Reflections from Pope John Paul II on Advent
Obtained from the Vatican Website at www.vatican.va
First Sunday of Advent - December 2, 2001
Sunday, 2 December 2001
Dearest Brothers and Sisters!
1. With today's first Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. The Church takes up her journey again, and invites us to reflect more intensely on the mystery of Christ, a mystery that is always new and that time cannot exhaust. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Thanks to him, the history of humanity proceeds as a pilgrimage toward the fulfilment of the Kingdom which he inaugurated with his Incarnation and victory over sin and death.
For this reason, Advent is synonymous with hope: not the vain waiting for a faceless god, but concrete and certain trust in the return of him who has already visited us, of the "Spouse" who with his blood has sealed with humanity a pact that is an eternal covenant. It is a hope that stimulates vigilance, the characteristic virtue of this special liturgical season. Vigilance in prayer, fostered by a loving expectation; vigilance in the dynamics of concrete charity, aware that the Kingdom of God comes close whenever men learn to live as brothers.
2. The Christian community begins Advent with these resolutions, keeping the spirit vigilant, the better to receive the message of the Word of God. In today's liturgy we hear the famous and wonderful oracle of the Prophet Isaiah, spoken at a time of crisis in the history of Israel. "In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it;... they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again" (cf. Isaiah 2,1-5).
These words contain a promise of peace that is more urgent than ever for humanity and, in particular, for the Holy Land, from where even today, unfortunately, sad and worrying news reaches us. May the words of the Prophet Isaiah inspire the minds and hearts of believers and of all men and women of good will, so that the day of fasting on 14 December and the meeting in Assisi of the representatives of the world religions next 24 January will help to create a more serene and solidary climate in the world.
3. I entrust this invocation for peace to Mary, vigilant Virgin and Mother of hope. In a few days, with renewed faith we will celebrate the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception. May she guide us on the way, helping every human person and nation to look to the "mountain of the Lord", an image of the final triumph of Christ and the advent of his Kingdom of peace.
"In the days to come,
the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established
as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;...
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again" (cf. Isaiah 2,1-5).
We pray for the conversion of our enemies to Christianity, so they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as the redeemer and savior of the world.
We pray for the soldiers as they spend Christmas away from home, for comfort, strength and consolation- for the spirit of justice and forgiveness to reign in their hearts as they do the duties of the country.
SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Saturday, 8 December 2001
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We commemorate the extraordinary intervention by which the heavenly Father preserved from original sin the One who would become the Mother of his Son made man. Today the eyes of all believers look to Mary, who is radiant in glory in heaven in the midst of the assembly of the Saints.
Dante's thought in the 32nd canto of the third part of the Divine Comedy, Paradise, comes to mind. St Bernard, the final guide of Dante's journey beyond earth, directs the words to the pilgrim, "Now look upon the face that most resembles Christ, whose radiance alone can dispose you to see Christ" (Paradiso, canto 32, verses 85-87).
St Bernard invites us to contemplate the countenance of Mary, because more than any other creature, the Mother resembles her Son, Jesus. The splendour that radiates from her countenance can help Dante sustain the impact of the beatifying vision of the glorious face of Christ.
2. How precious is the exhortation of the holy Doctor for us pilgrims on earth while we commemorate with joy the "All Beautiful One"! The Immaculate Virgin however invites us not to fix our eyes on her but to pass beyond, and as much as possible, to enter into the mystery in which she was conceived: the mystery of God who is One and Three, full of grace and fidelity.
As the moon shines with the light of the sun, so the immaculate splendour of Mary is totally relative to that of the Redeemer. The Mother leads us to her Son; passing through her, we reach Christ. For this reason, Dante Allighieri notes fittingly: "that her radiance alone can dispose you to see Christ".
3. As I do every year, this afternoon I will go in pilgrimage with great joy to Piazza di Spagna, to join the traditional homage that the city of Rome pays to the Immaculate Virgin. To her I will again entrust the Church and mankind, in this critical moment of history.
To gain confidence and to discover the meaning of life, men and women need to meet Christ. The Virgin Mary is the sure guide to the source of light and love that is Jesus: she prepares us for the meeting with him. The Christian people have wisely understood this reality of salvation, and turning to the "All Holy" One, with filial confidence they say to her "and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary".
Second Sunday of Advent - December 9, 2001
Sunday, 9 December 2001
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I have invited Catholics to take part in a day of fasting next Friday, 14 December, to implore God for a stable peace that is based on justice. This initiative has also found support among the faithful of other religions, particularly Jews and Muslims, as well as among many persons of good will.
In today's complex international situation, humanity is called to mobilize its best energies so that love may prevail over hatred, peace over war, truth over falsehood and forgiveness over revenge.
2. Peace or violence spring up in the human heart over which God alone has power. Convinced of this, believers have always used, against the most serious dangers, the weapons of fasting and prayer, along with concrete works of charity.
Fasting expresses sorrow for a serious misfortune, but also the intention of taking a certain responsibility by confessing our sins and being resolved to turn our hearts and actions to greater justice toward God and neighbour. By fasting, we acknowledge with confident humility that true personal and social renewal can only come from God, on whom we are all totally dependent. Beyond false forms of pietism or manipulative assistance, fasting makes it possible to share our daily bread with those who are without.
While I hope that the entire People of God will be able to fast next Friday in a spirit of faith, humility and meekness, I thank the diocesan pastors for the careful way in which they are preparing for this day in their communities.
3. This initiative has special meaning for us Christians, because we are in the season of Advent, a season of hope in which we are called to devote ourselves to preparing the way of the Lord, who has come into history as our Saviour and will return at the end of time as our merciful Judge.
Moreover, the date of 14 December coincides with the end of Ramadan, during which the followers of Islam express their submission to the One God through fasting. I fervently hope that our common attitude of religious repentance will increase reciprocal understanding between Christians and Muslims who are called, today more than ever, to build justice and peace together.
May the Virgin Mary, whose feast we solemnly celebrated yesterday and who is also venerated with deep admiration by Muslims, help us, and obtain peace for the whole world.
Third Sunday of Advent - December 16, 2001
Third Sunday of Advent
16 December 2001
1. Today, on the Third Sunday of Advent, we hear again the joyful announcement, "rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4,4). They are words taken from the Letter of St Paul to the Philippians that sum up today's liturgy.
The invitation to joy has a definite motive: "the Lord is at hand" (Phil 4,5). It is a truth known to the pious Israelite, and from it he drew confidence and consolation; it is a truth that has in Christ its perfected foundation. "In him, in fact, God has drawn near to everyone: He is the Messiah, the "Emmanuel", "God with us" (cf. Is 7,14; Mt 1,23). Joy is the heart of the Gospel of Christmas.
2. As an expert Mother, the Church knows better than any other institution the difficulties and sufferings that are part of the human condition. She knows well that in the life of many peoples and persons sadness prevails over joy, anxiety over hope.
It is particularly to these men and women that the Christmas message is proclaimed in a preferential way because "[Christ] brought the good news of salvation to the poor, to prisoners freedom, and to those in sorrow joy" (Fourth Eucharistic Prayer). He is the genuine liberator of the human person, sent by God to redeem him from the power of evil and death. The joy that Christ gives to his friends derives from this deep and integral liberation. It is a joy that, like his peace, is different from that of the world (cf. Jn 14,27) which is superficial and fleeting.
The serious problems surrounding human life sometimes make it difficult to recognize the gifts of Christ. The mission of the Church, that is coached by the Holy Spirit, is precisely that of making his gifts visible and of witnessing to their presence. Today humanity yearns especially for the gifts of joy and peace. It is our mission as believers, with the eloquence of love expressed in deeds, to become every day the prophetic ferment of a world reconciled by love and animated by divine joy.
3. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we honour as the "Cause of our joy" help us to be faithful to this mission. Who more than she experienced the closeness of the Lord, source of joy and peace? We now entrust ourselves to her maternal protection in order to be at all times, but especially now, credible witnesses of the joy of Christ.
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