Children of God
From before all ages, God had destined her for this decisive role in salvation history. She was to be the woman who in the fullness of time would bear God’s only Son, as Paul tells us in today’s Epistle.
In times past, God spoke to His chosen people, the Israelites, through prophets (see Hebrews 1:1-2), and imparted His blessings upon them through His priests, as we hear in today’s First Reading.
But now, He has sent His Son—to reveal His glory and His kingdom, to make His way of salvation known to all nations, as we sing in today’s Psalm. In the Infant lying in the manger, God has shone His face upon us (see John 14:8-9).
Jesus is made a child of Israel, an heir of God’s covenant with Abraham, by His circumcision in today’s Gospel (seeGenesis 17:1-14). And we have been made adopted sons and daughters by Baptism, which is the circumcision of Christ, the true circumcision (see Colossians 2:11; Philippians 3:3).
This is the blessing which Aaron imparted to Israel, the people descended from Abraham. And this blessing comes to us through Mary and the Child.
This is the good news of great joy that the shepherds make known in Bethlehem today (see Luke 2:10).
Like the shepherds, we too should make haste today to find Jesus with Mary and Joseph, and to glorify God for His blessings. And like Mary, we should keep His word and reflect upon it, letting it dwell richly in our hearts (seeColossians 3:16).
Hymn 7 on the Virgin
Come, O Sages, let us wonder at the Virgin Mary, daughter of David, that flower of beauty who has given birth to this marvel. Let us wonder at the spring from which this stream has welled up, the ship laden with bounty bringing us the message of the Father.
In her most pure breast she has received and borne that great God who rules all creation, the God through whom peace now reigns on earth and in the heavens. She alone of all creatures has given birth without knowing man. Her soul was full of wonder and joyfully each day she gave glory to God for gifts that seemed incapable of joining in one: her virginal purity and her beloved child. Yes indeed, blessed is he who was born of her!…
She carried him and sang his praise in sweet songs…: “My son, your real place is to be raised up above all things but, because you willed it, you have found a place in me. The heavens are too narrow for your majesty, yet I, who am so small, am bearing you!
Let Ezekiel come and see you on my lap; let him bow down and worship and acknowledge in you him whom he beheld seated on the chariot of the cherubim (cf. Ez 1). Let him proclaim me blessed, thanks to him whom I bear!… Isaiah, you who proclaimed: ‘Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son’ (7,14), come and look on me, be glad with me… See how I have given birth while guarding intact the seal of my virginity. Behold Emmanuel who, in former times, was hidden from your sight…
Come to me, O Sages, singers of the Spirit, prophets who, in your visions, received the revelation of hidden realities, laborers who, after sowing, slept in hope. Arise, leap for joy as you see the harvest of fruit. See in my arms the grain of life that gives bread to the hungry and satisfies the wretched. Rejoice with me: I have received the wheatsheaf of joy!”
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, December 31, 2005
At the end of a year which has been particularly eventful for the Church and for the world, mindful of the Apostle’s order, “walk… established in the faith… abounding in thanksgiving” (cf. Col 2: 6-7), we are gathered together this evening to raise a hymn of thanksgiving to God, Lord of time and of history. …
Yes, it is our duty, as well as a need of our hearts, to praise and thank the eternal One who accompanies us through time, never abandoning us, and who always watches over humanity with the fidelity of his merciful love.
We may well say that the Church lives to praise and thank God. She herself has been an “action of grace” down the ages, a faithful witness of a love that does not die, of a love that embraces people of every race and culture, fruitfully disseminating principles of true life.
As the Second Vatican Council recalls, “the Church prays and likewise labours so that into the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, may pass the fullness of the whole world, and that in Christ, the head of all things, all honour and glory may be rendered to the Creator, the Father of the universe” (Lumen Gentium, n. 17).
Sustained by the Holy Spirit, she “presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God” (St Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XVIII, 51, 2), drawing strength from the Lord’s help. Thus, in patience and in love, she overcomes “her sorrows and her difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without”, and reveals “in the world, faithfully, however darkly, the mystery of her Lord until, in the consummation, it shall be manifested in full light” (Lumen Gentium, n. 8).
The Church lives from Christ and with Christ. He offers her his spousal love, guiding her through the centuries; and she, with the abundance of her gifts, accompanies men and women on their journey so that those who accept Christ may have life and have it abundantly. …
At the beginning of this celebration, enlightened by the Word of God, we sang the “Te Deum” with faith. There are so many reasons that render our thanksgiving intense, making it a unanimous prayer.
While we consider the many events that have marked the succession of months in this year that is coming to its end, I would like to remember especially those who are in difficulty: the poorest and the most abandoned people, those who have lost hope in a well-grounded sense of their own existence, or who involuntarily become the victims of selfish interests without being asked for their support or their opinion.
Making their sufferings our own, let us entrust them all to God, who knows how to bring everything to a good end; to him let us entrust our aspiration that every person’s dignity as a child of God be respected.
Let us ask the Lord of life to soothe with his grace the sufferings caused by evil, and to continue to fortify our earthy existence by giving us the Bread and Wine of salvation to sustain us on our way towards the Heavenly Homeland.
While we take our leave of the year that is drawing to a close and set out for the new one, the liturgy of this First Vespers ushers us into the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos. Eight days after the birth of Jesus, we will be celebrating the one whom God chose in advance to be the Mother of the Saviour “when the fullness of time had come” (Gal 4: 4).
The mother is the one who gives life but also who helps and teaches how to live. Mary is a Mother, the Mother of Jesus, to whom she gave her blood and her body. And it is she who presents to us the eternal Word of the Father, who came to dwell among us. Let us ask Mary to intercede for us.
May her motherly protection accompany us today and for ever, so that Christ will one day welcome us into his glory, into the assembly of the Saints: Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, January 1, 2006
In today’s liturgy our gaze continues to be turned to the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, while with particular emphasis we contemplate the Motherhood of the Virgin Mary.
In the Pauline passage we have heard (cf. Gal 4: 4), the Apostle very discreetly points to the One through whom the Son of God enters the world: Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God, Theotokos.
At the beginning of a new year, we are invited, as it were, to attend her school, the school of the faithful disciple of the Lord, in order to learn from her to accept in faith and prayer the salvation God desires to pour out upon those who trust in his merciful love.
Salvation is a gift of God; in the first reading, it was presented as a blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you!… The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Nm 6: 24, 26).
This is the blessing that priests used to invoke upon the people at the end of the great liturgical feasts, particularly the feast of the New Year. We are in the presence of a text packed with meaning, punctuated by the Name of the Lord which is repeated at the beginning of every verse. This text is not limited to the mere enunciation of principles but strives to realize what it says.
Indeed, as is widely known, in Semitic thought the blessing of the Lord produces well-being and salvation through its own power, just as cursing procures disgrace and ruin. The effectiveness of blessing is later more specifically brought about by God, who protects us (v. 24), favours us (v. 25) and gives us peace, which is to say in other words, he offers us an abundance of happiness.
By having us listen once again to this ancient blessing at the beginning of a new solar year, the liturgy, as it were, encourages us in turn to invoke the Lord’s blessing upon the New Year that is just beginning, so that it may be a year of prosperity and peace for us all. …
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19).
The first day of the year is placed under the sign of a woman, Mary. The Evangelist Luke describes her as the silent Virgin who listens constantly to the eternal Word, who lives in the Word of God. Mary treasures in her heart the words that come from God and, piecing them together as in a mosaic, learns to understand them.
Let us too, at her school, learn to become attentive and docile disciples of the Lord. With her motherly help, let us commit ourselves to working enthusiastically in the “workshop” of peace, following Christ, the Prince of Peace.
After the example of the Blessed Virgin, may we let ourselves be guided always and only by Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and for ever! (Heb 13: 8). Amen.
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, December 31, 2006
On this evening of 31 December, two different perspectives intersect: one is linked to the end of the civil year, the other to the liturgical Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, which concludes the Octave of Holy Christmas. The first event is common to all, the second concerns believers. Their intersection confers a special character upon this evening celebration, in a particular spiritual atmosphere that is conducive to reflection.
The first, most evocative, theme is linked to the dimension of time.
In the last hours of every solar year we participate in some worldly “rites” which in the contemporary context are mainly marked by amusement and often lived as an evasion from reality, as it were, to exorcise the negative aspects and propitiate improbable good luck. How different the attitude of the Christian Community must be!
The Church is called to live these hours, making the Virgin Mary’s sentiments her own. With her, the Church is invited to keep her gaze fixed on the Infant Jesus, the new Sun rising on the horizon of humanity and, comforted by his light, to take care to present to him “the joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 1).
Consequently, two different evaluations of the dimension of “time” confront each other, one quantitative and the other qualitative.
On the one hand, the solar cycle with its rhythms; on the other, what St Paul called the “fullness of time” (cf. Gal 4: 4), that is, the culminating moment of the history of the universe and of the human race when the Son of God was born in the world. The time of the promises was fulfilled and, when Mary’s pregnancy reached its term, “the earth”, a Psalm says, “yielded its increase” (Ps 67: 6)
The coming of the Messiah, foretold by the Prophets, is qualitatively the most important event of all history, on which it confers its ultimate and full meaning. It is not historical and political coordinates that condition God’s choice, but on the contrary, the event of the Incarnation that “fills” history with value and meaning.
We, who come 2,000 years after that event, can affirm this, so to speak, also a posteriori, after having known the whole life of Jesus, until his death and Resurrection. We are witnesses at the same time of his glory and his humility, of the immense value of his coming and of God’s infinite respect for us human beings and for our history.
He did not fill time by pouring himself into it from on high, but “from within”, making himself a tiny seed to lead humanity to its full maturation.
God’s style required a long period of preparation to reach from Abraham to Jesus Christ, and after the Messiah’s coming, history did not end but continued its course, apparently the same but in reality visited by God and oriented to the Lord’s second and definitive Coming at the end of time. We might say that Mary’s Motherhood is a real symbol and sacrament of all this, an event at the same time human and divine.
In the passage from the Letter to the Galatians that we have just heard, St Paul said: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4: 4). Origen commented: “Note well that he did not say, “born by means of a woman’ but “born of a woman'” (Comment on the Letter to the Galatians, PG 14, 1298).
This acute observation of the great exegete and ecclesiastical writer is important: in fact, if the Son of God had been born only “by means of” a woman, he would not truly have taken on our humanity, something which instead he did by taking flesh “of” Mary. Mary’s motherhood, therefore, is true and fully human.
The fundamental truth about Jesus as a divine Person who fully assumed our human nature is condensed in the phrase: “God sent forth his Son born of woman”. He is the Son of God, he is generated by God and at the same time he is the son of a woman, Mary. He comes from her. He is of God and of Mary.
For this reason one can and must call the Mother of Jesus the Mother of God. This title, rendered in Greek as Theotokos, probably appeared for the first time in the very region of Alexandria, Egypt, precisely where Origen lived in the first half of the third century. However, she was dogmatically defined as such only two centuries later, in 431 by the Council of Ephesus, a city to which I had the joy of going on pilgrimage a month ago during my Apostolic Visit to Turkey.
Indeed, thinking back to that unforgettable Visit, how could I fail to express all my filial gratitude to the Holy Mother of God for the special protection which she granted to me in those days of grace?
Theotokos, Mother of God: every time we recite the Hail Mary we address the Virgin with this title, imploring her to pray “for us sinners”.
At the end of a year, we feel a special need to call on the motherly intercession of Mary Most Holy for the city of Rome, for Italy, for Europe and for the whole world. Let us entrust to Mary, who is the Mother of Mercy incarnate, particularly those situations to which the Lord’s grace alone can bring peace, comfort and justice.
The Virgin heard the Angel announcing her divine Motherhood say to her: “With God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1: 37). Mary believed and for this reason she is blessed (cf. Lk 1: 45). What is impossible to man becomes possible to the one who believes (cf. Mk 9: 23).
Thus, as 2006 draws to a close and the dawn of 2007 can already be glimpsed, let us ask the Mother of God to obtain for us the gift of a mature faith: a faith that we would like to resemble hers as far as possible, a clear, genuine, humble and at the same time courageous faith, steeped in hope and enthusiasm for the Kingdom of God, a faith devoid of all fatalism and wholly set on cooperating with the divine will in full and joyful obedience and with the absolute certainty that God wants nothing but love and life, always and for everyone.
Obtain for us, O Mary, an authentic, pure faith. May you always be thanked and blessed, Holy Mother of God! Amen!
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, January 1, 2007
As in a mosaic, today’s liturgy contemplates different events and messianic situations, but attention is especially focused on Mary, Mother of God. Eight days after Jesus’ birth, we commemorate the Mother, the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to the Child who is King of Heaven and earth for ever (cf. Entrance Antiphon; Sedulius).
The liturgy today meditates on the Word made man and repeats that he is born of the Virgin. It reflects on the circumcision of Jesus as a rite of admission to the community and contemplates God who, by means of Mary, gave his Only-Begotten Son to lead the “new people”. It recalls the name given to the Messiah and listens to it spoken with tender sweetness by his Mother. It invokes peace for the world, Christ’s peace, and does so through Mary, Mediatrix and Cooperator of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn. 60-61).
We are beginning a new solar year which is a further period of time offered to us by divine Providence in the context of the salvation inaugurated by Christ. But did not the eternal Word enter time precisely through Mary? In the Second Reading we have just listened to, the Apostle Paul recalls this by saying that Jesus was born “of woman” (Gal 4: 4).
In today’s liturgy the figure of Mary, true Mother of Jesus, God-man, stands out. Thus, today’s Solemnity is not celebrating an abstract idea but a mystery and an historic event: Jesus Christ, a divine Person, is born of the Virgin Mary who is his Mother in the truest sense.
Today too, Mary’s virginity is highlighted, in addition to her motherhood. These are two prerogatives that are always proclaimed together, inseparably, because they complement and qualify each other. Mary is Mother, but a Virgin Mother; Mary is a virgin, but a Mother Virgin. If either of these aspects is ignored, the mystery of Mary as the Gospels present her to us, cannot be properly understood.
As Mother of Christ, Mary is also Mother of the Church, which my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI chose to proclaim on 21 November 1964 at the Second Vatican Council. Lastly, Mary is the Spiritual Mother of all humanity, because Jesus on the Cross shed his blood for all of us and from the Cross he entrusted us all to her maternal care.
Let us begin this new year, therefore, by looking at Mary whom we received from God’s hands as a precious “talent” to be made fruitful, a providential opportunity to contribute to bringing about the Kingdom of God….
“The Lord bless you and keep you… lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Nm 6: 24, 26). This is the formula of the Blessing we heard in the First Reading, taken from the Book of Numbers. The Lord’s Name is repeated in it three times. This gives one an idea of the intensity and power of the Blessing, whose last word is “peace”.
The biblical term shalom, which we translate as “peace”, implies that accumulation of good things in which consists the “salvation” brought by Christ, the Messiah announced by the Prophets. We Christians therefore recognize him as the Prince of Peace. He became a man and was born in a grotto in Bethlehem to bring peace to people of good will, to all who welcome him with faith and love.
Thus, peace is truly the gift and commitment of Christmas: the gift that must be accepted with humble docility and constantly invoked with prayerful trust, the task that makes every person of good will a “channel of peace”.
Let us ask Mary, Mother of God, to help us to welcome her Son and, in him, true peace. Let us ask her to sharpen our perception so that we may recognize in the face of every human person, the Face of Christ, the heart of peace!
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, December 31, 2007
As this year is also ending, we are gathered in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. The liturgy makes this important Marian feast coincide with the end and the beginning of the solar year. Our hymn of gratitude for 2007 which is drawing to a close and for 2008 which we are already glimpsing is therefore combined with contemplation of the mystery of the divine motherhood. Time passes and its inexorable passing induces us to raise our gaze in deep gratitude to the One who is eternal, to the Lord of time. …
In the short Reading from the Letter to the Galatians that we have just heard, speaking of the liberation of man brought about by God with the mystery of the Incarnation, St Paul very discreetly mentions the One through whom the Son of God entered the world: “when the time had fully come”, he wrote, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4: 4).
The Church contemplates in the “woman” the features of Mary of Nazareth, a unique woman because she was called to carry out a mission that brought her into very close contact with Christ: indeed, it was an absolutely unique relationship, because Mary is Mother of the Saviour. Just as obviously, however, we can and must affirm that she is our Mother because, by living her very special maternal relationship with the Son, she shared in his mission for us and for the salvation of all people.
In contemplating her, the Church makes out her own features: Mary lives faith and charity; Mary is also a creature saved by the one Saviour; Mary collaborates in the initiative of the salvation of all humanity. Thus, Mary constitutes for the Church her truest image: she in whom the Ecclesial Community must continually discover the authentic sense of its own vocation and its own mystery.
This short but intense Pauline passage then continues, showing how the fact that the Son assumed human nature unfolds the perspective of a radical change of the actual human condition. Paul says in it that “God sent forth his Son… to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4: 4-5). The Incarnate Word transforms human life from within, sharing with us his being as Son of the Father.
He became like us in order for us to become like him: children of the Son, hence, people free from the law of sin. Is this not a fundamental reason to raise our thanksgiving to God? A thanksgiving which can only be even more motivated at the end of a year, considering the many benefits and his constant assistance that we have experienced over the period of the past 12 months. This is why every Christian community gathers together this evening and sings the Te Deum, a traditional hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity. This is what we shall also do at the end of this liturgical meeting of ours, before the Most Blessed Sacrament.
As we sing we will pray: “Te ergo, quæsumus, tuis famulis subveni, quos pretioso sanguine redemisti: Come then, Lord, and help your people, bought with the price of your own blood”. This is our prayer this evening: Come with your mercy, Lord, to the aid of the inhabitants of our City in which, as elsewhere, serious needs and poverty weigh on the lives of people and families, preventing them from looking with trust to the future. Many, especially young people, are attracted by a false exaltation or rather, by the profanation of the body and the trivialization of sexuality; so it is difficult to list the many challenges bound up with consumerism and secularism which call into question believers and people of good will. To say it in a word, in Rome one also notes that lack of hope and trust in life that constitutes the “obscure” evil of modern Western society.
But if the deficiencies are evident, there is no lack of light and reasons for hope on which to implore special divine blessings. Precisely in this perspective, in singing the Te Deum we shall pray: “Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuæ – Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance”. …
“In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in æternum – Lord, show us your love and mercy; for we put our trust in you”. The majestic hymn of the Te Deum ends with this cry of faith, of total trust in God, with this solemn proclamation of our hope. Christ is our “trustworthy” hope, and to this theme I dedicated my recent Encyclical entitled Spe Salvi. But our hope is always essentially also hope for others, and only thus is it truly hope for each one of us (cf. n. 48). Dear brothers and sisters of the Church of Rome, let us ask the Lord to make each one of us authentic leaven of hope in our various milieus, so that it will be possible to build a better future for the whole city. This is my wish for everyone on the eve of a New Year, a wish that I entrust to the motherly intercession of Mary, Mother of God and Star of Hope. Amen!
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, January 1, 2008
Peace. In the First Reading from the Book of Numbers we heard the invocation: “The Lord… give you peace” (6: 26); may the Lord grant peace to each one of you, to your families and to the whole world. We all aspire to live in peace but true peace, the peace proclaimed by the Angels on Christmas night, is not merely a human triumph or the fruit of political agreements; it is first and foremost a divine gift to be ceaselessly implored, and at the same time a commitment to be carried forward patiently, always remaining docile to the Lord’s commands. …
Our thoughts now turn spontaneously to Our Lady, whom we invoke today as the Mother of God. It was Pope Paul VI who moved to 1 January the Feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, which was formerly celebrated on 11 October. Indeed, even before the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council, the memorial of the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth – as a sign of submission to the law, his official insertion in the Chosen People – used to be celebrated on the first day of the year and the Feast of the Name of Jesus was celebrated the following Sunday.
We perceive a few traces of these celebrations in the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed, in which St Luke says that eight days after his birth the Child was circumcised and was given the name “Jesus”, “the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in [his Mother’s]… womb” (Lk 2: 21).
Today’s feast, therefore, as well as being a particularly significant Marian feast, also preserves a strongly Christological content because, we might say, before the Mother, it concerns the Son, Jesus, true God and true Man.
The Apostle Paul refers to the mystery of the divine motherhood of Mary, the Theotokos, in his Letter to the Galatians. “When the time had fully come”, he writes, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (4: 4). We find the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word and the Divine Motherhood of Mary summed up in a few words: the Virgin’s great privilege is precisely to be Mother of the Son who is God. The most logical and proper place for this Marian feast is therefore eight days after Christmas.
Indeed, in the night of Bethlehem, when “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2: 7), the prophesies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son”, Isaiah had foretold (7: 14); “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son”, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary (Lk 1: 31); and again, an Angel of the Lord, the Evangelist Matthew recounts, appeared to Joseph in a dream to reassure him and said: “Do not fear to take Mary for your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son” (Mt 1: 20-21).
The title “Mother of God”, together with the title “Blessed Virgin”, is the oldest on which all the other titles with which Our Lady was venerated are based, and it continues to be invoked from generation to generation in the East and in the West.
A multitude of hymns and a wealth of prayers of the Christian tradition refer to the mystery of her divine motherhood, such as, for example, a Marian antiphon of the Christmas season, Alma Redemptoris mater, with which we pray in these words: “Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem, Virgo prius ac posterius – You, in the wonder of all creation, have brought forth your Creator, Mother ever virgin”.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us today contemplate Mary, ever-virgin Mother of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father; let us learn from her to welcome the Child who was born for us in Bethlehem. If we recognize in the Child born of her the Eternal Son of God and accept him as our one Saviour, we can be called and we really are children of God: sons in the Son. The Apostle writes: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4: 4).
The Evangelist Luke repeats several times that Our Lady meditated silently on these extraordinary events in which God had involved her. We also heard this in the short Gospel passage that the Liturgy presents to us today. “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19). The Greek verb used, sumbállousa, literally means “piecing together” and makes us think of a great mystery to be discovered little by little.
Although the Child lying in a manger looks like all children in the world, at the same time he is totally different: he is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true man. This mystery – the Incarnation of the Word and the divine Motherhood of Mary – is great and certainly far from easy to understand with the human mind alone.
Yet, by learning from Mary, we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and minds do not manage to perceive or contain on their own. Indeed, this is such a great gift that only through faith are we granted to accept it, while not entirely understanding it. And it is precisely on this journey of faith that Mary comes to meet us as our support and guide.
She is mother because she brought forth Jesus in the flesh; she is mother because she adhered totally to the Father’s will. St Augustine wrote: “The divine motherhood would have been of no value to her had Christ not borne her in his heart, with a destiny more fortunate than the moment when she conceived him in the flesh” (De Sancta Virginitate, 3, 3). And in her heart Mary continued to treasure, to “piece together” the subsequent events of which she was to be a witness and protagonist, even to the death on the Cross and the Resurrection of her Son Jesus.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren.
May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray, as we heard in the First Reading, that the Lord may “make his face to shine” upon us, “and be gracious” to us (cf. Nm 6: 24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, December 31, 2008
The year that is ending and that which is approaching on the horizon are both under the blessed gaze of the Most Holy Mother of God. The artistic polychrome sculpture set here next to the altar, which portrays her on a throne with the Child giving his Blessing, also recalls her motherly presence. We are celebrating the First Vespers of this Marian Solemnity, in which there are numerous liturgical references to the mystery of the Virgin’s divine motherhood.
“O admirabile commercium! O marvelous exchange!”. Thus begins the Antiphon of the first Psalm, to then continue: “man’s Creator has become man, born of a virgin”. “By your miraculous birth of the Virgin you have fulfilled the Scriptures”, proclaims the Antiphon of the Second Psalm, which is echoed by the words of the third Antiphon that introduce us to the canticle taken from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians: “Your blessed and fruitful virginity is like the bush, flaming yet unburned, which Moses saw on Sinai. Pray for us, Mother of God”.
Mary’s divine motherhood is also highlighted in the brief Reading proclaimed shortly beforehand, which proposes anew the well-known verses of the Letter to the Galatians: “When the designated time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman… so that we might our status as adopted sons” (Gal 4: 4-5). And again, in the traditional Te Deum that we will raise at the end of our celebration before the Most Holy Sacrament solemnly exposed for our adoration singing, “Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum”, in English: “when you, O Christ, became man to set us free you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb”.
Thus everything this evening invites us to turn our gaze to the one who “received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world”, and for this very reason the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council recalls “is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God” (Lumen gentium, n. 53). Christ’s Nativity, which we are commemorating in these days, is entirely suffused with the light of Mary and, while we pause at the manger to contemplate the Child, our gaze cannot fail to turn in gratitude also to his Mother, who with her “yes” made possible the gift of Redemption.
This is why the Christmas Season brings with it a profoundly Marian connotation; the birth of Jesus as God and man and Mary’s divine motherhood are inseparable realities; the mystery of Mary and the mystery of the Only-Begotten Son of God who was made man form a single mystery, in which the one helps to better understand the other.
Mary Mother of God Theotokos, Dei Genetrix. Since ancient times Our Lady has been honoured with this title. However, for many centuries in the West there was no feast specifically dedicated to the divine Motherhood of Mary. It was introduced into the Latin Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931 on the occasion of the 15th centenary of the Council of Ephesus, and he chose to establish it on 11 October. On that date, in 1962, the Second Vatican Council was inaugurated. It was then the Servant of God Paul VI who restored an ancient tradition in 1969, fixing this Solemnity on 1 January.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus of 2 February 1974, he explained the reason for his decision and its connection with the World Day of Peace. “In the revised ordering of the Christmas period it seems to us that the attention of all should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God,” Paul VI wrote. “This celebration… is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the “holy Mother’…. It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration to the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels (cf. Lk 2: 14), and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace” (n. 5).
This evening, let us place in the hands of the heavenly Mother of God our choral hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord for the gifts he has generously granted us during the past 12 months. The first sentiment which spontaneously rises in our hearts this evening is precisely that of praise and thanksgiving to the One who gave us time, a precious opportunity to do good; let us combine with it our request for forgiveness for perhaps not always having spent it usefully. …
By coming into the world, the eternal Word of the Father revealed to us God’s closeness and the ultimate truth about man and his eternal destiny; he came to stay with us to be our irreplaceable support, especially in the inevitable daily difficulties. And this evening the Virgin herself reminds us of what a great gift Jesus gave us with his Birth, of what a precious “treasure” his Incarnation constitutes for us. In his Nativity Jesus comes to offer us his Word as a lamp to guide our steps; he comes to offer us himself and we must always affirm him as our unfailing hope in our daily life, aware that “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (Gaudium et spes, n. 22).
Christ’s presence is a gift that we must be able to share with everyone. … In our times, marked by uncertainty and concern for the future, it is necessary to experience the living presence of Christ. It is Mary, Star of Hope who leads us to him. …
Dear brothers and sisters, this year is ending with an awareness of the spreading social and financial crisis that now involves the whole world; a crisis that asks for greater moderation and solidarity from all, so that they may go to the aid especially of the individuals and families who are in the most serious difficulty. … Although many clouds are gathering on the horizon of our future, we must not be afraid.
Our great hope as believers is eternal life in communion with Christ and the whole family of God. This great hope gives us the strength to face and to overcome the difficulties of life in this world. This evening the motherly presence of Mary assures us that God never abandons us if we entrust ourselves to him and follow his teachings.
Therefore, while we take our leave of 2008 and prepare to welcome 2009, let us present to Mary our expectations and hopes, as well as our fears and the difficulties that dwell in our hearts, with filial affection and trust. She, the Virgin Mother, offers us the Child who lies in the manger as our sure hope. Full of trust, we shall then be able to sing at the end of the Te Deum: “In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum – In you, Lord, is our hope: and we shall never hope in vain”. Yes, Lord, in you we hope, today and for ever; you are our hope. Amen!
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, January 1, 2009
My good wishes echo the good wishes that the Lord himself has just addressed to us in the liturgy of the Word. A Word which, starting with the event in Bethlehem, recalled in its historical actuality by the Gospel of Luke (2: 16-21) and reinterpreted in all its saving importance by the Apostle Paul (Gal 4: 4-7), becomes a Blessing for the People of God and for all humanity.
Thus the ancient Jewish tradition of blessing is brought to completion (Nm 6: 22-27): the priests of Israel blessed the people by putting the Lord’s Name upon them: “so shall they put my name upon the people of Israel”. With a triple formula present in the First Reading the sacred Name was invoked upon the faithful three times, as a wish for grace and peace.
This remote custom brings us back to an essential reality: to be able to walk on the way of peace, men and women and peoples need to be illumined by the “Face” of God and to be blessed by his “Name”. Precisely this came about definitively with the Incarnation: the coming of the Son of God in our flesh and in history brought an irrevocable blessing, a light that is never to be extinguished and offers believers and people of good-will alike the possibility of building the civilization of love and peace.
The Second Vatican Council said in this regard that “by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man” (Gaudium et spes, n. 22). This union confirms the original design of a humanity created in the “image and likeness” of God. In fact, the Incarnate Word is the one, perfect and consubstantial image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ is the perfect man. “Human nature”, the Council reaffirms: “by the very fact that it was assumed… in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare” (ibid.).
For this reason the earthly history of Jesus that culminated in the Paschal Mystery is the beginning of a new world, because he truly inaugurated a new humanity, ever and only with Christ’s grace, capable of bringing about a peaceful “revolution”. This revolution was not an ideological but spiritual revolution, not utopian but real, and for this reason in need of infinite patience, sometimes of very long periods, avoiding any short cuts and taking the hardest path: the path of the development of responsibility in consciences.
… Dear brothers and sisters, I believe that the Virgin Mary must have asked herself this question several times: why did Jesus choose to be born of a simple, humble girl like me? And then, why did he want to come into the world in a stable and have his first visit from the shepherds of Bethlehem? Mary received her answer in full at the end, having laid in the tomb the Body of Jesus, dead and wrapped in a linen shroud (cf. Lk 23: 53).
She must then have fully understood the mystery of the poverty of God. She understood that God made himself poor for our sake, to enrich us with his poverty full of love, to urge us to impede the insatiable greed that sparks conflicts and divisions, to invite us to moderate the mania to possess and thus to be open to reciprocal sharing and acceptance.
Let us trustingly address to Mary, Mother of the Son of God who made himself our brother, our prayer that she will help us follow in his footsteps, to fight and overcome poverty, to build true peace, which is opus iustitiae. … Let us say to Mary: accompany us, heavenly Mother of the Redeemer, throughout the year that begins today, and obtain from God the gift of peace for the Holy Land and for all humanity. Holy Mother of God, pray for us. Amen.
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, December 31, 2009
At the end of a year full of events for both the Church and the world we are meeting this evening in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and to raise a hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord of time and history.
It is first of all the words of the Apostle Paul that we have just heard which shed a special light on the conclusion of the year: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman… so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4: 4-5).
The concentrated Pauline passage speaks to us of “time… fully come”, and enlightens us as to the content of these words. In the history of the human family, God wanted to introduce his eternal Word, making him take on a humanity like our own. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, eternity entered time and human history was opened to absolute fulfilment in God. Time was, so to speak, “touched” by Christ, the Son of God and of Mary, and received from him new and surprising significance: it became a time of salvation and grace. In this same perspective, we must consider the time of the year that is ending and of that which is beginning so that we may put the most different events of our life important or small, simple or undecipherable, joyful or sad under the sign of salvation and hear the call God is addressing to us in order to lead us toward a goal that lies beyond time itself: eternity.
The Pauline text also means to underline the mystery of God’s closeness to all humankind. It is the closeness proper to the mystery of Christmas: God makes himself man and man is given the unheard-of possibility to be a son of God. All this fills us with great joy and leads us to offer praise to God. We are called to say with our voices, our hearts and our lives “thank you” to God for the gift of the Son, the source and fulfilment of all the other gifts with which divine love fills the existence of each one of us, of families, of communities, of the Church and of the world. The hymn of the Te Deum which today rings out in churches in every corner of the earth is intended as a sign of the joyful gratitude with which we address God for all that he has offered us in Christ. Truly “from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (Jn 1: 16). …
Only by contemplating the mystery of the Incarnate Word can human beings find the answer to the great questions of human existence and thus discover the truth of their own identity. … To be authoritative witnesses of the truth about the human being prayerful listening to the word of God is essential. In this regard, I would like above all to recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina. … The word, believed, proclaimed and lived impels us to acts of solidarity and sharing. …
May the Nativity of the Lord which reminds us of how God came to save us of his own free will, taking on our humanity and giving us his divine life help every person of good will to understand that it is only by opening oneself to God’s love that human action is changed and transformed, becoming the leaven of a better future for all. …
As we take our leave of the year that is ending and set out towards the new one, today’s Liturgy ushers us into the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. The Blessed Virgin is Mother of the Church and Mother of each one of her members, that is, Mother of each of us, in Christ. Let us ask her to accompany us with her caring protection, today and for ever, so that Christ may one day welcome into his glory, into the assembly of the Saints: Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari. Alleluia! Amen!
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, January 1, 2010
To all of you who are gathered here: representatives of the world’s peoples, of the Roman and universal Church, priests and faithful; and to all who are connected via radio and television, I repeat the words of the ancient Blessing: “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Nm 6: 26). Today I wish to develop precisely the theme of the Face and of faces, in the light of the word of God the Face of God and human faces a theme that also gives us a key to the interpretation of the problem of peace in the world.
We heard in both the First Reading from the Book of Numbers and in the Responsorial Psalm, several expressions with reference to God that contain the metaphor of the face: “The Lord make his face to shine upon you, / and be gracious to you” (Nm 6: 25). “May God be gracious to us and bless us /and make his face to shine upon us / that your way may be known upon earth, / your saving power among all nations” (Ps 67: 1-3).
The face is the expression of the person par excellence. It is what makes him or her recognizable and from it transpire sentiments, thoughts and heartfelt intentions. God by his nature is invisible, yet the Bible applies this image to him too. Showing his face is an expression of his benevolence, whereas hiding it indicates his anger and indignation. The Book of Exodus says that “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33: 11), and again it was to Moses that the Lord promised his closeness with a very unusual formula: “my presence [face] will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33: 14).
The Psalms show believers to us as those who seek God’s Face (cf. Ps 27: 8); 105: 4), and who, in worship, long to see him (Ps 42: 3) and tell us that “the upright” shall “behold his face” (Ps 11: 7).
One may interpret the whole biblical narrative as the gradual revelation of the Face of God, until it reaches his full manifestation in Jesus Christ.
“When the time had fully come”, the Apostle Paul has reminded us today too, “God sent forth his Son”, (Gal 4: 4), immediately adding, “born of woman, born under the law”. God’s Face took on a human face, letting itself be seen and recognized in the Son of the Virgin Mary, who for this reason we venerate with the loftiest title of “Mother of God”.
She, who had preserved in her heart the secret of the divine motherhood, was the first to see the face of God made man in the small fruit of her womb. The Mother had a very special, unique and, in a certain way, exclusive relationship with the newborn Son. The first face a child sees is that of his mother and this gaze is crucial for his relationship with life, with himself, with others and with God; it is also crucial if he is to become a “son of peace” (Lk 10: 6).
Among the many typologies of icons of the Virgin Mary in the Byzantine tradition is the one called “of tenderness” that portrays the Child Jesus with his face resting, cheek to cheek, against his Mother’s. The Child gazes at the Mother and she is looking at us, almost as if to mirror for those who are observing and praying the tenderness of God who came down to her from Heaven and was incarnate in the Son of man, whom she holds in her arms.
We can contemplate in this Marian image something of God himself: a sign of the ineffable love that impelled him “to give his Only Son” (cf. Jn 3: 16). But that same icon also shows us, in Mary, the face of the Church which reflects Christ’s light upon us and upon the whole world, the Church through which the Good News reaches every person: “You are no longer a slave but a son” (Gal 4: 7), as once again we read in St Paul. …
Dear brothers and sisters, a Psalm recurs in the Christmas Season that contains, amongst other things, a wonderful example of how God’s coming will transfigure the creation and give rise to a sort of cosmic celebration. This hymn begins with an invitation to all peoples to praise: “Sing to the Lord a new song; / sing to the Lord, all the earth! / Sing to the Lord, bless his Name” (Ps 96: 1).
Yet at a certain point this appeal for exultation is extended to the whole of creation: “Let the Heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; / let the sea roar, and all that fills it; / let the field exalt, and everything in it! / Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy” (vv. 11-12). The celebration of faith becomes a celebration of the human being and of creation: that celebration which is also expressed at Christmas in decorations on trees, in streets and in houses. Everything flourishes anew because God has appeared in our midst. The Virgin Mother shows the Infant Jesus to the shepherds of Bethlehem, who rejoice and praise the Lord (cf. Lk 2: 20). The Church renews the mystery for people of every generation, she shows them God’s Face so that, with his Blessing, they may walk on the path of peace.
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, December 31, 2010
At the end of a year we meet this evening in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God and to raise a hymn of thanksgiving for the innumerable graces she has given us, but also and above all for Grace in person, namely for the living and personal Gift of the Father which is his beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is this gratitude for the gifts received from God in the time we are granted to live that helps us to discover a great value inscribed in time: marked in its annual, monthly, weekly and daily seasons, it is inhabited by the love of God, by his gifts of grace; it is the time of salvation. Yes, eternal God has entered and remains in human time. He has entered and remains in it with the Person of Jesus, the Son of God made man, the Saviour of the world. It is of this that the Apostle Paul has reminded us in the brief Reading just proclaimed: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son… so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).
Thus the Eternal enters time and renews it from the roots, freeing man from sin and making him a son of God. Already “in the beginning”, that is, with the creation of the world and of man in the world, the eternity of God caused time — in which human history takes place from generation to generation — to unfold. With the coming of Christ and with his redemption, we are now in the time that has “fully come”.
As St Paul points out, with Jesus time fully comes, it reaches fulfilment, acquiring that meaning of salvation and grace for which it was desired by God before the creation of the world.
Christmas reminds us of this “fullness” of time, in other words of the renewing salvation which Jesus brought to all mankind. It reminds us of it and, mysteriously but really, gives it to us ever anew. Our human time is full of evil, of suffering, every kind of tragedy — from those caused by the wickedness of human beings to those that derive from inauspicious natural events, — but henceforth and in a definitive and indelible manner it contains the joyful and liberating newness of Christ the Saviour. Precisely in the Child of Bethlehem we can contemplate in a particularly luminous and eloquent way the encounter of eternity with time, as the Church’s Liturgy likes to express it. Christmas makes us rediscover God in the humble, frail flesh of a Child.
Is this not perhaps an invitation to rediscover God’s presence and his love which gives salvation even in the brief and stressful hours of our daily life? Is it not perhaps an invitation to discover that our human time — even in difficult and demanding moments — is ceaselessly enriched by the Lord’s grace, indeed by Grace, which is the Lord himself?
At the end of this year 2010, before consigning the days and hours to God and to his just and merciful judgement, I feel the need in my heart to raise our “thank you” to him for his love for us. …
Indeed, the Word of God became flesh for all and his truth is accessible to every human being and to every culture. …
Nourished by Christ, we too are attracted by the very act of total giving that impelled the Lord to give his life itself, revealing in this way the immense love of the Father. The witness of charity therefore possesses an essential theological dimension and is profoundly united with the proclamation of the word. …
May God, infinite Love, enflame the heart of each one of us with that love which impelled him to give us his Only-Begotten Son.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are asked to look to the future and to look to it with that hope [trust] which is the last word of the “Te Deum”: “In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum! — O Lord, in you have I trusted, let me never be confounded”.
It is always Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, who gives us Christ our Hope. May her arms, and especially her heart, continue to offer to the world Jesus, her Son and our Saviour, as they did to the shepherds and to the Magi. All our hope is in him, because salvation and peace came from him for every human being. Amen.
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, January 1, 2011
Still immersed in the spiritual atmosphere of Christmas, in which we have contemplated the mystery of Christ’s birth, today we are celebrating the Virgin Mary, whom the Church venerates as Mother of God with the same sentiments since she gave flesh to the Son of the Eternal Father. The biblical Readings of this Solemnity put the emphasis mainly on the Son of God made man and on the “Name” of the Lord.
The First Reading presents to us the solemn Blessing that the priests pronounced over the Israelites on the great religious feasts: it is marked, precisely, by the Name of the Lord, repeated three times, as if to express the fullness and power that derive from this invocation. This text of liturgical Blessing, in fact, calls to mind the riches of grace and peace that God gives to man, with a benevolent attitude to him, and which is expressed by the “shining” of the divine face and his “turning” it to us.
Today the Church listens once again to these words, while she asks the Lord to bless the New Year that has just begun, in the awareness that in the face of the tragic events that mark history, in the face of the logistics of war that unfortunately have not yet been fully overcome, God alone can move the human spirit in its depths and assure hope and peace to humanity. By now it is a firm tradition, on the first day of the year that, the Church throughout the world raise a unanimous prayer to invoke peace. It is good to begin a new stretch of the journey by setting out with determination on the path of peace.
Today let us respond to the cry of so many men, women, children and elderly people who are the victims of war, which is the most appalling and violent face of history. Let us pray today that peace, which the Angels announced to the shepherds on Christmas night, may reach everywhere: “super terram pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis” (Lk 2:14). For this reason, especially with our prayers, we wish to help every person and every people, in particular all those who have the responsibility of government, to walk with ever grater determination on the path of peace.
In the Second Reading St Paul sums up in the adoption as sons the work of salvation brought about by Christ in which the figure of Mary is honoured. Thanks to her the Son of God, “born of woman” (Gal 4:4), was able to come into the world as a real man, in the fullness of time. This fulfilment, this fullness, concerns the past and the messianic expectations, which were brought about, but at the same time also refers to fullness in the absolute sense: in the Word made flesh, God said his ultimate and definitive word.
Thus on the threshold of a new year, the invitation to walk joyfully towards the light of the “day that shall dawn… from on high” (Lk 1:78) resounds in this way, because in the Christian perspective all time is inhabited by God, there is no future that is not oriented to Christ and no fullness exists outside that of Christ.
Today’s Gospel passage ends with the imposition of the Name of Jesus, while Mary participates in silence, meditating in her heart upon the mystery of this Son of hers who in a completely unique way is a gift of God. But the Gospel passage we have heard particularly highlights the shepherds who returned “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:20).
The Angel had announced to them that in the city of David, that is, Bethlehem, the Saviour was born and that they would find the sign: a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (cf. Lk 2:11-12). Having left in haste, they had found Mary and Joseph and the Child. Let us note that the Evangelist speaks of Mary’s motherhood starting with the Son, with that “babe wrapped in swaddling clothes”, because it is he — the Word of God (Jn 1:14) — who is the reference point, the centre of the event that is being brought about, and it is he who ensures that Mary’s motherhood is described as “divine”.
This priority attention that today’s Readings pay to the “Son”, to Jesus, does not lessen the Mother’s role, on the contrary, it puts it in the right perspective: Mary, in fact, is the true Mother of God precisely by virtue of her total relationship to Christ. Therefore, in glorifying the Son one honours the Mother and in honouring the Mother one glorifies the Son. The title of “Mother of God” which the Liturgy highlights today, stresses the unique mission of the Blessed Virgin in the history of salvation: a mission that is at the root of the worship and devotion which the Christian people reserve for her.
Indeed, Mary did not receive God’s gift for herself alone, but in order to bring him into the world: in her fruitful virginity, God gave men and women the gifts of eternal salvation (cf. Collect). And Mary continually offers her mediation to the People of God, on pilgrimage through history towards eternity, just as she once offered it to the shepherds of Bethlehem. She, who gave earthly life to the Son of God, continues to give human beings divine life, which is Jesus himself and his Holy Spirit. For this reason she is considered the Mother of every human being who is born to 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 1 January 1968 the World Day of Peace has been celebrated throughout the world. Peace is a gift of God, as we heard in the First Reading: May “the Lord… give you peace” (Nm 6:26). It is a messianic gift par excellence, the first fruit of the love that Jesus gave us, it is our reconciliation and pacification with God. Peace is also a human value to be achieved at the social and political levels, but it is rooted in the mystery of Christ (cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, nn. 77-90). …
May the Virgin Mary give us her Son, may she show us the Face of her Son, the Prince of Peace. May she help us to remain in the light of this face that shines upon us (cf. Nm 6:25), in order to rediscover all the tenderness of God the Father; may it be she who supports us in invoking the Holy Spirit, so that he will renew the face of the earth and transform hearts, dissolving their hardness in the face of 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.