VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The evergreen Christmas tree is a symbol of life offered by Christ, “God’s supreme gift to humanity,” says John Paul II.
The Pope explained the meaning of the tree during his Angelus address today to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
From the window of his study he could see the 35-meter (115 feet) fir standing near the outsized Nativity scene that will be unveiled after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
Last Sunday the Holy Father commented on the significance of the Nativity crib, “a sign of faith in God, who in Bethlehem ‘came to dwell among us.'”
Addressing some 20,000 pilgrims this morning, John Paul II, the first Pontiff to place a Christmas tree in the area enclosed by the Bernini colonnade, explained the message of this symbol.
“In winter the evergreen becomes a sign of undying life,” he said. “In general, the tree is decorated and Christmas gifts are placed under it. The symbol is also eloquent from a typically Christian point of view: It reminds us of the ‘tree of life,’ representation of Christ, God’s supreme gift to humanity.
“The message of the Christmas tree, therefore, is that life is ‘ever green’ if one gives: not so much material things, but of oneself: in friendship and sincere affection, and fraternal help and forgiveness, in shared time and reciprocal listening.”
“May Mary help us to live Christmas as an opportunity to feel the joy of giving ourselves to brothers, especially the neediest!” John Paul II concluded.
After praying the midday Angelus, the Holy Father greeted a group of 32 children and youngsters of the Beslan school in North Ossetia, who survived their ordeal as hostages during the September terrorist attack.