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Wednesday, December 28, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 25, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Lord's Nativity. During the "Gloria", children coming from the five continents deposited flowers before the image of the Baby Jesus.

  After the Gospel, Benedict XVI addressed the homily, the salient paragraphs being given below:

  "The Lord said to me: You are my son; this day I have begotten you".  With these words of the second Psalm, the Church begins the Vigil Mass of Christmas, at which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Redeemer in a stable in Bethlehem.  This Psalm was once a part of the coronation rite of the kings of Judah.  The people of Israel, in virtue of its election, considered itself in a special way a son of God, adopted by God.  Just as the king was the personification of the people, his enthronement was experienced as a solemn act of adoption by God, whereby the King was in some way taken up into the very mystery of God.  At Bethlehem night, these words, which were really more an expression of hope than a present reality, took on new and unexpected meaning.  The Child lying in the manger is truly God's Son.  God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving".

  "But there is more: in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself became man. (...)  God's everlasting today has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God's eternal today.  God is so great that he can become small.  God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. (...) This is Christmas: "You are my son, this day I have begotten you".  God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him.  As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger (...) And on every child shines something of the splendour of that "today", of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield - it shines on every child, even on those still unborn".

  "Let us listen to a second phrase from the liturgy of this holy Night, one taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: "Upon the people who walked in darkness a great light has shone". (...)  But first, light means knowledge; it means truth, as contrasted with the darkness of falsehood and ignorance.  Light gives us life, it shows us the way.  But light, as a source of heat, also means love.  Where there is love, light shines forth in the world; where there is hatred, the world remains in darkness.  In the stable of Bethlehem there appeared the great light which the world awaits".

  "The light of Bethlehem has never been extinguished.  In every age it has touched men and women, "it has shone around them".  Wherever people put their faith in that Child, charity also sprang up - charity towards others, loving concern for the weak and the suffering, the grace of forgiveness.  From Bethlehem a stream of light, love and truth spreads through the centuries. (...) In that Child, God countered the violence of this world with his own goodness.  He calls us to follow that Child".

  "On this night, when we look towards Bethlehem, let us pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there.  We wish to pray for peace in the Holy Land: Look, O Lord, upon this corner of the earth, your homeland, which is so very dear to you!  Let your light shine upon it!  Let it know peace!"

  "The word "peace" brings us to a third key to the liturgy of this holy Night.  The Child foretold by Isaiah is called "Prince of Peace". His kingdom is said to be one "of endless peace".  The shepherds in the Gospel hear the glad tidings: "Glory to God in the highest" and "on earth, peace...".  At one time we used to say: "to men of good will".  Nowadays we say "to those whom God loves".  What does this change mean?" (...) We would do better to ask: who are those whom God loves, and why does he love them? (...)  The Gospel answers these questions by pointing to some particular people whom God loves.  There are individuals, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna.  But there are also two groups of people: the shepherds and the wise men from the East, the Magi".

  "Tonight let us look at the shepherds. (...)  In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court.  But really, who were they?  To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue.  They were simple souls.  The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful.  This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night.  But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God's word.  Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open.  In some way, deep down, they were waiting for him.  Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness - a readiness to listen and to set out.  They were waiting for a light which would show them the way.  That is what is important for God.  He loves everyone, because everyone is his creature".

  "Among Christians, the word "peace" has taken on a very particular meaning: it has become a name for the Eucharist.  There Christ's peace is present.  In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world.  The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself.  When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the house of bread".
HML/MIDNIGHT MASS/...                            VIS 20051228 (1045)

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