain misuse of religion in history is indisputable, it is not however true that "no" to God restores peace. If the light of God is extinguished, the divine dignity of man is also extinguished. Then he is no longer the image of God, that we must honour in each person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we are no longer all brothers and sisters, children of the one Father who, starting from the Father, are in relationship with one another. We have seen in all its cruelty in the last century what kinds of arrogant violence then appear and how man despises and crushes man. Only if the light of God shines on man and within man, only if every single man is desired, known and loved by God, only then, however miserable his situation may be, is his dignity inviolable. On this Holy Night, God himself became man, as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed: the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (cf Is 7, 14). And in the course of all these centuries there were really not only cases of the misuse of religion, but cases of faith in this God who became man arose ever anew with new forces of reconciliation and goodness. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has inserted a luminous ray of peace and goodness which continues to shine.

So Christ is our peace and He has proclaimed peace to those far and near (cf Eph 2, 14, 17). How should we not pray to him in this hour: Yes, Lord, proclaim to us also today peace, to those far and near. Grant that also today swords may be turned into ploughshares (cf Is 2:4), that in place of weapons of war help may be given to the suffering. Enlighten the people who believe they must engage in violence in your name, that they learn to understand the absurdity of violence and to recognize your true face. Help us to become men “with whom you are pleased” – men according to your image and thus men of peace.

Once the angels had left them, the shepherds said to one another: Come, let us go from here to Bethlehem and see this word that has happened for us (cf Lk 2, 15). The shepherds hurried on their pathway to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf 2, 16). A holy curiosity urged them to see in a manger this child, whom the angel had said was the Saviour, the Christ, the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings.

Let us go there, to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is the Latin Bible translation: “to cross”, to go from here, to dare to take the step that passes beyond, the "crossing", by which we leave our own habits of thinking and of life and pass beyond the merely material so as to reach the essential, the beyond, towards this God who, for his part, has come from there, towards us. We want to pray to the Lord, that He may grant us the capacity to pass beyond our limits, our world; so that he may help us to encounter Him, especially in the moment in which He Himself, in the Most Holy Eucharist, places Himself in our hands and in our heart. 

Let us go there, to Bethlehem: with these words that, together with the shepherds, we say to one another, we should not think only of the great crossing towards the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem, of all the places in which the Lord lived, worked and suffered. Let us pray in this hour for the people who today live and suffer there. Let us pray that there may be peace there. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians can develop their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us pray also for the surrounding countries, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and so on: that peace may be affirmed there. That Christians in these countries where our faith has its origin may be able to keep their homes; that Christians and Muslims may together build up their countries in God’s peace.

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy urged them. In our case, it probably very rarely happens that we make haste for the things of God. Today God does not make up part of urgent reality. The things of God, so we think and say, can wait. Yet He is the most important reality, the One who, in the final analysis, is truly important. Why should we not also be taken by curiosity to see up close and to know what God has said to us? Let us pray to Him that the holy curiosity and holy joy of the shepherds touch us also in this hour, and let us thus with joy go there, to Bethlehem - towards the Lord who also today comes anew to us. Amen."

BXVI - St Peter's Basilica, 24th December 2012

Papa Benedict XVI's Urbi et Orbi Message on Christmas Day
25 December 2012, St Peter's Square - in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

“Veritas de terra orta est!” – “Truth has sprung out of the earth” (Ps 85:12).

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, a happy Christmas to you and your families!

In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: “Truth has sprung out of the earth”. Actually, in the text of the Psalm, these words are in the future: “Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, /and justice shall look down from heaven. / The Lord himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps” (Ps 85:11-14).

Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth do indeed meet; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. St Augustine explains with admirable brevity: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth … truth has been born of the Virgin Mary” (En. in Ps. 84:13). And in a Christmas sermon he says that “in this yearly feast we celebrate that day when the prophecy was fulfilled: ‘truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven’. The Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father has sprung out of the earth, to be in the womb of a mother too. The Truth which rules the whole world has sprung out of the earth, to be held in the arms of a woman ... The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe” (Sermones, 185, 1).

“If we believe”. Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born! “The earth has yielded its fruits” (Ps 67:7). Yes, there is a good earth, a healthy earth, an earth freed of all selfishness and all lack of openness. In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that he might come to dwell among us. A dwelling place for his presence in the world. This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.

Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.

May peace spring up in the Land where the Redeemer was born, and may he grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end to long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.

In the countries of North Africa, which are experiencing a major transition in pursuit of a new future – and especially the beloved land of Egypt, blessed by the childhood of Jesus – may citizens work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person.

May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in him. May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.

May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.

May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate him in Latin America. May he increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land, and confirm government leaders in their commitment to development and fighting crime.

Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace. Happy Christmas to all of you!”