Wednesday, 6 December 1978


Beloved Sisters and Brothers!

I am returning to last Wednesday's subject.

1. To penetrate into the biblical and liturgical fullness of the meaning of Advent, it is necessary to follow two directions. We must "go back" to the beginnings, and at the same time "go down" in depth. We did so already, for the first time, last Wednesday, choosing as the subject of our meditation the first words of the book of Genesis: "In the beginning God created" (Beresit bara Elohim).

Towards the end of the subject developed last week, we pointed out, among other things, that, to understand Advent in its full meaning, it is also necessary to tackle the subject of "man". The full meaning of Advent emerges from reflection on the Reality of God who creates—and creating reveals himself (this is the first and fundamental revelation, and also the first and fundamental truth of our "Creed"). The full meaning of Advent comes at the same time from deep reflection on the reality of man. We will approach this second reality, man, a little more during today's meditation.

2. A week ago we dwelt on the words of the book of Genesis, in which man is defined the "image and likeness of God". It is necessary to reflect with greater intensity on the texts that speak of it. They belong to the first chapter of the book of Genesis, in which the description of the creation of the world is presented in the succession of seven days. The description of the creation of man, on the sixth day, is somewhat different from the preceding descriptions. In these descriptions we are witnesses only of the act of creation, expressed with the words: "God said—Let there be ... "; here, on the contrary, the author wishes to highlight first the intention and the plan of the Creator (of God-Elohim); we read, in fact: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'" (
Gn 1,26). As if the Creator entered into himself; as if, creating, not only did he call things into existence from nothingness with the words: "Let there be", but, as if, in a special way, he drew man from the mystery of his own Being. That is understandable, because it is not a question just of Being, but of the Image. The image must "reflect", it must, in a certain way, almost reproduce "the substance" of its Prototype. The Creator says, furthermore, "after our likeness". It is clear that it must not be understood as a "portrait", but as a living being, who will live a life similar to that of God.

Only after these words, which bear witness, so to speak, to the plan of God-Creator, does the Bible speak of the act itself of the creation of man:

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1,27).

10 This description is made complete by the blessing. There are, therefore: the plan, the act of creation itself and the blessing:

"And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth'". (
Gn 1,28).

The last words of the description: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gn 1,31) — seem to be the echo of this blessing.

3. Certainly the text of Genesis is among the most ancient ones: according to biblical scholars, it was written about the 9th century B.C. That text contains the fundamental truth of our faith, the first article of the" Apostles' Creed". The part of the text, which presents the creation of man, is stupendous in its simplicity and at the same time in its depth. The affirmations it contains correspond to our experience and to our knowledge of man.

It is clear to everyone, regardless of ideologies on the conception of the world, that man, though belonging to the visible world, to nature, is in some way differentiated from this nature itself. In fact, the visible world exists "for him" and he "has dominion" over it; although, in various ways, he is "conditioned" by nature, he "dominates" it. He dominates it, by the strength of what he is, of his capacities and faculties of the spiritual order, which differentiate him from the natural world. It is these very faculties that constitute man. On this point the book of Genesis is extraordinarily precise. Defining "God's image", it shows the reason why man is man; the reason why he is a being distinct from all the other creatures of the visible world.

Science has made—and continues to make—a great many attempts the various fields, to prove man's ties with the natural world and his dependence on it, in order to integrate him in the history of the evolution of the various species. While respecting these researches, we cannot limit ourselves them. If we analyse man in the depth of his being, we see that he differs more from the world of nature than he resembles it. Also anthropology and philosophy proceed in this direction, when they try to analyse and understand man's intelligence, freedom, conscience and spirituality.

The book of Genesis seems to meet all these experiences of science, and, speaking of man as "God's image", lets it be understood that the answer to the mystery of his humanity is not to be found along the path of similarity with the world of nature. Man resembles God more than nature. Psalm 82:6 says so: "You are gods", the words that Jesus will take up again subsequently (cf. Jn 10,34).

4. This is a bold affirmation. It is necessary to have faith to accept it. Reason, however, if unprejudiced, does not oppose this truth about man; on the contrary, it sees in it a complement to what emerges from the analysis of human reality, and above all of the human spirit.

It is extremely significant that already the same book of Genesis, in the long description of the creation of man, obliges man—the first man created (Adam) — to make a similar analysis. What we read there may "scandalize" some people, owing to the archaic way of expression, but at the same time it is impossible not to be astonished at the relevance of that narrative today, when it considers the heart of the matter.

Here is the text:

"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers ...

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it ... Then the Lord God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'. So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him" (Gn 2,7-20).

What do we witness? The first "man" carries out the first and fundamental act of knowledge of the world. At the same time this act enables him to know and distinguish himself, "man", from all other creatures, and above all from those which as "living beings"—endowed with vegetative and sensitive life—show proportionally the greatest similarity with him, "with man", who is also endowed with vegetative and sensitive life. It could be said that this first man does what every man of any time usually does; that is: he reflects on his own being and asks himself who he is.

The result of this cognitive process is the realization of the fundamental and essential difference: I am different. I am more "different" than "similar". The Bible description concludes: "for the man there was not found a helper fit for him" (Gn 2,20).

5. Why are we speaking of all this today?—We are doing so to understand better the mystery of Advent, to understand it from its very foundations—and thus penetrate with greater depth into our Christianity.

Advent means "the Coming".

If God "comes" to man, he does so because in the human being he has prepared a "dimension of expectation" through which man can "welcome" God, is capable of doing so.

Already the book of Genesis, and particularly this chapter, explains this when, speaking of man, it states that God "created (him)... in his own image" (Gn 1,27).

Wednesday, 13 December 1978


1. For the third time already in these Wednesday meetings of ours, I am dealing again with the subject of Advent, following the rhythm of the Liturgy, which introduces us into the life of the Church in the simplest and at the same time deepest way. The Second Vatican Council, which gave us a rich and universal teaching on the Church, called our attention also to the Liturgy. Through it we get to know not only what the Church is, but we experience, day by day, what she lives on.

We, too, live by it because we are the Church: "It is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim" (Sacrosanctum Concilium
SC 2).

Now the Church is living Advent and therefore our Wednesday meetings are centred on this liturgical period. Advent means "Coming". To penetrate the reality of Advent, we have tried so far to look in the direction of who comes and for whom he comes. We have therefore spoken of a God who, creating the world, reveals himself: of a God Creator. And last Wednesday we spoke of man. Today we will continue, in order to find a more complete answer to the question: why "Advent"? Why does God come? Why does he want to come to man?

The liturgy of Advent is based mainly on the texts of the Old Testament Prophets. The prophet Isaiah speaks in it nearly every day. In the history of the People of God of the Old Covenant, he was a particular "interpreter" of the promise, which this people had obtained from God a long time before in the person of the founder of the race: Abraham. Like all the other prophets, and perhaps more than them all, Isaiah strengthened in his contemporaries faith in God's promises confirmed by the Covenant at the foot of Mount Sinai. He taught above all perseverance in waiting and faithfulness: "0 people in Zion ... The Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard for the joy of your heart" (cf. Is 30,19 Is 30,30).

When Christ was in the world, he referred several times to Isaiah's words. He said clearly: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lc 4,21).

12 2. The liturgy of Advent is of historical character. The expectation of the coming of the Anointed (Messiah) was a historical process. In fact, it permeated the whole history of Israel, which was chosen for the very purpose of preparing the Saviour's coming.

In a certain way, however, our reflections go beyond the daily liturgy of Advent. Let us return therefore to the basic question: why does God come? Why does he want to come to man, to humanity? Let us look for adequate answers to these questions and let us look for them at the very beginnings, that is, even before the history of the chosen people began. This year, our attention goes to the first chapters of the book of Genesis. The "historical" advent would not be understandable without a careful reading and analysis of those chapters.

Therefore, seeking an answer to the question: "Why" advent?, we must once more reread carefully the whole description of the creation of the world and, in particular, the creation of man. It is significant (as I have already had occasion to mention) how the single days of creation end with the observation: "God saw that it was good"; and, after the creation of man: " ... God saw it was very good". This observation, as I already said last week, is accompanied by the blessing of creation, and above all by an explicit blessing of man.

In all this description we have before us a God who, to use St Paul's expression, rejoices in truth, in the good (cf.
1Co 13,6). Where there is joy, springing from the good there is love. And only where there is love, is there the joy that comes from the good. The book of Genesis, right from its first chapters, reveals to us God who is Love (although this expression will be used much later by St John). He is Love, because he rejoices in the good. Creation is, therefore, at the same time a real giving: where there is love, there is giving.

The book of Genesis indicates the beginning of the existence of the world and of man. Interpreting this existence, we must certainly, as St Thomas Aquinas did, construct a consistent philosophy of being, a philosophy in which the very order of existence will be expressed. However, the book of Genesis speaks of the creation as a gift. God who creates the visible world is the giver; and man is the one who receives the gift. He is the one for whom God creates the visible world, the one whom God, right from the beginning, introduces not only to the order of existence, but also to the order of giving.

The fact that man is the "image and likeness" of God means, among other things, that he is able to receive the gift, that he appreciates this gift, and that he is capable of reciprocating it. That is why God from the beginning establishes the covenant with man, and only with him. The book of Genesis reveals to us not only the natural order of existence, but at the same time, right from the beginning, the supernatural order of grace. We can speak of grace only if we admit the reality of the Gift. Let us recall from the catechism: grace is God's supernatural gift as the result of which we become children of God and heirs to heaven.

3. What connection has all this with Advent?—we may rightly wonder. I answer: Advent took shape for the first time on the horizon of man's history, when God revealed himself as the one who delights in the good, who loves and who gives. In this gift to man God did not just "give him" the visible world—this is clear from the beginning—but giving man the visible world, God wants to give him Himself too, just as man is capable of giving himself, just as he "gives himself" to the other man: from person to person; that is, to give Himself to him, admitting him to participation in his mysteries, and even to participation in his life. This is carried out in a tangible way in the relationships between members of a family: husband-wife, parents­ children. That is why the prophets refer very often to these relationships, to show God's true image.

The order of grace is possible only "in the world of persons". It concerns the gift which always aims at the formation and communion of persons; in fact the book of Genesis presents to us such a giving. The form of this "communion of persons" is delineated in it right from the beginning. Man is called to familiarity with God, to intimacy and friendship with him. God wants to be close to him. He wants to make him a participant in his plans. He wants to make him a participant in his life. He wants to make him happy with his own happiness (with his own Being) .

Because of all this the Coming of God is necessary, as is the expectation of man: the availability of man.

13 We know that the first man, who enjoyed original innocence and the particular closeness of his Creator, did not show this availability. This first covenant of God with man was interrupted, but the will to save man did not cease on the part of God. The order of grace was not broken, and therefore Advent lasts always.

The reality of Advent is expressed, among other things, by the following words of St Paul: "God ... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (
1Tm 2,4).

That "God desires" is precisely Advent, and it is at the basis of every advent.

A special greeting and blessing to the sick present here and to all those who are suffering. My thought flies and extends wherever in the world physical or moral pain torments and mortifies human beings.

Following the daily news items, we come across dramas and sufferings that wring our hearts. In particular I would like to recall today those who are in affliction owing to a form of violence which has, unfortunately, become so frequent in the last few years: that of kidnapping.

It is a scourge unworthy of civil countries, which has, unfortunately also reached horrifying forms of cruelty.

In God's name I beseech those responsible to release those whom they keep sequestered and I remind them that God is the avenger of men's actions. May the Lord really touch their hearts and cause that spark of humanity which cannot be absent from their spirits, to triumph, thus giving a laudable conclusion to a deeply deplorable act.

Wednesday, 20 December 1978


1. Our meeting today offers us the opportunity for the fourth and last meditation on Advent The Lord is near, the Liturgy of Advent reminds us every day. This closeness of the Lord is felt by all of us: both by us priests, reciting every day the marvellous "major antiphons" of Advent, and by all Christians who try to prepare their hearts and their consciences for his coming. I know that in this period the confessionals of churches in my country, Poland, are thronged (no less than during Lent). I think that it is certainly the same in Italy also, and wherever a deep spirit of faith makes the need felt of opening one's soul to the Lord who is about to come.

The greatest joy of this expectation of Advent is that felt by children. I remember that it was just they who hurried most willingly in the parishes of my country to the Masses celebrated at dawn, the so-called "Rorate ... ", from the word with which the liturgy opens: .. "Rorate coeli", (Drop down dew, 0 ye heavens, from above,
Is 45,8). Every day they counted how many "rungs" still remained on the "heavenly ladder", by which Jesus would descend to the earth. in order to be able to meet him at midnight of Christmas in the crib of Bethlehem.

The Lord is near!

2. A week ago already, we spoke of this approach of the Lord. It was, in fact, the third subject of the Wednesday considerations chosen for Advent this year . We have meditated successively—going back to the very beginnings of mankind, that is, to the book of Genesis—on the fundamental truths of Advent: God who creates (Elohim) and in creating reveals himself at the same time; man, created in the image and likeness of God, "reflects" God in the visible created world. These were the first and fundamental subjects of our meditations during Advent.

Then the third subject, which can be briefly summed up in the word: "grace". "God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tm 2,4). God wishes man to become a participant in his truth, his love, his mystery, so that he may share in the life of God himself. "The tree of life" symbolizes this reality already from the first pages of Holy Scripture. In the same pages, however, we also meet another tree: the book of Genesis calls it "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gn 2,16). In order that man may eat the fruit of the tree of life, he must not touch the fruit of the tree "of the knowledge of good and evil".

This expression may sound like an archaic legend. But the more we penetrate "the reality of man", as we can understand it from his earthly history—and as our human inner experience and our conscience speak of it to each of us—the more we feel we cannot remain indifferent, shrugging our shoulders before these primitive biblical images. How charged they are with existential truth on man! A truth that each of us feels as his own.

Did not Ovid, the ancient Roman poet, a pagan, say explicitly: "Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor"—I see and approve what is better, but I follow what is worse (Metamorphoses VII, 20). His words are not so different from what St Paul wrote later: "1 do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate" (cf. Rm 7,15). Man himself, after original sin, is between "good and evil".

"The reality of man"—the deepest "reality of man"—seems to be unfolded continuously between that which from the beginning was defined as the "tree of life" and that which has been defined as "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". Therefore in our meditations on Advent, which concern the fundamental laws, the essential realities, we cannot exclude another subject: the one that is expressed by the word: sin.

3. Sin. The catechism tells us in a simple way, easy to remember, that it is a transgression of God's commandment. Unquestionably sin is the transgression of a moral principle, the violation of a "norm"—and on this everyone agrees, even those who do not want to hear of "God's commandments". They, too, agree in admitting that the principal moral norms, the most elementary principles of behaviour, without which life and coexistence among men is not possible, are precisely what we know as "God's commandments" (in particular the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh and the eighth). Man's life, social life among men, takes place in an ethical dimension, and this is its essential characteristic, and it is also the essential dimension of human culture.

Today, however, I would like us to concentrate on that "first sin" which—in spite of what is commonly thought—is described in the book of Genesis so precisely that it shows all the depth of the "reality of man" contained in it. This sin "is born" contemporaneously "from outside", that is, from temptation, and "from inside". The temptation is expressed in the following word of the tempter: "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gn 3,5).

'The content of the temptation strikes what the Creator himself moulded in man—for, in fact, he was created "in the likeness of God", which means: "in a way like God". It also strikes the desire for knowledge that exists in man, and the desire for dignity. Except that both are falsified, so that the desire for knowledge like that for dignity—that is, resemblance to God—are in the act of temptation used to set man against God.

The tempter puts man against God by suggesting that God is his enemy, that he tries to keep him, man, in a state of "ignorance"; that he tries to "limit him" in order to subject him. The tempter says: "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (according to the old translation: "you will be like gods") (Gn 3,4-5).

We must meditate, and not just once, on this "archaic" description. I do not know if many other passages can be found in Holy Scripture in which the reality of sin is described not only in its original form, but also in its essence, that is, where the reality of sin is presented in such full and deep dimensions, showing how man used against God exactly what in him was God's, that is, what should have served to bring him nearer to God.

4. Why are we speaking of all this today? In order to understand Advent better. Advent means: God who comes, because he wills "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tm 2,4). He comes because he created the world and man out of love and established the order of grace with him.

He comes, however, "because of sin".
He comes "in spite of sin".
He comes to take away sin.

Let us not be surprised, therefore, that on Christmas night, he does not find room in the houses of Bethlehem and has to be born in a stable (in the cave which served as a shelter for the animals) .

All the more important, however, is the fact that he comes.

Every year Advent reminds us that grace, and that is God's will to save man, is more powerful than sin

Wednesday, 27 December 1978


1. We meet at the liturgical time of Christmas. I want, therefore, the words that I am about to address to you today, to correspond to the joy of this feast and this octave. I also want them to correspond to that simplicity and at the same time that depth which Christmas irradiates over everyone. There comes to my mind spontaneously the memory of my feelings and my experiences, beginning from the years of my childhood in my father's house, through the difficult years of youth, the period of the second war, the world war. May it never be repeated in the history of Europe and of the world! Yet, even in the worst years, Christmas has always brought some rays with it. And these rays penetrated even the hardest experiences of contempt for man, annihilation of his dignity, of cruelty. To realize this, it is enough to pick up the memories of men who have passed through the prisons or concentration camps, the war fronts and the interrogations and trials. A gleam of faith

This ray of Christmas Night, a ray of the birth of God, is not only a memory of the lights of the tree beside the crib at home, in the family or in the parish church. It is something more. It is the deepest glimpse of humanity visited by God, humanity newly received and assumed by God himself; assumed in the Son of Mary in the unity of the Divine Person: the Son-Word. Human nature assumed mystically by the Son of God in each of us who have been adopted in the new union with the Father. The irradiation of this mystery extends far, very far, and even reaches those parts and those spheres of men's existence, in which any thought of God has been almost obscured and seems to be absent, as if it were burnt out completely. And lo, with Christmas night a gleam appears: perhaps in spite of everything? Happy this "perhaps in spite of everything" ... it is already a gleam of faith and hope.

2. In the festivity of Christmas we read of the pastors of Bethlehem who were the first to be called to the crib, to see the new-born Child: "And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." (
Lc 2,16)

Let us stop at that "found". This word indicates a search.In fact, the shepherds of Bethlehem, when they stopped to rest with their flock, did not know that the time had come in which would happen that which had been announced for centuries by the prophets of that People to which they themselves belonged; and that it would happen just on that night; and that it would take place near the place where they had stopped. Even after wakening up from the sleep in which they were immersed, they did not know either what had happened or where it had happened. Their arrival at the cave of the Nativity was the result of a search. But at the same time they had been led, they were—as we read—guided by the voice and by the light. And if we go back even further in the past, we see them guided by the tradition of their People, by its expectation. We know that Israel had been promised the Messiah.

16 And lo, the Evangelist speaks of the simple, the humble, the poor of Israel: of the shepherds who found Him for the first time. He speaks, moreover, in all simplicity, as if it were a question of an "exterior" event: they looked for where he might be, and finally they found him. At the same time this "found" of Luke's indicates an inner dimension: that which took place on that Christmas night, in men, in those simple pastors of Bethlehem. "They found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger"; and then: " ... the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them." (Lc 2,16 Lc 2,20)

3. "Found" indicates "a search". Man is a being who seeks. His whole history confirms it. Even the life of each of us bears witness to it. Many are the fields in which man seeks and seeks again and then finds and, sometimes, after having found, he begins to seek again. Among all these fields in which man is revealed as a being who seeks, there is one, the deepest. It is the one which penetrates most intimately into the very humanity of the human being. And it is the one most closely united with the meaning of the whole of human life.

Man is the being who seeks God. The ways of this search vary. The histories of human souls just along these paths are multiple. Sometimes the ways seem very simple and near. At other times they are difficult, complicated, distant. Now man arrives easily at his "eureka": "I have found!". Now he struggles with difficulties, as if he could not penetrate himself and the world, and above all as if he could not understand the evil that there is in the world. It is known that even in the context of the Nativity this evil has shown its threatening face.

A good many men have described their search for God along the ways of their own lives. Even more numerous are those who are silent, considering everything they have lived along these ways as their own deepest and most intimate mystery: what they experienced, how they searched, how they lost their sense of direction and how they found it again.

Man is the being who seeks God.

And even after having found him, he continues to seek him. And if he seeks him sincerely, he has already found him; as, in a famous fragment of Pascal, Jesus says to man: "Take comfort, you would not be looking for me if you had not already found me." (B. Pascal, Pensées, 553: Le mystère de Jésus.)

This is the truth about man.

It cannot be falsified. Nor can it be destroyed. It must be left to man because it defines him.

What can be said of atheism in the light of this truth? A great many things should be said, more than can be enclosed in the framework of this short address of mine. But at least one thing must be said: it is indispensable to apply a criterion, that is, the criterion of the freedom of the human spirit. Atheism cannot be reconciled with this criterion—a fundamental criterion—either when it denies a priori that man is the being that seeks God, or when it mutilates this search in various ways in social, public and cultural life. This attitude is contrary to the fundamental rights of man.

4. But I do not wish to dwell on this. If I mention it, I do so to show all the beauty and dignity of the search for God.

This thought was suggested to me by the feast of Christmas.

17 How was Christ born? How did he come into the world? Why did he come into the world?

He came into the world in order that men may be able to find him; those who look for him. Just as the shepherds found him in the cave at Bethlehem.

I will say even more. Jesus came into the world to reveal the whole dignity and nobility of the search for God, which is the deepest need of the human soul, and to meet the search halfway.

I now want to address an affectionate greeting to our sick Sisters and Brothers, present at this Audience.

Thinking of you, and of all those who are ill, I see a deep and mysterious analogy between your situation and that of the New-born Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem: that Baby was a little, frail, weak being, in need of everything, depending on everyone: yet he was the Son of God, the eternal Word incarnate in time, the Saviour of mankind, the Lord of History.

How often, beloved daughters and sons, you may have felt useless in your infirmity, a burden to your dear ones; you have experienced—we may well say so—the humiliation, so deeply human, of being obliged to need others in everything, of being almost at the mercy of others. Look at Jesus in the cave at Bethlehem, who assures you that it is the world which needs the immeasurable riches of your suffering for its purification and for its growth. Take heart! God loves you, because he sees in you the image of his Son suffering on earth! Your dear ones love you, because you are their flesh and blood! The Church loves you, because you enrich the treasure of the communion of Saints! The Pope has a particular preference for you, because you are his most sensitive sons, and asks you for the help and the strength of your apparent weakness, of your prayers and your sacrifices!

A Happy Christmas with all my heart to the Newlyweds!

Beloved Daughters and Sons, this cordial wish of mine, which is also that of all those present and of the whole Church, wishes to be a fatherly invitation in order that, right from the beginning of your married life—which has been consecrated by the Sacrament—you will know how to look, as to your constant model, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, which was a real and extraordinary school of life and domestic virtues.

Uniting in marriage, before God, the Church and your dear ones, you solemnly promised to be faithful to each other in every happy or adverse circumstance, and to love and respect each other for the whole of your lives: faithfulness, love, respect, are the fundamental attitudes on which all orderly family life must be based and which are elevated in the Sacrament; and it is those Christian virtues which will give you the possibility of forming your "domestic Church". Following the example of the Blessed Virgin and of St Joseph, may your home shine forth with these virtues, in order that the joy and the peace of Christ may always be with you.