VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2006 ( Awareness of human fragility, far from submerging one in despair, allows for the discovery of the grandeur of God, says Benedict XVI.

"Lord, what is man that you care for him?" asked the Pope when commenting on Psalm 143(144) before 8,000 people gathered today in Paul VI Hall for the weekly general audience.

In his meditation, the Holy Father echoed the psalmist's impressions, who felt "like 'a breath,' like 'a passing shadow,' inconsistent, submerged in the flux of time that passes, marked by the limitation proper to the creature."

The Pope added: "The question then arises: Why is God concerned about this very miserable and decrepit creature?"

Benedict XVI responded, as does the biblical composition, recalling the great cosmic and historical works wrought by "the supreme King of being, of the universe and of history."

"Man is nothing. 'Vanity of vanities; all is vanity,'" said the Holy Father, quoting the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Yet man can "know his own Creator," and in this he differs from the rest of animals, Benedict XVI observed. "Man is capable of truth, of a knowledge that becomes a relationship, a friendship."

Key knowledge

"In our time, it is important that we not forget God, along with the other knowledge that we have acquired in the meantime, which is so much!" noted the Bishop of Rome, setting his prepared notes aside for a while.

"Such knowledge becomes problematic -- what is more, dangerous -- if the fundamental knowledge is lacking that gives meaning and orientation to everything, if knowledge of God the Creator is lacking," the Pope added.

"For us Christians, God is no longer, as in the philosophy prior to Christianity, a theory but a reality," as God has become incarnate in Jesus Christ, he stressed.

"If, in the Incarnation, he has come down and has carried our flesh on his shoulders, he has carried us on his shoulders. In this way, the knowledge of God has become a reality, it has become friendship, communion," the Holy Father continued.

Benedict XVI added: "The psalm, which begins with the discovery that we are weak and removed from the divine splendor, at the end comes to this great surprise of the divine action: With us is the God-Emmanuel, which for Christianity has the loving face of Jesus Christ, God made man, made one of us."

With this reflection, the Holy Father continued with the series of meditations, begun by Pope John Paul II, on the biblical psalms and canticles that make up the Liturgy of Vespers. Others are posted in the Wednesday's Audience section of ZENIT's Web page.