May the light of this night shine upon the future
"On this night we celebrate the mystery of
Bethlehem, the mystery of an incomparable night which is, in a sense, within
time and beyond time. From the Virgin's womb was born a Child, a
manger became the cradle of immortal Life", the Holy Father said on
Christmas Eve, at Midnight Mass which he celebrated in St Peter's Square. More
than 50,000 pilgrims participated, despite the constant rain. The Pope also
recalled that "this is the Christmas of the Great Jubilee, a living
remembrance of Christ's 2,000 years, of his wondrous birth, which marked the
new beginning of history". Here is a translation of his homily, which was
given in Italian.
1. “Today is born our Saviour” (Responsorial Psalm)
On this night, the ancient yet ever new proclamation of the Lord’s birth rings
out. It rings out for those keeping watch, like the shepherds in Bethlehem two
thousand years ago; it rings out for those who have responded to Advent’s call
and who, waiting watchfully, are ready to welcome the joyful tidings which in
the liturgy become our song: “Today is born our Saviour”.
The Christian people keep watch; the entire world keeps watch on this Christmas
night which is linked to that unforgettable night a year ago, when the Holy Door
of the Great Jubilee was opened, the Door of grace opened wide for all.
2. It is as if the Church had never ceased to repeat day after day during the
Jubilee year: “Today is born our Saviour”. This proclamation, with
its inexhaustible power to renew us, echoes once more on this holy night with
special force: this is the Christmas of the Great Jubilee, a living remembrance
of Christ’s two thousand years, of his wondrous birth, which marked the new
beginning of history. Today “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn
“Today”. On this night, time opens to eternity, because you, O Christ, are
born among us, coming from on high. You came to birth from the womb of a Woman
blessed among all women, you “the Son of the Most High”. Once and for all
your holiness made all time holy: the days, the centuries, the millennia. By
your birth, you have turned time into the “today” of salvation.
3. “Today is born our Saviour”.
On this night we celebrate the mystery of Bethlehem, the mystery of an
incomparable night which is, in a sense, within time and beyond time. From the
Virgin’s womb was born a Child, a manger became the cradle of immortal Life.
Christmas is the festival of life, because you, Jesus, born like all of us, have
blessed the moment of birth: a moment which symbolically represents the mystery
of human life, joining labour to expectation, pain to joy. All of this took
place in Bethlehem: a Mother gave birth; “a man entered the world” (Jn
16:21), the Son of man. The mystery of Bethlehem!
May fire of God's love be enkindled in hearts
4. With deep emotion I think back to the days of my Jubilee pilgrimage in the
Holy Land. My thoughts return to the stable, where I was given the grace to
pause in prayer. In spirit, I embrace that blessed land that saw the blossoming
of imperishable joy for the world.
I think with concern of the Holy Places, and especially of the town of Bethlehem
where sadly, because of the troubled political situation, the evocative rites of
Christmas cannot be celebrated with their usual solemnity. Tonight I would like
the Christian communities in those places to feel that the whole Church is very
close to them.
We are close to you, dear brothers and sisters, in a particularly intense prayer.
We share your anxiety for the destiny of the entire region of the Middle East.
May the Lord hear our plea! From this Square, the centre of the Catholic world,
let the angels’ proclamation to the shepherds ring out once more with new
strength: “Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to those
whom he loves” (Lk 2:14).
Our confidence cannot be shaken, nor can our wonder at what we are celebrating
ever fade. Today is born the One who brings peace to the world.
5. “Today is born our Saviour”.
The Word cries in a manger. His name is Jesus, which means “God saves”,
because “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).
It is not a palace which sees the birth of the Redeemer, destined to establish
the eternal and universal Kingdom. He is born in a stable and, coming among us,
he kindles in the world the fire of God’s love (cf. Lk 12:49). This
fire will not be quenched ever again.
May this fire burn in our hearts as a flame of charity in action, showing itself
in openness to and support of our many brothers and sisters sorely tried by want
6. Lord Jesus, whom we contemplate in the poverty of Bethlehem, make us
witnesses to your love, that love which led you to strip yourself of divine
glory, in order to be born among us and die for us.
As the Great Jubilee moves into its final phase, pour out your Spirit upon us,
that the grace of the Incarnation may inspire in every believer a determination
to respond more generously to the new life received in Baptism.
Grant that the light of this night, brighter than day, may be cast upon the
future and guide the steps of humanity in the way of peace.
You, O Prince of peace, You, O Saviour born for us today, be with your Church on
the road which stretches before us into the new millennium!