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Friday, December 30, 2016

0505: Reflections on the Solemnity of
Mary, Mother of God, by Pope Francis



Entry 0505: Reflections on the 
Solemnity of 

Mary, Mother of God, by Pope Francis 


On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on first vespers of 31 December, and on 1 January of the following calendar year: 2013-2014, 2014-2015, and 2015-2016. Here are the texts of the ten reflections delivered on these occasions.


FIRST VESPERS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Apostle John describes the present time in a precise way: “It is the last hour” (1 Jn 2:18). This statement—which recurs in the Mass of 31 December—means that with God’s coming into history we are already in the “last” times, after which the final phase will be of the second and definitive Coming of Christ. Of course here we are speaking about the quality of time, not about quantity. With Jesus the “fullness” of the time, the fullness of meaning and the fullness of salvation has come. And there will be no new revelation but rather the full manifestation of what Jesus has already revealed. In this sense we are at the “last hour;” each and every moment of our lives is not temporary, it is permanent, and our every action is charged with eternity. In fact, the response we give today to God, who loves us in Jesus Christ, bears upon our future.

The biblical and Christian vision of time and history is not cyclical but linear: it is a journey that moves toward completion. A year which has passed, then, does not lead us to a reality which ends but to a reality which is being fulfilled, it is a further step toward the destination that awaits us: a destination of hope and a destination of happiness, for we shall encounter God, who is the reason for our hope and the source of our happiness.

As 2013 draws to a close, we gather up, as in a basket, the days, weeks and months we have lived in order to offer them all to the Lord. And let us courageously ask ourselves: how have we lived the time which He has given us? Have we used it primarily for ourselves, for our own interests, or have we also sought to spend it on others? How much time have we reserved for being with God, in prayer, in silence, in adoration?

And then we think, we citizens of Rome, we think about this City of Rome. What happened this year? What is happening, and what will happen? What is the quality of life in this City? It depends on all of us! What is the quality of our “citizenship”? This year, have we contributed in our own “small” way to making it more livable, orderly, welcoming? In effect, the face of a city is like a mosaic whose tesserae are all those who live there. Certainly, those who are invested with authority have greater responsibility, but each one of us is co-responsible, for better or for worse.

Rome is a city of unique beauty. Its spiritual and cultural heritage is extraordinary. Yet even in Rome there are so many people marked by material and moral poverty, poor, unhappy, suffering people who challenge the conscience of every citizen. Perhaps in Rome we feel this contrast more strongly because of the contrast between the majestic scene and wealth of artistic beauty, and the social unrest of those who are struggling the most. Rome is a city full of tourists, but also full of refugees. Rome is full of people who work, but also of people who cannot find work or perform underpaid and sometimes undignified work, and everyone has the right to be treated equally with an attitude of acceptance and fairness, because everyone is a bearer of human dignity.

It is the last day of the year. What shall we do, how shall we act in the coming year in order to make our City a little better? In the new year, Rome will have an even more beautiful face if it is richer in humanity, more hospitable and welcoming; if we are all considerate and generous to those in difficulty; if we cooperate with a constructive and caring spirit for the good of all. Rome in the new year will be better if people do not observe it as “from afar,” on a postcard, if they do not only watch life pass by “from the balcony” without becoming involved in the many human problems, in the problems of men and women, who in the end, and from the beginning, whether we like it or not, are our brothers and sisters. From this perspective, the Church of Rome feels committed to making its own contribution to the life and future of the City—it is its duty! It feels committed and inspired by the leaven of the Gospel to be a sign and instrument of God’s mercy.

This evening let us conclude the Year of the Lord 2013 by giving thanks and also by asking for forgiveness. The two together: giving thanks and asking for forgiveness. Let us give thanks for all the blessings which God has bestowed on us, especially for his patience and his faithfulness, which are manifest over the course of time, but in a singular way in the fullness of time, when “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). May the Mother of God, in whose name tomorrow we begin a new phase of our earthly pilgrimage, teach us to welcome God made man, so that every year, every month, every day may be filled with his eternal Love. So be it!


SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and Happy New Year!

At the beginning of the new year I wish to offer everyone my cordial best wishes for peace and all that is good. My wish is the Church’s, it is Christian! It is not tied to a somewhat magical and fatalistic sense of a new cycle beginning. We know that history has a centre: Jesus Christ Incarnate, Crucified and Risen, who is alive among us; it has an end: the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of peace, justice and freedom in love; and it has a force which moves it towards that end: the force of the Holy Spirit. We all have the Holy Spirit, whom we received at Baptism, and he moves us to go forward along the path of the Christian life, along the path of history towards the Kingdom of God.

This Spirit is the power of life which made the womb of the Virgin Mary fruitful; and it is the same power which inspires the efforts and work of all builders of peace. Wherever a man or woman is a builder of peace, it is the Holy Spirit who is assisting them, moving them to make peace. Two roads intersect today: the Feast of Mary the Most Holy Mother of God and the World Day of Peace. Eight days ago the angelic proclamation rang out: “Glory to God and peace to all men.” Today we welcome it anew from the Mother of Jesus, who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19), in order to make of it our commitment over the course of the year which has just commenced.

The theme of this World Day of Peace is “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace.” Fraternity: in the footsteps of my Predecessors, beginning with Paul VI, I developed the theme in a Message which has already been published and which today I consign to everyone. It is based on the conviction that we are all children of the one Heavenly Father, we belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny. Hence derives each person’s responsibility to work so that the world might become a community of brothers and sisters who respect one another, accept one another in their differences and take care of one another. We are also called to be aware of the violence and injustices which are present in so many parts of the world to which we cannot remain indifferent and unmoved: everyone’s commitment is needed in order to build a truly just and caring society. Yesterday I received a letter from a gentleman, perhaps one of you, who, in bringing a family tragedy to my attention, went on to list the many tragedies and wars that exists today in the world, and he asked me: what is happening in the heart of man which is leading him to do such things? And at the end he said: “It is time to stop.” I too believe it would do us good to stop on this path of violence and seek peace. Brothers and sisters, I make the words of this man my own: What is happening in the heart of man? What is happening in the heart of humanity? It is time to stop!

From every corner of the globe, today believers offer up their prayers asking the Lord for the gift of peace and the ability to bring it into every environment. On this first day of the year, may the Lord help us all to set out more decisively on the path of justice and peace. And let us begin at home! Justice and peace at home, among ourselves. It begins at home and then goes out to all humanity. But we have to begin at home. May the Holy Spirit act in hearts, may he melt obstacles and hardness and grant that we may be moved before the weakness of the Baby Jesus. Peace, in fact, requires the strength of meekness, the nonviolent strength of truth and love.

With filial trust, let us place our hopes in the hands of Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. To she who extends her motherhood to all mankind, let us entrust the cry for peace of peoples who are oppressed by war and violence, so that the courage of dialogue and reconciliation might prevail over temptations to revenge, tyranny and corruption. Let us ask her to grant that the Gospel of fraternity, which the Church proclaims and to which she bears witness, may speak to every conscience and bring down the walls that prevent enemies from recognizing one another as brothers.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Wednesday, 1 January 2014

In the first reading we find the ancient prayer of blessing which God gave to Moses to hand on to Aaron and his sons: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-25). There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naïve hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.

The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.

The Mother of God. This is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It refers to a quality, a role which the faith of the Christian people, in its tender and genuine devotion to our heavenly Mother, has understood from the beginning.

We recall that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined. The truth of her divine maternity found an echo in Rome where, a little later, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major was built, the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God—the Theotokosis venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani. It is said that the residents of Ephesus used to gather at the gates of the basilica where the bishops were meeting and shout, “Mother of God!” The faithful, by asking them to officially define this title of Our Lady, showed that they acknowledged her divine motherhood. Theirs was the spontaneous and sincere reaction of children who know their Mother well, for they love her with immense tenderness. But it is more: it is the sensus fidei of the holy People of God which, in its unity, never errs.

Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. “The Church journeys through time, and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary” (Redemptoris Mater, no. 2). Our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us. As far as faith, the hinge of the Christian life, is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path as ourselves, a path which is sometimes difficult and obscure. She had to advance in the “pilgrimage of faith” (Lumen gentium, no. 58).

Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19:27). These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The “woman” became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus. The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy!

The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. Let us then together invoke her, and I invite you to invoke her three times, following the example of those brothers and sisters of Ephesus: Mother of God! Mother of God! Mother of God! Amen.


FIRST VESPERS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Today the Word of God introduces us in a special way, to the meaning of time, to understand that time is not a reality extrinsic to God, simply because He chose to reveal Himself and to save us in history. The meaning of time, temporality, is the atmosphere of God’s epiphany, namely, of the manifestation of God’s mystery and of his concrete love. In fact, time is God’s messenger, as St Peter Faber said. Today’s liturgy reminds us of the phrase of the Apostle John: Children, it is the last hour (1 Jn 2:18), and that of St Paul who speaks of “when the time had fully come” (Gal 4:4). Therefore, the present day manifests to us how time was—so to speak—“touched” by Christ, the Son of God and of Mary, and received from Him new and surprising meanings: it became the “salvific time,” namely, the definitive time of salvation and grace.

And all this induces us to think of the end of the journey of life, the end of our journey. There was a beginning and there will be an end, “a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccles 3:2). With this truth, so simple and fundamental and so neglected and forgotten, Holy Mother Church teaches us to end the year and also our day with an examination of conscience, through which we review what has happened; we thank the Lord for every good we have received and have been able to do and, at the same time, we think again of our failings and our sins—to give thanks and to ask for forgiveness.

It is what we also do today at the end of the year. We praise the Lord with the Te Deum hymn and at the same time we ask Him for forgiveness. The attitude of thanksgiving disposes us to humility, to recognize and receive the Lord’s gifts.

In the Reading of these First Vespers, the Apostle Paul recapitulates the fundamental motive for our rendering thanks to God: He has made us his children, He has adopted us as his children. This unmerited gift fills us with a gratitude brimming with astonishment! Someone might say: “But are we not already his children, by the very fact of being men?” We certainly are, because God is the Father of every person who comes into the world. But without forgetting that we were distanced from Him because of original sin, which separated us from our Father: our filial relationship was profoundly wounded. Therefore, God sent his Son to deliver us at the cost of His blood. And if there is a deliverance, it is because there is slavery. We were children, but we became slaves, following the voice of the Evil One. No one else delivers us from that effective slavery except Jesus, who assumed our flesh from the Virgin Mary and died on the Cross to free us from the slavery of sin and to restore us to our forfeit filial condition.

Today’s liturgy also reminds us that in the beginning (before time) was the Word and the Word was made man and because of this, St Irenaeus affirms: “This is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (Adversus Haereses, 3, 19, 1:PG7/1, 939; Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 460).

Contemporaneously, the very gift for which we give thanks is also a reason for an examination of conscience, for a revision of our personal and communal life, to ask ourselves: what is our lifestyle? Do we live as children or as slaves? Do we live as people baptized in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, delivered and free? Or do we live according to the corrupt, worldly logic, doing what the devil makes us believe is in our interests? In our existential journey there is always a tendency to resist liberation; we are afraid of freedom and, paradoxically and somewhat unwittingly, we prefer slavery. Freedom frightens us because it causes us to confront time and to face our responsibility to live it well. Instead, slavery reduces time to a “moment” and thus we feel more secure, that is, it makes us live moments disconnected from their past and from our future. In other words, slavery impedes us from truly and fully living the present, because it empties it of the past and closes it to the future, to eternity. Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly, hope.

A few days ago a great Italian artist said that it was easier for the Lord to take the Israelites out of Egypt than to take Egypt out of the heart of the Israelites. “Yes.” They were “physically” freed from slavery, but during the wandering in the desert, with the various difficulties and the hunger, they began to feel nostalgia for Egypt and they remembered when they “ate the onions, and the garlic” (see Num 11:5); they forgot, however, that they ate them at the table of slavery. Nostalgia for slavery is nestled in our heart, because it is seemingly more reassuring than freedom, which is far more risky. How we like being captivated by lots of fireworks, beautiful at first glance but which in reality last but a few seconds! This is the reign, this is the charm of the moment!

For us Christians, the quality of our actions, of our life, of our presence in the city, of our service to the common good, of our participation in public and ecclesial institutions, also depends upon this examination of conscience.

For this reason, and being the Bishop of Rome, I would like to reflect on our life in Rome, which is a great gift, because it means living in the Eternal City; for a Christian, especially, it means being part of the Church founded on the testimony and the martyrdom of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Therefore, we also thank the Lord for this. At the same time, however, it is a great responsibility. And Jesus said: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Lk 12:48). Thus, let us ask ourselves: in this city, in this Ecclesial Community, are we free or are we slaves, are we salt and light? Are we leaven? Or are we listless, insipid, hostile, disheartened, insignificant and weary?

Undoubtedly the discovery of grave corruption, which has recently emerged, require a serious and conscious conversion of hearts for a spiritual and moral rebirth, as well as for a renewed commitment to build a more just and solidary city, where the poor, the weak and the marginalized are at the centre of our concerns and daily actions. A great and daily attitude of Christian freedom is necessary in order to have the courage to proclaim, in our city, that it is necessary to protect the poor, and not to protect ourselves from the poor, that we must serve the weak and not take advantage of them!

The teaching of a simple Roman deacon can help us. When St Lawrence was asked to bring and display the treasures of the Church, he simply brought a few poor people. In a city, when the poor and the weak are cared for, aided and helped to play their part in society, they reveal themselves to be the treasure of the Church and a treasure in the society. Instead, when a society ignores the poor, persecutes them, criminalizes them, and constrains them “to react as a mafia,” that society becomes impoverished to the point of misery, it loses its freedom and prefers “the garlic and the onions” of slavery, of slavery to its selfishness, of slavery to its pusillanimity; that society ceases to be Christian.

Dear brothers and sisters, to conclude the year is to reaffirm that a “last hour” exists and that the “fullness of time” exists. In concluding this year, in giving thanks and in asking for forgiveness, it will be good for us to ask for the grace to be able to walk in freedom, to thus be able to repair all the harm done and to protect ourselves against the nostalgia of slavery, to protect ourselves from feeling “nostalgia” for slavery.

May the Holy Virgin, the Holy Mother of God, who was at the very heart of the Temple of God, when the Word—who was in the beginning—made Himself one with us in time; may She who gave the Savior to the world, help us to receive Him with an open heart, in order that we may truly be and live freely, as children of God.


SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Thursday, 1 January 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and Happy New Year!

On this first day of the year, in the joyful—albeit cold—atmosphere of Christmas the Church invites us to fix our gaze of faith and of love on the Mother of Jesus. In her, the humble woman of Nazareth, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). Because of this it is impossible to separate contemplating Jesus, the Word of life who has become visible and tangible (see 1 Jn 1:1), from contemplating Mary, who has given Him her love and his human flesh.

Today we hear the words of the Apostle Paul: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). That “born of woman” speaks in an essential manner, and for this reason, even more strongly expresses the true humanity of the Son of God. As a Father of the Church, St Athanasius affirms: “Our Savior was truly man, and from that comes the salvation of all humanity” (Letter to Epictetus: PG26).

But St Paul also adds “born under the law” (Gal 4:4). With this expression he emphasizes that Christ has taken up the human condition, freeing it from the closed, legalistic mentality. In fact, the law deprived of grace becomes an insupportable yoke, and instead of being good for us it is bad for us. Jesus said: the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This, then, is the end for which God sent his Son to earth to become man: a finality of liberation; indeed, of regeneration. Of liberation, “to redeem those who were under the law” (v. 5); and the redemption occurred with the death of Christ on the Cross. But especially of regeneration: “so that we might receive adoption as sons” (v. 5). Incorporated in Him, men and women really become children of God. This amazing transition takes place in us with Baptism, which grafts us into Christ as living members, and integrates us into the Church.

At the beginning of a new year, it is good to remember the day of our Baptism: we rediscover the gift received in that Sacrament which has regenerated us to new life—the divine life. And this through Mother Church, which has Mother Mary as a model. Thanks to Baptism we were introduced into communion with God and we are no longer at the mercy of evil and sin, but [rather] we receive the love, the tenderness, the mercy of the heavenly Father. I ask you once again: Who among you remember the day on which you were baptized? For those who don’t remember the date of their Baptism, I assign some homework: go find that day and cherish it in your heart. You can even ask your parents for help, godfather, godmother, uncles or aunts, grandparents, and so forth. The day on which we were baptized is a feast day! Remember it or go seek it out, the date of your baptism; it will be very beautiful to thank God for the gift of Baptism.

This closeness of God to our existence gives us true peace, the divine gift that we want especially to implore today, the World Day of Peace. I read there: “Peace is always possible.” Always, peace is possible! We have to seek it. And over there I read: “Prayer at the root of peace.” Prayer is the very root of peace. Peace is always possible and our prayer is at the root of peace. Prayer disseminates peace. Today is the World Day of Peace, “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters:” this is the Message of this Day. Because war always makes slaves of us! It is a message that involves all of us. We are all called to combat every form of slavery and to build fraternity—all of us, each one according to his or her own responsibility. Remember well: peace is possible! And at the root of peace, there is always prayer. Let us pray for peace. There are also good schools of peace, schools for peace: we must go forward with this education of peace.

To Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, let us present our good intentions. We ask you to extend the mantle of your maternal protection over each and every one of us in the new year: “O Holy Mother of God despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin” (Sub tuum praesidium).

And I invite you all to greet Our Lady as the Mother of God, hail her with this salute: “Holy Mother of God!” As she was acclaimed, at the start of Christianity, when at the entrance of the Church they would cry out to their pastors this salute to Our Lady: “Holy Mother of God!” All together, three times, let us repeat: “Holy Mother of God.”


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Thursday, 1 January 2015

Today we are reminded of the words of blessing which Elizabeth spoke to the Virgin Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:42-43).

This blessing is in continuity with the priestly blessing which God had given to Moses to be passed on to Aaron and to all the people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). In celebrating the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, the Holy Mother of God, the Church reminds us that Mary, more than anyone else, received this blessing. In her the blessing finds fulfilment, for no other creature has ever seen God’s face shine upon it as did Mary. She gave a human face to the eternal Word, so that all of us can contemplate him.

In addition to contemplating God’s face, we can also praise him and glorify him, like the shepherds who came away from Bethlehem with a song of thanksgiving after seeing the Child and his young mother (see Lk 2:16). The two were together, just as they were together at Calvary, because Christ and his mother are inseparable: there is a very close relationship between them, as there is between every child and his or her mother. The flesh (caro) of Christ—which, as Tertullian says, is the hinge (cardo) of our salvation—was knit together in the womb of Mary (see Ps 139:13). This inseparability is also clear from the fact that Mary, chosen beforehand to be the Mother of the Redeemer, shared intimately in his entire mission, remaining at her Son’s side to the end on Calvary.

Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she received from him the knowledge of the heart, the knowledge of faith, nourished by her experience as a mother and by her close relationship with her Son. The Blessed Virgin is the woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plans; she is the believer capable of perceiving in the gift of her Son the coming of that “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) in which God, by choosing the humble path of human existence, entered personally into the history of salvation. That is why Jesus cannot be understood without his Mother.

Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church—because the Church and Mary are always together and this is precisely the mystery of womanhood in the ecclesial community—and the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church. To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an “absurd dichotomy,” as Blessed Paul VI wrote (Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 16). It is not possible “to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church” (ibid.). For the Church is herself God’s great family, which brings Christ to us. Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God who became man, was put to death, rose from the dead to save us, and is now living in our midst. Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church, in our hierarchical, Holy Mother Church. It is the Church which says today: “Behold the Lamb of God;” it is the Church, which proclaims him; it is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments.

This, the Church’s activity and mission, is an expression of her motherhood. For she is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity. No manifestation of Christ, even the most mystical, can ever be detached from the flesh and blood of the Church, from the historical concreteness of the Body of Christ. Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.

Dear brothers and sisters! Jesus Christ is the blessing for every man and woman, and for all of humanity. The Church, in giving us Jesus, offers us the fullness of the Lord’s blessing. This is precisely the mission of the people of God: to spread to all peoples God’s blessing made flesh in Jesus Christ. And Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, the first and most perfect believer, the model of the pilgrim Church, is the one who opens the way to the Church’s motherhood and constantly sustains her maternal mission to all mankind. Mary’s tactful maternal witness has accompanied the Church from the beginning. She, the Mother of God, is also the Mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women, and of every people.

May this gentle and loving Mother obtain for us the Lord’s blessing upon the entire human family. On this, the World Day of Peace, we especially implore her intercession that the Lord may grant peace in our day; peace in hearts, peace in families, peace among the nations. The message for the Day of Peace this year is “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters.” All of us are called to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces. May he guide and sustain us, who, in order to make us all brothers and sisters, became our servant.

Let us look to Mary, let us contemplate the Holy Mother of God. I suggest that you all greet her together, just like those courageous people of Ephesus, who cried out before their pastors when they entered Church: “Holy Mother of God!” What a beautiful greeting for our Mother. There is a story—I do not know if it is true—that some among those people had clubs in their hands, perhaps to make the Bishops understand what would happen if they did not have the courage to proclaim Mary “Mother of God!” I invite all of you, without clubs, to stand up and to greet her three times with this greeting of the early Church: “Holy Mother of God!”


FIRST VESPERS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Thursday, 31 December 2015

Our gathering together to give praise to the Lord at the end of the year is full of significance!

On many occasions the Church feels the joy and the duty to raise her song to God with these words of praise, words which have accompanied her on this earthly pilgrimage since the fourth century. It is the joy of thanksgiving that emanates almost spontaneously from our prayer, by recognizing the loving presence of God throughout the course of our history. As often happens, however, we feel that, for prayer, one voice alone is not enough. It needs to be reinforced with the company of all the People of God, who in unison make their song of thanksgiving heard. This is why in the Te Deum we ask the Angels, the Prophets and all of creation for their help in giving praise to the Lord. In this hymn we trace the history of salvation where, through God’s mysterious plan, there is also a place for the summation of the various events in the our lives this past year.

In this Jubilee Year there is a special resonance in the final words of the Church’s hymn: “Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee”. The accompaniment of mercy is light so as to better understand what we have experienced, and the hope which accompanies us at the beginning of a new year.

Retracing the days of the past year may happen either by remembering facts and events that bring back moments of joy and sorrow, or by seeking to understand whether we have perceived the presence of God who renews and sustains all things with his help. We are called upon to ascertain whether the course of world events has been carried out according to God’s will, or whether we have primarily heeded the plans of man, often rife with private interests, an insatiable thirst for power, and gratuitous violence.

Today, however, our eyes need to be focused in a particular way on the signs that God has conveyed to us, so as to physically touch the strength of his merciful love. We cannot forget that many days have been marked by violence, death, the unspeakable suffering of many innocent people, of refugees forced to leave their homeland, by men, women and children without stable shelter, food and sustenance. Yet, many great gestures of goodness, love and solidarity have filled the days of this year, even if they did not become television news. Good things do not make headlines. These signs of love cannot and must not be obscured by the contempt of evil. Goodness always wins, even if in certain moments it seems weaker and obscure.

Our city of Rome is not unfamiliar with this worldwide condition. With al my heart I would like to invite all of its inhabitants to move beyond the difficulties of the present time. May the commitment to recover the fundamental values of service, honesty and solidarity allow the serious uncertainties that have dominated the stage this year to be overcome; such uncertainties are symptoms of a poor sense of dedication to the common good. May a positive supply of Christian witness never be lacking, so as to allow Rome, in line with its history, and with the maternal intercession of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, to be a privileged exponent of faith, welcome, fraternity and peace.

“You are God: we praise you. In you, Lord, is our hope: And we shall never hope in vain.”


SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Friday, 1 January 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and happy New Year!

At the beginning of the year it is beautiful to exchange good wishes. In this way we renew for one another the hope that the year which awaits us may be somewhat better. It is fundamentally a sign of the hope that enlivens us and invites us to believe in life. We know, however, that with the new year, everything will not change, and that many of yesterday’s problems will still be here tomorrow. Thus I would like to express to you a wish supported by real hope, which I have drawn from today’s liturgy.

They are the words by which the Lord himself asked that his people be blessed: “The Lord make his face to shine upon you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you” (Num 6:25-26). I too wish you this: that the Lord lay his gaze upon you and that you may rejoice, knowing that each day his merciful face, more radiant than the sun, shines upon you and never sets! Discovering the face of God makes life new. Because he is a Father enamored with man, who never tires of starting with us all over again in order to renew us. The Lord is patient with us! He never tires of starting over again each time we fall. However, the Lord does not promise magical changes, He does not use a magic wand. He loves changing reality from within, with patience and love; he asks to enter our life gently, like rain on the ground, in order to then bear fruit. Always, he awaits us and looks at us with tenderness. Each morning, upon awakening, we can say: “Today the Lord makes his face shine upon me.” A beautiful prayer, which is a reality.

The biblical benediction continues in this way: “[The Lord] give you peace” (v. 26). Today we celebrate the World Day of Peace, whose theme is: “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” Peace, which God the Father wants to sow in the world, must be cultivated by us. Not only this, but it must also be “won.” This leads to a real struggle, a spiritual battle that takes place in our hearts. Because the enemy of peace is not only war, but also indifference, which makes us think only of ourselves and creates barriers, suspicions, fears and closure. These things are enemies of peace. We have, thanks be to God, a great deal of information; but at times we are so overwhelmed by facts that we become distracted by reality, from the brother and sister who need us. Let us begin this year by opening our heart and calling attention to neighbors, to those who are near. This is the way to win peace.

May the Queen of Peace, the Mother of God, whose solemnity we celebrate today, help us with this. Today’s Gospel states that she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Hopes and worries, gratitude and problems: all that happened in life became, in Mary’s heart, a prayer, a dialogue with God. She does this with us as well: she safeguards the joys and unties the knots of our life, taking them to the Lord.

This afternoon I will go to the Basilica of St Mary Major, for the opening of the Holy Door. Let us entrust the new year to the Mother, that peace and mercy may grow.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica, Friday, 1 January 2016

We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

What does it mean to say that Jesus was born in “the fullness of time”? If we consider that particular moment of history, we might quickly be deluded. Rome had subjugated a great part of the known world by her military might. The Emperor Augustus had come to power after five civil wars. Israel itself had been conquered by the Roman Empire and the Chosen People had lost their freedom. For Jesus’ contemporaries, it was certainly not the best of times. To define the fullness of time, then, we should not look to the geopolitical sphere.

Another interpretation is needed, one which views that fullness from God’s standpoint. It is when God decided that the time had come to fulfil his promise, that the fullness of time came for humanity. History does not determine the birth of Christ; rather, his coming into the world enables history to attain its fullness. For this reason, the birth of the Son of God inaugurates a new era, a new computation of time, the era which witnesses the fulfilment of the ancient promise. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes: “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (1:1-3). The fullness of time, then, is the presence of God himself in our history. Now we can see his glory, which shines forth in the poverty of a stable; we can be encouraged and sustained by his Word, made “little” in a baby. Thanks to him, our time can find its fullness. The use of our personal time can also find its fullness in the encounter with Jesus Christ, God made man.

Nonetheless, this mystery constantly clashes with the dramatic experience of human history. Each day, as we seek to be sustained by the signs of God’s presence, we encounter new signs to the contrary, negative signs which tend to make us think instead that he is absent. The fullness of time seems to fade before the countless forms of injustice and violence which daily wound our human family. Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world. We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims. How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights? A torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ. Remember, dear pueri cantores, this was the third question you asked me yesterday: how do we explain this, even children are aware of this.

And yet this swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world. All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing. The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God’s original creation.

At the beginning of a new year, the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace. The ancient promise finds fulfilment in her person. She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord. Through her, through her “yes”, the fullness of time came about. The Gospel we have just heard tells us that the Virgin Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She appears to us as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand his teaching aright. Today Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world. Where philosophical reason and political negotiation cannot arrive, there the power of faith, which brings the grace of Christ’s Gospel, can arrive, opening ever new pathways to reason and to negotiation.

Blessed are you, Mary, for you gave the Son of God to our world. But even more blessed are you for having believed in him. Full of faith, you conceived Jesus first in your heart and then in your womb, and thus became the Mother of all believers (see Saint Augustine, Sermo 215, 4). Send us, O Mother, your blessing on this day consecrated to your honor. Show us the face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace. Amen.


EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY
OPENING OF THE HOLY DOOR AT THE BASILICA OF ST MARY MAJOR

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Friday, 1 January 2016

Salve, Mater Misericordiae!

With this invocation we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Basilica dedicated to her under the title of Mother of God. It is the first line of an ancient hymn which we will sing at the conclusion of this Holy Eucharist. Composed by an unknown author, it has come down to us as a heartfelt prayer spontaneously rising up from the hearts of the faithful: “Hail Mother of mercy, Mother of God, Mother of forgiveness, Mother of hope, Mother of grace and Mother full of holy gladness.” In these few words we find a summary of the faith of generations of men and women who, with their eyes fixed firmly on the icon of the Blessed Virgin, have sought her intercession and consolation.

It is most fitting that on this day we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary above all as Mother of mercy. The door we have opened is, in fact, a Door of Mercy. Those who cross its threshold are called to enter into the merciful love of the Father with complete trust and freedom from fear; they can leave this Basilica knowing—truly knowing—that Mary is ever at their side. She is the Mother of mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of divine mercy, Jesus, Emmanuel, the Expectation of the nations, the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5). The Son of God, made incarnate for our salvation, has given us his Mother, who joins us on our pilgrimage through this life, so that we may never be left alone, especially at times of trouble and uncertainty.

Mary is the Mother of God, she is the Mother of God who forgives, who bestows forgiveness, and so we can rightly call her Mother of forgiveness. This word—“forgiveness”—so misunderstood in today’s world, points to the new and original fruit of Christian faith. A person unable to forgive has not yet known the fullness of love. Only one who truly loves is able to forgive and forget. At the foot of the Cross, Mary sees her Son offer himself totally, showing us what it means to love as God loves. At that moment she heard Jesus utter words which probably reflected what he had learned from her as a child: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:24). At that moment, Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness. Following Jesus’ example and by his grace, she herself could forgive those who killed her innocent Son.

For us, Mary is an icon of how the Church must offer forgiveness to those who seek it. The Mother of forgiveness teaches the Church that the forgiveness granted on Golgotha knows no limits. Neither the law with its quibbles, nor the wisdom of this world with its distinctions, can hold it back. The Church’s forgiveness must be every bit as broad as that offered by Jesus on the Cross and by Mary at his feet. There is no other way. It is for this purpose that the Holy Spirit made the Apostles the effective ministers of forgiveness, so what was obtained by the death of Jesus may reach all men and women in every age (see Jn 20:19-23).

The Marian hymn continues: “Mother of hope and Mother of grace, Mother of holy gladness.” Hope, grace and holy gladness are all sisters: they are the gift of Christ; indeed, they are so many names written on his body. The gift that Mary bestows in offering us Jesus is the forgiveness which renews life, enables us once more to do God’s will and fills us with true happiness. This grace frees the heart to look to the future with the joy born of hope. This is the teaching of the Psalm: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (51:10,12). The power of forgiveness is the true antidote to the sadness caused by resentment and vengeance. Forgiveness leads to joy and serenity because it frees the heart from thoughts of death, whereas resentment and vengeance trouble the mind and wound the heart, robbing it of rest and peace. What horrible things are resentment and vengeance.

Let us, then, pass through the Holy Door of Mercy knowing that at our side is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God, who intercedes for us. Let us allow her to lead us to the rediscovery of the beauty of an encounter with her Son Jesus. Let us open wide the doors of our heart to the joy of forgiveness, conscious that we have been given new confidence and hope, and thus make our daily lives a humble instrument of God’s love.

And with the love and affection of children, let us cry out to Our Lady as did the faithful people of God in Ephesus during the historic Council: “Holy Mother of God!” I invite you to repeat together this acclamation three times, aloud and with all your heart and with all your love: "Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!" 

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For reflections on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God,

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
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