01/04/2006, 00.00
VATICAN

Christ is the goal of humanity's progress, says the Pope

Benedict XVI drew attention a concept of progress far different from the prevailing utilitarian one. In today's commentary on the hymn, Saint Paul extols the supremacy and work of Christ in both creation and in the history of redemption.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – History has a goal—Christ—and progresses as it comes ever closer to that objective. Humanity is thus compelled to "work for progress" so that all men may move towards Jesus.

Benedict SVI spoke today about the true meaning of humanity's progress during the first general audience of the year. Because of bad weather condition, the function was held in-doors in two separate venues: first, in the audience hall; then, in St Peter Basilica for the benefit of the 15,000 faithful who had come for the occasion.

Smiling, obviously pleased to see the warmth of the crowd of believers, the Pope offered a commentary on the Canticle cf Col 1:3,12-20 Christ, who  was  the firstborn of all creation, is the firstborn from the dead – Vespers of the Wednesday of the Fourth Week (Reading: Col 1:3, 12,18-20).

Commenting off-the-cuff the words of Saint Paul, Benedict XVI drew attention to a concept of progress far different from the prevailing utilitarian and mechanistic one.

"Saint Paul," he said adding other elements to his written text, "tells us something very important: History has a goal, a direction; it moves towards a humanity united in Christ and in so doing leads to the perfect man, the perfect humanism, to a shepherded humanity, one that is truly humanised".

"In other words," he added, "Saint Paul tells us yes; there is progress in history if we want evolution in history. Progress is all that brings us closer to Christ and thus closer to humanity united to true humanism. Behind these signs we face an imperative. Working for progress is something we want."

"We can all work to bring men closer to Christ, personally conforming to Christ, in the direction of true progress," he said, and "be part of the 'great mystery of redemption'".

The hymn, which Benedict XVII defines as "almost the solemn entry gate to this rich Pauline text," "helps us create the spiritual environment in which we can experience well the early days of 2006 as well as the long path of the rest of the year (cf vv. 15-20)". It is a step "with Christ at its centre whose supremacy and work are extolled in the creation and in the history of redemption (cf vv. 15-20).

There are so two movements in the canticle. In the first, Christ is presented as begotten before all other beings: He is "the firstborn of all creation" (v. 15). He is "the image of the invisible God" and this expression fully embodies the meaning the 'icon' has in the culture of the East. The stress is not so much on similarity but on the profound intimacy with the represented subject."

"Christ offers us in a visible way the 'Invisible God' through the shared nature that unites them. For this high dignity Christ comes before 'all things' not only because of His eternity, but above all because of his creative and providential work."

"For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible . . . and in him all things are held together (vv. 16-17). Better still, all things have been created through him and for him (v. 16)".

"Within the story of salvation, the persona of Christ the Saviour towers over the second movement of the hymn (cf Col 1: 18-20)," the Pope added. "His work shows itself above all in being "the head of the body", i.e. of the Church (v. 18). This is the privileged salvific horizon in which liberation and redemption fully manifest themselves; it is the vital communion between head and members of the body, between Christ and Christians."

"The Apostle looks onto the ultimate goal toward which History moves. Christ is 'the firstborn from the dead' (v. 18). He is the one to open the door to eternal life snatching us from death and evil."

"Here in fact is the pleroma, that 'fullness' of life and grace that is Christ Himself, which is given and communicated to us (cf v. 19). With this vital presence, that allows us to share in the divinity, we are inwardly transformed, reconciled, at peace. This is the harmony of the whole being redeemed in which God has become 'all in all' (1Cor, 15: 28)". (FP)

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