old has passed away, the new has come
At noon on Christmas Day, Monday, 25 December
2000, Pope John Paul II, in front of St Peter's Basilica, offered
his Christmas wishes and Apostolic Blessing to the city and to the
The Holy Father then greeted in 59 different
languages the thousands of pilgrims in St Peter's Square this
Jubilee Year and the millions listening to his traditional "Urbi
et Orbi" Message on radio or television. "O Christ, whom
we look on today in the arms of Mary, you are the reason for our
hope!", the Pope prayed, "in you, only in you is humanity
offered the chance to become 'a new creation'".
Here is a translation of his Christmas Message,
which he read in Italian.
1. "The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam
became a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15:45). These are the words
of the Apostle Paul, which sum up the mystery of humanity redeemed
by Christ. A mystery hidden in God’s eternal plan; a mystery
which, in a certain way, became history with the incarnation of the
Eternal Word of the Father; a mystery which the Church re-lives with
profound emotion during this Christmas of the Year 2000, the Year of
the Great Jubilee.
Adam, the first "living man", Christ, "a life-giving
spirit": the words of the Apostle help us to look more deeply,
to recognize in the Child born in Bethlehem the Lamb once slain, who
unveils the meaning of history (cf. Rev 5:7-9). At his Birth time
and eternity met: God in man and man in God.
2. "The first man Adam became a living being".
The immortal genius of Michelangelo portrayed on the ceiling of the
Sistine Chapel the moment when God the Father communicated the gift
of life to the first man and made him "a living being".
Between the finger of God and the finger of man stretching out to
each other and almost touching, there seems to leap an invisible
spark: God communicates to man a tremor of his own life, creating
him in his own image and likeness. That divine breath is the origin
of the unique dignity of every human being, of humanity’s
boundless yearning for the infinite.
It is to that instant of impenetrable mystery, the beginning of
human life on earth, that our thoughts turn today, as we contemplate
the Son of God who becomes the son of man, the eternal face of God
reflected in the face of a Child.
3. "The first man Adam became a living being."
Because of the divine spark placed within him, man is a being
endowed with intelligence and freedom, and thus capable of deciding
responsibly regarding himself and his own destiny. The great fresco
of the Sistine Chapel continues with the scene of original sin: the
serpent, wrapped round the tree, persuades our first parents to eat
its forbidden fruit. The genius of art and the intensity of the
biblical symbolism are perfectly wedded in order to evoke that
tragic moment, the beginning for humanity of a history of rebellion,
sin and sorrow.
But could God forget the work of his hands, the masterpiece of
creation? We know faith’s answer: "When the time had fully
come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to
redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive
adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5).
These words of the Apostle Paul ring out with particular eloquence
as we contemplate the wondrous event of Christmas, in the Year of
the Great Jubilee. In the Newborn Child, laid in the manger, we
greet the "new Adam" who became for us "a life-giving
spirit". The whole history of the world tends towards him, born
in Bethlehem in order to restore hope to every man and woman on the
face of the earth.
4. From the manger, our gaze today takes in all humanity, called to
receive the grace of the "second Adam", yet still heir to
the sin of the "first Adam". Is it not this first
"No" to God, repeated in every human sin, which continues
to mar the face of humanity? Children subjected to violence,
humiliated and abandoned, women raped and exploited, young people,
adults and the elderly marginalized, endless streams of exiles and
refugees, violence and conflict in so many parts of the world.
I am thinking with great concern of the Holy Land where violence
continues to stain with blood the difficult path to peace. And what
are we to say about countries—I am thinking
particularly of Indonesia—where our brothers
and sisters in faith, even on this Christmas day, are undergoing a
tragic time of trial and suffering?
We cannot but recall today that shadows of death threaten people’s
lives at every stage of life, and are especially menacing at its
earliest beginning and its natural end. The temptation is becoming
ever stronger to take possession of death by anticipating its
arrival, as though we were masters of our own lives or the lives of
others. We are faced by alarming signs of the "culture of
death", which pose a serious threat for the future.
5. Yet however dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the
triumph of the Light which appeared on this Holy Night at Bethlehem
is stronger still. So much good is being done, silently, by men and
women who daily live their faith, their work, their dedication to
their families and to the good of society.
Encouraging too are the efforts of all those, including men and
women in public life, striving to foster respect for the human
rights of every person, and the growth of solidarity between peoples
of different cultures, so that the debt of the poorest countries
will be condoned and honourable peace agreements reached between
nations engaged in tragic conflicts.
6. To peoples in all parts of the world who are moving with courage
towards the values of democracy, freedom, respect and mutual
acceptance, and to all persons of good will, whatever their culture,
the joyful message of Christmas is today addressed: "Peace on
earth to those on whom God’s favour rests" (cf. Lk 2:14).
Of humanity as it approaches the new millennium, You, Lord Jesus,
born for us at Bethlehem ask respect for every person, especially
the small and the weak; you ask for an end to all forms of violence!
To wars, oppression, and all attacks on life! O Christ, whom we look
on today in the arms of Mary, you are the reason for our hope!
Saint Paul tells us: "The old has passed away, behold, the new
has come!" (2 Cor 5:17). In you, only in you, is humanity
offered the chance to become "a new creation". Thank you,
Child Jesus, for this your gift!
Happy Christmas to all!