INTENSE PARTICIPATION IN THE MYSTERIES OF CHRISTMASTIME

January 5, 2011

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - In his first general audience of 2011, celebrated this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke on the subject of Christmas which, he said, “continues to fascinate today as in the past, … because everyone in one way or another is intuitively aware that the birth of Jesus concerns man’s most profound aspirations and hopes”.

“In the liturgical celebrations of these holy days we have experienced, in a way that is mysterious yet real, the Son of God’s entry into the world, and we have once again been illuminated by the light of His splendour. Each celebration is the real presence of the mystery of Christ and a prolongation of the history of salvation”.

“Celebrating the events of the incarnation of the Son of God does not simply mean a recollection of past events”, said the Holy Father, “it means causing the salvific mysteries to be present. In the liturgy, in the celebration of the Sacraments those mysteries become real, they become effective for us today”.

“Christmas represents the first fruit of the ’sacramentum-mysterium paschale’ - in other words, the beginning of the central mystery of salvation which culminates in the passion, death and resurrection - because Jesus began the giving of Himself for love from the very first instant of His human existence, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. … The nativity scene, as an image of the incarnation of the Word, in the light of the Gospel account, already alludes to Easter”.

“Incarnation and Easter are not adjacent to one another, yet they are the two key inseparable points of the one faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God Incarnate and Redeemer. The Cross and the Resurrection presuppose the Incarnation. … In this unitary vision of the Mystery of Christ, visiting the nativity scene leads us to visiting the Eucharist where we encounter the real presence of the crucified and risen Christ, the living Christ.

“The liturgical celebration of Christmas, then, is not just a recollection, but above all a mystery”, Pope Benedict added, “it is not just a memory but also a presence. To understand the meaning of these two inseparable aspects, it is important to live the Christmas period intensely, as the Church presents it”.

“It is necessary to liberate this Christmas period from an overly moralistic and sentimental wrapping. The celebration of Christmas does not only present us with examples to imitate, such as the humility and poverty of the Lord, His benevolence and love for mankind; rather it is an invitation to let oneself be transformed totally by the One Who entered our flesh”.

“The aim of God becoming manifest was that we might participate in divine life, and that the mystery of His incarnation might be realised in us. This mystery is the fulfilment of man’s vocation”, said the Holy Father.

He concluded his catechesis by inviting people to “live this Christmas period with intensity. After having adored the Son of God made man lying in the manger, we are called to move on to the altar of the sacrifice where Christ, the living Bread Who descended from heaven, offers Himself to us as true nourishment for eternal life. We have seen this with our own eyes, at the table of the Word and the Bread of Life, we have contemplated it and touched it with our hands: the Word made flesh. Let us announce it joyfully to the world and bear generous witness to it with all our lives”.

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