"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
St. Theodosios the Hesychast (Feast Day - November 27)
Towards the end of the thirteenth century, in the region of Trnovo in Bulgaria, a great Saint was born—one who is rather unknown in our country: St. Theodosios the Hesychast.
From his youth he was most pious and devout, and at a young age dedicated himself to God, choosing the holy monastic life in a monastery near Vidin. At his tonsure he was named Theodosios. He was adorned with many virtues, but chiefly with holy humility, the foundation of all the others.
After the repose of his Spiritual Father, he began searching for a new guide to the godly way of life, aflame with desire for silence and prayer.
Then, in 1331, he heard of the arrival in Bulgaria of the renowned St. Gregory of Sinai, who, along with his disciples, brought the hesychastic tradition from Sinai, Crete, and the Holy Mountain—which he had left, owing to barbarian incursions—to Bulgaria. From there, hesychasm spread and gave rise to a significant spiritual blossoming throughout the Balkans in general, and later in Russia.
St. Theodosios hastened to unite himself with the newly arrived Byzantine Hesychasts, to whom he submitted himself with utmost humility, learning through experience the mystery of the knowledge of God (θεογνωσίας) and reaping the sweet fruits of watchfulness (νήψεως) and prayer of the heart.
Turkish invaders, however, began to make threatening appearances in this region of Paroria, as it was called, at the boundaries between the Roman Empire and Bulgaria. The Hesychasts were forced to seek aid and protection from the Bulgarian King, John Alexander (1331-1371). This was granted through the intercessions of St. Theodosios, whom the king knew and admired. Thus, the king readily placed the monks under his protection and, for their sakes, built four monasteries with defensive towers.
When St. Gregory of Sinai reposed in the Lord in 1346, the multinational brotherhood of monks requested St. Theodosios to assume the Abbacy. The Saint declined and departed with certain other brothers (among them the great Greek-Bulgarian Saint, St. Romilos, whom our Church commemorates on 18 September) for the Holy Mountain.
But there, too, their hesychastic sojourn was of short duration because the barbaric invaders obliged them to move yet again. St. Theodosios first went to Thessalonica, then to the Skete of the Venerable Forerunner in Veria, and later to Constantinople. Finally, the Saint returned to his homeland and between 1348 and 1350 built a monastery on Mt. Kilifarevo, near Trnovo, with generous aid and subsidy from the king.
At that time, St. Theodosios had a vision of a mountain covered with sundry flowers and a great variety of wondrous trees with diverse and beautiful fruit. A radiant man was ordered to pick the fruit. The Saint understood that the vision revealed the future glory of the place and that that wilderness would be filled with monks who would bear a rich crop of virtues for the Heavenly Cultivator.
And, indeed, for at least half a century the Monastery of St. Theodosios was distinguished as a beacon of faith and virtue and as a center of spiritual renewal. Fifty or so disciples gathered around the Saint—illustrious men adorned with virtues and talents and with godly and worldly wisdom, so that the Monastery of Kilifarevo would justly be characterized as the “University of Medieval Bulgaria”!
The monastery was founded on the spiritual precepts of St. Gregory of Sinai. Obedience, charity, good administration and management, the cultivation of silence and noetic prayer predominated. A great emphasis was also placed, however, on culture and education: the copying of manuscripts, the translation of Patristic texts into Slavonic, calligraphy, the teaching of the liturgical arts, etc.
Among the renowned disciples of St. Theodosios was St. Evthymios, who later became Patriarch of Trnovo (1375-1393). His memory is honored by the Bulgarian Church on 20 January. At the Monastery of Kilifarevo, Evthymios was deemed worthy of a wondrous experience, which revealed the sanctity of his Spiritual Father and teacher St. Theodosios:
Once, he went for his customary evening visit to the cell of his Abba. But despite the fact that he recited the usual prayer [“Through the prayers of the Holy Fathers...”—Trans.] and knocked repeatedly at the door, there was no answer. Then from a window he saw a marvelous and otherworldly sight: St. Theodosios was at prayer in his cell with his hands and eyes raised to heaven, bathed from head to foot in a heavenly flame, which made him radiant, but without consuming him! He was all Light, all Heavenly Fire! Evthymios withdrew in trembling, glorifying God.
The next day, Evthymios found the Saint sitting outside his cell shedding bitter tears. He anxiously asked him the reason for his mourning, and the Saint revealed that God had made known to him the impending Turkish invasion of the region and the destruction of his monastery. The grievous events which followed soon after confirmed the clairvoyance of the Saint. At the end of the fourteenth century, the Turks destroyed the Monastery of Kilifarevo. It was rebuilt in 1596, only to undergo further destruction and to be built anew in 1718 and then later on again, in the nineteenth century. It exists to this day, but bereft of its original glory and grandeur.
It is also worth mentioning that in the era of St. Theodosios, in the fourteenth century, a great struggle was waged for the purity of the Faith. A particularly dangerous heresy—one widely diffused throughout the region—was that of Bogomils. It consisted of a Slavic version of the combination of previous heresies: those of Manichæan Paulicianism and Messalianism. This frightful, twofold heresy, with its anti-social character, totally rejected the Church (the Hierarchy, the Mysteries, and the veneration of Saints) and the structure of society (marriage, political and legislative authority and organization, etc).
The Bulgarian Church decisively battled against the heresy of the Bogomils in the Synods of 1350 and 1359. St. Theodosios was present at these Synods, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and of his oratory, he refuted the untenable doctrines of the heretics, which were condemned.
The Saint, despite his infirmities and his age, went to Constantinople together with four of his faithful disciples, including Evthymios, in order to meet and converse with his old and beloved confrere and co-ascetic Callistos—who had also been a disciple of St. Gregory of Sinai and was now Patriarch of Constantinople—, for his spiritual benefit.
Interestingly enough, the Holy Patriarch Callistos I was also the biographer of St. Theodosios, though his lengthy Life of the Saint has been preserved to our day only in a Slavonic translation.
The Holy Patriarch Callistos granted the Saint a cell in the Monastery of St. Mamas. There, Saint Theodosios had a presentiment of his end. He partook of the Immaculate Mysteries, and the entire room was filled with a fragrance. On seeing the “army of the Heavenly King” coming to meet him, he gave up his holy soul to our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom he had been such a faithful and exemplary servant. This took place on 27 November 1363. The Saint was buried in an honorable manner, as befits a Saint, and Angelic hymnody was heard at his gravesite. He has been interceding ever since for the peace of the world, the good estate of the holy Churches of God, and the salvation of us all.
This is a little late in appearing on this blog because it happened on the feast of the "transitus" of St Benedict on March 21st. However, I notice that readers are interested in this community on the outskirts of Lima; so I offer this for your attention.(Fr) David
About three hundred people assembled in our small chapel and outside to share with us the joy occasioned by the Solemn Profession of Percy and Wilmer
After the Gospel they were asked what they wanted from God and the Church; and they answered, "Perseverance to serve God in this monastic community all the days of their lives. The Gospel reading had been about the raising of Lazarus. Abbot chose to comment on the sentence "Did I not tell you that, if you have faith, you will see the Glory of God?" He said that this is what monastic and religious life is all about: it is a life of faith in which the monks will see the Glory of God, not just in the next life, but in the present life, in the faces of their neighbours and in the intimacy of interior prayer.
Here D. Percy is reading out aloud his vows and D. Wilmer is waiting to do so. After reading out his vows, Wilmer signs the document. The Abbot had explained that the monastic formula is not three separate Christian Christian vows as in the "Poverty, Chastity and Obedience", which is of Franciscan origin. It is one single commitment to monastic life, expressed in the Latin phrase "Conversatio morum", which includes chastity and austerity of life and conversion"; "Obedience" which not only promises to obey the abbot and his successors, but also a general openness toGod's will, however it presents itself; and "Stability" which is a commitment to do this within the context of a particular community. Just as a man commits himself to one particular community in marriage, so the Benedictine monk commits himself to one particular community.
Here, D. Percy is signing the document from which he read his vows. It is written in his handwriting and will be placed under the pall on which the gifts of bread and wine are placed, together with that of D. Wilmer. Thus their vows are associated with Christ's sacrifice on the cross which is celebrated at the Mass. The documents are also signed by Fr Abbot and by me as the local superior
Now comes a dramatic part of the ceremony when, according to the Rule of St Benedict, the two sing a verse from Scripture three times, first at the door of the chapel, secondly in the aisle, and thridly in front of the altar, each time on a higher note; and it is repeated by the monastic choir. The music was composed by Peter Abelard when he was an abbot for Heloise who had become an abbess.
"Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam; et non confundas me ab expectatione mea!" "Support me, Oh Lord, according to your promise that I may live, so that my hope will not be frustrated."
Having sung the verse three times, they lie down under a pall, symbolically dead to the world which has been closed in on itself by sin; and the community sing the Litany of the Saints for the two new life members of the monastic communi
After the Litany of the Saints, the two monks receive a solemn blessing from the abbot who asks for them all the monastic virtues and, above all, the Holy Spirit. They are declared to be members of the monastic chapter, and they are embraced by the community.
Our "Father Bishop", important guest number two, who is a very saintly Salesian who, as Bishop of Lurin, was one of the factors that drew us here. He is now retired and is our confessor; and he is present at all our most important functions. He is embracing Percy.
Now the Eucharist begins, and the abbot salutes the altar. The altar is the liturgical centre of the liturgy: like the Holy of Holies which was the mercy seat, the place of God's covenanted presence in the temple because of the sacrifice of atonement offered there by the High Priest: so is the altar in reality what the Holy of Holies was in shadow. The altar is the throne of God because of the rtue sacrifice of atonement is offered there. It is the extension of the cross of Christ, because the victim is laid on it during the offering. It is the table at which Wisdom offers succulent food to her children. It is the liturgical East towards which both priest and people face in both the ordinary and extraordinary versions of the Latin Mass.
After Communion, the two monks present themselves; and the Abbot pins up their hoods. Fot three days they will go around with their hoods up; and they will keep absolute silence in what is probably the best retreat in their lives. The hoods are unpinned after communion on the third day, and the community welcome them.
The Abbot leaves at the end of the procession. The two monks have already left so as not to be caught up by people who wish to talk to them.
The trouble with Advent is that it’s too short! Why the liturgical season with all the best readings, chants and hymns should be so short in the Western Church has always been a mystery to me, especially as the Ambrosian Rite of Milan has the full six Sundays as do the Oriental Churches including all those in communion with Rome. The only solution, apart from grumbling, is to live this lovely season as intensely and as faithfully as possible. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Advent is a season full of hope and expectation. As we pray at Mass just after the Lord’s Prayer, “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” In Advent we live in our own flesh the centuries of hope that marked the lives of men and women in Old Testament times as they longed for the Messiah to come and bring salvation, reconciliation and unity to the world. We prepare again, as we do every year, for the celebration of Christmas and the Epiphany, that magnificent, double re-enactment of the birth and manifestation in human flesh of the Son of God made man through the working of the Holy Spirit and the willing obedience of Our Blessed Lady. And we look closely at our Christian lives in the light of the Gospel and in the hope of correcting what we have done wrong as we look forward to Christ’s Second Coming, when he returns in glory to judge the living and the dead or in our case, perhaps, the living dead. Hope and expectation are also fulfilled, though we don’t always recognise this, every time we pray, every time we go to confession, every time we celebrate Mass and receive Holy Communion, for Christ is with us, he is among us and he is in us.
Let’s look briefly, then, at today’s readings. Isaiah reminds us that we are called to “go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob.” However, the temple we gather at as Christians is not a temple built with hands on Mount Zion or in Jerusalem, but Jesus Christ himself, who is the living Temple in whom we have part as living stones. We are invited to walk together as pilgrims towards Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the source of a new humanity whose members love one another, cease from all discord and work for peace.
St Paul exhorts us to wake up from sleep, the sleep of indifference and sloth, the sleep of sin, which is symbolised by night and darkness. In Christ the light has come: he is the Light of the world. Soon we will celebrate the Feast of Light, but it will only truly be Christmas for those who return to the Lord and ask forgiveness, so that their hearts are made new by grace. “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Gospel, Jesus himself tells us that we must be prepared, not just this Christmas but always. We must stay awake because we don’t know the day when our master is coming. How imprudent, how foolish we so often are, putting off time and again what is most urgent in our lives, sorting things out with God. Is it really worth hanging on to our sinful ways? How better life would be for all of us if we simply followed Jesus faithfully, as Mary and Joseph did, as John the Baptist and Isaiah did, as all the great saints of Advent did. This is so serious, so important for us that Jesus seems to threaten his disciples with those mini-parables of two men working in the fields, where one is taken and the other left, or of the two women at the millstone grinding, where one is taken and the other left. Then the parable of the householder who would have stayed awake had only he known at what time the burglar was coming. He would have stayed awake and his house would not have been burgled. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.
One of the consequences of original sin is that we give in so easily to temptation and, of course, the Devil plays on our weakness. When you make a good and wise decision, “I won’t do that anymore – I won’t be impatient, unkind, untruthful, lazy, I won’t put off doing whatever it is anymore,” do you hear that little voice within telling you so gently, so convincingly, “It doesn’t matter, you don’t have to change at once, stay just the way you are, do it again, that’s it, no-one will notice.” The Devil isn’t nearly as subtle as he makes himself out to be, but he knows we’re easy game. Now Advent is the time to get rid of all that. Advent is the time, the great opportunity to say, “No, I won’t.” The Church, the Sacraments, the Scriptures, the Saints, prayer and our own common sense are all here to help us. We can stay awake, we can be prepared and we can be filled with hope and with expectation, for Christ is truly with us. Now if Christ is truly with us and we are with him, then when he comes again as Judge there will be nothing to fear. He will say to us, “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the Kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.”
A useful little prayer to say over and over again this Advent, especially when you feel yourself falling asleep or giving in to temptation, is today’s Alleluia verse, “Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and give us your saving help.” May the good Lord help you keep a great Advent this year.
Note: This commentary was given as part of a series of commentaries/meditations on the Psalms and Canticles used in the four week Psalter of the Divine Office. As noted below, this Psalm is part of the Evening Prayer for Sunday of the Fourth Week. Relations between this Psalm and the other readings of Advent are not hard to discern.
Wednesday, 12 October 2005
Psalm122Peace upon you! Evening Prayer – Sunday of Week Fourth
1. We have just heard and enjoyed as a prayer one of the most beautiful and ferventsongs of ascents.It is Psalm 122, a living, shared celebration of Jerusalem, the Holy City to which the pilgrims climb.
Indeed, in the opening line, two moments lived by the faithful are amalgamated: that of the day on which the pilgrim rejoiced when he accepted the invitation to “go to God’s house” (v. 1), and that of his joyful arrival at the “gates” of Jerusalem (cf. v. 2); now at last he is walking on that beloved Holy Land. A festive hymn is on his lips at that very moment in honour of Zion, whose deep spiritual significance he contemplates.
2. As a “strongly compact” city (v. 3), a symbol of security and stability, Jerusalem is the heart of the unity of the 12 tribes of Israel that converge towards it as the centre of their faith and worship. They go up there, in fact, “to praise the Lord’s name” (v. 4) in the place that “Israel’s law” (Dt 12: 13-14; 16: 16) has chosen as the only legitimate and perfect shrine.
There is another important reality in Jerusalem that is also a sign of God’s presence in Israel: “the thrones… of the House of David” (cf. v. 5); that is, the Davidic dynasty governs, an expression of the divine action in history that was to lead to the Messiah (II Sam 7: 8-16).
3. The “thrones… of the House of David” are at the same time called “thrones of judgment” (v. 5), because the king was also the supreme judge. Thus, Jerusalem, a political capital, was also the highest tribunal where controversies were settled in the final instance: in this way, when Jewish pilgrims left Zion, they returned to their villages feeling more righteous and peaceful.
The Psalm thus traced an ideal portrait of the Holy City with her religious and social function, showing that biblical religion is neither abstract nor intimistic, but a leaven of justice and solidarity. Communion with God is necessarily followed by the communion of brothers and sisters with one another.
4. We now come to the final invocation (cf. v. 6-9). It is marked throughout by the Jewish wordshalom,“peace”, traditionally considered to be the etymological root ofJerushalajim,the Holy City itself, interpreted as “city of peace”.
It is well known thatshalomalludes to the messianic peace that in itself brings joy, prosperity, goodness and abundance. Indeed, in the pilgrim’s final farewell to the temple, to the “house of the Lord our God”, he adds “good” to “peace”: “I will ask for your good” (v. 9). This anticipates the Franciscan greeting: “Peace and good!”. We all have something of a Franciscan soul. This greeting expresses the hope that blessings will be poured out upon the faithful who love the Holy City, upon the physical reality of its walls and buildings in which the life of a people pulsates, on all its brothers and sisters and friends. In this way, Jerusalem will become a hearth of harmony and peace.
5. Let us end our meditation on Psalm 122 with an idea for reflection suggested by the Fathers of the Church for whom the ancient Jerusalem was the sign of another Jerusalem, also “built as a city strongly compact”.
This city, St Gregory the Great says in hisHomilies on Ezekiel,“has here a great construction in the customs of the saints. In a building, one stone supports the other, because each stone is set upon another, and the one that supports another is in turn supported by another. This is exactly how in our Holy Church each one is sustaining and sustained. The closest support one another, and so it is by using them that the building of charity is erected.
“This explains Paul’s exhortation: “Help carry one another’s burdens; in that way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal 6: 2). Emphasizing the force of this law, he says: “Love is the fulfilment of the law’ (Rom 13: 10).
“Indeed, if I do not make an effort to accept you as you are and you do not strive to accept me as I am, the building of love between us can no longer be erected, bound though we may be by reciprocal and patient love”.
And to complete the image, let us not forget that “there is one foundation that supports the full weight of the construction; and it is our Redeemer, who alone bears all together the customs of us all. The Apostle says of him: “No one can lay a foundation other than the one that has been laid, namely, Jesus Christ’ (I Cor 3: 11). The foundation sustains the stones but the stones do not sustain the foundation: in other words, our Redeemer bore the burden of all our sins, but in him there was no sin to be borne” (2, 1, 5:Opere di Gregorio Magno,III/2, Rome, 1993, pp. 27, 29).
Thus, Pope St Gregory the Great tells us what the Psalm means for our lives in practice. He tells us that we must be a true Jerusalem in the Church today, that is, a place of peace, “supporting one another” as we are; “supporting one another together” in the joyful certainty that the Lord “supports us all”. In this way the Church will grow like a true Jerusalem, a place of peace. But let us also pray for the city of Jerusalem, that it may increasingly be a place for the encounter of religions and peoples; that it may truly be a place of peace
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 4, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I want to thank the Lord once again, along with you, for the apostolic journey I undertook over the past days to Turkey: I felt accompanied and supported by the prayer of the whole Christian community. I address to all my cordial gratitude!
Next Wednesday, during the general audience, I will have the opportunity to speak at greater length of this unforgettable spiritual and pastoral experience, which I hope will bear good fruits for an ever more sincere cooperation among the disciples of Christ and for a fruitful dialogue with Muslim believers.
Now I am compelled to renew my gratitude to those who organized the trip and contributed in different ways to its peaceful and fruitful unfolding. In particular, I am thinking of Turkey's authorities and of the friendly Turkish people, who offered me a welcome worthy of their traditional spirit of hospitality.
Above all I would like to remember with affection and recognition the beloved Catholic community, which lives on Turkish soil. I think of it as we enter, this Sunday, in the time of Advent.
I was able to see and celebrate Holy Mass with these brothers and sisters of ours, who are in conditions that are often difficult. It is truly a small, varied flock rich in enthusiasm and faith which, so to speak, lives the Advent experience constantly and intensely, supported by hope.
In Advent, the liturgy often repeats and assures us, as though seeking to defeat our mistrust, that God "is coming": He comes to be with us, in each one of our situations; he comes to live among us, to live with and in us; he comes to fill the distances that divide and separate us; he comes to reconcile us with himself and with one another. He comes in the history of humanity to knock on the door of every man and woman of good will to offer individuals, families and peoples the gift of fraternity, concord and peace.
Therefore, Advent is par excellence the time of hope, in which believers in Christ are invited to remain in vigilant and active expectation, nourished by prayer and by a concrete commitment of love. May Christ's approaching nativity fill the hearts of all Christians with joy, serenity and peace!
To live this Advent period more authentically and fruitfully, the liturgy exhorts us to look at Mary most holy and to undertake spiritually with her the path to the cave of Bethlehem. When God knocked on the door of her youth, she received him with faith and love. In a few days, we will contemplate her in the luminous mystery of her Immaculate Conception. Let us be attracted by her beauty, reflection of divine glory, so that "the God that is coming" will find in each one of us a good and open heart, which he can fill with his gifts.
[At the end of the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English he said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today, the first Sunday of Advent, the Church begins a new liturgical year.
The Gospel speaks of Christ, the son of man, and invites us to prepare our hearts to receive him. May Advent be a time of purification that leads to love, as we look with hope to the dawn of his coming. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 8, 2010 / 10:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Before Sunday's Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI taught the importance of leading our lives with trust and hope in the coming of the Lord. This hope, he said, should encourage us to "an intense life, rich with good works."
The courtyard at Castel Gandolfo was filled with faithful and pilgrims, some of whom sung the "Ave Maria" as they waited for the Holy Father to appear on the second story balcony of the Apostolic Palace.
After being met with a burst of cheers, the Pope taught about Jesus' words to the disciples from Sunday's Gospel in which He continued to speak on "the value of the person in the eyes of God and on the uselessness of earthly worries."
This discourse, said the Holy Father, is not about "praise for disengagement.” Rather, he explained, our heart is opened to a hope that enlightens our existence when we listen to Jesus’ “reassuring invitation”: “Do not be afraid, little flock; for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.”
Quoting from the Encyclical Spe Salvi, he added that the Gospel is not merely a communication but “makes things happen and is life-changing.”
“The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life."
He pointed to the example of Abraham, described in the Letter to the Hebrews as one who goes out with "a hopeful heart." Not knowing where he is going, he is "trusting only in God" and His promise of land and numerous descendants.”
Through the three parables in the Gospel, the Pope continued, Jesus illustrates to us how the expectation of his coming, "the blessed hope," should lead us "even further to an intense life, rich with good works."
His invitation to sell our possessions and to give alms to prepare the way to heaven, explained Benedict XVI, is an invitation to “use things without selfishness, thirst for possession or dominance, but according to the logic of God, the logic of the attention to others, the logic of love..."
He concluded by remembering several saints who laid down their lives, whose feast days fall this week. He recalled Sunday's feast of the founder of the Dominicans, St. Dominic of Guzman, whose order "carries out the mission of instructing society on the truth of faith, preparing themselves with study and prayer."
He also named 3rd century deacon and martyr St. Lawrence whose feast is to be celebrated on Aug. 10 and the foundress of the Poor Clares, St. Clare of Assisi (Aug. 11). Before beginning the Marian prayer, he drew attention to two 20th century martyrs, both killed at Auschwitz: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast days fall on Aug. 9 and Aug. 14, respectively.
Both of them, he said, "lived through the dark time of the Second World War, without ever losing sight of (their) hope, the God of life and love."
Benedict XVI introduces “Spe Salvi”, calls Advent “the time of hope par excellence”
Vatican City, Dec 3, 2007 / 05:43 pm (CNA).- In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. on Saturday, the Pope presided at the celebration of the first Vespers of the first Sunday of Advent.
The Holy Father began his homily by recalling how "Advent is the time of hope par excellence" and how Christians, "as they prepare to celebrate the great feast of the birth of Christ the Savior, revitalize their expectation of His glorious return at the end of time."
"It was to the subject of hope," he said," that I dedicated my second Encyclical, which was published yesterday. And today I am happy to present it ideally to the entire Church on this first Sunday of Advent so that, while preparing for Christmas, the community and the individual faithful may read and meditate upon it, and so rediscover the beauty and profundity of Christian hope."
After underlining how "true and certain hope is founded on faith in God- Love, the merciful Father," Benedict XVI made it clear that Advent is a "favorable time for the rediscovery of hope, a hope that is not vague and illusory but sure and trustworthy because it is 'anchored' in Christ, God-made-man and the rock of our salvation."
In his Letter to them, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians "that before embracing faith in Christ they had no hope and were 'without God in the world'," said the Pope. "This expression seems more valid than ever," he added, "because of the paganism of our own day. In particular we may refer it to contemporary nihilism which corrodes hope in man's heart, causing him to think that emptiness reigns within him and around him: emptiness before birth, emptiness after death. The truth is that without God, hope fades."
"What is at stake," he said, "is the relationship between existence in the here and now, and what we call the 'beyond:' this is not a place in which we will 'end up' after death, but rather the reality of God, the fullness of life to which each human being is, so to say, reaching out. To this expectation of mankind God responded in Christ with the gift of hope.
"Man," the Pope added, "is the only creature who is free to say yes or no to eternity, in other words to God. Human beings can extinguish hope in themselves, eliminating God from their lives. ... God knows man's heart. He knows that those who refuse Him have not known His true face, and for this reason He never ceases to knock at our door like a humble pilgrim seeking welcome. This is why the Lord grants new time to humanity: so that everyone may come to know Him! And this too is the significance of a new liturgical year that begins: it is a gift of God Who wishes once more to reveal Himself in the mystery of Christ, through the Word and the Sacraments."
Benedict XVI highlighted how "God loves us and for this reason expects us to return to Him, to open our hearts to His love, to put our hand in His and remember that we are His children. This expectation of God's always precedes our own hope, just as His love always reaches us first."
"All human beings are called to hope, thus responding to God's expectation in them," the Pope concluded. "Hope is indelibly written in man's heart because God our Father is life, and we were made for eternal and blessed life."