01/25/2022, 20.08
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Pope: The Magi show Christians the stages of the journey towards unity

Humility is “the one way to come to worship God in the same house, around the same altar.” The “great band of martyrs’ around Jesus, indicates “to us here below a clear way, the way of unity!”


Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today celebrated Vespers for the Solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul, marking the end of the 55th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The traditional event in the Basilica of St Paul’s Outside-the-Walls brought together representatives of various Churches, after ecumenical meetings centred this year on the theme “In the East ‘We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage’ (Mt 2:2),” indicated by the Council of Churches of the Middle East.

Following the Magi’s path, Francis focused on three stages of the journey that “began from the East, passed through Jerusalem, and at last came to Bethlehem.”

The journey’s start, in the words of Francis, indicates that the Magi “were not content with their own knowledge and traditions; they desired something more. Hence, they embarked on a risky voyage, driven by a restless search for God.”

Traditionally represented wearing varied clothes, to represent various communities, “In them, we can see reflected our own differences, our different Christian traditions and experiences, but also our unity, which is born of the same desire: to look to heaven and to journey together on earth.” Like them, “may we too follow the star of Jesus!”

The Magi come from the East. “The East also makes us think of Christians living in various regions devastated by war and violence. It was the Middle East Council of Churches that prepared the resources for this Week of Prayer. These brothers and sisters of ours confront any number of difficult challenges, yet by their testimony they give us hope.

“They remind us that the star of Christ shines in the darkness and never sets; from on high, the Lord accompanies and encourages our steps. Around him, in heaven, there shine together, without distinction of confession, a great band of martyrs; they indicate to us here below a clear way, the way of unity!”

In Jerusalem, the second stage of their journey, the Magi found “the dark forces of this world,” i.e., Herod, and all those who fear the novelty they proclaim.

“Along our journey towards unity, we too can halt for the same reason that paralyzed those people: confusion and fear. The fear of a newness that upsets our usual habits and our sense of security; the fear that others may destabilize my traditions and long-established patterns. Yet deep down it is the fear lurking in every human heart, the fear from which the risen Lord wishes to liberate us.

“On our journey of fellowship, may we never fail to hear his words of encouragement: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mt 28:5.10). Let us not fear to put our brothers and sisters ahead of our own fears! The Lord wants us to trust one another and to journey together, despite our failings and our sins, despite the errors of the past and our mutual wounds.”

Finally, in Bethlehem, prostrating themselves before the child Jesus, the Magi anticipated the apostles, “many yet one” who became “a prophetic sign for us who long for the Lord, our traveling companions along the paths of the world, seekers through sacred Scripture of the signs of God in history. Brothers and sisters, for us too, the fullness of unity, in the same house, will only be attained through worship of the Lord.”

For Francis, this is the path to follow: to worship God by prostrating ourselves. “How many times has pride proved the real obstacle to communion!”

“The gifts of the Magi symbolize the gifts the Lord desires to receive from us. God must be given the gold, that which is most precious, because the first place must always go to God. It is to him that we should look, not to ourselves; to his will, not our own; to his ways, not our own. If the Lord is truly in the first place, our choices, including our ecclesiastical choices, can no longer be based on the politics of this world, but on the will of God.

“Then there is the incense, which recalls the importance of prayer, which rises up to God as a pleasing fragrance (cf. Ps 141:2). May we never tire of praying for one another and with one another. Finally, there is the myrrh, which would be used to honour the body of Jesus taken down from the cross (cf. Jn 19:39), and which speaks to us of care for the suffering flesh of the Lord, reflected in the wounds of the poor. Let us serve those in need. Together, let us serve the suffering Jesus!”

Like the Magi who returned by another path, the Pope ended saying: “we need to change course, to invert the route of our habits and our ways, in order to find the path that the Lord points out to us: the path of humility, fraternity and adoration.

The celebration was attended by Metropolitan Polykarpos, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; Ian Ernest, personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome; and representatives of other Christian communities present in Rome.

Also present were students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, Anglican students from Nashotah College in the United States, and Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox students who are on a scholarship offered by the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox Churches, which is active within the Council for Promoting Christian unity.

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