“The stars, the planets, the universe as a whole are not governed by a blind force; they do not obey the dynamics of matter alone,” the Pope said. “They are not therefore cosmic elements that must be deified; on the contrary, in all and above all there is a personal will, the Spirit of God, that was revealed in Christ as love.”
The Pontiff’s appeal is even more significant this year because 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first telescopic observations, a year the United Nations has designated as the International Year of Astronomy.
The Pontiff said that the Magi “were probably astronomers” who through their observations “saw a new start appear” and “interpreted” the event “as the annunciation of the birth of a king.”
Even in our age, Benedict XVI noted, “quite a few scientists like Galileo have not given up on reason or faith, giving instead the utmost value to both as they nourish each other.”
The “cosmological revolution” brings freedom to man. As Saint Paul said in his Letter to the Colossians: “See to it that no one captivate[s] you [. . .] according to the elemental powers of the world” (cf Col, 2:8). Man is free and able to relate to God’s creative freedom. He is at the origin of and rules everything, not as a cold and anonymous engine, but as Father, Spouse, Friend, and Brother; as Logos, ‘Word-Reason’, that united our mortal flesh once and for all and fully shared our condition, showing the overflowing power of his grace.”
“Christian thinking compares the cosmos to a ‘book’ as Galileo put it himself, considering it as the work of an author who expresses himself through the ‘symphony’ of creation,” the Pope said. “At a certain point in this symphony one finds what in music is called a ‘solo’, a subject assigned to a single instrument or voice. And it is so important that the meaning of the whole work depends upon it. This ‘solo’ is Jesus . . . . The Son of man sums up in himself earth and sky, creation and Creator, flesh and Spirit. He is the centre of the cosmos and history because in Him Author and work are united without merging.”
Thanks to Christ’s dominion over creation and history, as confirmed by the Resurrection, the Church marches assured in history.
“There is no shadow, however dark, that can dim the light of Christ. For this reason believers in Christ never lose hope vis-à-vis the great social and economic crisis troubling humanity today, the destructive hatred and violence that continue to shed blood in many regions of the world and man’s selfishness and pretensions to be his own god, which leads sometimes to dangerous distortions of God’s design about life and the human dignity in matter of the family and the harmony of creation. As I wrote in the already mentioned Spe salvi Encyclical, our efforts to free human life and the world from poisons and pollution that could destroy the present and the future retains its value and meaning, ‘even if we outwardly achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces,’ because ‘it is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad’(n. 35).”
The Feast of the Epiphany bids the Church to imitate “the service the star provided the Magi of the East and led them to Jesus” (cf Saint Leo the Great, Ser 3 on Epiphany, 5: PL 54, 244). And in this Christians have a model in Saint Paul, whose bimillenial is celebrated this year.
“What was Paul’s life after his conversion if not a race to bring the light of Christ to the nations and bring the nations to Christ,” the Pope said. “God’s grace made Paul a ‘star’ among people. His ministry is an example and incentive for the Church to rediscover its essentially missionary vocation, renewing its commitment to announcing the Gospel, especially to those who do not know it yet.”
After urging the faithful to be nourished by the Word of God, the Pontiff concluded saying: “Of the Word of life we are but servants. This is how Paul saw himself and his ministry, a service to the Gospel, when he said: ‘All this I do for the sake of the gospel’ (1 Cor, 9:23). This is also what the Church and every ecclesial community, bishop and presbytery ought to say: All this I do for the sake of the gospel.”