VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2009 (VIS) - In St. Peter's Basilica at 5.30 p.m. yesterday, in keeping with a regular pre-Christmas tradition, the Holy Father presided at the celebration of Vespers with students of Roman universities. For the occasion, the Pope dedicated his homily to the subject of Wisdom.
"What was born in Bethlehem was the Wisdom of God", said the Holy Father. "In the fullness of time this Wisdom assumed a human face, the face of Jesus. ... The Christian paradox consists precisely in identifying divine Wisdom - that is, the eternal 'Logos' - with Jesus of Nazareth the man, and with His history. ... Thus, the Wisdom we invoke this evening is the Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Word".
"Christian teachers and young Christian students carry within themselves an impassioned love for this Wisdom. They read everything in its light. ... Without such Wisdom not one thing came into being, and thus its reflection is to be seen in all created reality. ... Everything perceived by human intelligence, ... in some way or to some extent, participates in creative Wisdom. And here, in the final analysis, lies the very possibility of study, research, and academic dialogue in any field of knowledge.
"At this point", the Pope added, "let us ask ourselves: who was there on that Christmas night in the grotto of Bethlehem? Who welcomed newborn Wisdom? ... Not the doctors of law, the scribes or the wise men. Mary and Joseph were there, so were the shepherds. What does this mean? ... Does it mean that study serves no purpose? Even that it is harmful, counterproductive to a knowledge of the truth?"
The Holy Father proceeded: "The history of two thousand years of Christianity excludes this hypothesis, and suggests the right answer. We must study, deepen our knowledge, yet while maintaining a 'little' soul, a humble and simple spirit like that of Mary, 'Seat of Wisdom'. ... In that grotto each of us can discover the truth about God and about man. In that Child, born of the Virgin, these two truths came together. Man's longing for eternal life softened the heart of God, Who deigned to assume the human condition".
Benedict XVI reminded the students that "helping others to discover the true face of God is the first form of charity which, for you, takes the form of intellectual charity". Going on then to mention the focus of diocesan pastoral care in universities for the coming year - "the Eucharist and intellectual charity" - he described it as "a demanding but appropriate choice. The truth is that in all Eucharist celebrations God enters into history in Jesus Christ, in His Word and in His Body, granting us the charity that enables us to serve man in his everyday life".
The Pontiff continued his homily by suggesting that universities "become places of formation for true workers of intellectual charity. The future of society largely depends upon them", he said, "especially as regards the preparation of a new 'humanistic synthesis' and a renewed capacity to shape a vision of the future".
At the end of the ceremony, a delegation of Australian youth consigned the image of "Maria Sedes Sapientiae" to an African student delegation and the Pope entrusted all the university students of the African continent to the Blessed Virgin. He also expressed his pleasure at the co-operation which, following the Synod for Africa, has been established between Roman and African universities.
HML/VESPERS/UNIVERSITY STUDENTS VIS 20091218 (590)