Audiences 2005-2013 9115

Wednesday, 9 November 2005 - Psalm 135,1-9 "His mercy endures for ever!' Evening Prayer - Monday of Week Fourth

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. This Psalm was called "the Great Hallel", that is, the grandiose and solemn praise that the Jews intoned during their Passover liturgy. We are referring to Psalm 136[135], whose first part we have just heard, in accordance with the way the Liturgy of Vespers divides it (cf. vv. 1-9).

Let us first reflect on the refrain "for his mercy endures for ever". At the centre of the phrase the word "mercy" rings out. In fact, it is a legitimate but limited translation of the original Hebrew term hesed. This is actually a word that belongs to the characteristic terminology used in the Bible to express the Covenant that exists between the Lord and his People. The term seeks to define the attitudes deriving from this relationship: faithfulness, loyalty, love, and of course, God's mercy.

We have here a concise summary that portrays the deep, personal bond established by the Creator with his creature. With this relationship, God does not appear in the Bible as an impassive and implacable Lord against whose mysterious power it is useless to struggle.

Instead, he shows himself as a person who loves his creatures, watches over them, follows them on their way through history and suffers because of the infidelities with which the people often oppose his hesed, his merciful and fatherly love.

2. The first visible sign of this divine love, says the Psalmist, is to be sought in creation and then in history. The gaze, full of admiration and wonder, will rest first of all on creation: the skies, the earth, the seas, the sun, the moon and the stars.

Even before discovering the God who reveals himself in the history of a people, there is a cosmic revelation, open to all, offered to the whole of humanity by the one Creator, "God of gods" and "Lord of lords" (cf. vv. 2, 3).

As sung in Psalm 19[18]: "The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands. Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message" (vv. 2-3). Thus, a divine message exists, secretly engraved in creation and a sign of the hesed, the loving fidelity of God who gives his creatures being and life, water and food, light and time.

A clear vision is essential in order to contemplate this divine revelation, recalling the recommendation of the Book of Wisdom that invites us to recognize "the greatness and the beauty of created things, [whose] original author, by analogy, is seen" (
Sg 13,5 cf. Rm 1,20).

Prayerful praise, therefore, flows from contemplation of the "marvellous works" (cf. Ps 136[135]: 4) that God has wrought in creation that are transformed into a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.

3. Consequently, we rise from the works of creation to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy. This is what we are taught by the Fathers of the Church, in whose voices resound the constant Christian Tradition. Thus, St Basil the Great, in one of the initial pages of his first homily on the Hexaemeron, where he comments on the creation narrative in the first chapter of Genesis, pauses to consider God's wise action and is brought to recognize God's goodness as the dynamic centre of creation. The following are several sayings from the long reflection of the Holy Bishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia: ""In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. My words give way, overwhelmed by wonder at this thought" (1, 2, 1: Sulla Genesi [Omelie sull'Esamerone], Milan, 1990, pp. 9,11).

In fact, even if some, "deceived by the atheism they bore within them, imagined that the universe lacked guidance and order, at the mercy as it were of chance", the sacred author instead "immediately enlightened our minds with the Name of God at the beginning of the account, saying: "In the beginning... God created...'. And what beauty there is in this order!" (1, 2, 3: ibid., p. 11).

"So if the world has a beginning and has been created, it seeks the One who gave it being and is its Creator.... Moses prepared you with his teaching, impressing in our souls as a seal and amulet the Most Holy Name of God, when he says: "In the beginning God created'. Blessed nature, goodness exempt from envy, the one who is the object of love to all reasonable beings, beauty in addition to everything else that is desirable, the principle of beings, the source of life, the light of the mind, inaccessible wisdom, in brief, it is he who "in the beginning created the heavens and the earth'" (1, 2, 6-7: ibid., p. 13).

I find the words of this fourth-century Father surprisingly up to date when he says: Some people, "deceived by the atheism they bore within them, imagined that the universe lacked guidance and order, at the mercy as it were of chance". How many these "some people" are today! Deceived by atheism they consider and seek to prove that it is scientific to think that all things lack guidance and order as though they were at the mercy of chance. The Lord through Sacred Scripture reawakens our reason which has fallen asleep and tells us: in the beginning was the creative Word. In the beginning the creative Word - this Word that created all things, that created this intelligent design which is the cosmos - is also love.

Therefore, let us allow this Word of God to awaken us; let us pray that it will additionally illumine our minds so that we can perceive the message of creation - also written in our hearts - that the beginning of all things is creative wisdom, and this wisdom is love, it is goodness: "his mercy endures for ever".
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To special groups

I am happy to greet the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including visitors from China, Indonesia and Japan, from England, Africa and North America. I pray that your visit to Rome will strengthen your faith and renew your love for the Lord, and ask God's Blessing upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones.

Lastly, my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Today, when we are celebrating the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of Rome, I invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to join the whole Church in addressing to Christ the Saviour, Redeemer of man and of history, an ardent prayer that humanity will accept the gift of his freedom and salvation.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005 - Psalm 135,10-26 "To the God of Heaven give thanks' Evening Prayer - Monday of Week Fourth


1. Our reflection returns to the hymn of praise in Psalm 136[135] which the Liturgy of Vespers presents in two successive stages, following the specific distinction of themes offered by the composition. Indeed, the celebration of the Lord's works is described in two spheres: space and time.

In the first part (cf. vv. 1-9), which was the subject of our last meditation, we focused on the divine acts expressed in creation; the marvels of the universe were born from them. In that part of the Psalm, therefore, faith is expressed in God the Creator who reveals himself through his cosmic creatures.

Now, instead, the joyful hymn of the psalmist, called by Jewish tradition "the Great Hallel" or the most exalted praise raised to the Lord, leads us to a different horizon, that of history.
The first part, therefore, addresses creation as a reflection of God's beauty, and the second part speaks of history and the good that God has done for us in the course of time.

We know that biblical Revelation repeatedly proclaims that the presence of God the Saviour is manifested in particular in the history of salvation (cf.
Dt 26,5-9 Jos 24,1-13).

2. Thus, the Lord's liberating actions, the heart of the fundamental event of the Exodus from Egypt, pass before the psalmist's eyes. Closely connected with the Exodus is the gruelling journey through the Sinai Desert, whose ultimate destination is the Promised Land, the divine gift that Israel continues to experience in all the pages of the Bible.

The famous crossing of the Red Sea, "divided in two", split as it were in two and subdued like a defeated monster (cf. Ps 136[135]:13), brings forth the free people called to a mission and a glorious destiny (cf. vv. 14-15; Ex 15,1-21), who will have a new Christian interpretation in their full liberation from evil by baptismal grace (cf. 1Co 10,1-4).

The journey then begins through the desert: there the Lord is portrayed as a warrior who, by continuing the work of liberation begun in the Red Sea crossing, stands by his people to defend them by striking down their enemies. The desert and the sea thus represent the passage through evil and oppression, to receive the gift of freedom and the Promised Land (cf. Ps 136[135]:16-20).

3. In the finale, the Psalm looks out over that land which the Bible praises enthusiastically as "a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up..., a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, of olive trees and of honey, a land where you can eat bread without stint and where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones contain iron and in whose hills you can mine copper" (Dt 8,7-9).

This emphatic celebration, which goes beyond the reality of that land, wants to exalt the divine gift, focusing our expectations on the most sublime gift of eternal life with God. It is a gift that enables people to be free, a gift that is born - as the refrain which marks every verse continues to repeat - by the hesed of the Lord, that is, his "mercy", by his faithfulness to the commitment he made in the Covenant with Israel and by his love that continues to be revealed because "he remembered" them (cf. Ps 136[135]:23).

In the time of "humiliation", that is, of the series of trials and oppression, Israel was always to discover the saving hand of the God of freedom and love. Even in times of hunger and wretchedness, the Lord was to arrive on the scene to offer food to all humanity, confirming his identity as Creator (cf. v. 25).

4. Consequently, with Psalm 136[135] two forms of the one divine Revelation are interwoven: the cosmic (cf. vv. 4-9) and the historical (cf. vv. 10-25). The Lord, of course, is transcendent as the Creator and Arbiter of being; but he is also close to his creatures, entering space and time. He does not remain far away, in a distant Heaven. On the contrary, his presence in our midst reaches its crowning point in Christ's Incarnation.

This is what the Christian interpretation of the Psalm clearly proclaims, as the Fathers of the Church testified: they saw as the culminating point of the history of salvation and the supreme sign of the Father's merciful love his gift of his Son to be the Saviour and Redeemer of humanity (cf. Jn 3,16).
Thus, at the beginning of his treatise The Works of Charity and Alms, St Cyprian, a third-century martyr, contemplates with wonder the acts that God accomplished for his people through Christ his Son, and finally bursts into passionate recognition of his mercy.

"Dearest brothers, many and great are God's benefits, which the generous and copious goodness of God the Father and of Christ has accomplished and will always accomplish for our salvation. In fact, to preserve us, to give us a new life and to be able to redeem us, the Father sent the Son; the Son, who was sent, wanted to be called also Son of Man, to make us become children of God; he humbled himself to raise the people who were first lying on the ground, was wounded to heal our wounds, he became a slave to lead us, who were slaves, to freedom. He accepted death to be able to offer immortality to mortals. These are the many and great gifts of divine mercy" (1: Trattati: Collana di Testi Patristici, CLXXV, Rome, 2004, p. 108).

With these words, the holy Doctor of the Church develops the Psalm with a litany of benefits that God has given us, adding to what the psalmist did not yet know but expected, the true gift that God has made to us: the gift of his Son, the gift of the Incarnation in which God gave himself to us and stays with us, in the Eucharist and in his Word, every day, to the very end of history.

Our danger is that the memory of evil, of the evils suffered, may often be stronger than the memory of good. The Psalm's purpose is also to reawaken in us the memory of good as well as of all the good that the Lord has done and is doing for us, which we can perceive if we become deeply attentive. It is true, God's mercy endures for ever: it is present day after day.

To special groups

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience. I extend particular greetings to the members of the Executive Committee of Caritas Internationalis. I am also pleased to greet the groups from England, Spain, South Africa and the United States of America. May your pilgrimage strengthen your faith and renew your love for the Lord and may God bless you all!

My thoughts now turn to you, dear delegates of the Pro-Life Movement, whom I thank for your courageous 30 years of work in promoting and defending the right to life and the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death. Committing yourselves to preventing voluntary abortion, with attentive support for women and families, you work together to write a hopeful page for the future of humanity, proclaiming in a concrete way the "Gospel of Life".

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Dear friends, after the example of St Margaret of Scotland and St Gertrude, whose memorial we are celebrating today, always seek in Jesus the enlightenment and support for every decision in your daily life.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005 - Ephesians 1: 3-10 "He chose us in him' Vespers, Monday Fourth Week


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Every week the Liturgy of Vespers proposes to the praying Church the solemn hymn that opens the Letter to the Ephesians, the text that has just been proclaimed. It belongs to the category of berakot, that is, the "blessings" that already appear in the Old Testament and will be spread further in the Judaic Tradition.

Thus, it consists in a constant stream of praise that rises to God, who is celebrated in the Christian faith as "Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ".

For this reason the figure of Christ, in whom the work of God the Father is revealed and brought about, is central in our hymn of praise. Indeed, the three principal verbs in this long but compact Canticle always lead us to the Son.

2. God "chose us in him" (
Ep 1,4): he is our vocation to holiness, to adoptive sonship, hence, brotherhood with Christ. This gift, which radically transforms our state as creatures, is offered to us "through Jesus Christ" (v. 5) in an act that is part of the great divine plan of salvation, in that loving "according to the purpose of his will" (Ep 1,5) of the Father, whom the Apostle contemplates with emotion.

The second verb after the election ("he chose us") designates the gift of grace: "his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Ep 1,6).

In Greek we have the same root twice, charis and echaritosen, to emphasize the gratuitousness of the divine initiative that preceded any human response. The grace that the Father gives us in his Only-begotten Son is therefore the manifestation of his love that enfolds and transforms us.

3. And here we come to the third fundamental verb in the Pauline Canticle: its subject is always the divine grace that was "freely bestowed" upon us (cf. Ep 1,8). We therefore have before us a verb of fullness, we could say - keeping to its original tone - of super-abundance and unlimited and unreserved giving.

We thus penetrate the infinite and glorious depths of God's mystery, opened and revealed through grace to whoever is called by grace and by love, since it is impossible to arrive at this revelation endowed with human intelligence and ability alone.

""Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him'. Yet God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Spirit. The Spirit scrutinizes all matters, even the deep things of God" (1Co 2,9-10).

4. The "mystery of the divine will" has a centre which is destined to coordinate the whole of the being and the whole of history, leading them to the fullness desired by God: "to unite all things in him" (Ep 1,10). In this "design", in Greek (oikonomia), that is, in this harmonious plan of being and of existing, Christ rises, Head of the Body of the Church but also the axis that unites "all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth".

Dispersion and restrictions are overcome and that "fullness" is formed which is the true goal of the plan that the divine will pre-established from its origins.

Thus, we stand before a grandiose fresco of the history of creation and salvation; let us now meditate upon it and deepen our knowledge of it through the words of St Irenaeus, a great second-century Doctor of the Church, in which, in some masterful passages of his Treatise Adversus Haereses, is developed an articulate reflection precisely on the recapitulation brought about by Christ.

5. The Christian faith, he affirms, recognizes that "there is only one God the Father and only one Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who has come through the whole economy and has recapitulated all things in himself. Among all things is also the human being, formed in the likeness of God. Therefore, he has also brought the human being to fulfilment in himself; the One who is invisible becomes visible, the One who is beyond understanding becomes understandable, and the One who is the Word becomes man" (3, 16, 6: Già e non ancora, CCCXX, Milan, 1979, p. 268).

This is why "the Word of God became man" truly and not only in appearance, for in the latter case "his work would not have been true". Instead, "he was what he appeared to be: God who recapitulates in himself his original creature, who is man, to kill sin, destroy death and give life to man. And for this reason his works are true (3, 18, 7: ibid. pp. 277-278).

He made himself Head of the Church to draw all people to himself at the right moment. In the spirit of St Irenaeus' words let us pray: Yes, Lord, attract us to you, attract the world to you and give us peace, your peace.
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To special groups

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from England, Australia, The Philippines and the United States of America. May you have a memorable stay in Rome and a safe return to your homes. Upon all of you, I invoke the peace and joy of Jesus Christ Our Lord!

I then greet the representatives of the Italian National Anti-Usury Council, which is commemorating its 10th anniversary. Dear friends, the presence of so many of you gives me the opportunity to express my deep appreciation for the courageous and generous work you do for families and individuals affected by the deplorable social scourge of usury. I hope that many people will rally to support your praiseworthy commitment to its prevention, to solidarity and to education in the legal issues involved.

Lastly, I greet the sick, the newly-weds and the young people. I invite you all to prepare for Advent with spiritual fervour, drawing from the Word of God and from the Eucharist the inner energy to welcome the Lord who comes.

Wednesday, 30 November 2005 - Psalm 137£[136]: 1-6 "If I forget you, Jerusalem" Evening Prayer - Tuesday of the Fourth Week

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. On this first Wednesday of Advent, a liturgical season of silence, watchfulness and prayer in preparation for Christmas, let us meditate on Psalm 137[136], whose first words in the Latin version became famous: Super flumina Babylonis. The text evokes the tragedy lived by the Jewish people during the destruction of Jerusalem in about 586 B.C., and their subsequent and consequent exile in Babylon. We have before us a national hymn of sorrow, marked by a curt nostalgia for what has been lost.

This heartfelt invocation to the Lord to free his faithful from slavery in Babylon also expresses clearly the sentiments of hope and expectation of salvation with which we have begun our journey through Advent.

The background to the first part of the Psalm (cf. vv. 1-4) is the land of exile with its rivers and streams, indeed, the same that irrigated the Babylonian plain to which the Jews had been deported. It is, as it were, a symbolic foreshadowing of the extermination camps to which the Jewish people - in the century we have just left behind us - were taken in an abominable operation of death that continues to be an indelible disgrace in the history of humanity.

The second part of the Psalm (cf. vv. 5-6) is instead pervaded by the loving memory of Zion, the city lost but still alive in the exiles' hearts.

2. The hand, tongue, palate, voice and tears are included in the Psalmist's words. The hand is indispensable to the harp-player: but it is already paralyzed (cf. v. 5) by grief, also because the harps are hung up on the poplars.

The tongue is essential to the singer, but now it is stuck to the palate (cf. v. 6). In vain do the Babylonian captors "ask... for songs..., songs... of joy" (v. 3). "Zion's songs" are "song[s] of the Lord" (vv. 3-4), not folk songs to be performed. Only through a people's liturgy and freedom can they rise to Heaven.

3. God, who is the ultimate judge of history, will also know how to understand and accept, in accordance with his justice, the cry of victims, over and above the tones of bitterness that sometimes colours them.

Let us entrust ourselves to St Augustine for a further meditation on our Psalm. The great Father of the Church introduces a surprising and very timely note: he knows that there are also people among the inhabitants of Babylon who are committed to peace and to the good of the community, although they do not share the biblical faith; the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire is unknown to them. Within them they have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greater, for the transcendent: for true redemption.

And Augustine says that even among the persecutors, among the non-believers, there are people who possess this spark, with a sort of faith or hope, as far as is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live. With this faith, even in an unknown reality, they are truly on their way towards the true Jerusalem, towards Christ.

And with this openness of hope, Augustine also warns the "Babylonians" - as he calls them -, those who do not know Christ or even God and yet desire the unknown, the eternal, and he warns us too, not to focus merely on the material things of the present but to persevere on the journey to God. It is also only with this greater hope that we will be able to transform this world in the right way. St Augustine says so in these words:

"If we are citizens of Jerusalem... and must live in this land, in the confusion of this world and in this Babylon where we do not dwell as citizens but are held prisoner, then we should not just sing what the Psalm says but we should also live it: something that is done with a profound, heartfelt aspiration, a full and religious yearning for the eternal city".

And he adds with regard to the "earthly city called Babylon", that it "has in it people who, prompted by love for it, work to guarantee it peace - temporal peace - nourishing in their hearts no other hope, indeed, by placing in this one all their joy, without any other intention. And we see them making every effort to be useful to earthly society".

"Now, if they strive to do these tasks with a pure conscience, God, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, will not let them perish within Babylon: this is on condition, however, that while living in Babylon, they do not thirst for ambition, short-lived magnificence or vexing arrogance.... He sees their enslavement and will show them that other city for which they must truly long and towards which they must direct their every effort" (Esposizioni sui Salmi, 136, 1-2: Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana, XXVIII, Rome, 1977, pp. 397,399).

And let us pray to the Lord that in all of us this desire, this openness to God, will be reawakened, and that even those who do not know Christ may be touched by his love so that we are all together on the pilgrimage to the definitive City, and that the light of this City may appear also in our time and in our world.
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To special groups

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, and in particular to the various student groups. May this Advent be for all of you a time of reflection, prayer and joyful expectation in preparation for the mystery of Christmas. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God's abundant Blessings of joy and peace.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. May the Apostle St Andrew, whose feast we are celebrating today, be for you all a model of the faithful following of Christ and of a courageous Gospel witness.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, and in particular to the various student groups. May this Advent be for all of you a time of reflection, prayer and joyful expectation in preparation for the mystery of Christmas. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.
Appeal of the Holy Father

Tomorrow, 1 December, is World AIDS Day, a United Nations initiative planned to call attention to the scourge of AIDS and to invite the International Community to a renewed commitment in the work of prevention and supportive assistance to those afflicted. The figures published are alarming!

Closely following Christ's example, the Church has always considered care of the sick as an integral part of her mission. I therefore encourage the many initiatives promoted especially by the Ecclesial Community to rout this disease, and I feel close to persons with AIDS and their families, invoking for them the help and comfort of the Lord.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005 - Psalm 138£[137] Judaic hymn of thanksgiving: Evening Prayer - Tuesday of the Fourth Week


1. Psalm 138[137], the hymn of thanksgiving that we have just heard, attributed by the Judaic tradition to the patronage of David although it probably came into being in a later epoch, opens with a personal hymn by the person praying. He lifts up his voice in the setting of the assembly in the temple or at least makes a reference to the Shrine of Zion, the chair of the Lord's presence and the place of his encounter with the people of the faithful.

Indeed, the Psalmist confesses that he will "adore before your holy temple" in Jerusalem (cf. v. 2): there he sings before God, who is in heaven with his court of angels but is also listening in the earthly space of the temple (cf. v. 1). The person praying is sure that the "name" of the Lord, that is, his personal reality, alive and active, and his virtues of faithfulness and mercy, signs of the Covenant with his people, are the support of all faithfulness and hope (cf. v. 2).

2. He then briefly turns his gaze to the past, to the day of affliction: at that time the divine voice answered the anguished cry of the believer. Indeed, it instilled courage in the distressed soul (cf. v. 3). The original Hebrew speaks literally of the Lord who "increased the strength of soul" of the righteous one who is oppressed. It is as if an impetuous wind had broken into it, sweeping away hesitations and fears, instilling in it new, vital energy and making fortitude and faithfulness flourish.

After this seemingly personal premise, the Psalmist broadens his gaze to the world and imagines that his testimony takes in the whole horizon: "all earth's kings", in a sort of universalistic adherence, join with the Jewish person praying in a common song of praise to honour the greatness and sovereign power of the Lord (cf. vv. 4-6).

3. The content of this unanimous praise that rises from all people already shows the future Church of the pagans, the future universal Church. The first theme of this content is the "glory" and the "ways of the Lord" (cf. v. 5), that is, his projects of salvation and revelation.

Thus, one discovers that God is certainly "exalted" and transcendent, but he looks on the "lowly" with affection while he turns his face away from the proud as a sign of rejection and judgment (cf. v. 6).

As Isaiah proclaimed: "For thus says he who is high and exalted, living eternally, whose name is the Holy One: On high I dwell, and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed" (
Is 57,15).

God therefore chooses to take the side of the weak, victims, the lowliest: this is made known to all kings so that they will know what their option should be in the governing of nations.

Naturally, this is not only said to kings and to all governments but also to all of us, because we too must know what choice to make, what the option is: to side with the humble and the lowliest, with the poor and the weak.

4. After calling into question national leaders worldwide, not only those of that time but of all times, the person praying returns to his personal prayer of praise (cf. Ps 138[137]: 7-8). Turning his gaze to his future life, he implores God for help also for the trials that existence may still have in store for him. And we all pray like this, with this prayerful person of that time.

He speaks in concise terms of the "anger of the foes" (cf. v. 7), a sort of symbol of all the hostilities that may spring up before the righteous person on his way through history. But he knows, and with him we also know, that the Lord will never abandon him and will stretch out his hand to save and guide him.

The finale of the Psalm, then, is a last passionate profession of trust in God whose goodness is eternal: he will not "discard... the work of [his] hands", in other words, his creature (v. 8). And we too must live in this trust, in this certainty of God's goodness.

We must be sure that however burdensome and tempestuous the trials that await us may be, we will never be left on our own, we will never fall out of the Lord's hands, those hands that created us and now sustain us on our journey through life. As St Paul was to confess: "he who has begun the good work in you will carry it through to completion" (Ph 1,6).

5. Thus, we too have prayed with a psalm of praise, thanksgiving and trust. Let us continue to follow this thread of hymnodic praise through the witness of a Christian hymn-writer, the great Ephrem the Syrian (fourth century), the author of texts with an extraordinary poetic and spiritual fragrance.

"However great may be our wonder for you, O Lord, your glory exceeds what our tongues can express", Ephrem sang in one hymn (Inni sulla Verginità, 7: L'Arpa dello Spirito, Rome, 1999, p. 66); and in another: "Praise to you, to whom all things are easy, for you are almighty" (Inni sulla Natività, 11: ibid., p. 48). And this is a further reason for our trust: that God has the power of mercy and uses his power for mercy. And lastly, a final quote: "Praise to you from all who understand your truth" (Inni sulla Fede, 14: ibid., p. 27).
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To special groups

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims here today from Australia, Canada, England, Finland and the United States of America. A special greeting to the newly-professed Missionaries of Charity, to the English priests who are celebrating their 10th anniversary of ordination and to the choir members from Veteli in Finland. I pray that your visit to Rome will strengthen your faith and your love for the Lord. May God bless you all.

Lastly, I address my affectionate greeting to the young people, the sick and the newly weds, recalling among the young people in particular the students of the Don Bosco Institute in Cinecittà and the group Cavalieri di Sobieski, born from the apostolic zeal that the late Mons. Luigi Giussani passed on in the education of youth. May the Bishop St Ambrose, whose Memorial we are celebrating today, be an example to all of fidelity to Jesus, whom we await in this season of Advent as the Saviour of humanity.

Audiences 2005-2013 9115