John Paul II Starts Catecheses on Liturgy of Vespers

At General Audience

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2003 ( John Paul II pointed to the importance of vespers as a time of thanksgiving to God and a chance to ask for forgiveness, as he began catecheses on evening prayer.

«The evening is a propitious time to consider in prayer before God, the day that has ended. It is the time ‘to render thanks for what has been given and for what we did with rectitude,'» the Pope said at today’s general audience, quoting St. Basil.

«It is also the time to ask forgiveness for the evil we have done, imploring from divine mercy that Christ will shine again in our hearts,» he added during his meeting with some 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

John Paul II seemed to have recovered from his trip on Tuesday to the Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary in Pompeii. He read his meditation, skipping a few paragraphs, and received the applause of the faithful whenever he paused.

His new cycle of catecheses, to be given at the midweek general audiences, focuses on the liturgy of vespers, the evening prayer prayed by millions of lay and consecrated people throughout the world.

These papal commentaries imply a new stage in the wake of the series of meditations on the liturgy of lauds, the morning prayer that features passages from the Psalms and canticles of the Old Testament, which the Holy Father had offered since March 28, 2001.

«The rising of the sun and its setting are special moments of the day,» the Pope told the audience. «They have an unmistakable character: The joyful beauty of dawn and the triumphal splendor of sunset mark the rhythm of the universe, in which the life of man is profoundly integrated.»

The Pope reminded his listeners that morning and evening prayer have elements that refer to the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

Quoting St. Augustine of Hippo and other Church Fathers, he explained: «In the evening the Lord is on the cross; in the morning he rises. […] In the evening I narrate the suffering endured by him in death; in the morning I proclaim the life that arises from him.»

The Holy Father noted that for «ancient man, even more than for us, the succession of night and day regulated life, eliciting reflection on the great problems of life.»

«Modern progress has altered in part the relation between human life and cosmic time,» he added. «But the intense rhythm of human activities has not totally removed the people of today from the rhythms of the solar cycle.»

Therefore, morning and evening continue to be «moments that are always opportune to dedicate to prayer, either in community or alone.» The times of morning and evening prayer are «effective means to orient our daily way and direct it toward Christ, ‘light of the world,'» John Paul II concluded.

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