VATICAN CITY, 21 DEC 2011 (VIS) – “The greeting on everyone’s lips during
this period is ‘Merry Christmas! Happy Christmas Holidays!’. Let us ensure
that, also in our modern societies, this exchange of good wishes does not
lose its profound religious significance, and the feast does not become
overshadowed by external factors”, said Benedict XVI during today’s general
audience, his last before the Feast of the Lord’s Nativity.
“With the Christmas liturgy the Church introduces us into the great
Mystery of the Incarnation”, the Pope told faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall. “Christmas, in fact, is not simply the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, it is the celebration of a Mystery which has marked and continues to mark the history of man: God came to dwell amongst us, He became one of us. … During Midnight Mass on Christmas Night we will intone these words in the responsorial Psalm: ‘Today the Saviour is born for us’. … By indicating that Jesus is born ‘today’, the liturgy underlines that His birth touches and permeates all of history. … Of course, the redemption of humankind took place at a specific and identifiable moment of history: in the event of Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus is the Son of God … Who became flesh. Eternity entered into the confines of time and space, making it possible to meet Him ‘today’. … When, in liturgical celebrations, we hear or pronounce the phrase: ‘Today the Saviour is born for us’, we are not using an empty conventional expression, what we mean is that ‘today’, now, God is giving us the possibility to recognise and accept Him, as did the shepherds of Bethlehem, so that He can also be born into and renew our lives”.
The Pope then turned his attention to another aspect, reflecting on the birth in Bethlehem in the light of the Paschal Mystery because, he said, “both Christmas and Easter are feasts of redemption. Easter celebrates redemption as a victory over sin and death. It marks the culminating moment when the glory of the Man-God shines like the light of day. Christmas celebrates redemption as the entry of God into history, when He became man in order to bring man to God. It marks, so to speak, the starting point when the first light of dawn begins to appear”.
“Even the seasons of the year in which these two great feasts fall, at least in some areas of the world, can help us understand this aspect. Easter coincides with the beginning of spring when the sun triumphs over the cold and the fog and renews the face of the earth. Christmas comes at the very beginning of winter when the light and heat of the sun are unable to awaken nature, covered in a shroud of cold under which, nonetheless, life is pulsating”.
“At Christmas we encounter the tenderness and love of God Who is attentive to our weakness and sin, and lowers Himself to our level. … Let us live this Christmastime with joy. … Above all, let us contemplate and experience this Mystery in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the heart of Christmas. There Jesus is truly present, the true Bread descended from heaven, the true Lamb sacrificed for our salvation. I wish all of you and your families a truly Christian Christmas. May the exchange of greetings on that day be an expression of our joy in knowing that God is near us, and that He wishes to follow the journey of life with us”, the Pope concluded.
The poor cannot wait
At the end of his general audience, the Holy Father delivered greetings in a number of languages to the pilgrims filling the Paul VI Hall, among them a group of primary school children from Korea and another of Australian seminarians. To Spanish speaking pilgrims he said: “I will pray to the God Child for everyone, especially those who suffer. In these holy days, may
Christian charity be particularly active towards those most in need. The
poor can brook no delay”.