On World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI goes back to his Message to speak about «human ecology». We must rediscover the face of God in order to see all living creatures, men and nature, as a «reflection of the face of the Creator» so that we love and take care of them. Around the world, the iconic figure of the «Mother of God of Tenderness» is disfigured by the «painful images of so many children and mothers at the mercy of war and violence, living as refugees, exiles or forced migrants, their faces hollowed by hunger and disease, disfigured by pain and desperation.» Education and the rejection of nihilism are the path towards true ecology.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Christmas, the «feast of faith that becomes the feast of man and creation,» is the celebration that finds expression in decorations on trees, in the streets, and on houses. Everything blooms again because God has come among us,» said Benedict XVI as he emphasised the link between Christmas, today’s celebration, Mary Mother of God, and World Day of Peace, which is now at its 43rd edition and whose theme this year is the «protection of the environment».
«The Virgin Mother showed the Child Jesus to the shepherds in Bethlehem, and they glorified and praised God (cf Lk, 2:20). The Church renews this mystery for every generation of men, showing them the face of God so that, with his blessing, they may walk on the path of peace».
«Showing God’s face» as the root of peace was the theme in the homily the Pope pronounced during the Mass he concelebrated with several cardinals in the presence of many ambassadors to the Holy See.
Quoting from the Bible, the Holy Father said, «The entire Biblical story can be read as a gradual revelation of the face of God until it reaches its full expression in Jesus Christ.»
«The face of God took on a human form. He let himself be seen and recognised in the son of the Virgin Mary, which is the reason why we venerate her with highest title, that of ‘Mother of God’. She, who kept in her heart the secret of the divine maternity, was the first one to see God’s face made man in the small fruit of the womb.»
Taking his cue from the typical «tenderness» icons of Byzantium, the Pope said that «the face of the child Jesus leans, cheek to cheek, on that of his Mother. The child looks at the Mother, and she looks at us. [. . .] The same icon also shows us that, in Mary, we see the face of the Church, which reflects upon us and the entire world the light of Christ, the Church through which the Good News reaches every man. ‘So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God’(Gal, 4:7), we read in Saint Paul.»
«Meditating about the mystery of the face of God and man is a privileged life that leads to peace. Indeed, the latter begins with a respectful look that sees in others one‘s fellows, irrespective of their skin colour, nationality, language or religion. Who but God can, so to speak, guarantee the depth of man’s face? Indeed, only if we have God in our hearts can we recognise a fellow human being in the faces of others, not as a means to an end but as an end in himself, not as a rival or an enemy but as someone like ourselves, an aspect of the infinite mystery of man.»
“Those with an empty heart can only see flat images without much depth,» Benedict XVI said. However, «the more we are inhabited by God, the more we are sensitive to his presence in what surrounds us, in all creatures, especially in our fellow men, and this despite the fact that sometimes the human face, marked by evil and the harshness of life, can be hard to appreciate and welcome as an epiphany of God. It is even more necessary for us to refer to the face of a shared Father, one who loves us all in spite of our limits and mistakes, if we want to recognise and respect one another for what we are, brothers.»
In his address, the Pope went on to mention a typical situation that is found in many parts of the world, namely that of children from different national or racial backgrounds who come together in school. «The smaller they are, the more we react we tenderness and joy to what comes across as their obvious innocence and sense of brotherhood. In spite of their differences, they cry and laugh the same way; they have the same needs; they communicate spontaneously, playing together . . . . The faces of children are like a reflection of God’s vision on the world.»
Unfortunately, there are events in this world that poison the hearts of children and dim their smiles, Benedict XVI said. The same image of the Mother of God of Tenderness «finds its tragic opposite in the painful images of so many children and mothers at the mercy of war and violence, living as refugees, exiles or forced migrants, their faces hollowed by hunger and disease, disfigured by pain and desperation. The faces of the little innocent ones are a silent appeal to our sense of responsibility. Given their defencelessness, all false justifications for war and violence collapse. We must simply convert to projects of peace, lay down every weapon and commit to build together a world worthy of man.»
Building peace and protecting creation is possible only if we start again from a «human ecology» that refers to the face of God and the face of man. Going back to some of the issues mentioned in his Message, Benedict XVI said, «Man has the means to respect living creatures to the extent that in his spirit he carries a full sense of life; otherwise, he will tend to despise himself and what surrounds him, and will show no respect for the environment in which he lives, which is Creation. Those who can recognise in the cosmos the reflections of the invisible face of the Creator are more inclined than others to love living creatures and be more sensitive about their symbolic value.»
«If man debases himself, he debases the environment in which he lives. If culture moves towards nihilism, practical if not theoretical, nature cannot but pay the consequences”.
«I therefore renew my appeal,» the Pontiff said, that we «invest in education with the objective, in addition to the necessary transmission of technical and scientific knowledge, of further developing and expanding our sense of ‘environmental responsibility‘, based on the respect for man, his fundamental rights and duties. Only this way can a commitment to the environment truly build peace and educate for peace.»
Photo : CPP