VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily given by Benedict XVI during Mass on Jan.1, Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, and the World Day of Peace. The Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Still enveloped in the spiritual atmosphere of Christmas, in which we have contemplated the mystery of the birth of Christ, today we celebrate with the same sentiments the Virgin Mary, whom the Church venerates as Mother of God, in that she gave flesh to the Son of the eternal Father. The biblical readings of this solemnity focus primarily on the Son of God made man and on the “name” of the Lord. The first reading presents to us the solemn blessings that the priests pronounced on the Israelites in the great religious feasts: It is marked precisely by the name of the Lord, repeated three times, as though expressing the fullness and force that derives from that evocation. This text of liturgical blessing, in fact, evokes the wealth of grace and peace that God gives to man, with a benevolent disposition toward him, and which is manifested in the “radiance” of the divine face and is “directed” toward us.
The Church hears these words again today, while asking the Lord to bless the new year which has just begun, with the awareness that in face of the tragic events that mark history, in face of the logic of war that unfortunately is still not surmounted altogether, only God can touch the human soul in its depth and assure hope and peace to humanity. It is already a consolidated tradition, in fact, that on the first day of the year, the Church spread throughout the world raises a joint prayer to invoke peace. It is good to begin a new stage of the journey placing oneself decidedly on the path of peace. Today we wish to take up the cry of so many men, women, children and elderly victims of war, which is the most horrendous and violent face of history. We pray today so the peace the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas Eve can reach everywhere: “super terram pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis” (Luke 2:14). That is why, especially with our prayer, we wish to help every man and all peoples, in particular all those who have the responsibility of government, to walk ever more decidedly on the path of peace.
In the second reading, St. Paul summarizes in filial adoption the work of salvation carried out by Christ, in which the figure of Mary is set. Thanks to her the Son of God, “born of woman” (Galatians 4:4), was able to come to the world as true man, in the fullness of time. This fulfillment, this plenitude, refers to the past and to the Messianic expectations, which are fulfilled but, at the same time, it refers also to plenitude in the absolute sense: In the Word made flesh, God has said his last and definitive Word. On the threshold of a new year, the invitation thus resounds to walk with joy toward the light of the “day that shall dawn upon us from on high” (Luke 1:78), as in the Christian perspective, all time is inhabited by God, there is no future that is not directed to Christ, and there is no plenitude outside that of Christ.
The passage of the Gospel ends today with the imposition of the name of Jesus, while Mary participates in silence, meditating in her heart on the mystery of this Son of hers, who in such a singular way is a gift of God. However, the evangelical life that we have heard puts in particular evidence the shepherds, who returned “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen ” (Luke 2:20). The angel had announced to them that in the city of David, namely, in Bethlehem, the Savior was born and that they would have found the sign: a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (cf. Luke 2:11-12). Leaving hastily, they found Mary and Joseph and the Child. Let us observe how the evangelist speaks of Mary’s maternity beginning from the Son, from that “child wrapped in swaddling clothes,” because it is he — the Word of God (John 1:14) — who is the point of reference, the center of the event that is taking place and it is he who makes Mary’s maternity to be described as “divine.” This greater attention that today’s readings dedicate to the “Son,” to Jesus, does not reduce the role of the Mother; on the contrary, it places her in the correct perspective: Mary, in fact, is true Mother of God precisely in virtue of her total relationship to Christ. Hence, by glorifying the Son, the Mother is honored, and by honoring the Mother, the Son is glorified. The title “Mother of God” that the liturgy highlights today underlines the unique mission of the Holy Virgin in the history of salvation: a mission that is at the base of the cult and devotion that the Christian people reserve to her. Mary, in fact, did not receive God’s gift for herself, but to bring it to the world: In her fecund virginity, God gave men the goods of eternal salvation (cf. Collect). And Mary offers continually her mediation to the People of God, she continues giving divine life to men, which is Jesus himself and his Holy Spirit. Because of this she is considered mother of each man born of grace and at the same time is invoked as Mother of the Church.
It is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of men, that since Jan 1, 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated throughout the world. Peace is the gift of God, as we heard in the first reading: “the Lord … give you peace” (Numbers 6:26). This is the Messianic gift par excellence, the first fruit of the charity that Jesus has given us; it is our reconciliation and pacification with God. Peace is also a human value to be realized in the social and political sphere, but which sinks its roots in the mystery of Christ (cf. Vatican Council II, Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 77-90).
In this solemn celebration, on the occasion of the 44th World Day of Peace, I am happy to address my deferent greeting to the illustrious Ambassadors to the Holy See, with my best wishes for their mission. A fraternal and cordial greeting goes, also, to my Secretary of State and the other heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, with a particular thought to the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and his collaborators. I wish to manifest to them my heartfelt gratitude for their daily commitment in favor of peaceful coexistence among peoples and the ever more solid formation of a conscience of peace in the Church and in the world. In this perspective, the ecclesial community is increasingly committed to work, according to the indications of the magisterium, to offer a spiritual patrimony certain of the values and principles of the continuous search for peace.
I wished to remind in my message for today’s Day, with the title “Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace” that “The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels.” (No. 15). Therefore, I have underlined that religious freedom “is an essential element of a constitutional state; it cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone (No. 5)”.
Humanity cannot be resigned to the negative force of egoism and violence; it must not be accustomed to conflicts that cause victims and put the future of peoples at risk. Given the threatening tensions of this moment, especially in face of discriminations, abuses and religious intolerance, which today affect Christians in a particular way (cf. Ibid., 1), I address once more an urgent invitation not to yield to discouragement and resignation. I exhort everyone to pray so that the efforts undertaken by many parties to promote and build peace in the world will come to a good end. For this difficult task, words are not sufficient, the concr
ete and constant commitment is necessary of leaders of nations, and it is necessary that each person be animated by a genuine spirit of peace, which must always be implored again in prayer and which must be lived in daily interaction, in every environment.
In this Eucharistic celebration we have before our eyes, for our veneration, the image of Our Lady of the Sacred Mount of Viggiano, so loved by the people of Basilicata. The Virgin Mary gives us her Son, shows us the face of her Son, Prince of Peace: May she help us to remain in the light of this face, which shines over us (cf. Numbers 6:25), to rediscover all the tenderness of God the Father; may she sustain us in invoking the Holy Spirit, so that he will renew the face of the earth and transform hearts, undoing their hardness before the disarming goodness of the Child, who was born for us. May the Mother of God accompany us in this new year; may she obtain for us and for the whole world the desired gift of peace. Amen.[Translation by ZENIT]