Wednesday 16 May 2001

1. A week ago I concluded my pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul, which led me to Greece, Syria and Malta. I am pleased today to reflect with you on the event, the final segment of my Jubilee itinerary which took me to the principal places of salvation history. I am grateful to all those who have followed me with their prayer in the unforgettable "return to the sources", from which we draw the freshness of the original Christian experience.

I renew my sentiments of cordial gratitude to the President of the Greek Republic, Mr Kostas Stephanopoulos, for having invited me to visit Greece. I thank the President of the Arab Republic of Syria, Mr Bashàr Al-Assad, and the President of the Republic of Malta, Mr Guido De Marco, who received me so graciously in Damascus and in Valletta.

Everywhere I wished to express to the Orthodox Churches the affection and esteem of the Catholic Church, with the desire that the memory of past sins against ecclesial communion may be fully purified and make way for reconciliation and fraternity. Also, I had the opportunity to reaffirm the sincere and open way in which the Church turns to the believers of Islam, to whom we are united by the adoration of the one God.

I consider it a particular grace to have been able to meet, above all in the places where they exercise their pastoral activity, the Catholic Bishops of Greece, Syria and Malta, and their priests, men and women religious, and many of the faithful. In the footsteps of St Paul, the successor of St Peter was able to strengthen and encourage those Churches, exhorting them to fidelity as well as to openness and fraternal charity.

2. At the Areopagus of Athens, I heard resounding the words of the famous discourse of Paul as reported in the Acts of the Apostles. The passage was read in Greek and in English, and I was moved by the reading of St Paul in the very place where it was first spoken. In fact the Greek language was the common language of the Mediterranean basin at the beginning of the first millennium, much as English is today a global language. The "Good News" of Christ, the revealer of God and the Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and forever, is destined for all the men and women of the earth in accord with his explicit mandate.

At the beginning of the third millennium, the Areopagus of Athens has become in a certain way the "areopagus of the world", from which the Christian message of salvation is presented afresh to all who seek God and are "God-fearing" in accepting the inexhaustible mystery of truth and love.

Particularly, by means of the reading of the "Common Declaration" which, at the end of our fraternal meeting, I signed together with His Beatitude Christódoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, an appeal that was made to the nations of the European continent as an appeal not to forget their Christian roots.

25 Paul's discourse at the Areopagus remains a model for inculturation and as such retains its relevance for our task today. Accordingly, in the Eucharistic celebration with the Catholic community in Greece, I reviewed it recalling the marvelous example of the holy brothers, Cyril and Methodius, natives of Thessalonica. They were inspired by the fidelity and creativity of St Paul's method in their way of preaching the Gospel among the Slavic peoples.

3. After Greece, I went on to Syria, where on the road to Damascus, the Risen Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus transforming him from persecutor into untiring Apostle of the Gospel. It was a way of going to the beginning, as it was with Abraham, a return to the call, to the vocation. This is what I was thinking about when I visited the Memorial of St Paul. The history of God with men always begins with the call of God, who invites a person to leave himself and his own security to move forward towards a new land, trusting in him who calls. It was true for Abraham, Moses, Mary, Peter and all the other Apostles. It was also true for Paul.

Syria is a country which is prevalently inhabited by Muslims, who believe in the one God and wish to submit to Him, after the example of Abraham to whom they constantly refer (cf. Nostra aetate
NAE 3). The interreligious dialogue with Islam becomes ever more important and necessary at the beginning of the third millennium. As a result I found very encouraging the warm reception I received from the civil authorities and the Grand Mufti, who even accompanied me on the historic visit to the Great Umayyad Mosque where one finds the Memorial of St John the Baptist who is highly venerated by the Muslims.

At Damascus my pilgrimage took on a strongly ecumenical character, thanks to the visit I had the joy of realizing in the two Orthodox Cathedrals, to His Beatitude, Ignace IV, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, and to His Holiness, Mor Ignatius Zakka I, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch. In the historic Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of Our Lady, we then celebrated a solemn prayer service. With interior gratitude, I saw realized one of the principal goals of our Jubilee pilgrimage, that of "gathering in the places of our common origin to bear witness to Christ our unity" (cf. Ut unum sint UUS 23) and to confirm our mutual commitment to restoration of full communion" (Letter concerning the pilgrimage to the places linked to the history of salvation, n. 11).

Prayer for peace in the Middle East

4. In Syria I could not resist directing to God a special prayer for peace in the Middle East, compelled by the unfortunate situation which becomes ever more worrisome. I traveled to the Golan Heights to the Church of Kuneitra, partially ruined by the war, and there I made my petition. In a certain sense, I have remained there in spirit continuing my prayer and I will not cease to pray until revenge will give way to reconciliation and the recognition of mutual rights.

Such hope is founded on faith. It is the hope that I entrusted to the young people of Syria, whom I had the joy of meeting the evening before I left Damascus. In my heart I still carry the fervour of their greeting and I pray to the God of peace so that Christian, Muslim and Jewish young people can grow up together as sons and daughters of the one God.

5. The final place on my pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul was the Island of Malta. Here the Apostle spent three months, after the shipwreck of the ship which was taking him as a prisoner to Rome (cf. Ac 27,39-28,10). For the second time I have experienced the enthusiastic welcome of the Maltese, and I had the joy of proclaiming as Blessed two sons of the Maltese people, Fr George Preca, Founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine, and Ignatius Falzon, lay catechist, together with the Benedictine nun, Sr Maria Adeodata Pisani.

Once again I wished to indicate the way of holiness as the path to be followed by the faithful of the third millennium. On the vast ocean of history, the Church need not fear the challenges and the threats which she meets in the course of her voyage through time if she keeps steering a steady course in the royal channel of holiness, towards which the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 directed us (cf. Novo millennio ineunte NM 30).

May it be a reality for all, thanks to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to whom we turn constantly during the month of May which is consecrated to her. May the Virgin Mary assist every believer, family and community to continue with unhesitating enthusiasm on the path of daily fidelity to the Gospel.

I extend a special greeting to the White Fathers present. I welcome the members of the NATO Defense College; I encourage you always to see your work as a service to peace and the common good. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Sweden, Nigeria, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Saviour.

Wednesday 23 May 2001 - Song of praise, joy sung by festive chorus and instruments

26 Ps 149

1. "Let the faithful exult in glory, let them rise joyfully from their couches". The order which you have just heard in Psalm 149, points to a dawn which is breaking and finds the faithful ready to chant their morning praise. With a suggestive phrase, their song of praise is defined as "a new song" (Ps 149,1), a solemn and perfect hymn, perfect for the final days, in which the Lord will gather together the just in a renewed world. A festive atmosphere pervades the entire Psalm; it begins with the initial Alleluia and then continues with chant, praise, joy, dance, the sound of drums and of harps. The Psalm inspires a prayer of thanksgiving from a heart filled with religious exultation.

2. The protagonists of the Psalm in the original Hebrew text are given two terms that are taken from the spirituality of the Old Testament. Three times they are defined as the hasidim (Ps 149,1 Ps 149,5 Ps 149,9), "the pious, the faithful ones", who respond with fidelity and love (hesed) to the fatherly love of the Lord.

The second part of the Psalm provokes surprise because it is full of warlike sentiments. It is strange that in the same verse, the Psalm brings together "the praises of God on the lips" and "the two-edged sword in their hands" (Ps 149,6). Upon reflection, we can understand why the Psalm was composed for the use of the "faithful" who were involved in a struggle for liberation; they were fighting to free an oppressed people and to give them the possibility of serving God. During the Maccabean era, in the 2nd century B.C., those fighting for freedom and faith, who underwent a severe repression from the Hellenistic power, were defined as the hasidim, the ones faithful to the Word of God and the tradition of the fathers.

3. In the present perspective of our prayer, the warlike symbolism becomes an image of the dedication of the believer who sings the praises of God in the morning and then goes into the ways of the world, in the midst of evil and injustice. Unfortunately powerful forces are arrayed against the Kingdom of God: the Psalmist speaks of "peoples, nations, leaders and nobles". Yet he is confident because he knows that he has at his side the Lord, who is the master of history (Ps 149,2). His victory over evil is certain and so will be the triumph of love. All the hasidim participate in the battle, they are the faithful and just who with the power of the Spirit bring to fulfilment the wonderful work that is called the Kingdom of God.

4. St Augustine, starting with the reference of the Psalm to the "choir" and to the "drums and harps", commented: "What does the choir represent?... The choir is a group of singers who sing together. If we sing in a choir, we must sing in harmony. When one sings in a choir, one off-key voice strikes the listener and creates confusion in the choir" (Enarr. in PS 149 CCL 40, 7, 1-4).

Referring to the instruments mentioned in the Psalm he asks: "Why does the Psalmist take in hand the drum and the harp?". He answers, "Because we praise the Lord not just with the voice, but also with our works. When we take up the drum and the harp, the hands have to be in accord with the voice. The same goes for you. When you sing the Alleluia, you must give bread to the poor, give clothes to the naked, give shelter to the traveler. If you do it, not only does your voice sing, but your hands are in accord with your voice because the works agree with the words" (ibid., 8, 1-4).

5. There is a second term which we use to define those who pray in the Psalm: they are the anawim, "the poor and lowly ones" (Ps 149,4). The expression turns up often in the Psalter. It indicates not just the oppressed, the miserable, the persecuted for justice, but also those who, with fidelity to the moral teaching of the Alliance with God, are marginalized by those who prefer to use violence, riches and power. In this light one understands that the category of the "poor" is not just a social category but a spiritual choice. It is what the famous first Beatitude means: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5,3). The prophet Zephaniah spoke to the anawim as special persons: "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of wrath of the Lord" (So 2,3).

6. The "day of the Lord's wrath" is really the day described in the second part of the Psalm when the "poor" are lined up on the side of God to fight against evil. By themselves they do not have sufficient strength or the arms or the necessary strategies to oppose the onslaught of evil. Yet the Psalmist does not admit hesitation: "The Lord loves his people, he adorns the lowly (anawim) with victory" (Ps 149,4). What St Paul says to the Corinthians completes the picture: "God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are" (1Co 1,28).

27 With such confidence the "sons of Zion" (Ps 149,2), the hasidim and anawim, the faithful and the poor, go on to live their witness in the world and in history. Mary's canticle in the Gospel of Luke, the Magnificat, is the echo of the best sentiments of the "sons of Zion": glorious praise of God her Saviour, thanksgiving for the great things done by the Mighty One, the battle against the forces of evil, solidarity with the poor and fidelity to the God of the Covenant (cf Lc 1,46-55).

I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, and offer a special word of encouragement to the various student groups. I greet the delegation from Macedonia, present in Rome for the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Upon all of you, particularly the visitors from Sweden, Japan and the United States, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

At the end the Holy Father addressed the group of Salesian Bishops and Archbishops who were in attendance:

Addressing the Italian pilgrims, I greet first of all a special group of participants in the audience: the Salesian Archbishops and Bishops, gathered for the first time to reflect on what Don Bosco's charism means for episcopal service.

The perennial force of the educational apostolate of Don Bosco, father and teacher of young people, has inspired the pastoral charity of many Salesian bishops who, beginning with the great missionary, Cardinal Giovanni Cagliero, are committed to evangelization, frequently in places that are on the frontiers of civilization.

Even the dimension of martyrdom has characterized the missionary activity of the sons of Don Bosco, from Bishop Luigi Versiglia, whom I had the joy of canonizing on 1 October of the Jubilee Year, to the three Indian confrères killed recently in Imphal, in Northeast India. Once again I express my sincere participation in the Congregation's grief for its sons who were barbarically killed. I exhort all Salesians to persevere courageously in bearing witness to Christ and to the Gospel. Brothers in the Episcopate, I entrust you and the faithful who belong to your Diocesan communities to the maternal protection of Mary, Helper of Christians and Star of Evangelization. Guided by her, take to every human being the Gospel of her Son, the only Redeemer of humanity. I accompany you with my prayer and sincerely bless you and those who in many parts of the world help you in your ministry.

Wednesday 30 May 2001

28 Ps 5

1. "In the morning you hear me; in the morning I offer you my prayer watching and waiting" (Ps 5,4). These words make Psalm 5 a morning prayer, well suited for use at Lauds, the believer's prayer at the start of the day. Tension and anxiety over the dangers and bitterness which the believer has to face shape the background tone of the prayer. But confidence in God is never weakened because he is always ready to sustain the faithful person so that he will not stumble on the path of life.

"No one except the Church possesses such confidence" (Jerome, 59th Treatise on the PS 5,27, PL 26,829). St Augustine, calling our attention to the title given the Psalm, which reads in the Latin version: For her who receives the inheritance, says: "It refers to the Church who receives the inheritance of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that she possesses God himself, adheres to him, and finds her happiness in him, in keeping with what is written: "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth' (Mt 5,5)", (Enarr. in PS 5, CCL 38,1, 2-3).

2. As often happens in the Psalms of "supplication" addressed to the Lord to be freed from evil, three persons come into the picture in the Psalm. Above all, God appears (Ps 5,2-7), he is the real You to whom the person praying turns with confidence. A certainty emerges in the face of the worries of a tiring and perhaps dangerous day. The Lord is a God who is consistent, just in the face of injustice, far removed from any compromise with evil: "You are not a God who delights in wickedness" (Ps 5,5).

A long list of evil persons the boastful, the foolish, evildoers, the liar, the bloodthirsty, the deceitful pass before the Lord's gaze. He is the holy and just God and he is on the side of the one who follows his way of truth and love, opposing the one who "chooses the paths which lead to the kingdom of shadows" (cf. Pr 2,18). The faithful person will not feel alone and abandoned when he will confront the city, taking his part in society and in the tangled web of daily affairs.

3. In verses Ps 5,8-9 of our morning prayer the second person, the person who prays, presents himself as an I revealing that his whole person is dedicated to God and to his "great mercy". He is certain that the gates of the temple, the place of communion and of divine intimacy, locked for the unjust, are wide open for him. He enters them to enjoy the security of divine protection, while outside, evil flourishes and celebrates apparent and temporary victories.

From his morning prayer in the temple, the faithful one receives the interior energy to face an often hostile world. The Lord himself will take him by the hand and lead him through the streets of the city, even more, he "will make straight his way" before him, as the Psalmist says with a simple but provocative image. In the orginal Hebrew text such serene confidence is based on two terms (hésed and sedaqáh): "mercy or fidelity" on the one hand, and "justice or salvation" on the other. They are the typical words to celebrate the covenant that unites the Lord with his people and with each believer.

4. Finally, we see outlined on the horizon the dark figure of the third character of the daily drama: they are the enemies, the evil ones, who were already in the background in the preceding verses. After the "You" of God and the "I" of the person who prays, there is now a "They" that indicates a hostile group, symbol of the evil of the world (Ps 5,10-11). Their physiognomy is sketched on the basis of the word, the fundamental element in social communication. Four elements mouth, heart, throat and tongue express the radical nature of the inner malice of their choices. Their mouth is full of falsehood, their heart constantly plots perfidy, their throat is like an open tomb, quick to wish only death, their seductive tongue is "full of deadly poison" (Jc 3,8).

5. After such a bitter and realistic picture of the perverse person who attacks the just one, the Psalmist invokes the divine condemnation in a verse (Ps 5,11) which the Christian use of the Psalm omits, since the Church wants to be conformed to the New Testament revelation of merciful love, which offers to the evil one the possibility of conversion.

The prayer of the Psalmist at this point comes to an end full of light and peace (Ps 5,12-13) after the dark profile of the sinner just drawn. A wave of serenity and joy wraps the one who is faithful to the Lord. The day which now begins, opens up before the believer. Even though it may be marked by effort and anxieties, it will always have over it the sun of divine blessing. The Psalmist, who knows the heart and style of God profoundly, has no doubt: "Lord, you bless the just; you cover him with benevolence as with a shield" (Ps 5,13).

I extend a special greeting to the group from the Melkite Archdiocese of Akka, to the groups of disabled persons, and to all the young people present, especially the members of the Australian National Youth Performing Arts Group. As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost, I invoke the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Finland, Israel, Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the United States.

                                                                                    June 2001

Wednesday 6 June 2001


1. "Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father" (
1Ch 29,10). The canticle of intense praise that the First Book of Chronicles puts on the lips of David makes us relive the outburst of joy with which the community of the first covenant greeted the great preparations made for the building of the temple, fruit of a common effort of the king and of so many who contributed generously with him. They had virtually competed in generosity, because this was called for by a dwelling that was not "destined for a man, but for the Lord God" (1Ch 29,1).

Rereading that event centuries later, the chronicler intuits the sentiments of David and those of the whole people, their joy and their admiration for all those who made their contribution: "The people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord; king David rejoiced greatly" (1Ch 29,9).

2. Such is the context in which the canticle is born. It does not dwell, except briefly, on human satisfaction but centres attention immediately on the glory of God: "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness ... yours is the kingdom ...". The great temptation that is always lurking, when one accomplishes works for the Lord, is that of putting oneself at the centre as if God were indebted to us. David, instead, attributes everything to the Lord. It is not the human being with his intelligence and strength who is the first architect of all that is done, but God himself.

In this way, David expresses the profound truth that all is grace. In a certain sense, all that has been put aside for the temple, is only the restitution, in a very meagre way at that, of all that Israel received in the invaluable gift of the covenant established by God with their Fathers. In the same way David credits the Lord with everything that constituted his fortune, in the military, the political and the economic field. All comes from him.

3. Herein lies the contemplative thrust of these verses. It seems that the author of the Canticle does not have enough words to confess the greatness and power of God. He considers him as "our father", first of all, in his special paternity shown to Israel. This is the first title which elicits our praise "now and forever".

In the Christian use of the prayer we cannot forget that God's fatherhood is fully revealed in the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is he, and only he, who can speak to God calling him properly and affectionately, "Abba" (Mc 14,36). At the same time, through the gift of the Spirit, we share in his sonship, and become "sons in the Son". God the Father's blessing of ancient Israel takes on for us the greater intensity that Jesus showed to us teaching us to call God "our Father".

4. The view of the biblical author extends from the history of salvation to the whole cosmos in order to contemplate the greatness of God the Creator: "All in heaven and on earth is yours". And again, "Yours is the sovereignty; you are exalted as head over all". As in Psalm 8, the one who prays the Canticle lifts his head towards the immense expanse of the heavens, then he looks in wonder at the immensity of the earth, and sees everything under the dominion of the Creator. How can he express the glory of God? The words pile up, in a kind of mystical pursuit: greatness, power, glory, majesty and splendour; and then even force and power. All that man experiences as beautiful and great must be referred to him who is at the origin of everything and governs them. The human creature knows that everything he possesses is the gift of God, as David emphasizes further on in the Canticle: "Who am I and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer you this willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you" (1Ch 29,14).

5. The background of reality as the gift of God helps us to combine the Canticle's sentiments of praise and thanksgiving with an authentic spirituality of "offering" that the Christian liturgy makes us live, above all, in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is what emerges from the two prayers which the priest uses to offer the bread and wine destined to become the Body and Blood of Christ: "Through your goodness we have received this bread, fruit of the earth and of human work; we present it to you so that it may become for us the bread of eternal life" (N.B. literal translation of offertory prayer). The prayer is repeated for the wine. We find similar sentiments in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy and in the ancient Roman Canon when in the Eucharistic anamnesis we express the intention of offering as a gift to God the things that we have received from him.

6. A final application of this vision of God is realized in the Canticle by looking at the human experience of riches and power. Both of these dimensions emerged while David prepared all that was necessary to build the temple. What is a universal temptation could have been a temptation for him: to act as if he were the absolute ruler of what he possessed, to make it the source of pride and the abuse of others. The prayer articulated in the Canticle refers the human being to his state as "poor person" who receives everything from God.

The kings of this earth are no more than images of divine kingship: "Yours is the kingdom, O Lord". The rich cannot forget the origin of their good things: "riches and honour come from you". The powerful should know how to recognize God, the source of "all greatness and power". The Christian is called to use such expressions in prayer, contemplating with exultation the Risen Lord, glorified by God "above all rule and authority, power and dominion" (Ep 1,21). Christ is the true king of the universe.

At the end of the audience the Holy Father made a plea for peace in Central Africa:

From the Central African Republic worrying news has reached us of clashes in progress in that beloved nation, and particularly of great suffering for the persons who live in the capital city, Bangui. For my part, I am close to those populations and I ask all the groups in the struggle to lay down their arms and to cooperate in rebuilding a climate of peace in the country. To this end I also invite you to pray with me to the Lord so that he will place in all hearts sentiments of peace and reconciliation.
* * * * *

I extend a special greeting to the Filipino community in Rome, which is celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Philippines, and the Tenth Anniversary of the Filipino chaplaincy. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Canada and the United States, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Wednesday 13 June 2001 - Psalm 28 (Lauds, Monday, first week) - The Lord solemnly proclaims his word

1. Some experts consider Psalm 28 that we have just heard as one of the most ancient texts of the Psalter. A powerful image unifies it in its poetic and prayerful unfolding: in fact, we face the progressive unleashing of a storm. The Hebrew term qol, which signifies both "voice" and" thunder", repeated at the beginning of key verses creates the mounting tension of the psalm. For this reason commentators call our Psalm the "Psalm of seven thunders", for the number of times in which the word resounds. In fact, one can say that the Psalmist thinks of thunder as a symbol of the divine voice, with its transcendent and unattainable mystery, that breaks into created reality in order to disturb and terrify it, but which in its innermost meaning is a word of peace and harmony. One thinks of chapter 12 of the Fourth Gospel, where the voice that responds to Jesus from heaven is perceived by the crowd as thunder (cf.
Jn 12,28-29).

In proposing Psalm 28 for the prayer of Lauds, the Liturgy of the Hours invites us to assume an attitude of profound and trusting adoration of the divine Majesty.

2. The Biblical cantor takes us to two moments and two places. At the centre (Ps 28,3-9) we have the account of the storm which is unleashed from the "immensity of the waters" of the Mediterranean. In the eyes of Biblical man, the sea waters incarnate the chaos which attacks the beauty and splendour of creation, to corrode, destroy and demolish it. So, in observing the storm that rages, one discovers the immense power of God. The one who prays sees the hurricane move north and hammer the mainland. The tall cedars of Lebanon and of Mount Sirion, sometimes called Hermon, are struck by the flashing lightning and seem to jump under the thunderbolts like frightened animals. The crashes draw closer, crossing the entire Holy Land, and move south, to the desert steppes of Kades.

3. After this picture of strong movement and tension, by contrast, we are invited to contemplate another scene, portrayed at the beginning and the end of the Psalm (Ps 28,1-2 and Ps 28,9-11). Distress and fear are now countered by the adoring glorification of God in the temple of Zion.

There is almost a channel of communication that links the sanctuary of Jerusalem and the heavenly sanctuary: in both these sacred places, there is peace and praise is given to the divine glory. The deafening sound of the thunder gives way to the harmony of liturgical singing, terror gives way to the certainty of divine protection. God now appears, "enthroned over the flood" as "King for ever" (Ps 28,10), that is as Lord and supreme Sovereign of all creation.

4. Before these two antithetical scenes, the praying person is invited to have a twofold experience.

First of all he must discover that God's mystery, expressed in the symbol of the storm, cannot be grasped or dominated by man. As the Prophet Isaiah sings, the Lord, like lightning or a storm, bursts into history sowing panic among the perverse and oppressors. With the coming of his judgement, his proud adversaries are uprooted like trees struck by a hurricane or like the cedars shattered by the divine thunderbolts (cf. Is 14,7-8).

31 What becomes evident in this light is what a modern thinker (Rudolph Otto) has described as the tremendum of God: his ineffable transcendence and presence as a just judge in the history of humanity. The latter is vainly deluded in opposing his sovereign power. In the Magnificat Mary was also to exalt this aspect of God's action: "He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he has put down the mighty from their thrones" (Lc 1,51-52a).

5. However, the Psalm gives us another aspect of God's face, the one that is discovered in the intimacy of prayer and in the celebration of the liturgy. According to the above-mentioned thinker, it is the fascinosum of God, that is the fascination that emanates from his grace, the mystery of love that is poured out upon the faithful, the serene certainty of the blessing reserved for the just. Even facing the chaos of evil, the storms of history, and the wrath of divine justice itself, the one who prays feels at peace, enfolded in the mantle of protection which Providence offers those who praise God and follow his ways. Through prayer, we learn that the Lord's true desire is to give peace.

In the temple, our anxiety is soothed and our terror wiped out; we participate in the heavenly liturgy with all "the children of God", angels and saints. And following the storm, image of the destruction of human malice like the deluge, there now arches in the heavens the rainbow of divine blessing, reminiscent of "the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth" (Gn 9,16).

The Father's exalted voice resounds at the Son's Baptism blessing the waters of the earth
This message stands out above all in the "Christian" rereading of the Psalm. If the seven "thunders" of our Psalm represent God's voice in the cosmos, the loftiest expression of this voice is the one in which the Father, in the theophany of Jesus' Baptism, revealed his deepest identity as the "beloved Son" (Mc 1,11 and paragraph). St Basil wrote: "Perhaps, and more mystically, "the voice of the Lord on the waters resounded when a voice came from on high at the baptism of Jesus and said: This is my beloved Son. Indeed the Lord then breathed upon many waters, sanctifying them with baptism. The God of glory thundered from on high with the strong voice of his testimony.... Then you can also understand by "thunder' that change which, after Baptism, takes place through the great "voice' of the Gospel" (Homily on the Psalms: PG 30,359).

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present, especially those from England, Korea, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.