Opinion

A look back at Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 homily on ‘the mystery of Christmas’ in ‘a polluted world whose future is at risk’

Thu Dec 24, 2020 - 11:30 am EST
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VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - DECEMBER 24, 2007 - Pope Benedict XVI holds the cross as he celebrates the Midnight Mass for Christmas, in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. shutterstock.com

December 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – “The time came for Mary to be delivered,” said Pope Benedict XVI, beginning his midnight MMass homily on the Feast of the Lord’s Nativity with St. Luke’s account of Christmas. “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2:6f.).

“These words touch our hearts every time we hear them,” the pontiff remarked.

“We can imagine the kind of interior preparation, the kind of love with which Mary approached that hour. The brief phrase: ‘She wrapped him in swaddling clothes’ allows us to glimpse something of the holy joy and the silent zeal of that preparation,” he continued.

Throughout his Christmas sermon, the third of his pontificate, Benedict XVI especially celebrated the light given with the Birth of Christ, which “shines from the stable for all times” against “the darkness of a closed world.”

Just as in Luke we encounter the maternal love of Mary and the fidelity of Saint Joseph,   the vigilance of the shepherds and their great joy, just as in Matthew we encounter the visit of the wise men, come from afar, so too John says to us: “To all who received him, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). There are those who receive him, and thus, beginning with the stable, with the outside, there grows silently the new house, the new city, the new world. The message of Christmas makes us recognize the darkness of a closed world, and thereby no doubt illustrates a reality that we see daily. Yet it also tells us that God does not allow himself to be shut out. He finds a space, even if it means entering through the stable; there are people who see his light and pass it on. Through the word of the Gospel, the angel also speaks to us, and in the sacred liturgy the light of the       Redeemer enters our lives. Whether we are shepherds or “wise men” – the light and its message call us to set out, to leave the narrow circle of our desires and interests, to go out to meet the Lord and worship him. We worship him by opening the world to truth, to good, to Christ, to the service of those who are marginalized and in whom he awaits us.

The stable becomes a palace – and setting out from this starting-point, Jesus builds the great new community, whose key-word the angels sing at the hour of his birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves” – those who place their will in his, in this way becoming men of God, new men, a new world.

Gregory of Nyssa, in his Christmas homilies, developed the same vision setting out from   the Christmas message in the Gospel of John: “He pitched his tent among us” (Jn 1:14). Gregory applies this passage about the tent to the tent of our body, which has become worn out and weak, exposed everywhere to pain and suffering. And he applies it to the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation? Anselm of Canterbury, in an almost prophetic way, once described a vision of what we witness today in a polluted world whose future is at risk: ‘Everything was as if dead, and had lost its dignity, having been made for the service of those who praise God. The elements of the world were oppressed, they had lost their splendour because of the abuse of those who enslaved them for their idols, for whom they had not been created’ (PL 158, 955f.). Thus, according to Gregory’s vision, the stable in the Christmas message represents the ill-treated world. What Christ rebuilds is no ordinary palace. He came to restore beauty and dignity to creation, to the universe: this is what began at Christmas and makes the angels rejoice.

In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet. Heaven has come down to Earth. For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled  there; for this reason song is born there…. Heaven does not belong to the geography of space, but to the geography of the heart. And the heart of God, during the Holy Night, stooped down to the stable: the humility of God is Heaven. And if we approach this humility, then we touch Heaven. Then the Earth too is made new. With the humility of the shepherds, let us set out, during this Holy Night, towards the Child in the stable! Let us touch God’s humility, God’s heart! Then his joy will touch us and will make the world more radiant. Amen.

On the purported eve of the “Great Reset,” and amid a “general rehearsal for the establishment of the kingdom of the Antichrist,” we can take heart in the fact that it is God alone who “builds the great new community” – “the community of those who allow themselves to be drawn by Christ’s love and so become one body with him, a new humanity.”


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