The Splendour of That "Today"
Stellar Midnight liturgy from Rome with an amazing homily -- the fulltext of which isn't yet available in webform in English (Sala Stampa, get on the ball)....
While I'll post the excerpts I can find for now, one humble recommendation: if you can find an audio or video copy of the homily without commentary, listen to it -- even if you don't know Italian, just listen along as you read the English version. With Ratzinger, ever the teacher, so much is lost in the printed form -- the inflections of his voice, the emphases, the conversational nature of his delivery made this homily shine in real-time even beyond the glowing text alone.
“The Child lying in the manger is truly God’s Son. God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But there is more: in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself became-30-
man. To him the Father says: ‘You are my son’. God’s everlasting ‘today’ has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God’s eternal today. God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendour and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas: ‘You are my son, this day I have begotten you’. God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him. As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger: this is how God is. This is how we come to know him. And on every child shines something of the splendour of that ‘today’, of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield – it shines on every child, even on those still unborn.”
“Who are those whom God loves, and why does he love them? Does God have favourites? Does he love only certain people, while abandoning the others to themselves? The Gospel answers these questions by pointing to some particular people whom God loves. There are individuals, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna. But there are also two groups of people: the shepherds and the wise men from the East, the ‘Magi’. Tonight let us look at the shepherds. What kind of people were they? In
the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered
untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court. But really, who were they?
To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic
virtue. They were simple souls. The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful. This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night. But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God’s word. Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open. In some way, deep down, they were waiting for him. Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness – a readiness to listen and to set out. They were waiting for a light which would show them the way. That is what is important for God. He loves everyone, because everyone is his creature. But some persons have closed their hearts; there is no door by which his love can enter. They think that they do not need God, nor do they want him. Other persons, who, from a moral standpoint, are perhaps no less wretched and sinful, at least experience a certain remorse. They are waiting for God. They realize that they need his goodness, even if they have no clear idea of what this means. Into their expectant hearts God’s light can enter, and with it, his peace. God seeks persons who can be vessels and heralds of his peace. Let us pray that he will not find our hearts closed. Let us strive to be active heralds of his peace – in the world of today.”
The Pope continued: “Among Christians, the word ‘peace’ has taken on a very particular meaning: it has become a name for the Eucharist. There Christ’s peace is present. In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world. The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself. When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the ‘house of bread’. Christ gives himself to us and, in doing so, gives us his peace. He gives it to us so that we can carry the light of peace within and give it to others. He gives it to us so that we can become
peacemakers and builders of peace in the world. And so we pray: Lord, fulfil your promise! Where there is conflict, give birth to peace! Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine! Make us heralds of your peace!”