Pope: Church Is to Be Hope for World in Advent

Says God Calls Us to Meet Him in Prayer

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Advent is the season of hope par excellence, and during this time, the Church is called to be hope for itself and for the world, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this Saturday during his homily at the celebration of first vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He noted that in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, there is the exhortation to stay «irreprehensible ‘for’ the coming of the Lord.»

«But in the original text we read ‘in’ the coming — ‘en te parousia’ — as if the coming of the Lord were, more than a future event, a spiritual place in which we already walk in the present, during the wait, and in which we are perfectly vigilant in every personal dimension,» the Holy Father explained. «In effect, this is exactly what we live in the liturgy: celebrating the liturgical seasons, we actualize the mystery — in this case the coming of the Lord — in such a way as to be able, so to speak, to ‘walk in it’ toward its full realization, at the end of time, but already drawing sanctifying virtue from it from the moment that the last times have already begun with the death and resurrection of Christ.»

The word that sums up this state of awaiting something and simultaneously already having a foretaste of it is «hope,» the Pontiff continued.

«Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in this season the whole Church is called to be hope, for itself and for the world,» he said. «The whole spiritual organism of the mystical body assumes, as it were, the ‘color’ of hope.»

Church’s cry

God calls us to meet him in Advent, Benedict XVI added, particularly through prayer.

He then offered a commentary on the two psalms from vespers: 141 and 142, according to the Hebrew numbering.

Psalm 141 «is the cry of a person who feels himself to be in grave danger, but it is also the cry of the Church in the midst of the many snares that surround her, that threaten her holiness, that irreprehensible integrity of which the Apostle Paul speaks, that must be maintained for the coming of the Lord,» the Pope said. «And in this invocation there also resounds the cry of all the just, of all those who want to resist evil, the seductions of an iniquitous well-being, of pleasures that are offensive to human dignity and the condition of the poor. At the beginning of Advent the Church’s liturgy again cries out with these words and addresses them to God.»

In Psalm 142, he added, the «identification of Christ with the Psalmist is particularly evident.»

«In his first coming, in the incarnation, the Son of God wanted fully to share our human condition,» the Holy Father noted. «Naturally, he did not share in sin, but for our salvation he suffered its consequences. […] Advent’s cry of hope expresses, then, from the beginning and in the most forceful way, the whole gravity of our condition, our extreme need of salvation. It says: We await the Lord’s coming not like a beautiful decoration added to an already saved world but as the only way to freedom from mortal danger. And we know that he himself, the Liberator, had to suffer and die to bring us out of this prison.»

Thus, the Pontiff concluded, «these two Psalms protect us against any temptation of evasion and flight from reality; they preserve us from a false hope, one that would like to enter into Advent and set off for Christmas forgetting the dramatic nature of our personal and collective existence. In effect, it is a trustworthy hope, not deceptive, it cannot but be an ‘Easter’ hope. […] Let us place our hand in [Mary’s] and enter with joy into this new season of grace that God grants his Church for the good of the whole of humanity.»

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