S. John Paul II Homil. 103
"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lc 1,45).
1: With this greeting, the elderly Elizabeth exalts her young kinswoman Mary, who has come, humble and modest, to help her. Under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the mother of the Baptist is the first in the history of the Church to begin to proclaim the marvels that God has brought about in the girl from Nazareth, and sees fully realized in Mary the bliss of faith, because she has believed there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.
At the close of the Marian month, in this splendid Roman evening, at this place which reminds us of the Lourdes grotto, we must reflect, beloved Sisters and. Brothers, on what was the fundamental interior attitude of the Blessed Virgin with regard to God: her faith. Mary believed! She believed in the Lord's words, transmitted to her by the Angel Gabriel; at the Annunciation, her pure heart, already given entirely to God from her childhood, dilated in the generous and unconditional "Fiat" with which she agreed to become the Mother of the Messiah and Son of God. From that moment, taking her place more and more deeply in God's plan, she will let herself by led by the hand by mysterious Providence and for her whole life, rooted in faith, she will follow her Son spiritually, becoming his first and perfect "disciple" and carry-out in everyday life the requirements involved in following Jesus according to his own words: "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Lc 14,27).
Thus Mary will advance throughout her life in her "pilgrimage of faith" (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium LG 58), while her beloved Son, misunderstood, slandered, condemned, crucified, will mark out for her, day after day, a painful way, the necessary premise for that glorification, sung in the "Magnificat": "all generations will call me blessed" (Lc 1,48). But first Mary, too, will have to go up to Calvary to be present, in sorrow, at the death of her Jesus.
2. Today's feast of the Visitation presents to us another aspect of Mary's inner life: her attitude of humble service and disinterested love for those in need. She has just heard from the Angel Gabriel of the state of her kinswoman Elizabeth, and at once she sets out for the hills "in haste" to reach a city of Judah, the present-day "Ain Karem". The meeting of the two Mothers is also the meeting between the Forerunner and the Messiah, who, through his Mother, begins to operate salvation by making John the Baptist leap with joy when still in his mother's womb.
"No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us... And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also" (1Jn 4,12 1Jn 21), St John the evangelist will say. But who, better than Mary, had put this message into practice? And who, if not Jesus, whom she bore in her womb, urged her, stimulated her, inspired her to this continual attitude of generous service and disinterested love of others? "The Son of man came not to be served but to serve" (Mt 20,28), Jesus will say to his disciples; but his Mother had already carried out perfectly this attitude of her Son. Let us listen again to the famous comment, full of spiritual unction, that St Ambrose makes on Mary's journey: "Joyful to carry out her desire, delicate in her duty, thoughtful in her joy, she hastened to the hills. Where, if not to the summits, was she, who was already full of God, to aspire with solicitous care? The grace of the Holy Spirit does not know obstacles which delay action" (Expositio Evangelii secundunt Lucam. II, 19; CCL 14, p. 39).
And if we reflect with particular attention on the passage of the Letter to the Romans, which we have just listened to, we realize that there emerges from it an effective image of the behaviour of the Blessed Virgin, for our edification: her charity knew no insincerity; she loved others deeply; fervent in spirit, she served the Lord; joyful in hope; strong in tribulation, persevering in prayer; solicitous for the needs of brothers (cf. Rom Rm 12,9-13).
3. "Joyful in hope": the atmosphere that pervades the evangelical episode of the Visitation is joy: the mystery of the Visitation is a mystery of joy. John the Baptist exults with joy in the womb of St Elizabeth; the latter, rejoicing in the gift of motherhood, bursts out into blessings of the Lord; Mary pours forth the "Magnificat", a hymn overflowing with Messianic joy.
But what is the mysterious, hidden source of this joy? It is Jesus, whom Mary has already conceived thanks to the Holy Spirit, and who is already beginning to defeat what is the root of fear, anguish and sadness: sin, the most humiliating slavery for man.
104 This evening we are celebrating together the close of the Marian month of 1979. But the month of May cannot end; it must continue in our lives, because veneration, love, devotion to Our Lady cannot disappear from our hearts, on the contrary they must grow and be expressed in a testimony of Christian life, modelled on the example of Mary, "the name of the beautiful flower which I always invoke / morning and evening", as the poet Dante Alighieri sings (Paradise, XXIII, 88).
Oh Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, look upon us mercifully at this hour!
Virgo Fidelis, Faithful Virgin, pray for us! Teach us to believe as you believed! Make our faith in God, in Christ, in the Church, always be limpid, serene, courageous, strong and generous.
Mater Amabilis, Mother worthy of love! Mater pulchrae dilectionis, Mother of fair love, pray for us! Teach us to love God and our brothers, as you loved them: make our love for others always be patient, kindly, respectful.
Causa nostrae laetitiae, Cause of our joy, pray for us! Teach us to be able to grasp, in faith, the paradox of Christian joy, which springs up and blooms from sorrow, renunciation, union with your crucified Son: make our joy always be genuine and full, in order to be able to communicate it to all!
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
Participants in the Eucharistic Sacrifice celebrated today in Victory Square in Warsaw.
1. Together with you I wish to sing a hymn of praise to Divine Providence, which enables me to be here as a pilgrim.
105 We know that the recently deceased Paul VI, the first pilgrim Pope after so many centuries, ardently desired to set foot on the soil of Poland, especially at Jasna Gora (the Bright Mountain). To the end of his life he kept this desire in his heart, and with it he went to the grave. And we feel that this desire—a desire so potent and so deeply rooted that it goes beyond the span of a pontificate—is being realized today in a way that it would have been difficult to foresee. And so we thank Divine Providence for having given Paul VI so strong a desire. We thank it for the pattern of the pilgrim Pope that he began with the Second Vatican Council. At a time when the whole Church has become newly aware of being the People of God, a People sharing in the mission of Christ, a People that goes through history with that mission, a "pilgrim" People, the Pope could no longer remain a "prisoner of the Vatican". He had to become again the pilgrim Peter, like the first Peter, who from Jerusalem, through Antioch, reached Rome to give witness there to Christ and seal his witness with his blood.
Today it is granted to me to fulfil this desire of the deceased Pope Paul VI in the midst of you, beloved sons and daughters of my motherland. When, after the death of Paul VI and the brief pontificate of my immediate Predecessor John Paul I, which lasted only a few weeks, I was, through the inscrutable designs of Divine Providence, called by the votes of the Cardinals from the chair of Saint Stanislaus in Krakow to that of Saint Peter in Rome, I immediately understood that it was for me to fulfil that desire, the desire that Paul VI had been unable to carry out at the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland.
My pilgrimage to my motherland in the year in which the Church in Poland is celebrating the ninth centenary of the death of Saint Stanislaus is surely a special sign of the pilgrimage that we Poles are making down through the history of the Church not only along the ways of our motherland but also along those of Europe and the world. Leaving myself aside at this point, I must nonetheless with all of you ask myself why, precisely in 1978, after so many centuries of a well established tradition in this field, a son of the Polish Nation, of the land of Poland, was called to the chair of Saint Peter. Christ demanded of Peter and of the other Apostles that they should be his "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Ac 1,8). Have we not the right, with reference to these words of Christ, to think that Poland has become nowadays the land of a particularly responsible witness? The right to think that from here—from Warsaw, and also from Gniezno, from Jasna Gora, from Krakow and from the whole of this historic route that I have so often in my life traversed and that it is to proclaim Christ with singular humility but also with conviction? The right to think that one must come to this very place, to this land, on this route, to read again the witness of his Cross and his Resurrection? But if we accept all that I have dared to affirm in this moment, how many great duties and obligations arise? Are we capable of them?
2. Today, at the first stopping place in my papal pilgrimage in Poland, it is granted to me to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice in Victory Square in Warsaw. The liturgy of the evening of Saturday the Vigil of Pentecost takes us to the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where the Apostles, gathered around Mary the Mother of Christ, were on the following day to receive the Holy Spirit. They were to receive the Spirit obtained for them by Christ through the Cross, in order that through the power of this Spirit they might fulfil his command: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20). Before Christ the Lord left the world, he transmitted to the Apostles with these words his last recommendation, his "missionary mandate". And he added: "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20).
It is good that my pilgrimage to Poland on the ninth centenary of the martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus should fall in the Pentecost period and on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Fulfilling the desire of Paul VI after his death, I am able to relive the Millennium of the Baptism on Polish soil and to inscribe this year's jubilee of Saint Stanislaus in the Millennium since the beginning of the nation and the Church. The Solemnity of Pentecost and that of the Most Holy Trinity bring us close to this beginning. In the apostles who receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost are spiritually present in a way all their successors, all the Bishops, including those whose task it has been for a thousand years to proclaim the Gospel on Polish soil. Among them was this Stanislaus of Szczepanow, who paid with his blood for his mission on the episcopal chair of Krakow nine centuries ago.
On the day of Pentecost there were gathered, in the Apostles and around them, not only the representatives of the peoples and tongues listed in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Even then there were gathered about them the various peoples and nations that, through the light of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, were to enter the Church at different periods and centuries. The day of Pentecost is the birthday of the faith and of the Church in our land of Poland also. It is the proclamation of the mighty works of God in our Polish language also. It is the beginning of Christianity in the life of our nation also, in its history, its culture, its trials.
3a. To Poland the Church brought Christ, the key to understanding that great and fundamental reality that is man. For man cannot be fully understood without Christ. Or rather, man is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is. He cannot understand any of this without Christ.
Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland, especially the history of the people who have passed or are passing through this land. The history of people. The history of the nation is above all the history of people. And the history of each person unfolds in Jesus Christ. In him it becomes the history of salvation.
The history of the nation deserves to be adequately appraised in the light of its contribution to the development of man and humanity, to intellect, heart and conscience. This is the deepest stream of culture. It is culture's firmest support, its core, its strength. It is impossible without Christ to understand and appraise the contribution of the Polish nation to the development of man and his humanity in the past and its contribution today also: "This old oak tree has grown in such a way and has not been knocked down by any wind since its root is Christ" (Piotr Skarga, Kazania Sejmove IV, Biblioteka Narodowa, I, 70, p. 92). It is necessary to follow the traces of what, or rather who, Christ was for the sons and daughters of this land down the generations. Not only for those who openly believed in him and professed him with the faith of the Church, but also for those who appeared to be at a distance, outside the Church. For those who doubted or were opposed.
3b. It is right to understand the history of the nation through man, each human being of this nation. At the same time man cannot be understood apart from this community that is constituted by the nation. Of course it is not the only community, but it is a special community, perhaps that most intimately linked with the family, the most important for the spiritual history of man. It is therefore impossible without Christ to understand the history of the Polish nation—this great thousand-year-old community—that is so profoundly decisive for me and each one of us. If we reject this key to understanding our nation, we lay ourselves open to a substantial misunderstanding. We no longer understand ourselves. It is impossible without Christ to understand this nation with its past so full of splendour and also of terrible difficulties. It is impossible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, that undertook in 1944 an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own ruins—if it is not remembered that under those same ruins there was also the statue of Christ the Saviour with his cross that is in front of the church at Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaus in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe at Oswiecim unless we apply to them that same single fundamental criterion that is called Jesus Christ.
The Millennium of the Baptism of Poland, of which Saint Stanislaus is the first mature fruit—the millennium of Christ in our yesterday, and today—is the chief reason for my pilgrimage, for my prayer of thanksgiving together with all of you, dear fellow-countrymen, to whom Christ does not cease to teach the great cause of man; together with you, for whom Jesus Christ does not cease to be an ever open book on man, his dignity and his rights and also a book of knowledge on the dignity and rights of the nation.
106 Today, here in Victory Square, in the capital of Poland, I am asking with all of you, through the great Eucharistic prayer, that Christ will not cease to be for us an open book of life for the future, for our Polish future.
4. We are before the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the ancient and contemporary history of Poland this tomb has a special basis, a special reason for its existence. In how many places in our native land has that soldier fallen! In how many places in Europe and the world has he cried with his death that there can be no just Europe without the independence of Poland marked on its map! On how many battlefields has that solider given witness to the rights of man, indelibly inscribed in the inviolable rights of the people, by falling for "our freedom and yours"!
"Where are their tombs, O Po-land? Where are they not! You know better than anyone—and God knows it in heaven" (A. Oppman, Pacierz za zmarlych).
The history of the motherland written through the tomb of an Unknown Soldier!
I wish to kneel before this tomb to venerate every seed that falls into the earth and dies and thus bears fruit. It may be the seed of the blood of a soldier shed on the battlefield, or the sacrifice of martyrdom in concentration camps or in prisons. It may be the seed of hard daily toil, with the sweat of one's brow, in the fields, the workshop, the mine, the foundries and the factories. It may be the seed of the love of parents who do not refuse to give life to a new human being and undertake the whole of the task of bringing him up. It may be the seed of creative work in the universities, the higher institutes, the libraries and the places where the national culture is built. It may be the seed of prayer, of service of the sick, the suffering, the abandoned—"all that of which Poland is made".
All that in the hands of the Mother of God—at the foot of the cross on Calvary and in the Upper Room of Pentecost!
All that—the history of the motherland shaped for a thousand years by the succession of the generations (among them the present generation and the coming generation) and by each son and daughter of the motherland, even if they are anonymous and unknown like the Soldier before whose tomb we are now.
All that—including the history of the peoples that have lived with us and among us, such as those who died in their hundreds of thousands within the walls of the Warsaw ghetto.
All that I embrace in thought and in my heart during this Eucharist and I include it in this unique most holy Sacrifice of Christ, on Victory Square.
And I cry—I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II—I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost:
Let your Spirit descend.
107 Let your Spirit descend.
and renew the face of the earth,
the face of this land.
My very dear friends,
1. It is my ardent desire that today's meeting, which is marked by the presence of the university students, will be in keeping with the grandeur of the day and its liturgy.
The university students of Warsaw and those of the other seats of learning in this central metropolitan region are the heirs of specific traditions going back through the generations to the mediaeval "scholars" connected principally with the Jagellonian University, the oldest university in Poland. Today every large city in Poland has its university. Warsaw has several. They bring together hundreds of thousands of students who are being trained in various branches of knowledge and are preparing for intellectual professions and particularly important tasks in the life of the nation.
I wish to greet all of you who have gathered here. I wish also to greet in you and through you all the university and academic world of Poland: all the higher institutes, the professors, the researchers, the students. I see in you, in a certain sense, my younger colleagues, because I too owe to the Polish university the basis of my intellectual formation. I had a systematic connection with the lecture halls of the faculty of philosophy and theology at Krakow and Lublin. Pastoral care of those in the universities is something for which I have had a particular liking. I therefore wish on this occasion to greet also all those who dedicate themselves to this pastoral care, the groups of the spiritual assistants of university students, and the Polish Episcopate's Commission for University Pastoral Care.
2. We are meeting today on the Solemnity of Pentecost. With the eyes of our faith we see appear before us the upper room in Jerusalem from which the Church came forth and in which the Church remains for ever. There it was that the Church was born as the living community of the People of God, as a community aware of its own mission in the history of man.
Today the Church prays: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love" (Liturgy of Pentecost). These words, so often repeated, today resound with particular ardour.
Fill the hearts.
108 Consider, young friends, how great is the human heart, if God alone can fill it with the Holy Spirit.
Through your university studies you see open up before you the wonderful world of human knowledge in its many branches. Step by step with this knowledge your self-awareness is certainly developing also. Assuredly you have long been putting the question to yourselves: "Who am I?" This is, I would say, the most interesting question. The fundamental query. What is to be the measurement for measuring man? That of the physical forces at his command? That of the senses that enable him to have contact with the external world? Or that of the intelligence obtained by means of the various tests or examinations?
Today's answer, the answer of the liturgy of Pentecost, points to two measurements: Man must be measured by the measurement of his "heart"... In Biblical language the heart means the inner spirituality of man; in particular it means conscience... Man must therefore be measured by the measurement of conscience, by the measurement of the spirit open to God. Only the Holy Spirit can "fill" this heart, that is to say, lead it to self-realization through love and wisdom.
3. Therefore let this meeting with you today in front of the upper room of our history, the history of the Church and of the nation, be above all, a prayer to obtain the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
As once my father placed a little book in my hand and pointed out to me the prayer to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so today I, who am also called "Father" by you, wish to pray with the university students of Warsaw and of Poland:
— for the gift of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety (that is to say the sense of the sacred value of life, of human dignity, of the sanctity of the human body and soul) and, finally, for the gift of the fear of God, of which the Psalmist says that it is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Ps Ps 111,10).
Receive from me this prayer that my father taught me, and remain faithful to it. You will thus stay in the upper room of the Church, united with the deepest stream of its history.
4. Very much will depend on the measurement that each one of you will choose to use for your own life and your own humanity. You know well that there are different measurements. You know that there are many standards for appraising a human being, for judging him even during his studies and later in his professional work, his various personal contacts, etc.
Have the courage to accept the measurement that Christ gave us in the upper room of Pentecost and the upper room of our history.
Have the courage to look at your lives from a viewpoint that is close up and yet detached, accepting as truth what Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now" (Rm 8,22). Do we not see this suffering before our eyes? "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (Rm 8,19).
Creation is waiting not only for the Universities and the various higher institutes to prepare engineers, doctors, jurists, philologists, historians, men of letters, mathematicians and technicians: it is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. It is waiting for this revealing from you, you who in the future will be doctors, technicians, jurists, professors...
109 Try to understand that the human being whom God created in his image and after his likeness is also called in Christ, in order that in him should be revealed what is from God, in order that in each one of us God himself should to some extent be revealed.
5. Reflect on this.
As I make my way along the route of my pilgrimage through Poland towards the tomb of Saint Wojciech (Adalbert) at Gniezno, to that of Saint Stanislaus at Krakow, to Jasna Gora—everywhere I will ask the Holy Spirit with all my heart to grant you:
such an awareness,
such a consciousness of the value and the meaning of life,
such a future for you,
such a future for Poland.
And pray for me, that the Holy Spirit may come to the aid of our weakness.
Your Eminence, beloved Primate of Poland.
Dear Brothers, the Archbishops and Bishops of Poland.
110 1. In you I greet the whole of the People of God living in my native land—the priests, the religious families, the laity.
I greet Poland, baptized over a thousand years ago.
I greet Poland, inserted into the mysteries of the divine life through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. I greet the Church in the land of my forefathers, in hierarchical community and unity with the Successor of Saint Peter. I greet the Church in Poland, which was guided from the beginning by the saints, Bishops and Martyrs, Wojciech (Adalbert) and Stanislaus, in union with the Queen of Poland, Our Lady of Jasna Gora (The Bright Mountain—Czestochowa).
I who have come among you as a pilgrim for the great Jubilee greet all of you, dear brothers and sisters, with the brotherly kiss of peace.
2. Once again the day of Pentecost has come, and we are spiritually present in the Jerusalem upper room, while at the same time we are present here in this upper room of our Polish Millennium, in which we hear as forcefully as ever the voice of the mystery-filled date of that beginning from which we start to count the years of the history of our motherland and of the Church that has been made part of it. The history of Poland ever faithful.
On the day of Pentecost, in the Jerusalem upper room, the promise is fulfilled that was sealed with the blood of the Redeemer on Calvary: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20,22-23). The Church is born precisely from the power of these words. The Church is born of the power of this breath. After it had been prepared during the entire life of Christ, the Church is definitively born when the Apostles receive from Christ the gift of Pentecost, when they receive from him the Holy Spirit. The descent of the Spirit marks the beginning of the Church, which throughout all generations must bring mankind—both the individuals and the nations—into the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ. The descent of the Holy Spirit means the beginning of this mystery and also its continuance. For the continuance is a constant return to the beginning.
And now we hear how in the Jerusalem upper room, the Apostles were "filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Ac 2,4). The various languages became theirs, became their own languages, thanks to the mystery-filled action of the Holy Spirit, which "blows where it wills" (Jn 3,8) and renews "the face of the earth" (Ps 103/104:30).
And although the author of Acts does not list our language among those that the Apostles began to speak that day, the time would come when the Successors of the Apostles in the upper room were to begin to speak also the tongue of our forefathers and to proclaim the Gospel to the People that could understand it and receive it only in that language.
3. There is much significance in the names of the castles of the Piast dynasty in which this historic translation of the Spirit took place and in which the torch of the Gospel was lit in the land of our forefathers. The language of the Apostles resounded for the first time, as if in a new translation, in our tongue, the tongue that the people living on the banks of the Warta and the Vistula understood and that we still understand today.
The castles with which the beginning of the faith in the land of our Polish forefathers is linked are, in fact, that of Poznan—which from the earliest times, beginning two years after the baptism of Mieszko, was the residence of the Bishop—and that of Gniezno—where the great ecclesiastical and state act of the year 1000 took place: the meeting before the relics of Saint Wojciech of the envoys of Pope Sylvester II of Rome with the Roman Emperor Otto III and the first Polish king (then only a prince as yet) Boleslaw Chrobry (Boleslaus the Bold), the son and successor of Mieszko, in which the first Polish ecclesiastical province was set up, thus laying the foundations of the hierarchical order for the whole of the history of Poland. Within this ecclesiastical province of Gniezno we find in the year 1000 the episcopal sees of Krakow, Wroclaw and Kolobrzeg, linked in a single ecclesiastical organization.
Every time we come to this place, we must see the upper room of Pentecost opened up before us again. And we must listen to the language of our forefathers, in which the proclamation of "the mighty works of God" (Ac 2,11) began to resound.
111 It was also here that the Church in Poland intoned in 1966 its first Te Deum of thanksgiving for the Millennium of its baptism. As Metropolitan of Krakow, I had the good fortune to participate in that celebration. Today, as the first Pope of the Polish race, I would like to sing again with you this Te Deum of the Millennium. Inscrutable and wonderful are the decrees of the Lord that trace the ways leading from Sylvester II to John Paul II in this place.
4. After so many centuries the Jerusalem upper room was again opened up and amazement fell no longer only on the peoples of Mesopotamia and Judea, Egypt and Asia, and visitors from Rome, but also on the Slav peoples and the other peoples living in this part of Europe, as they heard the apostles of Jesus Christ speaking in their tongue and telling in their language "the mighty works of God".
When in the course of history the first sovereign of Poland wished to introduce Christianity and unite with the See of Saint Peter, he turned above all to the related peoples and married Dobrawa, daughter of the Czech prince Boleslaus, who was a Christian and became the godmother of her husband and of all his subjects. With her, Poland received missionaries from various nations of Europe, from Ireland, Italy and Germany, such as the holy bishop and martyr Saint Bruno of Querfurt. In the memory of the Church in the land of the Boleslaws the deepest impression was made by Saint Wojciech, a son and pastor of the related Czech nation. Well known are his history during the time that he was Bishop of Prague, his pilgrimages to Rome and above all his stay at the court of Gniezno, which was to prepare him for his final missionary journey to the North. In the area of the Baltic Sea this exile bishop, this tireless missionary, became the grain that falls into the ground and must die in order to bear much fruit (cf. Jn Jn 12,24). The witness of martyrdom, the witness of blood, sealed in a special way the baptism received a thousand years ago by our forefathers. The martyred remains of the apostle Wojciech lie at the foundations of Christianity throughout the land of Poland.
5. Today, in the year of the Lord 1979, on this anniversary of the descent of the Holy Spirit, as we go back to those beginnings, we cannot fail to hear also—as well as the language of our own forefathers—other Slav languages and related languages, languages in which there then began to be heard the voice of the upper room that was opened wide to history. These languages cannot fail to be heard especially by the first Slav Pope in the history of the Church. Perhaps that is why Christ has chosen him, perhaps that is why the Holy Spirit has led him—in order that he might introduce into the communion of the Church the understanding of the words and of the languages that still sound strange to the ear accustomed to the Romance, Germanic, English and Celtic tongues. Is it not Christ's will that the Holy Spirit should make the Mother Church turn, at the end of the second millennium of Christianity, with loving understanding, with special sensitivity, to those forms of human speech that are linked together by their common origin, their common etymology, and which, in spite of the well-known differences, even in way of writing, sound close and familiar one to another?
Is it not Christ's will, is it not what the Holy Spirit disposes, that this Pope, in whose heart is deeply engraved the history of his own nation from its very beginning and also the history of the brother peoples and the neighbouring peoples, should in a special way manifest and confirm in our age the presence of these peoples in the Church and their specific contribution to the history of Christianity?
Is it not the design of Providence that he should reveal the developments that have taken place here in this part of Europe in the rich architecture of the temple of the Holy Spirit?
Is it not Christ's will, is it not what the Holy Spirit disposes, that this Polish Pope, this Slav Pope, should at this precise moment manifest the spiritual unity of Christian Europe? Although there are two great traditions, that of the West and that of the East, to which it is indebted, through both of them Christian Europe professes "one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all" (Ep 4,5-6), the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, it is Christ's will, it is what the Holy Spirit disposes, that what I am saying should be said in this very place and at this moment in Gniezno, in the land of the Piasts, in Poland, close to the relics of Saint Wojciech and Saint Stanislaus, before the image of the Virgin Mother of God, Our Lady of the Bright Mountain and Mother of the Church.
On the occasion of the baptism of Poland we must call to mind the Christianization of the Slavs: that of the Croats and Slovenes, among whom missionaries worked as early as about 650 and largely accomplished their evangelization by the year 800; that of the Bulgarians, whose prince, Borys I, received baptism in 864 or 865; that of the Moravians and Slovaks, who were reached by missionaries before 850 and then in 863 by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who came to Greater Moravia to consolidate the faith of the young communities; that of the Czechs, whose Prince Borivoj was baptized by Saint Methodius. The field of the evangelizing influence of Saint Methodius and his disciples also included the Vislans and the Slavs living in Serbia. We must also recall the baptism of Russia at Kiev in 988. We must also remember the Christianization of the Slavs dwelling along the Elbe: Obotrits, Wielets and Lusatian Sorbs. The Christianization of Europe was completed with the baptism of Lithuania in 1386 and 1387.
Pope John Paul II, a Slav, a son of the Polish nation, feels how deeply fixed in the ground of history are the roots of his origin, how many centuries stand behind the word of the Holy Spirit proclaimed by him from Saint Peter's Vatican Hill, and here at Gniezno, from the hill of Lech, and at Krakow, from the heights of Wawel.
This Pope, who is a witness of Christ and a lover of the Cross and the Resurrection, today comes to this place to give witness to Christ, who is living in the soul of his nation, to Christ, who is living in the souls of the nations that have long since accepted him as "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6). He comes here to speak before the whole Church, before Europe and the world, of those often forgotten nations and peoples. He comes here to cry "with a loud voice". He comes here to point out the paths that in one way or another lead back towards the Pentecost upper room, towards the Cross and Resurrection. He comes here to embrace all these peoples, together with his own nation, and to hold them close to the heart of the Church, to the heart of the Mother of the Church, in whom he has unlimited trust.
112 6. Within a short time there will end here in Gniezno the visit of the sacred Icon. The image of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, the image of the Mother, expresses in a unique way her presence in the mystery of Christ and of the Church that has been living for so many centuries in the land of Poland. This image, which for more than twenty years has been visiting the individual churches, dioceses and parishes of this land, ends before long its visit to Gniezno, the ancient See of the Primates, and goes to Jasna Gora, to begin its pilgrimage in the Diocese of Czestochowa.
It is a great joy for me to be able to do this stage on my pilgrimage together with Mary and to be with her on the great historic route that I have often travelled, from Gniezno to Krakow by way of Jasna Gora, from Saint Wojciech to Saint Stanislaus by way of the "Virgin Mother of God, whom God has filled with glory, Mary".
The chief route of our spiritual history, the route travelled by all the Poles, whether of the West or of the East, as well as those outside their motherland in the various countries and continents.
The chief route of our spiritual history and also one of the great routes of the spiritual history of all the Slavs and one of the chief spiritual routes of the history of Europe.
In these days there will take place for the first time a pilgrimage along this route by the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, the first among those who went forth from the Pentecost upper room in Jerusalem, singing:
"Lord God, how great you are, clothed in majesty and glory, / wrapped in light as in a robe!...
How many are your works, O Lord! / In wisdom you have made them all. / The earth is full of your riches.
You send forth your Spirit, they are created, / and you renew the face of the earth" (Ps 103/104: 1-2, 24, 30).
Thus, dear fellow-countrymen, will this Pope, blood of your blood, bone of your bone, sing with you, and with you he will exclaim:
"May the glory of the Lord last for ever! / May the Lord rejoice in his works! / ... May the glory of the Lord last for ever! / ... May my thoughts be pleasing to him". (Ps 103/104:31, 34).
We shall go together along this path of our history, from Jasna Gora to Wawel, to Saint Stanislaus. We shall go there, thinking of the past, but with our minds directed towards the future.
We shall not return to the past! We shall go towards the future! "Receive the Holy Spirit"! (Jn 20,22).
S. John Paul II Homil. 103