Audiences 2005-2013 40407

Wednesday, 4 April 2007 - The Easter Triduum

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the Lenten journey which began with Ash Wednesday nears its end, today's liturgy for Wednesday of Holy Week already introduces us into the dramatic atmosphere of the coming days, steeped in the memory of the Passion and death of Christ. In fact, in today's liturgy, the Evangelist Matthew presents for our meditation the brief dialogue between Jesus and Judas that took place in the Upper Room.

"Is it I, Master?" the traitor asked the divine Teacher, who had foretold: "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me". The Lord's answer was incisive: "You have said so" (cf.
Mt 26,14-25).

For his part, John concludes the narrative announcing Judas' betrayal with a few portentous words: "It was night" (Jn 13,30).

When the traitor left the Upper Room, thick darkness gathered in his heart - it was an inner night -, bewilderment increased in the hearts of the other disciples - they too were moving towards night -, while the steadily darkening twilight of abandonment and hatred hung over the Son of Man who was preparing to consummate his sacrifice on the Cross.

What we shall be commemorating in the coming days is the supreme battle between Light and Darkness, between Life and Death. We must also put ourselves in this context aware of our own "night", of our sins and our responsibility if we want to benefit spiritually from the Paschal Mystery, if we want our hearts to be enlightened through this Mystery which constitutes the central fulcrum of our faith.

The beginning of the Easter Triduum is Holy Thursday, tomorrow. During the Chrism Mass, which can be considered the prelude to the Sacred Triduum, the diocesan Bishop and his closest collaborators, the priests, surrounded by the People of God, renew the promises they made on the day of priestly Ordination.

Year after year, this is an intense moment of ecclesial communion that highlights the gift of the ministerial priesthood which Christ bequeathed to his Church on the eve of his death on the Cross. And for every priest it is a moving moment in this vigil of the Passion in which the Lord gave himself to us, gave us the Sacrament of the Eucharist, gave us the priesthood. It is a day that touches all our hearts.

The Oils for the celebration of the Sacraments are then blessed: the Oil of the Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and the Holy Chrism.

In the evening, entering the Easter Triduum, the Christian community relives what happened at the Last Supper in the Mass of the Lord's Supper. In the Upper Room, the Redeemer wanted to anticipate the sacrifice of his life in the Sacrament of the bread and wine changed into his Body and Blood: he anticipated his death, he freely gave his life, he offered the definitive gift of himself to humanity.

With the washing of the feet, the gesture with which, having loved his own, he loved them to the end is repeated (cf. Jn 13,1), and he bequeathed this act of humility to his disciples as their "badge": love unto death.

After the Mass of the Lord's Supper, the liturgy invites the faithful to pause in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, reliving Jesus' agony in Gethsemane. And we see that the disciples fell asleep, leaving their Lord on his own.

Today too, we, his disciples, are often asleep. On this holy night of Gethsemane, let us be vigilant, not wanting to leave the Lord on his own at this time; thus, we can better understand the mystery of Holy Thursday, which embraces the supreme, threefold gift of the ministry of the Priesthood, the Eucharist and the new Commandment of Love (agape).

Good Friday, which commemorates the events between Christ's condemnation to death and his Crucifixion, is a day of penance, fasting and prayer, of participation in the Lord's Passion. At the prescribed hour, the Christian Assembly, with the help of the Word of God and liturgical actions, renews the history of human infidelity to the divine plan, which was nonetheless brought about exactly in this way; and it listens once again to the moving narrative of the Lord's sorrowful Passion.
The Assembly then addresses to the Heavenly Father a long "prayer of the faithful" which embraces all the needs of the Church and of the world.

Subsequently, the community adores the Cross and receives the Eucharist, consuming the sacred species reserved from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the previous day.

In commenting on Good Friday, St John Chrysostom observes: "First, the Cross stood for contempt, but today it is something venerable; before it was the symbol of condemnation, today it is the hope of salvation. It has truly become a source of infinite good; it has freed us from error, it has dispelled our shadows, it has reconciled us with God, it has transformed us from being enemies of God to being members of his family, from being strangers to being his neighbours: this Cross is the destruction of enmity, the source of peace, the casket of our treasure" (cf. De Cruce et Latrone I, 1, 4).

To relive the Redeemer's Passion more intensely, the Christian tradition has developed many manifestations of popular piety, including the well-known Good Friday processions with the evocative rites, repeated each year.

However, there is one pious practice, the "Way of the Cross", which offers us throughout the year the possibility of impressing the mystery of the Cross ever more deeply on our minds, of accompanying Christ along this path and thus being inwardly conformed to him. We could say that the Way of the Cross teaches us, in the words of St Leo the Great, to "look at the Crucified Jesus with the eyes of the heart, to recognize in his flesh our own" (Talk 15, on the Lord's Passion).
Precisely in this lies the true Christian wisdom which we want to learn by taking the Way of the Cross on Good Friday at the Colosseum.

Holy Saturday is the day when the liturgy is hushed, the day of great silence, and Christians are invited to preserve interior recollection, often difficult to encourage in our day, in order to be better prepared for the Easter Vigil.

Spiritual retreats and Marian prayer meetings are organized in many communities in order to be united with the Mother of the Redeemer, who waited, anxious but trusting, for the Resurrection of her Crucified Son.

Finally, during the Easter Vigil the veil of sorrow which shrouds the Church because of the death and burial of the Lord will be torn by the victorious cry: Christ is risen and has defeated death for ever! We will then truly be able to understand the mystery of the Cross, "since God also creates wonders even in the impossible", an ancient writer says, "so that we may know that he alone can do what he wills. From his death comes our life, from his wounds our healing, from his fall our resurrection, from his descent our uplifting" (Anonymous, Quartodecimano).

Enlivened by a stronger faith, we welcome in the heart of the Easter Vigil the newly baptized and renew the promises of our Baptism. Thus, we will feel that the Church is ever alive, ever rejuvenated, ever beautiful and holy, for she is founded on Christ, who having risen, will never die again.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Paschal Mystery which the Holy Triduum enables us to relive is not only the memory of a past reality; it is also a reality in our time. Christ also conquers sin and death today with his love. Evil in all its forms does not have the last word. The final triumph, the triumph of truth and love, is Christ's!

If we are willing to suffer and die with him, St Paul will remind us in the Easter Vigil, his life will become our life (cf. Rm 6,9). Our Christian life is supported by and built upon this certainty.
As I invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who followed Jesus on the Way of the Passion and Cross and embraced him after his deposition, I express the hope that you will all take part devoutly in the Easter Triduum, to taste the joy of Easter with all your loved ones.

I am pleased to welcome the many university students gathered in Rome for "UNIV" 2007. May these days of reflection, friendship and prayer inspire in you a deeper love for Our Lord and his Church! To all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United States, I offer my prayerful good wishes for a happy and spiritually enriching celebration of Easter. Good Easter to all of you!
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I am pleased to welcome the many university students gathered in Rome for Univ 2007. May these days of reflection, friendship and prayer inspire in you a deeper love for our Lord and his Church! To all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Canada and the United States, I offer my prayerful good wishes for a happy and spiritually enriching celebration of Easter.

St Peter's Square

Wednesday, 11 April 2007 - Octave of Easter

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the solemn Easter celebrations we are meeting again today for our customary Wednesday gathering, and I would like first of all to renew to each one of you my warmest good wishes. I thank you for coming here in such numbers and I thank the Lord for the beautiful sunshine he has given us today.

This proclamation rang out at the Easter Vigil: "The Lord has risen indeed, Alleluia!". It is now he himself who speaks to us: "I will not die", he proclaims, "I will remain alive".

To sinners he says: "Receive forgiveness for your sins. Indeed, I am your forgiveness". Lastly, to all he repeats: "I am the Passover of your salvation, I am the Lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your life, I am your resurrection, I am your light, I am your Saviour, I am your King. I will show you the Father". These are the words of Melito of Sardis, a second-century writer (cf. On Easter, 102-103).

In these days, the liturgy recalls Jesus' various encounters after his Resurrection: with Mary Magdalene and the other women who went to the tomb at the crack of dawn the day after the Sabbath; with the Apostles who gathered unbelieving in the Upper Room; with Thomas and other disciples.

Christ's different apparitions are also an invitation to us today to deepen the fundamental message of Easter: they are an incentive to us to retrace the spiritual journey of those who encountered Christ and recognized him in those first days following the Paschal events.

The Evangelist John recounts that when Peter and he heard Mary Magdalene's news, they ran to the sepulchre each trying as it were to outstrip the other (cf.
Jn 20,3ff.). The Fathers of the Church have seen in their haste to reach the empty tomb an exhortation to compete in the only legitimate race between believers: the competition in seeking Christ.

And what can be said of Mary Magdalene? She stood weeping by the empty tomb with the sole desire to know where they had taken her Lord. She encounters him and only recognizes him when he calls her by name (cf. Jn 20,11-18). If we seek the Lord with a simple and sincere mind, we too will find him; indeed, he himself will come to meet us; he will make us recognize him, he will call us by name, that is, he will admit us to the intimacy of his love.

Today, Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, the liturgy has us meditate on another unique encounter with the Risen One, that of the two disciples at Emmaus (cf. Lc 24,13-35).

While they were going home, distressed by the death of their Master, the Lord kept them company on the way without their recognizing him. His words, as he commented on the Scriptures that concerned him, made the hearts of the two disciples burn within them, and on reaching their destination they asked him to stay with them. When finally he "took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them" (v. 30), their eyes were opened.

Yet, at that very instant Jesus vanished from their sight. Thus, they recognized him when he disappeared.

Commenting on this Gospel episode, St Augustine observes: "Jesus broke the bread, they recognized him. Then we should no longer say that we do not know Christ! If we believe, we know him! Indeed, if we believe we have him! They had Christ at their table, we have him in our souls!". And he concludes: "Having Christ in one's own heart is far more than having him in one's house: in fact, our hearts are more intimate to us than our homes" (Sermon 232, VII, 7). Let us truly seek to carry Jesus in our heart.

In the Prologue to the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke said that the Risen Lord "presented himself [to the Apostles] alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days" (Ac 1,3

The Pasch that we celebrate, St Bernard remarks, means "passing" and not "returning", for Jesus did not return to his previous situation but "crossed a boundary to a more glorious condition", new and definitive. For this reason he adds, "Christ has now truly passed over to a new life" (cf. Homily on Easter).

To Mary Magdalene the Lord said: "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father" (Jn 20,17). These words surprise us, especially if we compare them to what, on the other hand, happened to Doubting Thomas. There in the Upper Room, the Risen One himself presented his hands and his side to the Apostle so that he could touch them and thereby be sure that it was truly he (cf. Jn 20,27).

In fact, the two episodes are not contradictory. On the contrary, the one helps us to understand the other.

Mary Magdalene would have wanted to have her Lord as he was before, considering the Cross a tragic memory to be forgotten. Henceforth, however, there was no longer room for a merely human relationship with the Risen One. To meet him, we must not turn back but relate to him in a new way. We must move ahead! St Bernard underlines this: Jesus "invites us all to this new life, to this passing.... We will not see Christ with a backward glance" (Homily on Easter).

This is what happened with Thomas. Jesus showed him his wounds, not to make him forget the Cross but to make it unforgettable in the future, too.

It is towards the future, in fact, that we now turn our gaze. The disciple's task is to witness to the death and Resurrection of his Master and to his new life. For this reason Jesus invited his unbelieving friend to "touch him": he wanted him to witness directly to his Resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters, we too, like Mary Magdalene, Thomas and the other Apostles, are called to be witnesses of Christ's death and Resurrection. We cannot keep this important news to ourselves. We must convey it to the whole world: "We have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20,25).

May the Virgin Mary help us to savour to the full the joy of Easter, so that, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may become capable of spreading it in turn wherever we live and work. Once again, a Happy Easter to you all!

To special groups

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including the groups from Britain and Ireland, Sweden, Australia and the United States. I extend a special welcome to the newly ordained deacons and the Golden Jubilarians from Ireland. I pray that the Risen Lord will fill your hearts with joy and that he will inspire you to proclaim to the world the Good News of the Lord's Resurrection! Happy Easter to you all!

Lastly, my thoughts go to the sick, to the newly-weds and the young people, especially the many teenagers who have come from the Archdiocese of Milan. Dear young friends, the Risen Christ also repeats to you, as he did to the first disciples: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.... Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20,21-22). Respond to him with joy and love, grateful for the immense gift of faith, and you will be authentic witnesses everywhere of his joy and peace.

For you, dear sick people, may Christ's Resurrection be an inexhaustible source of comfort, consolation and hope. And you, dear newly-weds, make the Risen One actively present in your family with daily prayer, which will nourish your conjugal love.

St Peter's Square

Wednesday, 18 April 2007 - Clement of Alexandria

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the period of celebrations, let us return to our normal Catecheses even if it is still visibly festive in the Square.

With the Catecheses we are returning, as I said, to the series begun previously. We have already spoken of the Twelve Apostles, then of the disciples of the Apostles and now of the important figures in the newborn Church, the ancient Church.

At the last one, we spoke of St Irenaeus of Lyons; today, let us speak of Clement of Alexandria, a great theologian who was probably born in Athens at around the middle of the second century.

From Athens he inherited that marked interest in philosophy which was to make him one of the pioneers of the dialogue between faith and reason in the Christian tradition. While he was still young, he arrived in Alexandria, the "city-symbol" of that fertile junction between the different cultures that was a feature of the Hellenistic age.

He was a disciple of Pantaenus until he succeeded him as head of the catechetical school. Many sources testify that he was ordained a priest. During the persecution of 202-203, he fled from Alexandria, seeking refuge in Caesarea, Cappadocia, where he died in about 215.

Of his most important works three are extant: the Protrepticus, the Paedagogus and the Stromata. Although it does not seem that this was the author's original intention, it is a fact that these writings constitute a true trilogy, destined to effectively accompany the Christian's spiritual growth.

The Protrepticus, as the word itself suggests, is an "exhortation" addressed to those who are starting out and seek the path of faith. Better still, the Protrepticus coincides with a Person: the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who makes himself the exhorter of men and women so that they will set out towards the Truth with determination.

Jesus Christ himself becomes the Paedagogus, that is, the "tutor" of those who, by virtue of Baptism, have henceforth become children of God.

Lastly, Jesus Christ himself is also the Didascalos, the "Master" who presents the most profound teachings. These are gathered in Clement's third work, the Stromata, a Greek term which means "tapestries": indeed, they are a random composition of different topics, direct fruits of Clement's customary teaching.

Overall, Clement's catecheses accompanied the catechumens and the baptized step by step on their way, so that with the two "wings" of faith and reason they might reach intimate knowledge of the Truth which is Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Only this knowledge of the Person who is truth is the "true gnosis, a Greek term which means "knowledge", "understanding". It is the edifice built by reason under the impetus of a supernatural principle.

Faith itself builds true philosophy, that is, true conversion on the journey to take through life. Hence, authentic "gnosis" is a development of faith inspired by Jesus Christ in the soul united with him. Clement then distinguishes two steps in Christian life.

The first step: believing Christians who live the faith in an ordinary way, yet are always open to the horizons of holiness. Then the second step: "gnostics", that is, those who lead a life of spiritual perfection.

In any case, Christians must start from the common basis of faith through a process of seeking; they must allow themselves to be guided by Christ and thus attain knowledge of the Truth and of truth that forms the content of faith.

This knowledge, Clement says, becomes a living reality in the soul: it is not only a theory, it is a life force, a transforming union of love. Knowledge of Christ is not only thought, but is love which opens the eyes, transforms the person and creates communion with the Logos, with the Divine Word who is truth and life. In this communion, which is perfect knowledge and love, the perfect Christian attains contemplation, unification with God.

Finally, Clement espouses the doctrine which claims that man's ultimate end is to liken himself to God. We were created in the image and likeness of God, but this is also a challenge, a journey: indeed, life's purpose, its ultimate destination, is truly to become similar to God. This is possible through the co-naturality with him which man received at the moment of creation, which is why, already in himself - already in himself - he is an image of God. This co-naturality makes it possible to know the divine realities to which man adheres, first of all out of faith, and through a lived faith the practice of virtue can grow until one contemplates God.

On the path to perfection, Clement thus attaches as much importance to the moral requisite as he gives to the intellectual. The two go hand in hand, for it is impossible to know without living and impossible to live without knowing.

Becoming likened to God and contemplating him cannot be attained with purely rational knowledge: to this end, a life in accordance with the Logos is necessary, a life in accordance with truth. Consequently, good works must accompany intellectual knowledge just as the shadow follows the body.

Two virtues above all embellish the soul of the "true gnostic". The first is freedom from the passions (apátheia); the other is love, the true passion that assures intimate union with God. Love gives perfect peace and enables "the true gnostic" to face the greatest sacrifices, even the supreme sacrifice in following Christ, and makes him climb from step to step to the peak of virtue.

Thus, the ethical ideal of ancient philosophy, that is, liberation from the passions, is defined by Clement and conjugated with love, in the ceaseless process of making oneself similar to God.
In this way the Alexandrian creates the second important occasion for dialogue between the Christian proclamation and Greek philosophy.

We know that St Paul, at the Aeropagus in Athens where Clement was born, had made the first attempt at dialogue with Greek philosophy - and by and large had failed - but they said to him: "We will hear you again".

Clement now takes up this dialogue and ennobles it to the maximum in the Greek philosophical tradition.

As my venerable Predecessor John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio, Clement of Alexandria understood philosophy "as instruction which prepared for Christian faith" (n. 38). And in fact, Clement reached the point of maintaining that God gave philosophy to the Greeks "as their own Testament" (Strom. 6, 8, 67, 1).

For him, the Greek philosophical tradition, almost like the Law for the Jews, was a sphere of "revelation"; they were two streams which flowed ultimately to the Logos himself.

Thus, Clement continued to mark out with determination the path of those who desire "to account" for their own faith in Jesus Christ. He can serve as an example to Christians, catechists and theologians of our time, whom, in the same Encyclical, John Paul II urged "to recover and express to the full the metaphysical dimension of faith in order to enter into a demanding critical dialogue with both contemporary philosophical thought and with the philosophical tradition in all its aspects".

Let us conclude by making our own a few words from the famous "prayer to Christ the Logos" with which Clement concludes his Paedagogus. He implores: "Be gracious... to us your children.... Grant us that we may live in your peace, be transferred to your city, sail over the billows of sin without capsizing, be gently wafted by your Holy Spirit, by ineffable Wisdom, by night and day to the perfect day... giving thanks and praise to the one Father... to the Son, Instructor and Teacher, with the Holy Spirit. Amen!" (Paed. 3, 12, 101).
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I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, including groups from Britain and Ireland, Gibraltar, Scandinavia, Asia and North America. I extend a special welcome to the ecumenical visitors from Finland and to the many students and teachers present. Upon all of you I invoke the abundant Blessings of this Easter Season, and I pray that your visit to Rome will bring you closer to Christ Our Risen Lord. May God bless you all!

St Peter's Square

Wednesday, 25 April 2007 - Origen of Alexandria: life and work (1)


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our meditations on the great figures of the early Church, today we become acquainted with one of the most remarkable. Origen of Alexandria truly was a figure crucial to the whole development of Christian thought. He gathered up the legacy of Clement of Alexandria, on whom we meditated last Wednesday, and launched it for the future in a way so innovative that he impressed an irreversible turning point on the development of Christian thought.

He was a true "maestro", and so it was that his pupils remembered him with nostalgia and emotion: he was not only a brilliant theologian but also an exemplary witness of the doctrine he passed on. Eusebius of Caesarea, his enthusiastic biographer, said "his manner of life was as his doctrine, and his doctrine as his life. Therefore, by the divine power working with him he aroused a great many to his own zeal" (cf. Church History, 6, 3, 7).

His whole life was pervaded by a ceaseless longing for martyrdom. He was 17 years old when, in the 10th year of the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus, the persecution against Christians was unleashed in Alexandria. Clement, his teacher, fled the city, and Origen's father, Leonides, was thrown into prison. His son longed ardently for martyrdom but was unable to realize his desire. So he wrote to his father, urging him not to shrink from the supreme witness of faith. And when Leonides was beheaded, the young Origen felt bound to welcome the example of his father's life.

Forty years later, while preaching in Caesarea, he confessed: "It is of no use to me to have a martyr father if I do not behave well and honour the nobility of my ancestors, that is, the martyrdom of my father and the witness that made him illustrious in Christ" (Hom. Ez Ez 4,8). In a later homily—when, thanks to the extreme tolerance of the Emperor, Philip the Arab, the possibility of bearing witness by shedding one's blood seemed no longer to exist—Origen exclaims: "If God were to grant me to be washed in my blood so as to receive the second Baptism after accepting death for Christ, I would depart this world with assurance.... But those who deserve such things are blessed" (Hom. Iud.7, 12). These words reveal the full force of Origen's longing for Baptism with blood.

And finally, this irresistible yearning was granted to him, at least in part. In the year 250, during Decius' persecution, Origen was arrested and cruelly tortured. Weakened by the suffering to which he had been subjected, he died a few years later. He was not yet 70.

We have mentioned the "irreversible turning point" that Origen impressed upon the history of theology and Christian thought. But of what did this turning point, this innovation so pregnant with consequences, consist? It corresponds in substance to theology's foundation in the explanation of the Scriptures.

Theology to him was essentially explaining, understanding Scripture; or we might also say that his theology was a perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis. In fact, the proper hallmark of Origen's doctrine seems to lie precisely in the constant invitation to move from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in knowledge of God. Furthermore, this so-called "allegorism", as von Balthasar wrote, coincides exactly "with the development of Christian dogma, effected by the teaching of the Church Doctors", who in one way or another accepted Origen's "lessons".

Thus, Tradition and the Magisterium, the foundation and guarantee of theological research, come to take the form of "scripture in action" (cf. Origene: Il mondo, Cristo e la Chiesa, Milan, 1972, p. 43). We can therefore say that the central nucleus of Origen's immense literary opus consists in his "threefold interpretation" of the Bible.

But before describing this "interpretation" it would be right to take an overall look at the Alexandrian's literary production.

St Jerome, in his Epistle 33, lists the titles of 320 books and 310 homilies by Origen. Unfortunately, most of these works have been lost, but even the few that remain make him the most prolific author of Christianity's first three centuries. His field of interest extended from exegesis to dogma, to philosophy, apologetics, ascetical theology and mystical theology. It was a fundamental and global vision of Christian life.

The inspiring nucleus of this work, as we have said, was the "threefold interpretation" of the Scriptures that Origen developed in his lifetime. By this phrase, we wish to allude to the three most important ways in which Origen devoted himself to studying the Scriptures: they are not in sequence; on the contrary, more often than not they overlap.

First of all, he read the Bible, determined to do his utmost to ascertain the biblical text and offer the most reliable version of it. This, for example, was the first step: to know truly what is written and what a specific scriptural passage intentionally and principally meant.

He studied extensively for this purpose and drafted an edition of the Bible with six parallel columns, from left to right, with the Hebrew text in Hebrew characters - he was even in touch with rabbis to make sure he properly understood the Bible's original Hebrew text -, then the Hebrew text transliterated into Greek characters, and then four different translations in Greek that enabled him to compare the different possibilities for its translation. Hence comes the title of "Hexapla" ("six columns"), attributed to this enormous synopsis.

This is the first point: to know exactly what was written, the text as such.

Secondly, Origen read the Bible systematically with his famous Commentaries. They reproduced faithfully the explanations that the teacher offered during his lessons at Alexandria and Caesarea.

Origen proceeded verse by verse with a detailed, broad and analytical approach, with philological and doctrinal notes. He worked with great precision in order to know completely what the sacred authors meant.

Lastly, even before his ordination to the priesthood, Origen was deeply dedicated to preaching the Bible and adapted himself to a varied public. In any case, the teacher can also be perceived in his Homilies, wholly dedicated as he was to the systematic interpretation of the passage under examination, which he analyzed step by step in the sequence of the verses.

Also in his Homilies, Origen took every opportunity to recall the different dimensions of the sense of Sacred Scripture that encourage or express a process of growth in the faith: there is the "literal" sense, but this conceals depths that are not immediately apparent.

The second dimension is the "moral" sense: what we must do in living the word; and finally, the "spiritual" sense, the unity of Scripture which throughout its development speaks of Christ.

It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand the Christological content, hence, the unity in diversity of Scripture. It would be interesting to demonstrate this. I have made a humble attempt in my book, Jesus of Nazareth, to show in today's context these multiple dimensions of the Word, of Sacred Scripture, whose historical meaning must in the first place be respected.

But this sense transcends us, moving us towards God in the light of the Holy Spirit, and shows us the way, shows us how to live. Mention of it is found, for example, in the ninth Homily on Numbers, where Origen likens Scripture to [fresh] walnuts: "The doctrine of the Law and the Prophets at the school of Christ is like this", the homilist says; "the letter is bitter, like the [green-covered] skin; secondly, you will come to the shell, which is the moral doctrine; thirdly, you will discover the meaning of the mysteries, with which the souls of the saints are nourished in the present life and the future" (Hom. Num. Nb 9,7).

It was especially on this route that Origen succeeded in effectively promoting the "Christian interpretation" of the Old Testament, brilliantly countering the challenge of the heretics, especially the Gnostics and Marcionites, who made the two Testaments disagree to the extent that they rejected the Old Testament.

In this regard, in the same Homily on Numbers, the Alexandrian says, "I do not call the Law an "Old Testament' if I understand it in the Spirit. The Law becomes an "Old Testament' only for those who wish to understand it carnally", that is, for those who stop at the literal meaning of the text.

But "for us, who understand it and apply it in the Spirit and in the Gospel sense, the Law is ever new and the two Testaments are a new Testament for us, not because of their date in time but because of the newness of the meaning.... Instead, for the sinner and those who do not respect the covenant of love, even the Gospels age" (cf. ibid., 9, 4).

I invite you - and so I conclude - to welcome into your hearts the teaching of this great master of faith. He reminds us with deep delight that in the prayerful reading of Scripture and in consistent commitment to life, the Church is ever renewed and rejuvenated. The Word of God, which never ages and is never exhausted, is a privileged means to this end. Indeed, it is the Word of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, which always guides us to the whole truth (cf. Benedict XVI, Address at the International Congress for the 50th Anniversary of Dei Verbum, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 September 2005, p. 7).

And let us pray to the Lord that he will give us thinkers, theologians and exegetes who discover this multifaceted dimension, this ongoing timeliness of Sacred Scripture, its newness for today. Let us pray that the Lord will help us to read Sacred Scripture in a prayerful way, to be truly nourished with the true Bread of Life, with his Word.
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I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims. I am pleased to greet those attending the Thirteenth World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, as well as pilgrims from the following countries: England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, and the United States of America. May God bless you all!

St Peter's Square

Audiences 2005-2013 40407