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The King of Kings is Born…

Christ The King

(William Chatterton Dix, published ca. 1865)

What Child is this, who laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here,
The silent Word is pleading.
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through,
The Cross be borne, for me, for you:
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh;
Come peasant, king to own Him.
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Raise, raise, the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Merry Christmas from the Evan’s…

Pope Benedict XVI Homily on the Solemnity of Mary: Peace, A Divine Gift to Be Constantly Implored

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are beginning a new year and Christian hope takes us by the hand; let us begin it by invoking divine Blessings upon it and imploring, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, the gift of peace: for our families, for our cities, for the whole world. With this hope, I greet all of you present here, starting with the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who have gathered at this celebration on the occasion of the World Day of Peace. I greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and all members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am particularly grateful to them for their commitment to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace whose theme this year is: “The human family, a community of peace”.

Peace. In the First Reading from the Book of Numbers we heard the invocation: “The Lord… give you peace” (6:26); may the Lord grant peace to each one of you, to your families and to the whole world. We all aspire to live in peace but true peace, the peace proclaimed by the Angels on Christmas night, is not merely a human triumph or the fruit of political agreements; it is first and foremost a divine gift to be ceaselessly implored, and at the same time a commitment to be carried forward patiently, always remaining docile to the Lord’s commands. This year, in my Message for today’s World Day of Peace, I wanted to highlight the close relationship that exists between the family and building peace in the world. The natural family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, is “a “cradle of life and love'” and “the first and indispensable teacher of peace”. For this very 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. nn. 1-5). Since humanity is a “great family”, if it wants to live in peace it cannot fail to draw inspiration from those values on which the family community is based and stands. The providential coincidence of various recurrences spur us this year to make an even greater effort to achieve peace in the world. Sixty years ago, in 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations published the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”; 40 years ago my venerable Predecessor Paul VI celebrated the first World Day of Peace; this year, in addition, we will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Holy See’s adoption of the “Charter of the Rights of the Family“. “In the light of these significant anniversaries” – I am repeating here what I wrote precisely at the end of the Message – “I invite 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” [n. 15].

Our thoughts now turn spontaneously to Our Lady, whom we invoke today as the Mother of God. It was Pope Paul VI who moved to 1 January the Feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, which was formerly celebrated on 11 October. Indeed, even before the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council, the memorial of the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth – as a sign of submission to the law, his official insertion in the Chosen People – used to be celebrated on the first day of the year and the Feast of the Name of Jesus was celebrated the following Sunday. We perceive a few traces of these celebrations in the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed, in which St Luke says that eight days after his birth the Child was circumcised and was given the name “Jesus”, “the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in [his Mother’s]… womb” (Lk 2:21). Today’s feast, therefore, as well as being a particularly significant Marian feast, also preserves a strongly Christological content because, we might say, before the Mother, it concerns the Son, Jesus, true God and true Man.

The Apostle Paul refers to the mystery of the divine motherhood of Mary,the Theotokos, in his Letter to the Galatians. “When the time had fully come”, he writes, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (4:4). We find the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word and the Divine Motherhood of Mary summed up in a few words: the Virgin’s great privilege is precisely to be Mother of the Son who is God. The most logical and proper place for this Marian feast is therefore eight days after Christmas. Indeed, in the night of Bethlehem, when “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7), the prophesies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son”, Isaiah had foretold (7:14); “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son”, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary (Lk 1:31); and again, an Angel of the Lord, the Evangelist Matthew recounts, appeared to Joseph in a dream to reassure him and said: “Do not fear to take Mary for your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son” (Mt 1:20-21).

The title “Mother of God”, together with the title “Blessed Virgin”, is the oldest on which all the other titles with which Our Lady was venerated are based, and it continues to be invoked from generation to generation in the East and in the West. A multitude of hymns and a wealth of prayers of the Christian tradition refer to the mystery of her divine motherhood, such as, for example, a Marian antiphon of the Christmas season, Alma Redemptoris mater, with which we pray in these words: “Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem, Virgo prius ac posterius – You, in the wonder of all creation, have brought forth your Creator, Mother ever virgin”. Dear brothers and sisters, let us today contemplate Mary, ever-virgin Mother of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father; let us learn from her to welcome the Child who was born for us in Bethlehem. If we recognize in the Child born of her the Eternal Son of God and accept him as our one Saviour, we can be called and we really are children of God: sons in the Son. The Apostle writes: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4).

The Evangelist Luke repeats several times that Our Lady meditated silently on these extraordinary events in which God had involved her. We also heard this in the short Gospel passage that the Liturgy presents to us today. “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).

The Greek verb used, sumbállousa, literally means “piecing together” and makes us think of a great mystery to be discovered little by little. Although the Child lying in a manger looks like all children in the world, at the same time he is totally different: he is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true man. This mystery – the Incarnation of the Word and the divine Motherhood of Mary – is great and certainly far from easy to understand with the human mind alone.

Yet, by learning from Mary, we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and minds do not manage to perceive or contain on their own. Indeed, this is such a great gift that only through faith are we granted to accept it, while not entirely understanding it. And it is precisely on this journey of faith that Mary comes to meet us as our support and guide. She is mother because she brought forth Jesus in the flesh; she is mother because she adhered totally to the Father’s will. St Augustine wrote: “The divine motherhood would have been of no value to her had Christ not borne her in his heart, with a destiny more fortunate than the moment when she conceived him in the flesh” (De Sancta Virginitate,3, 3). And in her heart Mary continued to treasure, to “piece together” the subsequent events of which she was to be a witness and protagonist, even to the death on the Cross and the Resurrection of her Son Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren. May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray, as we heard in the First Reading, that the Lord may “make his face to shine” upon us, “and be gracious” to us (cf. Nm 6:24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!

© Copyright 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope Benedict XVI’s Epiphany Homily: January 6, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters, The light that shone in the night at Christmas illuminating the Bethlehem Grotto, where Mary, Joseph and the shepherds remained in silent adoration, shines out today and is manifested to all. The Epiphany is a mystery of light, symbolically suggested by the star that guided the Magi on their journey. The true source of light, however, the “sun that rises from on high” (cf. Lk 1: 78), is Christ.

In the mystery of Christmas, Christ’s light shines on the earth, spreading, as it were, in concentric circles. First of all, it shines on the Holy Family of Nazareth:  the Virgin Mary and Joseph are illuminated by the divine presence of the Infant Jesus. The light of the Redeemer is then manifested to the shepherds of Bethlehem, who, informed by an Angel, hasten immediately to the grotto and find there the “sign” that had been foretold to them:  the Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (cf. Lk 2: 12).

The shepherds, together with Mary and Joseph, represent that “remnant of Israel”, the poor, the anawim, to whom the Good News was proclaimed.

Finally, Christ’s brightness shines out, reaching the Magi who are the first-fruits of the pagan peoples.

The palaces of the rulers of Jerusalem, to which, paradoxically, the Magi actually take the news of the Messiah’s birth, are left in the shade. Moreover, this news does not give rise to joy but to fear and hostile reactions. The divine plan was mysterious:  “The light came into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were wicked” (Jn 3: 19).

But what is this light? Is it merely an evocative metaphor or does this image correspond to reality? The Apostle John writes in his First Letter:  “God is light; in him there is no darkness” (I Jn 1: 5); and further on he adds:  “God is love”. These two affirmations, taken together, help us to understand better:  the light that shone forth at Christmas, which is manifested to the peoples today, is God’s love revealed in the Person of the Incarnate Word. Attracted by this light, the Magi arrived from the East.

In the mystery of the Epiphany, therefore, alongside an expanding outward movement, a movement of attraction toward the centre is expressed which brings to completion the movement already written in the Old Covenant. The source of this dynamism is God, One in Three Persons, who draws all things and all people to himself. The Incarnate Person of the Word is presented in this way as the beginning of universal reconciliation and recapitulation (cf. Eph 1: 9-10).

He is the ultimate destination of history, the point of arrival of an “exodus”, of a providential journey of redemption that culminates in his death and Resurrection. Therefore, on the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the liturgy foresees the so-called “Announcement of Easter”:  indeed, the liturgical year sums up the entire parable of the history of salvation, whose centre is “the Triduum of the Crucified Lord, buried and risen”.

In the liturgy of the Christmas season this verse of Psalm 98[97] frequently recurs as a refrain:  “The Lord has made his salvation known:  in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice” (v. 2).

These are words that the Church uses to emphasize the “epiphanic” dimension of the Incarnation:  the Son of God becoming human, his entry into history, is the crowning point of God’s revelation of himself to Israel and to all the peoples. In the Child of Bethlehem, God revealed himself in the humility of the “human form”, in the “form of a slave”, indeed, of one who died on a cross (cf. Phil 2: 6-8). This is the Christian paradox.

Indeed, this very concealment constitutes the most eloquent “manifestation” of God. The humility, poverty, even the ignominy of the Passion enable us to know what God is truly like. The Face of the Son faithfully reveals that of the Father. This is why the mystery of Christmas is, so to speak, an entire “epiphany”. The manifestation to the Magi does not add something foreign to God’s design but unveils a perennial and constitutive dimension of it, namely, that “in Christ Jesus the Gentiles are now coheirs… members of the same body and sharers of the promise through… the Gospel” (Eph 3: 6).

At a superficial glance, God’s faithfulness to Israel and his manifestation to the peoples could seem divergent aspects; they are actually two sides of the same coin. In fact, according to the Scriptures, it is precisely by remaining faithful to his Covenant of love with the people of Israel that God also reveals his glory to other peoples. Grace and fidelity (cf. Ps 89[88]: 2), “mercy and truth” (cf. Ps 85[84]: 11), are the content of God’s glory, they are his “name”, destined to be known and sanctified by people of every language and nation.

However, this “content” is inseparable from the “method” that God chose to reveal himself, that is, absolute fidelity to the Covenant that reaches its culmination in Christ. The Lord Jesus, at the same time and inseparably, is “a light revealing to the Gentiles the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2: 32), as the elderly Simeon was to exclaim, inspired by God, taking the Child in his arms when his parents presented him at the temple. The light that enlightens the peoples – the light of the Epiphany – shines out from the glory of Israel – the glory of the Messiah born, in accordance with the Scriptures, in Bethlehem, “the city of David” (cf. Lk 2: 4).

The Magi worshipped a simple Child in the arms of his Mother Mary, because in him they recognized the source of the twofold light that had guided them:  the light of the star and the light of the Scriptures. In him they recognized the King of the Jews, the glory of Israel, but also the King of all the peoples.

The mystery of the Church and her missionary dimension are also revealed in the liturgical context of the Epiphany. She is called to make Christ’s light shine in the world, reflecting it in herself as the moon reflects the light of the sun.

The ancient prophecies concerning the holy city of Jerusalem, such as the marvellous one in Isaiah that we have just heard:  “Rise up in splendour! Your light has come…. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance” (Is 60: 1-3), have found fulfilment in the Church.

This is what disciples of Christ must do:  trained by him to live in the way of the Beatitudes, they must attract all people to God through a witness of love:  “In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your deeds and give praise to your heavenly Father” (Mt 5: 16). By listening to Jesus’ words, we members of the Church cannot but become aware of the total inadequacy of our human condition, marked by sin.

The Church is holy, but made up of men and women with their limitations and errors. It is Christ, Christ alone, who in giving us the Holy Spirit is able to transform our misery and constantly renew us. He is the light of the peoples, the lumen gentium, who has chosen to illumine the world through his Church (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1).

“How can this come about?”, we also ask ourselves with the words that the Virgin addresses to the Archangel Gabriel. And she herself, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, gives us the answer:  with her example of total availability to God’s will – “fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” (Lk 1: 38) – she teaches us to be a “manifestation” of the Lord, opening our hearts to the power of grace and faithfully abiding by the words of her Son, light of the world and the ultimate end of history.
So be it!