Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ homily during the celebration in St. Peter's Basilica, Jan. 31, of the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, which was followed by exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the singing of the traditional Te Deum hymn in thanksgiving for the past year, and Eucharistic Benediction.
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How meaningful it is to be gathered together to praise the Lord at the end of this year!
On many occasions, the Church feels the joy and duty to raise her song to God with these words of praise, which since the fourth century accompany prayer in important moments of Her earthly pilgrimage. It is the joy of thanksgiving that emanates almost spontaneously from our prayer, to recognize the loving presence of God in the events of our history. As often happens, however, we feel that our voice is not enough in prayer. It is in need of reinforcement with the company of the whole People of God, which makes its song of thanksgiving heard in unison. Therefore, in the Te Deum we ask for the help of the angels, of the prophets and of the whole of creation to praise the Lord. With this hymn, we go over the history of salvation where, by God’s mysterious design, the different events of our life of this past year find a place and synthesis.
The last words of the hymn of the Church assume a special resonance in this Jubilee Year: “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.” The company of mercy is light to understand better all that we have lived, and hope that accompanies us at the beginning of a new year.
To go over the days of the past year can be either a recalling of facts and events that refer to moments of joy or sorrow, or an endeavor to understand if we have perceived the presence of God who renews and sustains everything with His help. We are called to verify if the events of the world took place according to the Will of God, or if we have listened primarily to men’s plans, often charged with private interests, insatiable thirst for power and gratuitous violence.
And yet, today our eyes are in need of focusing in a particular way on the signs that God has given us, to touch with our hand the strength of His merciful love. We cannot forget that many days were marked by violence, by death, by the unspeakable suffering of so many innocents, of refugees constrained to leave their homeland, of men, women and children without a stable dwelling, food and support. Yet how many gestures of kindness, of love and solidarity have filled the days of this year, even if they did not make television news. Good things do not make news. These signs of love cannot and must not be obscured by the arrogance of evil. Good always conquers, even if at some moments it might seem weaker and hidden.
Our city of Rome is not a stranger to this condition of the whole world. I would like the sincere invitation, to reach all its inhabitants, to go beyond the difficulties of the present moment. May the commitment to recover the fundamental values of service, honesty and solidarity enable us to overcome the grave uncertainties that have dominated the scene this year, and which are symptoms of a scarce sense of dedication to the common good. May the positive contribution of Christian witness never be lacking, to enable Rome, in keeping with its history and with the maternal intercession of Mary Salus Populi Romani, to be the privileged interpreter of faith, of hospitality, of fraternity and of peace.
“We praise you, O God. […] In you, Lord, we put our trust: we shall not be put to shame.”[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
At the end of the Celebration of Vespers in the Basilica, the Holy Father made a brief visit to the Crib, set up next to the obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square.