Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “We start today a new year and Christian hope takes us by the hand. We start it by invoking the divine blessing upon it and imploring, through the intercession of Mary Mother of God, the gift of peace, for our families, cities and the whole world,” said Benedict XVI as he began his homily in the first Mass of 2008 on the occasion of the solemnity of Mary Mother of God, which is also the 41st World Day of Peace.
The Pope pointed out the connection between certain anniversaries and their meaning in 2008. “Sixty years ago in 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations released the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Forty years ago my Venerated Predecessor, Paul VI, celebrated the first World Day of Peace. And this year we shall observe the 25th anniversary of the adoption by the Holy See of the ‘Charter of the Rights of the Family.’ For this reason the Pope dedicated his Message for Peace 2008 to the “Human Family, a Community of Peace.”
During the homily, the Pontiff thanked Card Raffaele Martino and the entire Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace which he chairs for spreading the message. Before the representatives of the diplomatic corps to the Holy See present at the Mass, the Pontiff said that in his Message he stressed the “close relationship that exists between the family and building peace in the world. The natural family founded on marriage between a man a woman, is the ‘the cradle of life and love’ and the ‘first and indispensable teacher of peace.’ For this reason the family is “the primary agency of peace’ and the “denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace” (cf Message, 1-5). Since humanity is “one great family”, if it wants to live in peace it cannot but be inspired by those values on which the family community is based and on which it stands.” Therefore, the Pope urges “every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace.”
“We all aspire to live in peace,” said Benedict XVI, “but true peace, the one announced by the angels on the night of Christmas, is not a simple conquest by man or the result of political agreements. It is first of all a divine gift that we must constantly implore and, at the same time, a commitment to patiently carry forward whilst remaining docile under the command of the Lord.”
Thus in developing a new connection between peace and today’s feast day, the Pope stressed that the “frail Child whom the Virgin shows to the world today,” make us “peace operators, his witnesses, the Prince of peace.”
Benedict XVI said that “it was Pope Paul VI who moved to 1 January the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, which once fell on 11 October.” This celebration has a “Marian” as well as a “Christological” character because “we might say that before it is about the Mother it is about the Son Jesus, true God and true man.”
Almost in response to many criticisms from Protestant sources, which try to put aside Mary’s title of “Mother of God,” the Pope quoted the Biblical origin of this title, “the most ancient and . . . the foundation of all the other titles with which Our Lady is venerated and continues to be invoked generation after generation, in the East and in the West.”
In referring to the Gospel reading in today’s Mass, the Pontiff stressed that the “evangelist Luke repeated several times that Our Lady meditated in silence on these extraordinary events that God involved her in. We also hear him in the brief evangelical passage in today’s liturgy when he says that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk, 2:19).
The Greek verb used ‘sumbállousa’ literally means “to put together” and makes one think about a great mystery that one uncovers little by little. The Child crying in the manger, although similar in appearance to all other children in the world, is at the same time completely different. He is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true Man. This mystery—the incarnation of the Word and Mary’s divine maternity—is great and certainly not easy to understand by human intelligence alone.
However, in Mary’s school we can grasp in our heart what the eyes and the mind by themselves can neither perceive nor contain. It is in fact a gift so big that only faith can allow us to grasp it even if we cannot understand everything. And it is in this journey of faith that Mary comes towards us and is both our support and guide. She is mother because she begot Jesus in flesh and blood, because she totally adhered to the will of the Father. Saint Augustine wrote: “Thus also her nearness as a Mother would have been of no profit to Mary, had she not borne Christ in her heart after a more blessed manner than in her flesh” (De sancta Virginitate, 3:3). And in her heart Mary continues to keep, “put together,” the subsequent events that she will witness and participate in until the death on the cross and the resurrection of her Son Jesus.” Mary’s “school” is therefore the path to build the world as a “human family.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope said in concluding, “only by preserving in the heart all that we live, putting it together and finding unity in it can we following Mary enter the mystery of a God who out of love made himself man and calls us to follow him on the path of love, love to be translated every day in generous service to our brothers. May the New Year, which we begin today full of confidence, be a time in which we can go forward in that knowledge of the heart which is the wisdom of the Saints.”
At the end of the celebration the Pontiff honoured a statue of the Mother of God as everyone sang an ancient antiphon, Alma Redemptoris Mater.