6. Dear friends, at every moment of your life may the Virgin Mary be close to you as an example and support. Simeon disclosed to her the mystery of the Son and the sword that would "pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2: 35). Today I entrust to her those of you here and all consecrated persons who are celebrating their Jubilee.
Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ
Holy Father's greetings at end of Mass
I greet the consecrated persons present on this Jubilee day. I also extend my cordial greetings to the French-speaking pilgrims. May everyone give thanks for the grace of consecrated life! I bless you all.
I warmly welcome the consecrated men and women, and the pilgrims and visitors from the English-speaking countries. I invoke almighty God's blessings and grace upon you so that you may grow in friendship with God, who alone can fulfil the deepest aspirations of the human heart.
I very cordially greet the consecrated men and women who have come to Rome from German-speaking countries to celebrate the Great Jubilee and to renew their vows. May this gathering become a source of inner joy and enthusiasm for their life according to the evangelical counsels.
I extend a heartfelt greeting to the consecrated persons as well as to the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who have taken part in this celebration. With the grace of the Jubilee may you proclaim Christ by your witness of life and your apostolic zeal.
I cordially greet all the orders, congregations, societies of apostolic life and institutes present for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life in Rome. I thank God with you for the gift of your vocation to the consecrated life, which is bearing abundant fruits of holiness and apostolic zeal in our homeland and beyond its borders.
I also greet all the pilgrims who have come to the Eternal City.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On today’s Feast we contemplate the Lord Jesus, whom Mary and Joseph bring to the Temple “to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22). This Gospel scene reveals the mystery of the Son of the Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father who came into the world to do his will faithfully (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7).
Simeon identifies him as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32) and announces with prophetic words his supreme offering to God and his final victory (cf. Luke 2:32-35). This is the meeting point of the two Testaments, Old and New. Jesus enters the ancient temple; he who is the new Temple of God: he comes to visit his people, thus bringing to fulfilment obedience to the Law and ushering in the last times of salvation.
It is interesting to take a close look at this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the temple, in the great comings and goings of many people, busy with their work: priests and Levites taking turns to be on duty, the numerous devout people and pilgrims anxious to encounter the Holy God of Israel. Yet none of them noticed anything. Jesus was a child like the others, a first-born son of very simple parents.
Even the priests proved incapable of recognizing the signs of the new and special presence of the Messiah and Saviour. Alone two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover this great newness. Led by the Holy Spirit, in this Child they find the fulfilment of their long waiting and watchfulness. They both contemplate the light of God that comes to illuminate the world and their prophetic gaze is opened to the future in the proclamation of the Messiah: “Lumen ad revelationem gentium!” (Luke 2:32). The prophetic attitude of the two elderly people contains the entire Old Covenant which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. Upon seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna understood that he was the Awaited One.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent image of the total gift of one’s life for all those, men and women, who are called to represent “the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, n. 1) in the Church and in the world, through the evangelical counsels. For this reason Venerable John Paul II chose today’s Feast to celebrate the Annual World Day of Consecrated Life.
In this context, I would like to offer a cordial and appreciative greeting to Archbishop João Braz de Aviz, whom I recently appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, along with the Secretary and the co-workers. I also greet with affection the Superiors General present and all the consecrated people.
I would like to suggest three brief thoughts for reflection on this Feast. The first: the evangelical image of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple contains the fundamental symbol of light; the light that comes from Christ and shines on Mary and Joseph, on Simeon and Anna, and through them, on everyone. The Fathers of the Church connected this radiance with the spiritual journey. The consecrated life expresses this journey, in a special way, as “philokalia”, love of the divine beauty, a reflection of God’s divine goodness (cf. ibid., n. 19). On Christ’s Face the light of such beauty shines forth.
“The Church contemplates the transfigured face of Christ in order to be confirmed in faith and to avoid being dismayed at his disfigured face on the Cross.... she is the Bride before her Spouse, sharing in his mystery and surrounded by his light. This light shines on all the Church’s children.... But those who are called to the consecrated life have a special experience of the light which shines forth from the Incarnate Word. For the profession of the evangelical counsels makes them a kind of sign and prophetic statement for the community of the brethren and for the world” (ibid., n. 15).
Secondly, the evangelical image portrays the prophecy, a gift of the Holy Spirit. In contemplating the Child Jesus, Simeon and Anna foresee his destiny of death and Resurrection for the salvation of all peoples and they proclaim this mystery as universal salvation.
The consecrated life is called to bear this prophetic witness, linked to its two-fold contemplative and active approach. Indeed consecrated men and women are granted to show the primacy of God, passion for the Gospel practised as a form of life and proclaimed to the poor and the lowliest of the earth.
“Because of this pre-eminence nothing can come before personal love of Christ and of the poor in whom he lives.... True prophecy is born of God, from friendship with him, from attentive listening to his word in the different circumstances of history” (ibid., n. 84).
In this way the consecrated life in its daily experience on the roads of humanity, displays the Gospel and the Kingdom, already present and active.
Thirdly, the evangelical image of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple demonstrates the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, the wisdom of a life completely dedicated to the search for God’s Face, for his signs, for his will; a life dedicated to listening to and proclaiming his word. “Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram: ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek’ (Psalm 27 :8).... Consecrated life in the world and in the Church is a visible sign of this search for the face of the Lord and of the ways that lead to the Lord (cf. John 14:8) .... The consecrated person, therefore, gives witness to the task, at once joyful and laborious, of the diligent search for the divine will” (cf. Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction The Service of Authority and Obedience. Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram , n. 1).
Dear brothers and sisters, may you be assiduous listeners to the word, because all wisdom concerning life comes from the word of the Lord! May you seek the word, through lectio divina, since consecrated life “is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life. A life devoted to following Christ in his chastity, poverty and obedience thus becomes a living ‘exegesis’ of God’s word. The Holy Spirit, in whom the Bible was written, is the same Spirit who illumines the word of God with new light for the Founders and Foundresses. Every charism and every Rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it, thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 83).
Today, especially in the more developed societies, we live in a condition often marked by a radical plurality, by the progressive marginalization of religion in the public sphere and by relativism which touches the fundamental values. This demands that our Christian witness be luminous and consistent and that our educational effort be ever more attentive and generous.
May your apostolic action, in particular, dear brothers and sisters, become a commitment of life that with persevering enthusiasm attains to Wisdom as truth and as beauty, the “splendour of the truth”. May you, with the wisdom of your life and with trust in the inexhaustible possibilities of true education, guide the minds and hearts of the men and women of our time towards a “good life according to the Gospel”.
At this moment, my thoughts turn with special affection to all of the consecrated men and women throughout the world and I entrust them to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
O, Mary, Mother of the Church,
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St. Peter's Basilica
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after the birth of Jesus, shows us Mary and Joseph who, in obedience to the Law of Moses, go to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer the child, their first born son, to the Lord and to redeem him through a sacrifice (cf. Luke 2:22-24). It is one of the cases in which liturgical time reflects historical time, because today actually marks 40 days after the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord. The theme of Christ the Light, that is a feature of the cycle of the Christmas festivities and culminates in the Solemnity of the Epiphany, is taken up again and extended in today’s feast.
The ritual act of Jesus’ parents, which takes place in the humble, hidden manner characteristic of the Incarnation of the Son of God, finds a unique welcome in the elderly Simeon and the Prophetess Anna. By divine inspiration they recognize the baby as the Messiah foretold by the prophets. In the meeting of the elderly Simeon and Mary, a young mother, the Old and New Testaments converge in a wonderful way in the thanksgiving for the gift of the Light which shone in the darkness and prevented it from prevailing: Christ the Lord, the light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel (cf. Luke 2:32).
The Day of Consecrated Life is celebrated on the day on which the Church commemorates the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. In fact this Gospel episode to which we are referring is a significant icon of the gift of one’s life by those who are called to present anew in the Church and in the world, through the evangelical counsels, the characteristics of Jesus, virgin, poor and obedient, the Consecrated of the Father. In today’s feast we therefore celebrate the mystery of consecration: the consecration of Christ, the consecration of Mary, the consecration of those who place themselves in the sequela of Jesus for love of the Kingdom of God.
According to the insight of Bl. John Paul II, who celebrated for the first time in 1997 the Day dedicated to consecrated life, it establishes specific goals. First, it seeks to respond to the need to give praise and thanks to the Lord for the gift of this state of life which belongs to the sanctity of the Church. Today, the prayer of the entire Community is dedicated to every consecrated person, giving thanks to God the Father, giver of every good, for the gift of this vocation, and once again invoking him with faith. Moreover, this occasion offers the opportunity to appreciate increasingly the testimony of those who have chosen to follow Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels by promoting understanding and appreciation of the consecrated life within the People of God. Finally, the World Day for Consecrated Life is meant, above all for you, dear brothers and sisters who have embraced this state in the Church, to be a precious occasion to renew your commitment and rekindle the feelings that inspired and continue to inspire the gift of yourselves to the Lord. Let us do this today, this is the commitment you are called to realize every day of your life.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, I announced — as you know — the Year of Faith, which will begin this October. All the faithful, and in a special way the members of Institutes of Consecrated Life, have welcomed this initiative as a gift, and I hope that they will live the Year of Faith as a favourable time for interior renewal, of which there is always need, with a deepening of the essential values and needs of their own consecration. In the Year of Faith you, who have welcomed the call to follow Christ more closely through the profession of the evangelical counsels, are invited to increasingly deepen your relationship with God. The evangelical counsels, accepted as an authentic rule of life, strengthen faith, hope and charity, which unite one to God. This profound closeness to the Lord, which must be the priority and characteristic point of your existence, will lead you toward a renewed adherence to Him and will have a positive influence on your special presence and on the form of your apostolate among the People of God, through the contribution of your charisms, in fidelity to the Magisterium, to be witnesses of faith and grace, credible witnesses for the Church and the world today.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the means it deems appropriate, will suggest guidelines and will do its utmost to encourage this Year of Faith to be, for all of you, a year of renewal and of fidelity so that all consecrated men and women may enthusiastically engage in the New Evangelization. As I extend my cordial greetings to the Prefect of the Dicastery, Archbishop João Braz de Aviz — whom I wish to include among those I will create Cardinals in the next Consistory — I gladly take this joyful occasion to thank him and his co-workers for the precious service they render to the Holy See and to the entire Church.
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9 February 2014