Audiences 2005-2013 12092

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 Prayer in the second part of the Book of Revelation (Ap 4,1-22,21)

Ap 4,1-22,21)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday I talked about prayer in the first part of the Book of Revelation. Today let us move on to the second part of the Book. While in the first part prayer is oriented to the Church’s inner life, in the second part attention is focused on the whole world; in fact, the Church, on her pilgrimage through history, is part of it in accordance with God’s plan. The assembly, which by listening to John’s message as it is presented by the speaker has rediscovered its task of cooperating in the development of the Kingdom of God as “priests of God and of Christ” (Ap 20,6 cf. Ap 1,5 Ap 5,10), opens itself to the world of man. And here emerge two ways of living, in a shared dialectic relationship. We might define the first as the “system of Christ”, to which the assembly is happy to belong, and the second, as the “earthly system of anti-Kingdom and anti-Covenant, brought into being by the Evil One”, who, by deceiving men and women, wishes to create a world that is the opposite of the one willed by Christ and by God (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, Bibbia e Morale. Radici bibliche dell’agire cristiano, 70). Consequently the assembly must be able to read in depth the history it is living, learning to discern events with faith in order to cooperate, with its action, in spreading the Kingdom of God. And this work of interpretation and discernment in addition to action is linked to prayer.

First of all, after the insistent appeal of Christ who says seven times in the first part of the Book of Revelation: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches” (Ap 2,7 Ap 2,11 Ap 2,17 Ap 2,29 Ap 3,6 Ap 3,13 Ap 3,22), the assembly is invited to come up to heaven to see reality with God’s eyes; and here we rediscover three symbols, key reference points for interpreting history: the throne of God, the Lamb and the scroll (cf. Rev Ap 4,1-5,14).

The first symbol is the throne, on which a figure is seated whom John does not describe because it is beyond the scope of any human representation. John can only hint at the sense of beauty and joy he feels in its presence. This mysterious figure is God, almighty God who did not stay closed in his heaven but made himself close to man, entering into a Covenant with him; in a mysterious but real way God makes his voice, symbolized by thunder and lightening, heard in history. There are various elements that appear around God’s throne, such as the 24 elders and four living creatures who ceaselessly praise the one Lord of history. Thus the first symbol is the throne.

The second symbol is the scroll, which contains God’s plan for events and for people; it is hermetically sealed by seven seals and no one can read it. In the face of this human inability to scrutinize God’s design, John feels a deep sadness that causes him to weep. Yet there is a remedy to man’s bewilderment before the mystery of history; someone is able to open the scroll and to enlighten him.

And here the third symbol appears: Christ, the Lamb immolated in the sacrifice of the Cross but who is standing, which is a sign of his Resurrection. And it is the Lamb himself, Christ who died and is Risen, who breaks open the seals one by one and reveals God’s plan, the profound meaning of history.

What do these symbols mean? They remind us of the way to take to be able to interpret the events of history and of our own life. By raising our gaze to God’s Heaven, in a constant relationship with Christ, opening our hearts and minds to him in personal and community prayer, we learn to see things in a new light and to perceive their truest meaning. Prayer is, as it were, an open window that enables us to keep our gaze turned to God, not only to remember the destination towards which we are bound but also to let God’s will illuminate our earthly pilgrimage and help us live it with intensity and commitment.

How does the Lord guide the Christian community to a deeper interpretation of history? First of all by asking it to consider the present that we are living in realistically. The Lamb then opens the first four seals of the scroll, and the Church sees the world in which it is inserted, a world in which there are various negative elements. There are the wicked deeds of men and women, such as acts of violence that stem from the desire to possess, to dominate each other, even to the point of self-destruction (the second seal); or injustice, because people fail to respect the laws that that they have given themselves (the third seal). To these are added the evils that human beings must suffer, such as death, hunger and pestilence (the fourth seal).

In the face of these all too often dramatic situations the ecclesial community is asked never to lose hope, to believe firmly that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One comes up against the real almightiness which is God’s. And the first seal which the Lamb breaks open contains this very message. John recounts: “And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Ap 6,2). God’s power that cannot only offset evil but can actually overcome it, entered human history. The colour white refers to the Resurrection: God made himself so close that he came down into the darkness of death to illuminate it with the splendour of his divine life; he took the evil of the world upon his own shoulders to purify it with the fire of his love.

How can we develop in this Christian interpretation of reality? The Book of Revelation tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and of deep hope in each one of us and in our communities: it invites us not to let ourselves be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good, to look at the Crucified and Risen Christ who associates us with his victory. The Church lives in history, she does not withdraw into herself but courageously continues on her journey through difficulty and suffering, forcefully asserting that in the end evil does not overcome good, that darkness does not conceal God’s splendour. This is an important point for us; as Christians we can never be pessimistic; we know well that on our journey through life we often encounter violence, falsehood, hatred and persecution, but this does not discourage us. Prayer teaches us above all to see God’s signs, his presence and his action, indeed, to be lights of goodness ourselves, spreading hope and showing that the victory is God’s.

This prospect leads to raising thanksgiving and praise to God and to the Lamb: the 24 elders and four living beings sing together the “new song” which celebrates the work of Christ the Lamb, who will “make all things new” (Ap 21,5). However, this renewal is first of all a gift to be requested. And here we find another element that must characterize prayer: to pray to the Lord insistently that his Kingdom come, that the human heart be docile to the lordship of God and that it be his will that guides both our life and the life of the world.

In the vision of the Book of Revelation this prayer of petition is portrayed by an important detail: “the 24 elders” and “the four living beings” hold in their hands, together with the harp that accompanies their singing, “golden bowls full of incense” (Ap 5,8a) which, as is explained “are the prayers of the saints” (Ap 5,8b), namely, of those who have already reached God but also of all of us who are journeying on. And we see that in front of God’s throne an angel is holding a golden censer in his hand into which he continues to put grains of incense, that is our prayer, whose sweet fragrance is offered together with the prayers that rise to God (cf. Rev Ap 8,1-4). It is a symbolism that tells us how all our prayers — with every possible limitation, effort, poverty, dryness and imperfection they may have — are so to speak purified and reach God’s heart. In other words we can be sure that there is no such thing as superfluous or useless prayers; no prayer is wasted. And prayers are answered, even if the answer is sometimes mysterious, for God is Love and infinite Mercy. “The angel”, John writes, “took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, loud noises, flashes of lightening and an earthquake” (Ap 8,5). This image means that God is not indifferent to our entreaties, he intervenes and makes his power felt and his voice heard on the earth, he causes the system of the Evil One to tremble and collapse. Often when confronting evil we have the feeling that we are powerless, but our prayers themselves are the first and most effective response we can give and they strengthen our daily commitment to spread goodness. God’s might makes our weakness fruitful (cf. Rm 8,26-27).

I would like to conclude by referring to the closing dialogue (cf. Rev Ap 22,6-21). Jesus repeats several times: “Behold, I am coming soon” (Ap 22,7). This affirmation does not only indicate the future prospect at the end of time but also that of the present: Jesus comes, he makes his dwelling place in those who believe in him and receive him. Thus, guided by the Holy Spirit, the assembly repeats to Jesus a pressing invitation to make himself ever closer: “come” (Ap 22,17). It is like the “Bride” (Ap 22,17) who ardently longs for the fullness of the nuptials. The invocation recurs for the third time: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22, 20b); and the speaker concludes with words which demonstrate the meaning of this presence: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all” (Ap 22,21).

The Book of Revelation, despite the complexity of its symbols, involves us in an extremely rich prayer, which is why we too listen, praise, give thanks, contemplate the Lord and ask him for forgiveness. Its structure as a great liturgical prayer of the community is also a strong appeal to recognize the extraordinary, transforming power of the Eucharist. I would particularly like to extend a pressing invitation to be faithful to Sunday Mass on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the true centre of the week! The wealth of prayer in the Book of Revelation is reminiscent of a diamond which has a fascinating series of facets but whose value depends on the purity of its one, central core. Likewise the evocative forms of prayer we encounter in the Book of Revelation make the unique, inexpressible preciousness of Jesus Christ shine out. Thank you.

To special groups:

I am pleased to greet the participants in the Communications Seminar sponsored by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. I also welcome the priests taking part in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Malta, India, Korea, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America, I invoke God’s blessings!

And now I address a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the religious of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and of the Federation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri, who are celebrating their General Chapter and their General Congress respectively. May they always be faithful to the charisms of their Founders and I thank them for their valuable contribution to the New Evangelization. I joyfully welcome the parish groups and associations, especially the representatives of the Italian Society of Veterinary Sciences and the members of the District of Italy and San Marino of Kiwanis International. I would like to ask you all to accompany with prayer my upcoming Apostolic Journey in Lebanon during which I shall present the Post-Synodal Exhortation for the Middle East. May this Visit encourage Christians to encourage peace and brotherhood throughout this Region.

Lastly, a thought for the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Today we are celebrating the Most Holy Name of Mary. Dear young people, learn to love at the school of the Mother of Jesus; dear sick people, ask Mary for help and comfort in suffering with the prayer of the Rosary; and you, dear newlyweds, may you be able, like Our Lady, to listen to God’s will for your family.


Dear pilgrims, at this same time in two days I shall be on my flight to Lebanon. I am very happy about this Apostolic Journey. It will enable me to meet many members of Lebanese society: civil and ecclesial leaders, Catholic faithful of various rites, as well as the other Christians, Muslims and Druzes of this region. I thank the Lord for this richness that cannot continue to exist unless it is lived in enduring peace and reconciliation. I therefore urge all the Christians of the Middle East, whether they belong to the old stock or have recently arrived, to be peacemakers and architects of reconciliation. Let us ask God to strengthen the faith of the Christians of Lebanon and the Middle East and to fill them with hope.

I thank God for their presence and I encourage the Church as a whole to show solidarity to them so that they may continue to witness to Christ in these blessed lands, while seeking communion in unity. I thank God for all the people and all the institutions which, in many ways, help them in this regard. The history of the Middle East shows us the important and often primordial role that is played by the different Christian communities in interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Let us ask God to give this region of the world the peace it so longs for, with respect for the legitimate differences. May God bless Lebanon and the Middle East! May God bless all of you!

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 19 September 2012: Apostolic Journey to Lebanon


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to return briefly in my thoughts and in my heart to those extraordinary days of the Apostolic Journey that I made to Lebanon. It was a Journey that I strongly desired, despite the difficult circumstances, considering how a father must always be beside his children when they come up against serious problems. I was moved by the fervent desire to proclaim the peace which the Risen Lord left to his disciples with the words: “My peace I give to you” (
Jn 14,27). The main purpose of my Journey was the signing and the consigning of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to representatives of the Catholic communities of the Middle East, as well as to the other Churches and Ecclesial communities and to Muslim leaders.

It was a moving ecclesial event and, at the same time, a providential occasion for dialogue in a country that is complex but also emblematic for the whole region because of its tradition of coexistence and fruitful collaboration among diverse religious and social components. In the face of the suffering and drama in which this part of the Middle East is steeped, I expressed my heartfelt closeness to the legitimate aspirations of this dear people, bringing them a message of encouragement and peace. I am thinking in particular of the terrible conflict that is tormenting Syria, causing, in addition to thousands of deaths, a stream of refugees pouring into the region in a desperate search for security and a future. And I have not forgotten the difficult situation in Iraq. During my Visit, the people of Lebanon and of the Middle East — Catholics, Representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of the various Muslim Communities — experienced enthusiastically and in a calm and constructive atmosphere an important moment of mutual respect, comprehension and brotherhood. This is a strong sign of hope for all humanity. But above all it was an encounter with the Catholic faithful of Lebanon and of the Middle East, present in thousands, which inspired in my spirit a feeling of profound gratitude for the ardour of their faith and their witness.

I thank the Lord for this precious gift which promises hope for the future of the Church in those regions: young people, adults and families enlivened by the tenacious desire to root their lives in Christ, to stay anchored to the Gospel, to walk together in the Church. I also renew my gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly for my Visit: the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon with their collaborators, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the consecrated people, the lay faithful, who are a valuable and significant reality in Lebanese society. I was able to see directly how the Catholic Lebanese community, through their 2,000-year-old presence and their commitment filled with hope, makes a significant and appreciated contribution to the daily lives of all the inhabitants of the country. I extend a respectful and grateful thought to the Lebanese Authorities, to the Institutions and Associations, to the volunteers and to those who offered their support in prayer. I cannot forget the cordial welcome that I received from the President of the Republic, Mr Michel Sleiman, as well as from the various components of the country and from the people: it was a warm welcome, befitting the fame of Lebanese hospitality. The Muslims welcomed me with great respect and sincere esteem; their constant participation enabled me to send a message of dialogue and collaboration between Christianity and Islam. It seems to me that the time has come to bear together an honest and decisive witness against division, against violence, against war. The Catholics, who also came from neighbouring countries, showed fervently their deep affection for the Successor of Peter.

After the beautiful ceremony for my arrival at the airport of Beirut, the first event was particularly solemn: the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente in the Greek-Melkite Basilica of St Paul in Harissa. On that occasion I invited Middle Eastern Catholics to fix their gaze on Christ Crucified to find the strength, even in difficult and painful situations, to celebrate the victory of love over hate, of forgiveness over revenge and of unity over division. I assured everyone that the universal Church is closer than ever, in affection and prayer, to the Churches in the Middle East: although they are a “small flock”, in the certainty that the Lord is always with them, they need not be afraid. The Pope does not forget them.

On the second day of my Apostolic Journey I met with representatives of the institutions of the Republic and of the cultural world, the Diplomatic Corps and religious leaders. I pointed out to them, among other things, a way to take to encourage a future of peace and solidarity: it is a question of working to ensure that the cultural, social and religious differences, in sincere dialogue, achieve a new brotherhood in which what unites is the shared sense of the greatness and dignity of every person, whose life must always be protected and preserved. On that same day I had a meeting with the leaders of the Muslim religious community, which took place in a spirit of dialogue and reciprocal goodwill. I thank God for this meeting. Today’s world needs clear and strong signs of dialogue and collaboration. Lebanon has been and must continue to be an example of this for the Arab countries and for the rest of the world.

In the afternoon, at the residence of the Maronite Patriarch I was welcomed with uncontainable enthusiasm by thousands of young people from Lebanon and from the neighbouring countries, who gave life to a festive and prayerful moment which will live on, unforgettable, in the hearts of many. I emphasized their good fortune in living in the part of the world which saw Jesus, who died and rose for our salvation, and the development of Christianity, as I urged them to fidelity and to love for their land in spite of the difficulties caused by the lack of stability and security. In addition, I encouraged them to be steadfast in faith, trusting in Christ the source of our joy, and deepening their personal relationship with him in prayer, as well as being open to the great ideals of life, of the family, of friendship and of solidarity. Seeing young Christians and Muslims celebrating in great harmony, I urged them to build together the future of Lebanon and of the Middle East, and to combat together violence and war. Harmony and reconciliation must be stronger than the impulsion of death.

The very intense moment of Holy Mass in which large numbers took part at the City Center Waterfront of Beirut was on Sunday morning. It was accompanied by evocative hymns, as were the other celebrations. In the presence of numerous Bishops and a huge crowd of the faithful from every part of the Middle East, I wanted to urge everyone to live their faith and to witness to it fearlessly, in the knowledge that the vocation of Christians and of the Church is to take the Gospel to everyone without distinction, following Jesus’ example. In a context marked by bitter conflicts, I called attention to the need to serve peace and justice, becoming instruments of reconciliation and builders of communion. At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, I had the joy of consigning the Apostolic Exhortation that contains the conclusions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Middle East. Through the Patriarchs and the Eastern- and Latin-rite Bishops, the priests, the consecrated and lay people, this Document intends to reach out to all the faithful of this beloved region, to sustain them in the faith and in communion and to spur them on the path of the longed for new evangelization. In the afternoon, at the headquarters of the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchate, I then had the joy of a fraternal ecumenical meeting with the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and the representatives of those Churches, as well as of the Ecclesial Communities.

Dear friends, the days I spent in Lebanon were a marvellous manifestation of faith, intense religious feeling and a prophetic sign of peace. The multitude of believers coming from the entire Middle East had the opportunity to reflect, to converse and especially, to pray together, renewing the commitment to root their life in Christ. I am sure that the Lebanese people, in its multiform but well amalgamated religious and social composition, will be able to witness with a new impetus to true peace that is born from trust in God. I hope that the various messages of peace and esteem which I sought to convey, may help the government leaders of the Region to take decisive steps toward peace and toward a better comprehension of relations between Christians and Muslims.

For my part I continue to accompany those beloved peoples with prayers, so that they may stay faithful to the commitments they have assumed. I entrust the fruits of this Pastoral Visit, as well as the good resolutions and the just aspirations of the whole of the Middle East to the motherly intercession of Mary, venerated in so many ancient Lebanese Shrines. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present today at this audience, including those fro England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Malta, Australia, Taiwan and the United States. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

I now address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular the Benedictine Abbots from across the world, as well as to the participants in the General Chapters of the Brothers and Sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts and Perpetual Adoration. I greet the lay Carmelites, who are participating in an international congress and the seminarians of Basilicata. On each one I invoke the continuous protection of God and of the Most Holy Virgin for a fruitful service to the Gospel and to the Church.

With special affection my thought goes, lastly, to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May friendship with Jesus, dear young people, be a source of joy and support for you in making demanding decisions; may it be a comfort to you, dear sick people, in difficult times, and may it give you relief in body and in spirit. Dear newlyweds, stay constantly united to Christ in order to achieve your vocation in reciprocal love faithfully.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In these months we have journeyed in the light of the word of God so as to learn to pray ever more authentically, looking at several important Old Testament figures, at the Psalms, at the Letters of St Paul and at the Book of Revelation, but, especially, at the unique and fundamental experience of Jesus in his relationship with the heavenly Father. In fact, only in Christ can a person be united to God with the depth and intimacy of a child in his relationship with a father who loves him, only in Christ can we address God in all truth, calling him affectionately, “Abba! Father!”. Like the Apostles, we too have repeated in these past few weeks and repeat to Jesus today: “Lord, teach us to pray” (
Lc 11,1).

Furthermore, to learn to live more intensely our personal relationship with God, we have learned to invoke the Holy Spirit, the first gift of the Risen One to believers, because it is he who “helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rm 8,26), St Paul says, and we know how right he is.

At this point, after a long series of Catecheses on prayer in Scripture, we can ask ourselves; how can I let myself be formed by the Holy Spirit and thereby become able to enter into the atmosphere of God, of prayer with God? What is this school in which he teaches me to pray, comes to help me in my attempts to speak to God correctly? The first school of prayer — as we have seen in these weeks — is the Word of God, Sacred Scripture. Sacred Scripture is an ongoing dialogue between God and man, a progressive dialogue in which God shows himself ever closer, in which we can become ever better acquainted with his face, his voice, his being; and man learns to accept to know God and to talk to God. Therefore, in these weeks, in reading Sacred Scripture we have sought to learn from Scripture, from this ongoing dialogue, how we may enter into contact with God.

However there is yet another precious “place”, another precious “source” for developing in prayer, a source of living water that is very closely related to the previous one. I am referring to the liturgy, which is a privileged context in which God speaks to each one of us, here and now, and awaits our answer.

What is the liturgy? If we open the Catechism of the Catholic Church — ever an invaluable and, I would say, indispensable aid — we can read that the word “liturgy” originally meant: a “service in the name of/on behalf of the people” (n. 1069). If Christian theology made use of this word of the Greek world, it obviously did so thinking of the new People of God born from Christ who opened his arms on the Cross to unite human beings in the peace of the one God. A “service on behalf of the people”, a people which did not exist on its own, but was formed through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the People of God does not exist through ties of kinship, place or country. Rather it is always born from the action of the Son of God and from the communion with the Father that he obtains for us.

The Catechism also indicates that “in Christian tradition (the word ‘liturgy’) means the participation of the People of God ‘in the work of God’” (n. 1069), because the People of God as such exists only through God’s action.

The actual development of the Second Vatican Council reminds us of this. It began its work 50 years ago with the discussion of the draft on the Sacred Liturgy, which was then solemnly promulgated on 4 December 1963, the first text that the Council approved. That the Document on the Liturgy was the first document to be promulgated by the conciliar assembly was considered by some to have happened by chance.

Among the many projects, the text on the Sacred Liturgy seems to have been the least controversial. For this very reason it could serve as a sort of exercise in learning conciliar methodology. However, there is no doubt that what at first sight might seem a coincidence, also turned out to be the best decision, on the basis of the hierarchy of the subjects and of the most important duties of the Church. In fact, by starting with the theme of the “liturgy”, the Council shed very clear light on the primacy of God and his indisputable priority. God in the very first place: this itself explains to us the Council’s decision to start with the liturgy. Wherever the gaze on God is not conclusive, everything else loses its orientation. The fundamental criterion for the liturgy is its orientation to God, enabling us to take part in his action itself.

However, we might ask ourselves: what is this work of God in which we are called to take part? The answer that the Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy gives us is apparently twofold. In n. 5 it points out, in fact, that the works of God are his actions in history which bring us salvation and which culminated in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; but in n. 7, the same Constitution defines the celebration of the liturgy as an “action of Christ”. In fact these two meanings are inseparably linked. If we ask ourselves who saves the world and man, the only answer is: Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, the Crucified and Risen One. And where does the Mystery of the death and Resurrection of Christ that brings salvation become real for us, for me, today? The answer is: in Christ’s action through the Church, in the liturgy, and, especially, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which makes present the sacrificial offering of the Son of God who has redeemed us; in the sacrament of Reconciliation, in which one moves from the death of sin to new life; and in the other sacramental acts that sanctify us (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5). Thus the Paschal Mystery of the death and Resurrection of Christ is the centre of the liturgical theology of the Council.

Let us take another step forward and ask ourselves: how does the enactment of Christ’s Paschal Mystery become possible? Twenty-five years after the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium Blessed Pope John Paul II, wrote: “In order to reenact his Paschal Mystery, Christ is ever present in his Church, especially in liturgical celebrations. Hence the Liturgy is the privileged place for the encounter of Christians with God and the One whom he has sent, Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 17,3)” (Vicesimus quintus annus, n. 7). Along the same lines we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “sacramental celebration is a meeting of God's children with their Father, in Christ and the Holy Spirit; this meeting takes the form of a dialogue, through actions and words” (n. 1153). Therefore the first requirement for a good liturgical celebration is that there should be prayer and a conversation with God, first of all listening and consequently a response. St Benedict, speaking in his Rule of prayer in the Psalms, pointed out to his monks: mens concordet voci, “the mind must be in accord with the voice”. The Saint teaches that in the prayers of the Psalms words must precede our thought. It does not usually happen like this because we have to think and then what we have thought is converted into words. Here, instead, in the liturgy, the opposite is true, words come first. God has given us the word and the sacred liturgy offers us words; we must enter into the words, into their meaning and receive them within us, we must attune ourselves to these words; in this way we become children of God, we become like God. As Sacrosanctum Concilium recalls, “in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds be attuned to their voices, and that they cooperate with heavenly grace lest they receive it in vain” (n. 11). A fundamental, primary element of the dialogue with God in the liturgy is the agreement between what we say with our lips and what we carry in our hearts. By entering into the words of the great history of prayer, we ourselves are conformed to the spirit of these words and are enabled to speak to God.

In line with this I would just like to mention one of the moments during the liturgy itself; it calls us and helps us to find this harmonization, this conformation of ourselves to what we hear, say and do in the celebration of the liturgy. I am referring to the invitation that the celebrant expresses before the Eucharistic Prayer: “Sursum corda”, let us lift up our hearts above the confusion of our apprehensions, our desires, our narrowness, our distraction. Our hearts, our innermost selves, must open in docility to the word of God and must be recollected in the Church’s prayer, to receive her guidance to God from the very words that we hear and say. The eyes of the heart must be turned to the Lord, who is in our midst: this is a fundamental disposition.

Whenever we live out the liturgy with this basic approach, our hearts are, as it were, removed from the force of gravity which has pulled them downwards and are inwardly uplifted, towards the truth, towards love, towards God. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “in the sacramental liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and of the Holy Spirit proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery of salvation, which is continued in the heart that prays. The spiritual writers sometimes compare the heart to an altar” (n. 2655): altare Dei est cor nostrum.

Dear friends, we celebrate and live the liturgy well only if we remain in a prayerful attitude, and not if we want “to do something”, to make ourselves seen or to act, but if we direct our hearts to God and remain in a prayerful attitude, uniting ourselves with the Mystery of Christ and with his conversation as Son with the Father. God himself teaches us to pray, St Paul says (cf. Rm 8,26). He himself gave us the appropriate words with which to address him, words that we find in the Psalter, in the great orations of the sacred liturgy and in the Eucharistic celebration itself. Let us pray the Lord to be every day more aware of the fact that the liturgy is an action of God and of man; prayer that wells up from the Holy Spirit and from us, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the Son of God made man (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2564). Many thanks.

To special groups:

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present, especially those from England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

Lastly, a thought for the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.Today we are celebrating the Memorial of the Holy Doctors, Sts Cosmas and Damian. Dear young people, learn to heal every suffering of your brethren with affection and acceptance; dear sick people, the best treatment for every sickness is trust in God to whom we speak in prayer; and you, dear newlyweds, take care of each other on your journey in marriage.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Audiences 2005-2013 12092