Wednesday 10 October 2001 - Canticle of Jeremiah

Liturgy of the Hours of Lauds on Thursday of the first week

50 Jr 31,10-14

1. "Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, proclaim it on the distant coasts" (Jr 31,10). What is the good news that is to be announced with the solemn words of Jeremiah in the Canticle which we have just heard. It is consoling news, and it is no accident that the chapters that contain it (cf. Jr 30-31) are called the "Book of Consolation". The announcement refers directly to ancient Israel, but in some way it foreshadows the message of the Gospel.

Here is the heart of this announcement: "The Lord will redeem Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror" (Jr 31,11). The historical background of these words is found in a moment of hope experienced by the People of God, about a century after the Assyrians in 722 occupied the Northern part of the Holy Land. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, the religious reform of King Josiah brought about a return of the people to the covenant with God and fostered the hope that the time of punishment was over. It fostered the further hope that the North might regain its freedom and that Israel and Judah might be reunited. All, even "the distant coasts" should be witnesses of this wonderful event: God the Shepherd of Israel is about to intervene. He who allowed his people to be scattered, now comes to gather them together.

2. The invitation to rejoice is constructed with the aid of the profoundly moving images. It is an oracle which makes one dream! It delineates a future in which the exiles "will come and sing", and will find not only the Temple of the Lord, but also every good thing: wine, wheat, oil, the young of flocks and herds. The Bible does not know of an abstract spirituality. The promised joy does not just affect man's inner being because the Lord takes care of human life in all its dimensions. Jesus himself highlights this, when he invites his disciples to trust in Providence even for their material needs (cf. Mt 6,25-34). Our Canticle insists on this point of view: God wants to make the whole man happy. To convey how all embracing is the happiness, the prophet uses the image of the "watered garden" (Jr 31,12), images of freshness and fruitfulness. Mourning is turned into feasting, being satiated with choice portions (cf. Jr 31,14) and abundant goods, so that it will come naturally for them to dance and sing. It will be an unlimited joy, the joy of the people.

3. We know from history that this dream has not yet come true. Certainly not because God has failed to keep his promise: because of their infidelity. the people were to blame for this delusion.

The Book of Jeremiah undertakes to demonstrate it with the unfolding of the prophecy which becomes suffering and hardship, and gradually leads to some of the saddest phases of the history of Israel. Not only do the exiles of the North not return, but Judah itself will be occupied by Nabuchodonosor in 587 BC. Bitter days now begin when, on the shore of Babylon, the lyres were hung from the willows (cf. Ps 136,2). There was no desire to sing for the satisfaction of the jailers; no one can rejoice when he is uprooted by force from his own country, the land where God made his dwelling.

51 4. The Canticle's invitation to rejoice does not lose its meaning. Indeed, the final reason for rejoicing on which it leans remains firm, and we find it in some very intense verses that precede the verses we use in the Liturgy of the Hours. One must keep the verses in mind while reading the expressions of joy in our canticle. The verses describe in vibrant terms the love of God for his people. They indicate an irrevocable covenant: "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jr 31,3). They sing the fatherly outburst of the God who calls Ephraim his first born and covers him with his tenderness: "They shall go forth with weeping, I will lead them back with consolations; I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; because I am a father to Israel" (Jr 31,9). Although the promise could not then be fulfilled because of the children's lack of correspondence, the Father's love retains all its touching tenderness.

5. This love is the golden thread that brings together into unity the ups and downs of the history of Israel, its joys and sorrows, successes and failures. God's love does not fail, and punishment is an expression of his love since it intends to teach and to save.

On the solid rock of this love, the invitation to joy of our Canticle evokes a future plan of God which, though delayed, will come sooner or later, despite all of human frailty. The future comes to fulfilment in the new covenant with the death and resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.

However, it will be totally fulfilled with the final return of the Lord at the end of time. Interpreted by the light of such certainty, the "dream" of Jeremiah continues to be a real historical opportunity, conditioned by faithfulness of human beings, and, above all, it refers to a final goal, guaranteed by the faithfulness of God and already begun by his love in Christ.

In reading the oracle of Jeremiah, we should let the Gospel resound in our hearts, the wonderful news proclaimed by Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lc 4,16-21). Christian life is called to be a true "Jubilation", which only our sin can threaten. By making us pray these words of Jeremiah, the Liturgy of the Hours invites us to keep our life attached to Christ our Redeemer (cf. Jr 31,11) and in our personal and communal life to find in him the secret of true joy.

The Holy Father greeted the various groups of pilgrims in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak and Croatian. Returning to Italian, the Holy Father pointed out the bronze door for the Church of St Catherine in Bethlehem which he blessed after the audience. It was donated by the Diocese of Verona as a prayer for peace in the Holy Land. In the English greeting the Holy Father asked all to pray for peace and to be committed to building a world based on respect for the dignity of every human being and free of violence.

I extend a special greeting to the groups of young people from various countries present at this audience. I invite you all to pray for peace and to be committed to building a world without violence, founded on respect for the dignity of every human being. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I invoke the blessings of which the Canticle of Jeremiah speaks. God be with you all!

Wednesday 17 October 2001 - Psalm 47 (48) - O God we ponder your love within your temple

Ps 48

1. The Psalm just proclaimed is a canticle in honour of Zion, "the city of the great King" (Ps 48,3 [47],3), at the time, the seat of the temple of the Lord and the place of his presence in the midst of humanity. Christian faith now applies it to "Jerusalem above" which is "our mother" (Ga 4,26).

The liturgical tone of this hymn, which evokes a festive procession (cf. Ps 48,13-14), the peaceful vision of Jerusalem that reflects divine salvation, renders Psalm 47 (48) a prayer that we can use to begin the day, offering a canticle of praise, even if clouds form on the horizon.

To appreciate the meaning of the Psalm, three helpful acclamations are placed at the beginning, the middle and the end, almost as though offering the spiritual key of the composition and introducing us to its interior atmosphere. The three invocations are: "The Lord is great and worthy to be praised in the city of our God" (Ps 48,2); "O God we ponder your love within your temple" (Ps 48,10); "Such is our God, our God forever and always, it is he who leads us" (Ps 48,15).

2. These three acclamations, which exalt the Lord but also "the city of our God" (Ps 48,2), frame two great parts of the Psalm. The first is a joyful celebration of the holy city, Zion, victorious against the assaults of her enemies, serene under the mantle of divine protection (cf. Ps 48,3-8). There is a virtual litany of definitions of this city: it is a wonderful height that is set up as a beacon of light, a source of joy for the peoples of the earth, the only true "Olympus" where heaven and earth meet. It is - to use the expression of the prophet Ezekiel - the Emmanuel-city because "the Lord is there", present in it (cf. Ez 48,35). But besieging troops are massed around Jerusalem for an assault, it is a symbol of the evil that attacks the splendour of the city of God. The clash has an immediate and foreseen outcome.

3. Indeed, the powerful of the earth, by assaulting the holy city, also provoked its king, the Lord. The Psalmist shows the dissolution of the pride of a powerful army with the thought-provoking image of the pains of childbirth: "A trembling seized them there like the pangs of birth" (Ps 48,7). Arrogance is transformed into feebleness and weakness, power into collapse and rout.

Another image expresses the same idea: the routed army is compared to an invincible naval fleet, on which a typhoon is unleashed caused by a violent East wind (cf. Ps 48,8). What remains is an unshaken certainty for the one who stands within the shadow of divine protection: the last word is not in the hands of evil, but of good; God triumphs over hostile powers, even when they seem great and invincible.

4. The faithful one celebrates his thanksgiving to God the deliverer in the temple itself. His is a hymn to the merciful love of the Lord, expressed with the Hebrew word hésed, typical of the theology of the covenant. We come now to the second part of the psalm (cf. Ps 48,10-14). After the great canticle of praise to the faithful, just and saving God (cf. Ps 48,10-12), there is a sort of procession around the temple and the holy city (cf. Ps 48,13-14). The towers of the sure protection of God, are counted, the ramparts are observed, expressions of the stability offered to Zion by its Founder. The walls of Jerusalem speak and its stones recall the deeds which must be transmitted "to the next generation" (Ps 48,14) through the stories that fathers will tell their children (cf. Ps 77,3-7).

Zion is the place of an uninterrupted chain of saving actions of the Lord, that are announced in the catechesis and celebrated in the liturgy, so that believers will continue to hope in God who intervenes to set them free.

5. In the concluding antiphon there is one of the most beautiful definitions of the Lord as shepherd of his people: "It is he who leads us" (Ps 48,15). The God of Zion is the God of the Exodus, of freedom, of closeness to the people enslaved in Egypt and pilgrims in the desert. Now that Israel is settled in the promised land, she knows that the Lord will not abandon her: Jerusalem is the sign of his closeness and the temple is the place of his presence.

As he rereads these expressions, the Christian moves to the contemplation of Christ, the new and living temple of God (cf. Jn 2,21), and he turns to the heavenly Jerusalem, which no longer needs a temple or an external light, because "its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.... the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb" (Ap 21,2-23). St Augustine invites us to this "spiritual" rereading because he was convinced that in the Books of the Bible "there is nothing that only concerns the earthly city, because all that is said about it refers to her, or what is realized by her, symbolizes something that by allegory can also be referred to the heavenly Jerusalem" (City of God, XVII, 3,2). St Paulinus of Nola echoes him, because commenting on the words of the Psalm he exhorts us to pray so that "we can be found to be living stones in the walls of the heavenly and free Jerusalem" (Letter 28,2 to Severus). Contemplating the solidity and compactness of this city, the same Father of the Church continues: "In fact, he who dwells in this city, is revealed to be One in three persons.... Christ is not only the foundation of the city but also its tower and door.... If the house of our soul is founded on Him and a construction rises on Him worthy of such a great foundation, then the door of admission into the city will be precisely him who will lead us forever and will take us to the place of his pasture" (ibid.).

The Holy Father greeted the pilgrims and visitors in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Slovak, Slovene, Croatian and then in Italian.

In English, the Holy Father gave this greeting.

I am pleased to greet Cardinal Keeler and the group from the Basilica of the Assumption in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I remember well my own visits to the first Cathedral of the Catholic Church to be built in the United States of America. May God bless the efforts you are now making to restore this historic shrine as a worldwide symbol of religious freedom.

My greetings go as well to the other English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Canada, and the United States of America: upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of the audience, the Holy Father made an appeal for Nigeria in Italian:

Another episode of savage violence has been added to the tragic world situation of these days: more than 200 dead and hundreds of wounded, victims of a clash between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. Whoever has occasioned these unjustifiable acts is responsible before God. As I express, in the name of all of you, to Bishop Patrick Francis Sheenan of Kano, and to those bewailing the loss of their loved ones, our spiritual closeness, I pray to God that he will help all to find the path of fraternity again. Only in this way will it be possible to respond to God's expectations, who wills to make of humanity one single human family.

Wednesday 24 October 2001 - Psalm 50 (51), the Miserere

53 Ps 51

Against you alone have I sinned

1. We have just heard the Miserere, one of the most famous prayers of the Psalter, the most intense and commonly used penitential psalm, the hymn of sin and pardon, a profound meditation on guilt and grace. The Liturgy of the Hours makes us pray it at Lauds every Friday. For centuries the prayer has risen to heaven from the hearts of many faithful Jews and Christians as a sigh of repentance and hope poured out to a merciful God.

The Jewish tradition placed the psalm on the lips of David, who was called to repentance by the severe words of the prophet Nathan (cf. Ps 51,1-2; 2S 11-12), who rebuked him for his adultery with Bathsheba and for having had her husband Uriah killed. The psalm, however, was enriched in later centuries, by the prayer of so many other sinners, who recovered the themes of the "new heart" and of the "Spirit" of God placed within the redeemed human person, according to the teaching of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel (cf. Ps 51,12; Jr 31,31-34 Ez 11,19, .

2. Psalm 50 (51) outlines two horizons. First, there is the dark region of sin (cf. Ps 51,3-11) in which man is placed from the beginning of his existence: "Behold in guilt I was born, a sinner was I conceived" (Ps 51,7). Even if this declaration cannot be taken as an explicit formulation of the doctrine of original sin as it was defined by Christian theology, undoubtedly it corresponds to it: indeed, it expresses the profound dimension of the innate moral weakness of the human person. The first part of the Psalm appears to be an analysis of sin, taking place before God. Three Hebrew terms are used to define this sad reality, which comes from the evil use of human freedom.

3. The first term, hattá, literally means "falling short of the target": sin is an aberration which leads us far from God, the fundamental goal of our relations, and, consequently, also from our neighbour.
54 The second Hebrew term is "awôn, which takes us back to the image of "twisting" or of "curving".

Sin is a tortuous deviation from the straight path; it is an inversion, a distortion, deformation of good and of evil; in the sense declared by Isaiah: "Woe to those who call good evil and evil good, who change darkness into light and light into darkness" (
Is 5,20). Certainly, for this reason in the Bible conversion is indicated as a "return" (in Hebrew shûb) to the right way, correcting one's course.

The third term the psalmist uses to speak of sin is peshá. It expresses the rebellion of the subject toward his sovereign and therefore an open challenge addressed to God and to his plan for human history.

4. If, however, man confesses his sin, the saving justice of God is ready to purify him radically. Thus we come to the second spiritual part of the psalm, the luminous realm of grace (cf. Ps 51,12-19). By the confession of sins, for the person who prays there opens an horizon of light where God is at work. The Lord does not just act negatively, eliminating sin, but recreates sinful humanity by means of his life-giving Spirit: he places in the human person a new and pure "heart", namely, a renewed conscience, and opens to him the possibility of a limpid faith and worship pleasing to God.

Origen spoke of a divine therapy, which the Lord carries out by his word and by the healing work of Christ: "As God prepares remedies for the body from therapeutic herbs wisely mixed together, so he also prepared for the soul medicines with the words he infused, scattering them in the divine Scriptures.... God gave yet another medical aid of which the Lord is the Archetype who says of himself: "It is not the healthy who have need of a physician but the sick'. He is the excellent physician able to heal every weakness, and illness" (Origen, Homilies on the Psalms, From the Italian edition, Omelie sui Salmi, Florence, 1991, PP 247-249).

5. The richness of Psalm 50 (51) merits a careful exegesis of every line. It is what we will do when we will meet it again at Lauds on successive Fridays. The overall view, which we have taken of this great Biblical supplication, reveals several fundamental components of a spirituality which should permeate the daily life of the faithful. There is above all a lively sense of sin, seen as a free choice, with a negative connotation on the moral and theological level: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, I have done what is evil in your sight" (Ps 51,6).

There is also in the psalm a lively sense of the possibility of conversion: the sinner, sincerely repentant, (cf. Ps 51,5), comes before God in his misery and nakedness, begging him not to cast him out from his presence (Ps 51,13).

Finally, in the Miserere, a rooted conviction of divine pardon " cancels, washes, cleanses" the sinner (cf. Ps 51,3-4) and is able to transform him into a new creature who has a transfigured spirit, tongue, lips and heart (cf. Ps 51,4-19). "Even if our sins were as black as the night, divine mercy is greater than our misery. Only one thing is needed: the sinner has to leave the door to his heart ajar.... God can do the rest.... Everything begins and ends with his mercy", so writes St Faustina Kowalska (M. Winowska, The Ikon of Divine Mercy, the Message of Sister Faustina, from the Italian version, L'Icona dell'Amore Misericordioso. Il messaggio di Suor Faustina, Rome, 1981, p. 271).

The Holy Father addressed the pilgrims and visitors in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Czeck, Slovak, Croatian. To the English speaking pilgrims he said:

I warmly welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Wales, Ireland, Nigeria and the United States of America. Upon you and your loved ones I invoke the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you all!

Wednesday 31 October 2001 - Canticle in chapter 45 of the Book of Isaiah - "On the Mystery and Providence of God"


1. "Truly, you are a hidden God" (
Is 45,15). The verse which introduces the Canticle prayed at Lauds on Friday of the 1st week of the Psalter, is taken from a meditation of the Deutero-Isaiah on the greatness of God manifested in creation and in history: a God who reveals himself, though he remains hidden in the impenetrability of his mystery. He is by definition "the hidden God". No thought can encompass him. Man can only contemplate his presence in the universe, discern his imprint and bow down in adoration and praise.

The meditation arises from the historical event of the amazing liberation that God wrought for his people at the time of the Babylonian exile. Who would ever have thought that the exiles of Israel would be able to return to their country? Considering the power of Babylon, they could easily have despaired. Yet there came the great announcement, the surprise of God, which vibrates in the words of the prophet: as at the time of the Exodus, God will intervene. If then he broke the resistance of Pharaoh with tremendous punishments, now he chooses a king, Cyrus of Persia, to defeat the power of Babylon and restore freedom to Israel.

2. "You are a God who hides yourself, God of Israel, the Saviour" (Is 45,15). With these words the prophet invites us to recognize that God intervenes in history, even if it is not immediately apparent. We could say that he acts "behind the scenes". He is the mysterious and invisible director, who respects the freedom of his creatures, but at the same time, holds in his hand the thread of world events. The certainty of the Providential action of God is a source of hope for the believer, who knows he can count on the constant presence of Him, "who has formed the earth and made it, he established it" (Is 45,18).

Indeed, the creative act is not an episode that is lost in the night of time, so that the world, after that beginning, must be considered as abandoned to itself. God continually brings into being the creation that came from his hands. To acknowledge him is to confess his uniqueness: "Was it not I, the Lord? Outside of me there is no other God" (Is 45,21). God is by definition the only God. Nothing can be compared with him. Everything is subject to him. From here follows the repudiation of idolatry, for which the prophet pronounces harsh words: "They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep praying to a god that cannot save" (Is 45,20). How can we bow down in adoration before a human product?

3. For our present day sensitivity this polemic might seem exaggerated, as if it were criticising the images themselves, without realizing that they might have a symbolic value, which is compatible with the spiritual adoration of the one God. Certainly, what comes into play is the wise divine pedagogy which, by the rigid discipline of the exclusion of images, historically protected Israel from polytheistic contamination. The Church, basing herself on the face of God manifested in the Incarnation of Christ, recognised in the Second Council of Nicea (787) the possibility of using sacred images, provided they are understood in their essentially relational value.

The prophetic admonition retains its importance in view of all the forms of idolatry, not consisting in the improper use of images, but rather often hidden in the attitudes with which men and things are considered as absolute values that are substituted for God himself.

4. On the side of creation, the hymn places us within history, where Israel often did experience the beneficent and merciful power of God, his fidelity and his providence. Particularly, the love of God for his people appears again in such an open and striking way in setting them free from exile that the prophet calls to witness it the "survivors of the nations". He invites them to debate, if they can: "Assemble yourselves and come, draw near together you survivors of the nations" (Is 45,20). The prophet concludes that the intervention of the God of Israel is indisputable.

Then a magnificent universalist perspective emerges. God proclaims: "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, because I am God and there is no other" (Is 45,22). So it becomes clear that the predilection which God has shown Israel as his people is not an act of exclusion, but rather an act of love from which all of humanity is destined to benefit.

Hence, we find outlined in the Old Testament the "sacramental" concept of the history of salvation, which, does not see in the special election of the sons of Abraham and later of the disciples of Christ in the Church, a privilege which does not mean to "close" or "exclude", but the sign and instrument of a universal love.

5. The invitation to adore and the offer of salvation is directed to all peoples: "To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Is 45,23). To read these words from a Christian perspective means to go in thought to the full revelation of the New Testament, which points out in Christ "the Name which is above every other name" (Ph 2,9), so that "at the name of Jesus, every knee must bend, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Ph 2,10-11).

Through this hymn, our morning praise acquires a universal dimension and speaks in the name of those who have not yet had the grace to know Christ. It is a praise which becomes "missionary", forcing us to travel to every corner of the globe, announcing that God has revealed himself in Jesus as Saviour of the world.

At the end of the commentary, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Slovenian, Croatian, and Italian. To the English pilgrims he said:

I offer a warm welcome to the priests taking part in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. May your studies near the tombs of the Apostles deepen your love of the Lord and enrich your ministry to his people. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

                                                                              November 2001

Wednesday 7 November 2001 - Psalm 99 £[100] - Let the world praise faithful God

Lauds on Friday of the first week

56 Ps 100

1. The tradition of Israel gave the title "Psalm for the todáh" to the hymn of praise we just heard, that is thanksgiving in liturgical chant. That is why it is appropriately intoned in the morning Lauds. We can identify three noteworthy elements in the four verses of the joyful hymn, that make its use spiritually fruitful for the Christian community at prayer.

2. First of all, there is an urgent call to prayer, clearly described in a liturgical dimension. Suffice it to list the imperative verbs coupled with indications of liturgical usage that are articulated in the Psalm: "Cry out..., serve the Lord with gladness, come before him singing for joy. Know that the Lord is God...Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise, give thanks to him and bless his name". It is series of invitations not just to enter the sacred area of the temple through the gates and courts (cf. Ps 14,1 Ps 23,3 Ps 23,7-10), but also to praise God joyfully.

57 It is like a constant unbroken thread of praise taking the form of a continuous profession of faith and love. Praise that rises from the earth to God, and at the same time nourishes the spirit of the believer.

3. I would like to highlight a secondary detail at the beginning of the hymn, where the Psalmist calls all the earth to acclaim the Lord (cf.
Ps 100,1). Certainly, the Psalm will then focus attention on the chosen people, but the perspective of the praise is universal, as usual in the Psalter with the "hymns to the Lord the king" (cf. Ps 96-99, [95-98]). The world and history are not at the mercy of chance, chaos, or blind necessity. Instead, a mysterious God governs them, who desires that humanity live in stability according to just and authentic relations. He "is King. The world is established, it shall never be moved;he will judge the peoples with equity...He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with his truth " (Ps 95,10 Ps 95,13).

4. We are in the hands of God, Lord and King, Father and Creator, and we celebrate it, confident that he will not let us fall from his hands. In this light we can appreciate better the third central element of the Psalm. At the centre of the praise that the Psalmist places on our lips, there is, in fact, a profession of faith, expressed through a series of attributes that define the profound reality of God. The essential creed contains the following affirmations: "The Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are. ... Good indeed is the Lord, his steadfast love endures forever, his faithfulness lasts through every age" (cf. Ps 100,3-5).

5. In the first place, there is a renewed profession of faith in the one God, as required by the first commandment of the Decalogue: "I am the Lord, your God ...You shall not have other gods before me" (Ex 20,2 Ex 20,3). As is often repeated in the Bible: "Know then today and keep well in your heart that the Lord is God in the heavens above, in the earth below and there is no other" (Dt 4,39). Then faith in God the creator is proclaimed, source of being and of life. Then expressed through a "covenant formula", comes the affirmation of the certainty that Israel has of her divine election: "We are his, his people and the sheep of his pasture" (Ps 100,3). It is a certainty that the faithful of the new People of God make their own, in the awareness of being the flock that the supreme Shepherd of souls leads to the eternal pastures of heaven (cf. 1P 2,25).

6. After the proclamation of the one God, creator and source of the covenant, the portrait of the Lord sung by our Psalm continues with the meditation on three divine qualities that the Psalter often exalts: God's goodness, merciful love (hésed), faithfulness. They are the three virtues that belong to the covenant of God with his people; they express a bond which will never be broken, through generations, despite the muddy stream of sins, rebellions and human infidelity. With serene confidence in divine love that will never diminish, the people of God journey through history with their daily temptations and weaknesses.

This confidence becomes a hymn, for which sometimes words fail, as St Augustine comments: "the more charity increases, the more aware you will become of what you said and did not say. In fact, before savouring certain things, you thought you could use words to speak about God; when you began to enjoy the taste, you realized that you were not able to explain adequately what you tasted.

If you realize you did not know how to express in words what you tasted, should you for this reason be silent and not praise?... Absolutely not. You will not be so ungrateful. To him are owed honour, respect and the greatest praise ... Listen to the Psalm: "All the earth, cry out with joy to the Lord'. Then you will understand the joy of all the earth if you rejoice before the Lord" (From the Exposition on the Psalms, Italian version, Esposizioni sui Salmi III/1, Rome 1993, p. 459).

At the end of the commentary, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims and visitors in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian and Italian. To the English-speaking pilgrims he said:

I am pleased to offer special greetings to the Marist Brothers participating in a spirituality programme, and the Capuchin Friars from India and Indonesia taking part in a course of continuing formation: may your days in Rome be a grace-filled time of encounter with the Lord, "who is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (He 13,8). To all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from Scotland, Denmark and the United States of America, I invoke the grace and peace of our Saviour Jesus Christ.