Jesus "Our Peace" Is Coming, John Paul II Says

Address at General Audience

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2001 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address at today´s general audience.

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1. The Christmas novena that we are observing these days, compels us to live more intensely and profoundly the preparation for the great feast of the birth of the Savior, which is virtually upon us. The liturgy traces a wise itinerary to encounter the Lord who is coming, proposing day by day ideas for reflection and prayer. It invites us to conversion and to a docile welcome of the Christmas mystery.

The prophets had foretold the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament, eliciting the vigilant expectation of the chosen people. We are also invited to live this time with the same sentiments, so that we can experience the joy of the now imminent Christmas celebrations.

Our expectation gives voice to the hope of the whole of humanity and is expressed in a series of moving invocations, which we find in the eucharistic celebration before the Gospel and in the recitation of vespers before the canticle of the «Magnificat.» They are the so-called O antiphons, in which the Church turns to him who is about to come with highly poetic titles, which well express the peoples´ need for peace and salvation, a need that only finds full and definitive satisfaction in the God made man.

2. Like ancient Israel, the ecclesial community gives voice to the men and women of all times in singing the Advent of the Savior. Again and again it prays: «O Wisdom that comes from the mouth of the Most High,» «O Shepherd of the House of Israel,» «O Root of Jesse,» «O Key of David,» O Rising Star,» «O Sun of Justice,» «O King of Nations, Emmanuel, God-with-us.»

In each of these impassioned invocations, laden with biblical references, is perceived the ardent desire that believers have to see their expectations of peace fulfilled. This is why they implore the gift of the birth of the promised Savior. However, at the same time they perceive with clarity that this implies a concrete effort to prepare a worthy dwelling for him, not only in their spirit, but also in the surrounding environment. In a word, to invoke the coming of him who brings peace to the world means to open oneself with docility to the liberating truth and the renewing force of the Gospel.

3. In this itinerary of preparation for the encounter with Christ, which Christmas makes present to humanity, the special day of fasting and prayer is inserted, which we observed last Friday, to ask God for the gift of reconciliation and peace. It was an intense moment of Advent, an occasion to understand profoundly the causes of war and the reason for peace. In the face of the tensions and violence that, unfortunately, also these days ravage various parts of the earth, including the Holy Land, unique witness of the mystery of the Birth of Jesus, it is necessary for us Christians to make the message of peace that comes from the cave in Bethlehem resound ever more forcefully.

We must be converted to peace; we must be converted to Christ, our peace, with the certainty that his disarming love in the manger overcomes every dark menace and plan of violence. And it is necessary to continue with confidence to ask the Child, born for us from the Virgin Mary, that the prodigious energy of his peace might drive out the hatred and rage that lurk in the human spirit. We must ask God that evil be defeated by goodness and love.

4. As the Advent liturgy suggests, we implore from the Lord the gift to «prepare with joy for the mystery of his Christmas,» so that the birth of Jesus will find us «vigilant in prayer, exulting in praise (Preface II for Advent). Only in this way will Christmas be a feast of joy and encounter with the Savior who gives us peace.

Is not this, in fact, the greeting we would like to exchange in the coming Christmas celebrations? To this end, our prayer this week should be more intense and choral. «Christus est pax nostra — Christ is our peace.» May his peace renew every ambit of our daily life. May it fill hearts, so that they will open to his transforming grace; permeate families, so that before the crib or gathered around the Christmas tree, they will reinforce their faithful communion; may it reign in cities, in nations, and in the international community and spread to every corner of the world.

As the shepherds of the night of Bethlehem, let us quicken our steps to Bethlehem. In the silence of the Holy Night we will contemplate the «Child wrapped in swaddling cloths, who lies in a manger,» together with Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:12,16). May she, who welcomed the Word of God in her virginal womb and held him in her maternal arms, help us to live more intensely this last stretch of the liturgical itinerary of Advent.

With these sentiments, I affectionately express my best wishes to all of you here present, to your families, and to all those who are dear to you.

Happy Christmas to all!

[Translation by ZENIT]

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[At the end of the audience, the Pope gave the following summary in English.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Christmas Novena of these final days of Advent calls us to ever deeper conversion and reflection, as we prepare to celebrate the Christmas mystery.

Part of our preparation was the special day of fasting and prayer observed last Friday as we asked the Lord to lead the world to peace and reconciliation. In the face of continuing conflicts in the Holy Land, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world, Christians are called to proclaim ever more insistently the message of peace sung by the Angels in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

Like the Shepherds in the field on that Holy Night, let us make haste to contemplate the Child lying in the manger, the Infant Jesus with Joseph and his mother Mary. May Mary, who welcomed the Word of God in her womb, held him in her arms, and offered him to the world as universal Redeemer, help us to receive him ever more deeply into our lives so that he may truly be our peace and salvation.

I offer a special word of greeting to the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England and the United States of America: may the coming of our Savior as a new-born babe fill you and your families with his gifts of joy and peace, Happy Christmas to everyone!

[text distributed by Vatican Press Office]

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