Benedict XVI Homilies 7116
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this Eucharistic celebration we praise the Lord for Mary’s divine motherhood, a mystery solemnly confessed and proclaimed in Ephesus at the Ecumenical Council of 431. To this place, so dear to the Christian community, my venerable predecessors the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II came as pilgrims; the latter visited this Shrine on 30 November 1979, just over a year after the beginning of his Pontificate. Another of my Predecessors was in this country not as Pope, but as the Papal Representative, from January 1935 to December 1944, Blessed John XXIII, Angelo Roncalli, whose memory still enkindles great devotion and affection. He very much esteemed and admired the Turkish people. Here I would like to quote an entry in his Journal of a Soul: “I love the Turks; I appreciate the natural qualities of these people who have their own place reserved in the march of civilization” (PP 233-4). He also left to the Church and the world the legacy of his Christian optimism, rooted in deep faith and constant union with God. In that same spirit, I turn to this nation and, in a special way, to the “little flock” of Christ living in its midst, in order to offer a word of encouragement and to manifest the affection of the whole Church. With great love I greet all of you here present, the faithful of Izmir, Mersin, Iskenderun and Antakia, and others from different parts of the world, as well as those who could not take part in this celebration but are spiritually united with us. I greet in particular Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini of Izmir, Archbishop Giuseppe Bernardini, Archbishop emeritus of Izmir, Bishop Luigi Padovese, the priests and the religious. Thank you for your presence, your witness and your service to the Church in this blessed land where, at its very beginnings, the Christian community experienced great growth, a fact reflected in the numerous pilgrimages made to Turkey to this day.
Mother of God – Mother of the Church
We have listened to a passage from Saint John’s Gospel which invites us to contemplate the moment of the Redemption when Mary, united to her Son in the offering of his sacrifice, extended her motherhood to all men and women, and in particular to the disciples of Jesus. A privileged witness to that event was the author of the Fourth Gospel, John, the only one of the Apostles to remain at Golgotha with the Mother of Jesus and the other women. Mary’s motherhood, which began with her fiat in Nazareth, is fulfilled at the foot of the Cross. Although it is true – as Saint Anselm says – that “from the moment of her fiat Mary began to carry all of us in her womb”, the maternal vocation and mission of the Virgin towards those who believe in Christ actually began when Jesus said to her: “Woman, behold your son!” (Jn 19,26). Looking down from the Cross at his Mother and the beloved disciple by her side, the dying Christ recognized the firstfruits of the family which he had come to form in the world, the beginning of the Church and the new humanity. For this reason, he addressed Mary as “Woman”, not as “Mother”, the term which he was to use in entrusting her to his disciple: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19,27). The Son of God thus fulfilled his mission: born of the Virgin in order to share our human condition in everything but sin, at his return to the Father he left behind in the world the sacrament of the unity of the human race (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1): the family “brought into unity from the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Saint Cyprian, De Orat. Dom., 23: PL 4, 536), at whose heart is this new bond between the Mother and the disciple. Mary’s divine motherhood and her ecclesial motherhood are thus inseparably united.
Mother of God – Mother of Unity
The first reading presented what could be called the “Gospel” of the Apostle of the Gentiles: all men and women, including the pagans, are called in Christ to share fully in the mystery of salvation. The text also contains the expression that I have chosen as the motto for my Apostolic Journey: “He, Christ, is our peace” (Ep 2,14). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us that Jesus Christ has not only brought us peace, but that he is our peace. And he justifies this statement by referring to the mystery of the Cross: by shedding “his blood”, by offering in sacrifice “his flesh”, Jesus destroyed hostility “in himself” and created “in himself one new man in place of the two” (Ep 2,14-16). The Apostle explains how, in a truly unforeseen way, messianic peace has now come about in Christ’s own person and his saving mystery. He explains it by writing, during his imprisonment, to the Christian community which lived here, in Ephesus: “to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ep 1,1), as he says in the salutation of the Letter. The Apostle wishes them “grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ep 1,2). Grace is the power that transforms man and the world; peace is the mature fruit of this transformation. Christ is grace; Christ is peace. Paul knows that he has been sent to proclaim a “mystery”, a divine plan that only in the fullness of time has been carried out and revealed in Christ: namely, that “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Ep 3,6). This mystery is accomplished, in salvation history, in the Church, the new People in which, now that the old dividing wall has been broken down, Jews and pagans find themselves united. Like Christ himself, the Church is not only the instrument of unity, but also its efficacious sign. And the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, is the Mother of that mystery of unity which Christ and the Church inseparably signify and build up, in the world and throughout history.
Let us implore peace for Jerusalem and the whole world
The Apostle of the Gentiles says that Christ “has made us both one” (Ep 2,14): these words properly refer to the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the mystery of eternal salvation, yet they can also extend, by analogy, to the relationship between the peoples and civilizations present in the world. Christ “came to proclaim peace” (Ep 2,17), not only between Jews and non-Jews, but between all nations, since all have their origin in the same God, the one Creator and Lord of the universe. Strengthened by God’s word, from here in Ephesus, a city blessed by the presence of Mary Most Holy – who we know is loved and venerated also by Muslims – let us lift up to the Lord a special prayer for peace between peoples.From this edge of the Anatolian peninsula, a natural bridge between continents, let us implore peace and reconciliation, above all for those dwelling in the Land called “Holy” and considered as such by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike: it is the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, destined to be the home of a people that would become a blessing for all the nations (cf. Gn 12,1-3). Peace for all of humanity! May Isaiah’s prophecy soon be fulfilled: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is 2,4). We all need this universal peace; and the Church is called to be not only the prophetic herald, but even more, the “sign and instrument” of this peace. Against the backdrop of universal peace, the yearning for full communion and concord between all Christians becomes even more profound and intense. Present at today’s celebration are Catholic faithful of various rites, and this is a reason for joyful praise of God. These rites, when they converge in unity and common witness, are an expression of that marvellous variety which adorns the Bride of Christ. In this regard, the unity of the Ordinaries of the Episcopal Conference in fellowship and the sharing of pastoral efforts must set an example.
In today’s liturgy we have repeated, as the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm, the song of praise proclaimed by the Virgin of Nazareth on meeting her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth (cf. Lc 1,39). Our hearts too were consoled by the words of the Psalmist: “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss” (Ps 85,10). Dear brothers and sisters, in this visit I have wanted to convey my personal love and spiritual closeness, together with that of the universal Church, to the Christian community here in Turkey, a small minority which faces many challenges and difficulties daily. With firm trust let us sing, together with Mary, a magnificat of praise and thanksgiving to God who has looked with favour upon the lowliness of his servant (cf. Lc 1,48). Let us sing joyfully, even when we are tested by difficulties and dangers, as we have learned from the fine witness given by the Roman priest Don Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration. Mary teaches us that the source of our joy and our one sure support is Christ, and she repeats his words: “Do not be afraid” (Mc 6,50), “I am with you” (Mt 28,20). Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany us always on our way! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! Aziz Meryem Mesih’in Annesi bizim için Dua et.Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the conclusion of my pastoral visit to Turkey, I have the joy of meeting the Catholic community of Istanbul and celebrating the Eucharist in thanksgiving to the Lord for all his gifts. I wish first to greet the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, and the Armenian Patriarch, His Beatitude Mesrob II, my venerable brothers, who have graciously joined us for this celebration. I express to them my deep gratitude for this fraternal gesture, which honours the entire Catholic community.
Dear brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church, Bishops, priests and deacons, religious and lay men and women belonging to the different communities of the city and the various rites of the Church: I greet all of you with joy in the words of Saint Paul to the Galatians: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!” (Ga 1,3). I thank the civil authorities present for their gracious welcome, and particularly all who made it possible for my visit to take place. Finally, I greet the representatives of the other ecclesial communities and the other religions who are present. How can we fail to think of the various events which took place here and forged our common history? At the same time I feel obliged to recall with particular gratitude the many witnesses of the Gospel of Christ who urge us to work together for the unity of all his disciples in truth and charity!
In this Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, I wish to thank God for all his works in human history and to invoke upon everyone the gifts of the Spirit of holiness. As Saint Paul has just reminded us, the Spirit is the enduring source of our faith and unity. He awakens within us true knowledge of Jesus and he puts on our lips the words of faith that enable us to acknowledge the Lord. Jesus had already said to Peter after his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi: “Blessed are you, Simon, Son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Mt 16,17). We are indeed blessed when the Holy Spirit opens us to the joy of believing and makes us enter the great family of Christians, his Church. For all her rich diversity, in the variety of gifts, ministries and works, the Church is already one, since “it is the same God who inspires them all in every one”. Saint Paul adds that: “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”. To manifest the Spirit, to live by the Spirit, is not to live for oneself alone, but to let oneself be conformed to Christ Jesus by becoming, like him, the servant of his brothers and sisters. Here is a very concrete teaching for each of us Bishops, called by the Lord to guide his people by becoming servants like him; it is also true for all the Lord’s ministers and for all the faithful: when we received the sacrament of Baptism, all of us were immersed in the Lord’s death and resurrection, “we were given to drink of the one Spirit” and Christ’s life became our own, that we might live like him, that we might love our brothers and sisters as he has loved us (cf. Jn 13,34).
Twenty-seven years ago, in this very Cathedral, my predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, expressed his hope that the dawn of the new millennium would “rise upon a Church that has found again her full unity, in order to bear witness better, amid the exacerbated tensions of this world, to God’s transcendent love, manifested in his Son Jesus Christ” (Homily in the Cathedral of Istanbul, 5). This hope has not yet been realized, but the Pope still longs to see it fulfilled, and it impels us, as disciples of Christ advancing with our hesitations and limitations along the path to unity, to act ceaselessly “for the good of all”, putting ecumenism at the forefront of our ecclesial concerns. Thus we will truly live by the Spirit of Jesus, at the service of the common good.
Gathered this morning in this house of prayer consecrated to the Lord, how can we not evoke the other fine image that Saint Paul uses in speaking of the Church, the image of the building whose stones are closely fitted together to form a single structure, and whose cornerstone, on which everything else rests, is Christ? He is the source of the new life given us by the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Saint John has just proclaimed it: “out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water”. This gushing water, this living water which Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman, was seen by the prophets Zechariah and Ezechiel issuing forth from the side of the Temple, so that it could make fruitful the waters of the Dead Sea: a marvellous image of the promise of life that God has always made to his people and that Jesus came to fulfil. In a world where men are so loath to share the earth’s goods and there is a dramatic shortage of water, this good so precious for the life of the body, the Church discovers that she possesses an even greater treasure. As the Body of Christ, she has been charged to proclaim his Gospel to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28,19), transmitting to the men and women of our time the Good News which not only illuminates but overturns their lives, even to the point of conquering death itself. This Good News is not just a word, but a person, Christ himself, risen and alive! By the grace of the sacraments, the water flowing from his open side on the Cross has become an overflowing spring, “rivers of living water”, a flood that no one can halt, a gift that restores life. How could Christians keep for themselves alone what they have received? How could they hoard this treasure and bury this spring? The Church’s mission is not to preserve power, or to gain wealth; her mission is to offer Christ, to give a share in Christ’s own life, man’s most precious good, which God himself gives us in his Son.
Brothers and Sisters, your communities walk the humble path of daily companionship with those who do not share our faith, yet “profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us adore the one, merciful God” (Lumen Gentium LG 16). You know well that the Church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom, in order to reveal the One whom she cannot hide, Christ Jesus, who loved us to the end on the Cross and who has given us his Spirit, the living presence of God among us and deep within us. Be ever receptive to the Spirit of Christ and so become attentive to those who thirst for justice, peace, dignity and respect for themselves and for their brothers and sisters. Live in harmony, in accordance with the words of the Lord: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13,35).
Brothers and sisters, let us now hand over our desire to serve the Lord to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Servant of the Lord. She prayed in company with the Apostles in the Upper Room, in the days leading up to Pentecost. Together with her, let us pray to Christ her Son: Send forth, O Lord, your Holy Spirit upon the whole Church, that he may dwell in each of her members and make them heralds of your Gospel!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The first antiphon of this evening's celebration is presented as the opening of the Advent Season and re-echoes as the antiphon of the entire liturgical year. Let us listen to it again: "Proclaim to the peoples: God our Saviour is coming".
At the beginning of a new yearly cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her proclamation to all the peoples and sums it up in two words "God comes". These words, so concise, contain an ever new evocative power.
Let us pause a moment to reflect: it is not used in the past tense - God has come, - nor in the future - God will come, - but in the present: "God comes".
At a closer look, this is a continuous present, that is, an ever-continuous action: it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again. In whichever moment, "God comes".
The verb "to come" appears here as a theological verb, indeed theological, since it says something about God's very nature.
Proclaiming that "God comes" is equivalent, therefore, to simply announcing God himself, through one of his essential and qualifying features: his being the God-who-comes.
Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly. It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat: Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now!
The one true God, "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.
He is a Father who never stops thinking of us and, in the extreme respect of our freedom, desires to meet us and visit us; he wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us.
His "coming" is motivated by the desire to free us from evil and death, from all that prevents our true happiness. God comes to save us.
The Fathers of the Church observe that the "coming" of God - continuous and, as it were, co-natural with his very being - is centred in the two principal comings of Christ: his Incarnation and his glorious return at the end of time (cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 15,1: PG 33, 870).
The Advent Season lives the whole of this polarity.
In the first days, the accent falls on the expectation of the Lord's Final Coming, as the texts of this evening's celebration demonstrate.
With Christmas approaching, the dominant note instead is on the commemoration of the event at Bethlehem, so that we may recognize it as the "fullness of time".
Between these two "manifested" comings it is possible to identify a third, which St Bernard calls "intermediate" and "hidden", and which occurs in the souls of believers and, as it were, builds a "bridge" between the first and the last coming.
"In the first", St Bernard wrote, "Christ was our redemption; in the last coming he will reveal himself to us as our life: in this lies our repose and consolation" (Discourse 5 on Advent, 1).
The archetype for that coming of Christ, which we might call a "spiritual incarnation", is always Mary. Just as the Virgin Mother pondered in her heart on the Word made flesh, so every individual soul and the entire Church are called during their earthly pilgrimage to wait for Christ who comes and to welcome him with faith and love ever new.
The liturgy of Advent thus casts light on how the Church gives voice to our expectation of God, deeply inscribed in the history of humanity; unfortunately, this expectation is often suffocated or is deviated in false directions.
As a Body mystically united to Christ the Head, the Church is a sacrament, that is, a sign and an effective instrument of this waiting for God.
To an extent known to him alone, the Christian community can hasten his Final Coming, helping humanity to go forth to meet the Lord who comes.
And she does this first of all, but not exclusively, with prayer.
Next, essential and inseparable from prayer are "good works", as the prayer for this First Sunday of Advent declares, and in which we ask the Heavenly Father to inspire in us "the desire to go with good works" to Christ who comes.
In this perspective, Advent is particularly suited to being a season lived in communion with all those who - and thanks be to God they are numerous - hope for a more just and a more fraternal world.
In this commitment to justice, people of every nationality and culture, believers and non-believers, can to a certain extent meet. Indeed, they are all inspired by a common desire, even if their motivations are different, for a future of justice and peace.
Peace is the goal to which the whole of humanity aspires! For believers "peace" is one of the most beautiful names of God, who wants all his children to agree with one another, as I also had the opportunity to recall on my Pilgrimage in Turkey in the past few days.
A hymn of peace rang out in Heaven when God became man and was born of a woman in the fullness of time (cf. Ga 4,4).
Let us therefore begin this new Advent - a time granted to us by the Lord of time - by reawakening in our hearts the expectation of the God-who-comes and the hope that his Name will be hallowed, that his Kingdom of justice and peace will come, that his will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Let us allow the Virgin Mary, Mother of the God-who-comes and Mother of Hope, to guide us in this waiting.
May she whom we will celebrate as Immaculate in a few days obtain for us that we be found holy and immaculate in love at the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the
Parish of Our Lady Star of Evangelization,
I am pleased to be with you for the dedication of this beautiful new parish church: the first that I have dedicated to the Lord since I took up office as Bishop of Rome. The solemn liturgy for the dedication of a church is a moment of intense and common spiritual joy for all God's people who live in the area: I wholeheartedly join in your joy today.
I greet with affection the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Camillo Ruini, Bishop Paolino Schiavon, Auxiliary Bishop of the Southern Sector, and Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, Secretary of the Roman Commission for the Preservation of Faith and for the Provision of New Churches in Rome. I extend my deep gratitude to them and to all who have contributed in various capacities to making this new parish centre a reality.
This church is being inaugurated during the Season of Advent, which the Diocese of Rome for the past 16 years has dedicated to increasing awareness and collecting funds in order to build new churches on the city's outskirts. It comes in addition to more than 50 parish complexes that have already been built in recent years, thanks to the financial efforts of the Vicariate, the contributions of numerous faithful and the attention of the civil Authorities.
I ask all the faithful and citizens of good will to persevere generously in this task so that neighbourhoods that are still without a church may have their parish centre as soon as possible.
Especially in our broadly secularized social context, the parish is a beacon that radiates the light of the faith and thus responds to the deepest and truest desires of the human heart, giving meaning and hope to the lives of individuals and families.
I greet your parish priest, the priests who work with him, the members of the Parish Pastoral Council and the other lay people involved in the various pastoral activities. I greet each one of you with affection. Your community is lively and young!
It is young because it was founded in 1989, and especially because of the effective beginning of its activities. It is young because in this North Torrino district the majority of families are young, so children and young people abound.
Thus, the laborious but fascinating task of educating children in the life and joy of faith is incumbent on your community. I am confident that together, in a spirit of sincere communion, you will be involved in preparation for the sacraments of Christian initiation and will help your children, who from now on will find here welcoming premises and adequate structures to grow in love and in fidelity to the Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have dedicated a church - a building in which God and man desire to meet: a house that unites us, in which we are attracted to God, and being with God unites us with one another.
The three Readings of this solemn liturgy are intended to show us under very different aspects the meaning of a sacred building as a house of God and a house of men and women.
We have before us, in these three Readings that we have heard, three important themes: the Word of God, which gathers people together, in the First Reading; the city of God, which in the Second Reading appears at the same time as a bride; and lastly, the profession of Jesus Christ as the Son of God Incarnate, expressed first of all by Peter, who thus founded the living Church which is manifest in the physical building of every church. Let us now listen more attentively to what the three Readings tell us.
First of all, there is the account of the rebuilding of the People of Israel, of the Holy City Jerusalem and of the temple subsequent to their return from the Exile. After the great optimism of the homecoming, the people - on arrival - found themselves facing a wasteland. How were they to rebuild it?
The external rebuilding, so necessary, could not proceed unless the people were first rebuilt as a people - unless a common criterion of justice was developed that would unite them all and regulate the life and activity of each one.
The people who had returned needed, so to speak, a "constitution", a fundamental law for their life. And they knew that this constitution, if it was to be just and lasting, if it was to lead definitively to justice, could not be the result of their own autonomous intention.
True justice cannot be invented by man: rather, it has to be discovered. In other words, it must come from God, who is justice. The Word of God, therefore, rebuilds the city.
What the Reading tells us is a reminder of the Sinai event. It brings to life the event of Sinai: the holy Word of God, which shows men and women the way of justice, is solemnly read and explained. Thus, it becomes present as a force from within which builds the country anew. This happens on New Year's Day. God's Word ushers in a new year, it ushers in a period of history.
The Word of God is always a renewing force which gives meaning and order to our time. At the end of the Reading is joy: people are invited to the solemn banquet; they are urged to make a gift to those who have nothing and thereby to unite everyone in the joyful communion that is based on the Word of God.
This Reading ends in these beautiful words: the joy of the Lord is our strength. I believe that it is not difficult to see that these words of the Old Testament are really true for us today.
The church building exists so that God's Word may be listened to, explained and understood by us; it exists so that God's Word may be active among us as a force that creates justice and love. It exists in particular so that in it the celebration in which God wants humanity to participate may begin, not only at the end of time but already today. It exists so that the knowledge of justice and goodness may be awakened within us, and there is no other source for knowing and strengthening this knowledge of justice and goodness other than the Word of God. It exists so that we may learn to live the joy of the Lord who is our strength.
Let us pray to the Lord to gladden us with his Word; to gladden us with faith, so that this joy may renew us and the world!
Thus, may the reading of the Word of God, the renewal of the revelation of Sinai after the Exile, serve then for communion with God and among men and women. This communion is expressed in the rebuilding of the temple, the city and its walls.
The Word of God and the rebuilding of the city in the Book of Nehemiah are closely connected: on the one hand, without the Word of God there is neither city nor community; on the other, the Word of God does not remain only a discourse but leads to constructing, it is a Word that builds.
The following texts from the Book of Nehemiah on the construction of city walls seem at first reading to be very practical and even prosaic in their details. However, they constitute a truly spiritual and theological theme.
A prophetic word of that age states that God himself built a wall of fire to encircle Jerusalem (cf. Za 2,8ff.). God himself is the city's living defence, and not only in that time but always. Thus, the Old Testament account introduces us into the vision of the Apocalypse, which we heard as the Second Reading.
I would like to stress two aspects of this vision. The city is the bride. It is not merely a building of stone. All that is said about the city in grandiose images refers to something alive: to the Church of living stones, where even now the future city is being formed.
It refers to the new people who, in the breaking of the bread, become one body with Christ (cf. 1Co 10,16ff.).
Just as in their love man and woman become "one flesh", so Christ and humanity gathered in the Church become through Christ's love "one spirit" (cf. 1Co 6,17 Ep 5,29ff.). Paul calls Christ the new, the last Adam: definitive man. And he calls him "a life-giving spirit" (1Co 15,45). With him, we become one; with him, the Church becomes a life-giving spirit. The holy City, where there is no longer a temple because it is inhabited by God, is the image of this community that is formed from Christ.
The other aspect that I wanted to mention are the 12 foundations of the city, above which are the names of the Twelve Apostles. The foundations of the city are not built of material stones but of living beings - they are the Apostles, with the witness of their faith. The Apostles remain the pillars that support the new city, the Church, through the ministry of Apostolic Succession: through the Bishops.
The candles we light on the walls of the church in the places where anointings will take place are reminiscent precisely of the Apostles: their faith is the true light that illumines the Church and at the same time, the foundation that supports the Church. The Apostles' faith is not something antiquated. Since it is a truth, it is the foundation on which we stand, the light by which we see.
We come to the Gospel. How often have we heard it! Peter's profession of faith is the steadfast foundation of the Church. With Peter, let us say to Jesus: "You are Christ, the Son of the living God". The Word of God is not only a word. In Jesus Christ it is present in our midst as a Person.
This is the deepest purpose of this sacred building's existence: the church exists so that in it we may encounter Christ, Son of the living God. God has a Face. God has a Name. In Christ, God was made flesh and gave himself to us in the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.
The Word is flesh. It is given to us under the appearances of bread and thus truly becomes the Bread on which we live. We live on Truth. This Truth is a Person: he speaks to us and we speak to him. The Church is the place of our encounter with the Son of the living God and thus becomes the place for the encounter among ourselves. This is the joy that God gives us: that he made himself one of us, that we can touch him and that he dwells among us. The joy of God is our strength.
Thus, the Gospel finally introduces us into the period in which we live today. It leads us towards Mary, whom we honour as the Star of Evangelization.
At a crucial time in history, Mary offered herself, her body and soul, to God as a dwelling place. In her and from her the Son of God took flesh. Through her the Word was made flesh (cf. Jn 1,14).
Thus, it is Mary who tells us what Advent is: going forth to meet the Lord who comes to meet us; waiting for him, listening to him, looking at him.
Mary tells us why church buildings exist: they exist so that room may be made within us for the Word of God; so that within us and through us the Word may also be made flesh today.
Thus, we greet her as the Star of Evangelization: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us so that we may live the Gospel. Help us not to hide the light of the Gospel under the bushel of our meagre faith. Help us by virtue of the Gospel to be the light of the world, so that men and women may see goodness and glorify the Father who is in Heaven (cf. Mt 5,14ff.). Amen!
: MIDNIGHT MASS - SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD
Benedict XVI Homilies 7116