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POPE’S GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Prayer & Mystery of Creation (FULL TEXT)

‘Prayer illumines you: it illumines your soul, it illumines your heart and it illumines your face, even in the darkest times, even in times of great sorrow’

This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:30 am from the Library of the Apostolic Vatican Palace.

Continuing with the series of catecheses on prayer, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “The mystery of Creation” (Psalm 8:4-5.10).

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to the faithful.

The General Audience ended with the recitation of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

* *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We continue with the catechesis on prayer, meditating on the mystery of Creation. Life, the simple fact that we exist, opens man’s heart to prayer.

The first page of the Bible is like a great hymn of thanksgiving. The account of Creation is punctuated by refrains, where the goodness and beauty of everything that exists is continually confirmed. God calls to life with His word, and everything accesses existence. With the word, He separates light from darkness, alternates day and night, the cycle of seasons, opens a palette of colours with the variety of plants and animals. In this overflowing forest that quickly wards off the chaos, man finally appears. And this appearance sparks an excess of exultation that magnifies the satisfaction and joy: “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). A good thing, but also beautiful: the beauty of the whole of Creation is seen!

The beauty and mystery of Creation generates in man’s heart the first movement that arouses prayer (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2566).  So says the eighth Psalm that we heard at the beginning: “When I look at Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast established; what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou dost care for him?” (vv. 3-4). The praying person contemplates the mystery of existence around him, he sees the starry sky that hangs over him — and that astrophysics shows us today in all its immensity — and he wonders what design of love there must be behind such a powerful work! . . . And, what is man in this unbounded vastness?” “Almost a nothing,” says another Psalm (Cf. 89:48): a being that is born, a being that dies, a very fragile creature. And yet, in the whole universe, the human being is the only creature aware of such a profusion of beauty. A small being that is born, dies, is today and tomorrow is not, is the only one aware of this beauty. We are aware of this beauty!

Man’s prayer is closely linked with the sentiment of wonder. Man’s greatness is infinitesimal if compared to the universe’s dimensions. His greatest conquests seem but very little . . . But man isn’t nothing. In prayer a sentiment of mercy is affirmed overpoweringly. Nothing exists by chance: the secret of the universe lies in Someone’s benevolent gaze, which crosses our eyes. The Psalm affirms that we are made little less than God, crowned with glory and honour (Cf. 8:5). Man’s greatness is his relationship with God: his enthronement. By nature, we are almost nothing, small but by vocation, by calling we are children of the great King!

It’s an experience that many of us have had. If the story of life, with all its bitterness, sometimes risks suffocating in us the gift of prayer, suffice it to contemplate a starry sky, a sunset, a flower . . . to rekindle the spark of thanksgiving. This experience is perhaps at the base of the Bible’s first page.

When the biblical account of Creation is drawn up, the people of Israel are not going through happy days. An enemy power had occupied the land; many were deported, and now found themselves slaves in Mesopotamia. There was no longer a homeland, a Temple, or social and religious life — nothing. Yet, precisely from the great account of Creation, some begin to find reasons for thanksgiving, to praise God for their existence. Prayer is the first strength of hope. You pray and hope grows, it goes forward. I would say that prayer opens the door to hope. Hope exists, but with my prayer I open the door <to it>. Because men of prayer protect the basic truths; they are those that repeat, first of all to themselves and then to all others, that this life, despite all its toils and trials, despite its difficult days, is full of a grace to marvel at, and, as such, is always defended and protected.

Men and women that pray know that hope is stronger than discouragement. They believe that love is more powerful than death and that one day it will certainly triumph, even if in times and ways that we don’t know. Men and women of prayer bear reflections on their face of flashes of light: because even in the darkest days, the sun doesn’t cease to illuminate them. Prayer illumines you: it illumines your soul, it illumines your heart and it illumines your face, even in the darkest times, even in times of great sorrow.

We are all bearers of joy. Have you thought of this? That you are a bearer of Joy? Or do you prefer to bring bad news, things that sadden. We are all capable of bringing joy. This life is the gift that God has given us, and it is too short to consume it in sadness, in bitterness. We praise God, happy simply to exist. We look at the universe, we look at the beauties and we also look at our crosses and we say: “But You exist; You have made us so, for Yourself.”

It is necessary to feel that restlessness of heart that leads to thanking and praising God. We are the children of the great King, of the Creator, able to read His signature in all of Creation, that Creation that we do not protect today; however, in that Creation is God’s signature, who made it out of love. May the Lord make us understand this ever more profoundly and lead us to say “thank you,” and that “thank you” is a beautiful prayer.

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

In Italian 

I greet the Italian-speaking faithful. The feast, now close, of the Lord’s Ascension offers me the cue to exhort all to be generous witnesses of the Risen Christ, knowing well that He is always with us and supports us along the way.

A special thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Ascending to Heaven, Jesus Christ leaves a message and program for the whole Church: “go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Make known Christ’s word of salvation, and witness it in daily life; may this be your ideal and your commitment. My Blessing to all of you!

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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