Via Vatican Information Services, the homily by Pope Francis given yesterday in the Vatican Basilica on the Solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God, followed by the Holy Father’s remarks given later, at the Angelus.
Vatican City, 1 January 2014 (VIS) – This Wednesday, Solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God, and Octave of Christmas, the Holy Father presided at the Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica, concelebrated by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”; Archbishop Pietro Parolin, secretary of State; Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, substitute secretary of State; and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States. Today is also 47th World Day of Peace, the theme of which is “Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace”.
The full text of Pope Francis’ homily is published below:
“In the first reading we find the ancient prayer of blessing which God gave to Moses to hand on to Aaron and his sons: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace’. There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naive hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.
“The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.
“The Mother of God. This is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It refers to a quality, a role which the faith of the Christian people, in its tender and genuine devotion to our heavenly Mother, has understood from the beginning. We recall that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined. The truth of her divine maternity found an echo in Rome where, a little later, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major was built, the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God – the Theotokos – is venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani. It is said that the residents of Ephesus used to gather at the gates of the basilica where the bishops were meeting and shout, ‘Mother of God!’. The faithful, by asking them to officially define this title of Our Lady, showed that they acknowledged her divine motherhood. Theirs was the spontaneous and sincere reaction of children who know their Mother well, for they love her with immense tenderness. But it is more: it is the sensus fidei of the holy People of God which, in its unity, never errs.
“Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. ‘The Church journeys through time … and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary’. Our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us. As far as faith, the hinge of the Christian life, is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path as ourselves, a path which is sometimes difficult and obscure. She had to advance in the ‘pilgrimage of faith’.
“Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: ‘Behold your Mother!’. These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The ‘woman’ became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus. The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy!
“The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modelled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. Let us then together invoke her, and I invite you to invoke her three times, following the example of those brothers and sisters of Ephesus: Mother of God! Mother of God! Mother of God! Amen”.
Vatican City, 1 January 2014 (VIS) – Following the celebration of Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God, and on the 47th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff made some comments on the theme of peace.
“Following in the footsteps of my predecessors, beginning with Paul VI, I have developed this theme in a message, which today I convey to all. It is based on the conviction that we are all children of one Heavenly Father, we are part of the same human family, and we share a common destiny. Thus we all have the shared responsibility to work to make the world into a community of brothers and sisters who respect each other, accept diversity and take care of each other. We are also called to be aware of the violence and injustice that exist in many parts of the world and to which we should remain indifferent and immobile: the commitment of all is necessary to build a more just and caring society. From every corner of the earth, today believers raise prayers to the Lord for the gift of peace and the ability to bring it to every place.”
“On this, the first day of the year”, added the Holy Father, “may the Lord help us to set out more decisively on the path of justice and peace; may the Holy Spirit act in our hearts, loosening bonds and warming hardened hearts so that they open up to the tenderness and weakness of the Child Jesus. Peace requires the force of meekness, the non-violent strength of the truth and of love”.
Similarly, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to place their hopes with filial trust in the hands of Mary. “May she, who extends her maternal love to all mankind, hear the cry for peace of those people oppressed by war and violence, so that the courage of dialogue and reconciliation might prevail over the temptation for revenge, arrogance and corruption. We pray to her that the Gospel of fraternity announced and witnessed by the Church speak to every conscience and break down the walls that prevent enemies from recognising each other as brothers”.
After the Marian prayer, Pope Francis wished a happy new year, full of peace, to all the pilgrims and faithful. He thanked the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, for the words addressed to the him during the president’s message to the Italian nation on the night of 31 December, and sent his best wishes to the Italian people so that they “may look to the future with confidence and hope”. He also thanked the various groups that have arranged prayer initiatives dedicated to peace, in particular the national March which began on 31 December in Campobasso, Italy, organised by the Italian Episcopal Conference, Caritas and Pax Christi; the Sant’Egidio Community; and the families of the Movement of Family Love, who spent the night praying in St. Peter’s Square,and the volunteers of Fraterna Domus. Before concluding, he addressed a special greeting to the “Star Singers” (“Sternsinger”), the children and young people in Germany and Austria who bring the blessing of Jesus to homes and collect donations for children in need.