Pope: Christmas Is More Than an Anniversary

Emphasizes That Christ’s Coming Is an Event of Today

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that we have the same opportunity the shepherds of Bethlehem had: acknowledging and receiving the Christ Child, who comes «today,» now, to each of us.

The Pope emphasized this point at today’s general audience, saying that it is important to understand that Christmas is more than an anniversary of a past event, of Jesus’ birth.

«Christmas, in fact, is not a mere anniversary of Jesus’ birth — it is also this, but it is more,» the Holy Father said at the last general audience of 2011. «It is the celebration of a mystery that has marked and continues to mark mankind’s history — God himself came to dwell among us, he made himself one of us; a mystery that concerns our faith and our very lives; a mystery that we experience concretely in the liturgical celebrations, especially in the Holy Mass.»

So, the Pontiff said, we can live out now and participate in an event that occurred more than 2,000 years ago.

«During the Holy Mass on Christmas night, we will repeat as a refrain to the responsorial psalm, these words: ‘Today a Savior is born for us.’ This adverb of time ‘Today,’ which is used repeatedly throughout the Christmas celebrations, refers to the event of Jesus’ birth and to the salvation that the incarnation of the Son of God comes to bring,» he explained. «In the liturgy, this event reaches beyond the limits of space and time and becomes actual, present; its effect continues, even amidst the passing of days, years and centuries. In indicating that Jesus is born ‘today,’ the liturgy does not use a meaningless phrase, but underscores that this birth affects and permeates the whole of history — even today, it remains a reality to which we may attain, precisely in the liturgy.»

Entering God’s world

Christmas, the Pope said, is a renewal of the conviction that God is really present, «still ‘flesh’ and not only far away: though also with the Father, he is close to us. In that Child born in Bethlehem, God drew near to man: We can encounter him now — in a ‘today’ whose sun knows no setting.»

The Holy Father said this point is important because «modern man — a man of ‘the sensible,’ of the empirically verifiable — finds it increasingly more difficult to open his horizons and enter the world of God.»

The Redemption is a historical reality, he emphasized, but Jesus, the Son of God, «became man and remains man.»

He added: «The Eternal entered into the limits of time and space, in order to make possible an encounter with Him ‘today.’ The liturgical texts of Christmas help us to understand that the events of salvation wrought by Christ are always actual — the interest of every man and of all mankind. 

«When, within liturgical celebrations, we hear or proclaim this ‘Today a Savior is born for us,’ we are not employing an empty, conventional expression; rather, we mean that God offers us ‘today,’ now, to me, to each one of us, the possibility of acknowledging and receiving him like the shepherds in Bethlehem, so that he might be born in our lives and renew them, illumine them, transform them by his grace, by his presence.»

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-34029?l=english

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