Pope Benedict XVI: January 2013 Archives

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Here is the text of the Holy Father's General Audience of Wednesday, 16 January 2013. Again, he speaks to us of the Face of God. As the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI unfolds, it becomes more and radiant in the splendour of the Divine Countenance.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

God Makes Himself Known

The Second Vatican Council, in its Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, says that the intimate truth of the revelation of God shines for us "in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation"(no. 2). The Old Testament tells us how God, after the creation, despite original sin, despite man's arrogance in wanting to take the place of his Creator, again offers the possibility of his friendship, especially through the covenant with Abraham and the journey of a small nation, that of Israel, whom he chooses not according to the criteria of earthly power, but simply out of love. It is a choice that remains a mystery and reveals God's style, who calls some not to exclude others, but so that those called will act as bridge leading to Him: election is always an election for the other. In the history of the people of Israel we can retrace the stages of a long journey in which God makes himself known, reveals himself, enters into history with words and actions. For this work He uses mediators, such as Moses, the Prophets, the Judges, who communicate his will to the people, they remind them of the need for fidelity to the covenant and keep alive the expectation of the full and definitive realization of the divine promises.

Jesus Reveals to us the Face of God

And it is precisely the fulfillment of these promises that we contemplated in Christmas: God's revelation reaches its peak, its fullness. In Jesus of Nazareth, God truly visits his people, he visits humanity in a way that exceeds all expectation: he sends his only begotten Son, who becomes man, God himself. Jesus does not simply tell us something about God, he does not simply talk about the Father, because he is God, and thus he reveals to us the face of God. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John writes: "No one has ever seen God: it is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

God Has Shown His Face

I want to focus on this "revealing the face of God." In this regard, St. John, in his Gospel, relates to us a significant fact. Approaching the passion, Jesus reassures his disciples, inviting them not to be afraid and to have faith; then he initiates a dialogue with them in which he speaks of God the Father (cf. Jn 14:2-9). At one point, the apostle Philip asks Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied" (Jn 14:8). Philip is very practical and concrete: he says what we, too, want to say: "we want to see, show us the Father"; he asks to "see" the Father, to see his face. Jesus' answer is an answer not only for Philip, but also for us and leads us into the heart of the Christological faith of the Church; the Lord affirms: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9). This expression contains a synthesis of the novelty of the New Testament, that novelty that appeared in the cave of Bethlehem: God can be seen, he has shown his face, he is visible in Jesus Christ.

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God Turns His Face to Us

Throughout the Old Testament the theme of "seeking the face of God" is ever present, so that the Hebrew term panîm, which means "face", occurs no less than 400 times, 100 of which refer to God, it means to see the face of God. Yet the Jewish religion, by forbidding all images, since God cannot be depicted - as instead occurred among their neighbors with the worship of idols; therefore, with this prohibition of imagery, the Old Testament seems to totally exclude "seeing" from worship and piety. What does it mean then, for the pious Israelite, to seek the face of God, while recognizing that there can be no image of Him? The question is important: on the one hand, it is said that God cannot be reduced to an object, to a simple image, nor can anything be put in the place of God; on the other, however, it is affirmed that He has a face, that is, He is a "You" that can enter into a relationship, who isn't closed in his Heavens looking down upon humanity. God is certainly above all things, but he turns to us, hears us, sees and speaks, makes covenants, is capable of love. The history of salvation is history of God with humanity, it is the history of this relationship of God who progressively reveals himself to man, letting him see his face.

The Splendor of the Divine Face is the Source of Life

Right at the beginning of the year, on January 1, we heard in the liturgy the beautiful prayer of blessing over the people: "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face to you and give you peace" (Num. 6:24-26). The splendor of the divine face is the source of life, it is what allows us to see reality, and the light of his countenance is the guide to life. In the Old Testament there is a figure connected in a very special way to the theme of the "face of God": Moses, whom God chose to free the people from slavery in Egypt, to give them the Law of the covenant and to lead them to the Promised Land. Well, in chapter 33 of the Book of Exodus, it says that Moses had a close and confidential relationship with God: "The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as one speaks with his friend" (v. 11). By virtue of this confidence, Moses asks God: "Show me your glory," and the Lord's answer is clear: "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name ... But you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live ... Here is a place near me ... you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen "(vv. 18-23). On the one hand, then, there is the face to face dialogue as among friends, but on the other, there is the impossibility, in this life, of seeing the face of God, which remains hidden; the vision is limited. The Fathers say that these words, "you shall only see my back", mean: you can only follow Christ and in following you see from behind the mystery of God;God can be followed seeing his back.

The Face and Name of God

Something new happens, however, with the incarnation. The search for the face of God undergoes an unthinkable change, because now this face can be seen: that of Jesus, the Son of God who became man. In Him the path of God's revelation finds fulfillment, which began with the call of Abraham; He is the fullness of this revelation because he is the Son of God, he is both "the mediator and fullness of all revelation" (Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 2), and in Him the content of Revelation and the Revealer coincide. Jesus shows us the face of God and makes known to us the name of God. In the priestly prayer at the Last Supper, He says to the Father: "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world ... I made your name known to them" (cf. Jn 17:6,26). The expression "name of God" means God as He who is present among men. To Moses at the burning bush, God had revealed his name, had made it possible to invoke him, had given a concrete sign of his "existence" among men. All this finds fulfillment and completeness in Jesus: He inaugurates a new way of God's presence in history, because he who sees Him, sees the Father, as he says to Philip (cf. Jn 14:9). Christianity - says Saint Bernard - is the "religion of the Word of God"; not, however, "a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word" (Hom. super Missus Est, IV, 11: PL 183, 86B). In the Patristic and Medieval traditions, a special formula is used to express this reality: Jesus is the Verbum abbreviatum (cf. Rom 9:28, referring to Isaiah 10:23), he is the short, abbreviated and substantial Word of the Father, who has told us everything about Him. In Jesus the whole Word is present.

Jesus the Mediator

In Jesus even the mediation between God and man finds its fullness. In the Old Testament, there is a host of figures who have performed this task, particularly Moses, the deliverer, the guide, the "mediator" of the covenant, as also the New Testament defines him (cf. Gal 3:19; Acts 7:35, Jn 1:17). Jesus, true God and true man, is not simply one of the mediators between God and man, he is "the mediator" of the new and everlasting covenant (cf. Heb 8:6; 9:15, 12:24); "For there is one God", Paul says, "and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5, Gal 3:19-20). In Him we see and meet the Father; in Him we can invoke God as "Abbà, Father"; in Him we are given salvation.

See the Face of God in the Face of Christ

The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the face of God, is in every man, even atheists. And we perhaps unwittingly have this desire to see simply who He is, what He is, who He is for us. But this desire is realized by following Christ, so we see his back and finally also see God as a friend, his face in the face of Christ.

The Eucharist is the Great School in Which We Learn to See the Face of God

The important thing is that we follow Christ not only when we are in need and when we find space for it in our daily affairs, but with our lives as such.The whole of life should be directed towards encountering Him, towards loving Him; and, in it, a central place must also be given to the love of one's neighbor, that love that, in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering. This is only possible if the true face of Jesus has become familiar to us in listening to His Word, in interior dialogue, in entering into this Word in such a way as to really encounter him,and naturally in the Mystery of the Eucharist. In the Gospel of St. Luke there is the significant passage of the two disciples of Emmaus, who recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, thought after being prepared by the journey with Him, prepared by the invitation they made Him to remain with them, prepared by the dialogue that made their hearts burn; so, in the end, they see Jesus.For us, too, the Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see the face of God, we enter into an intimate relationship with Him, and we learn at the same time to turn our gaze towards the final moment of history, when He will satisfy us with the light of his face. On earth we walk towards this fullness, awaiting the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Thank you.

[Zenit Translation by Peter Waymel]

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

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The Holy Father gave this teaching on Saint Hilary of Poitiers at the General Audience of 10 October 2007. The archives of the Holy Father's General Audience are a precious resource during this Year of Faith.

God knows not how to be anything other than love, he knows not how to be anyone other than the Father. . . . This name admits no compromise, as if God were father in some aspects and not in others. (Saint Hilary of Poitiers)

There is such peace and security for souls in this teaching of Saint Hilary on the fatherhood of God. Much of the inward suffering of people is rooted in their ignorance of God as Father. Were the Fatherhood of God preached in our churches -- better known, and experienced in prayer -- we would see innumerable graces of inner healing, liberation from anxiety, and growth in love.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, I would like to talk about a great Father of the Church of the West, Saint Hilary of Poitiers, one of the important Episcopal figures of the fourth century. In the controversy with the Arians, who considered Jesus the Son of God to be an excellent human creature but only human, Hilary devoted his whole life to defending faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, Son of God and God as the Father who generated him from eternity.

Quest for the Truth

We have no reliable information on most of Hilary's life. Ancient sources say that he was born in Poitiers, probably in about the year 310 A.D. From a wealthy family, he received a solid literary education, which is clearly recognizable in his writings. It does not seem that he grew up in a Christian environment. He himself tells us of a quest for the truth which led him little by little to recognize God the Creator and the incarnate God who died to give us eternal life.

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Exile

Baptized in about 345, he was elected Bishop of his native city around 353-354. In the years that followed, Hilary wrote his first work, Commentary on St Matthew's Gospel. It is the oldest extant commentary in Latin on this Gospel. In 356, Hilary took part as a Bishop in the Synod of Béziers in the South of France, the "synod of false apostles", as he himself called it since the assembly was in the control of Philo-Arian Bishops who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. "These false apostles" asked the Emperor Constantius to have the Bishop of Poitiers sentenced to exile. Thus, in the summer of 356, Hilary was forced to leave Gaul.

On the Trinity

Banished to Phrygia in present-day Turkey, Hilary found himself in contact with a religious context totally dominated by Arianism. Here too, his concern as a Pastor impelled him to work strenuously to re-establish the unity of the Church on the basis of right faith as formulated by the Council of Nicea. To this end he began to draft his own best-known and most important dogmatic work: De Trinitate (On the Trinity). Hilary explained in it his personal journey towards knowledge of God and took pains to show that not only in the New Testament but also in many Old Testament passages, in which Christ's mystery already appears, Scripture clearly testifies to the divinity of the Son and his equality with the Father. To the Arians he insisted on the truth of the names of Father and Son, and developed his entire Trinitarian theology based on the formula of Baptism given to us by the Lord himself: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

The Father and the Son

The Father and the Son are of the same nature. And although several passages in the New Testament might make one think that the Son was inferior to the Father, Hilary offers precise rules to avoid misleading interpretations: some Scriptural texts speak of Jesus as God, others highlight instead his humanity. Some refer to him in his pre-existence with the Father; others take into consideration his state of emptying of self (kenosis), his descent to death; others, finally, contemplate him in the glory of the Resurrection.

A Spirit of Reconciliation

In the years of his exile, Hilary also wrote the Book of Synods in which, for his brother Bishops of Gaul, he reproduced confessions of faith and commented on them and on other documents of synods which met in the East in about the middle of the fourth century. Ever adamant in opposing the radical Arians, Saint Hilary showed a conciliatory spirit to those who agreed to confess that the Son was essentially similar to the Father, seeking of course to lead them to the true faith, according to which there is not only a likeness but a true equality of the Father and of the Son in divinity. This too seems to me to be characteristic: the spirit of reconciliation that seeks to understand those who have not yet arrived and helps them with great theological intelligence to reach full faith in the true divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

On the Psalms

In 360 or 361, Hilary was finally able to return home from exile and immediately resumed pastoral activity in his Church, but the influence of his magisterium extended in fact far beyond its boundaries. A synod celebrated in Paris in 360 or 361 borrows the language of the Council of Nicea. Several ancient authors believe that this anti-Arian turning point of the Gaul episcopate was largely due to the fortitude and docility of the Bishop of Poitiers. This was precisely his gift: to combine strength in the faith and docility in interpersonal relations. In the last years of his life he also composed the Treatises on the Psalms, a commentary on 58 Psalms interpreted according to the principle highlighted in the introduction to the work: "There is no doubt that all the things that are said in the Psalms should be understood in accordance with Gospel proclamation, so that, whatever the voice with which the prophetic spirit has spoken, all may be referred nevertheless to the knowledge of the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, Passion and Kingdom, and to the power and glory of our resurrection" (Instructio Psalmorum, 5). He saw in all the Psalms this transparency of the mystery of Christ and of his Body which is the Church.

Saint Hilary and Saint Martin

Hilary met Saint Martin on various occasions: the future Bishop of Tours founded a monastery right by Poitiers, which still exists today. Hilary died in 367. His liturgical Memorial is celebrated on 13 January. In 1851 Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the universal Church.

Baptismal Faith

To sum up the essentials of his doctrine, I would like to say that Hilary found the starting point for his theological reflection in baptismal faith. In De Trinitate, Hilary writes: Jesus "has commanded us to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28: 19), that is, in the confession of the Author, of the Only-Begotten One and of the Gift. The Author of all things is one alone, for one alone is God the Father, from whom all things proceed. And one alone is Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things exist (cf. I Cor 8: 6), and one alone is the Spirit (cf. Eph 4: 4), a gift in all.... In nothing can be found to be lacking so great a fullness, in which the immensity in the Eternal One, the revelation in the Image, joy in the Gift, converge in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit" (De Trinitate 2, 1). God the Father, being wholly love, is able to communicate his divinity to his Son in its fullness. I find particularly beautiful the following formula of St Hilary: "God knows not how to be anything other than love, he knows not how to be anyone other than the Father. Those who love are not envious and the one who is the Father is so in his totality. This name admits no compromise, as if God were father in some aspects and not in others" (ibid., 9, 61).

The Way to Christ Is Open to All

For this reason the Son is fully God without any gaps or diminishment. "The One who comes from the perfect is perfect because he has all, he has given all" (ibid., 2, 8). Humanity finds salvation in Christ alone, Son of God and Son of man. In assuming our human nature, he has united himself with every man, "he has become the flesh of us all" (Tractatus super Psalmos 54, 9); "he took on himself the nature of all flesh and through it became true life, he has in himself the root of every vine shoot" (ibid., 51, 16). For this very reason the way to Christ is open to all - because he has drawn all into his being as a man -, even if personal conversion is always required: "Through the relationship with his flesh, access to Christ is open to all, on condition that they divest themselves of their former self (cf. Eph 4: 22), nailing it to the Cross (cf. Col 2: 14); provided we give up our former way of life and convert in order to be buried with him in his baptism, in view of life (cf. Col 1: 12; Rom 6: 4)" (ibid., 91, 9).

Reflection Transformed into Prayer

Fidelity to God is a gift of his grace. Therefore, St Hilary asks, at the end of his Treatise on the Trinity, to be able to remain ever faithful to the baptismal faith. It is a feature of this book: reflection is transformed into prayer and prayer returns to reflection. The whole book is a dialogue with God.

I would like to end today's Catechesis with one of these prayers, which thus becomes our prayer:

Keep, I pray You, this my pious faith undefiled, and even till my spirit departs, grant that this may be the utterance of my convictions: so that I may ever hold fast that which I professed in the creed of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let me, in short, adore You our Father, and Your Son together with You; let me win the favour of Your Holy Spirit, Who is from You, through Your Only-begotten Son. Amen.


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There is no doubt about it: Benedict XVI is the Pope of the Face of God, of the Human Face of God, the Face of Jesus Christ upon which shines the glory of the Father. Here, with my subtitles, is the homily given by the Holy Father on this New Year's Day.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"May God bless us and make his face to shine upon us." We proclaimed these words from Psalm 66 after hearing in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing upon the people of the covenant. It is especially significant that at the start of every new year God sheds upon us, his people, the light of his Holy Name, the Name pronounced three times in the solemn form of biblical blessing. Nor is it less significant that to the Word of God - who "became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14) as "the true light that enlightens every man" (1:9) - is given, as today's Gospel tells us, the Name of Jesus eight days after his birth (cf. Lk 2:21). It is in this Name that we are gathered here today.

I cordially greet all present, beginning with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; I am particularly grateful to them for their effort to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace, which this year has as its theme "Blessed are the Peacemakers".

Mankind's Innate Vocation to Peace

Although the world is sadly marked by "hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism," as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that "the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind's innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God's plan for mankind.

Both a Messianic Gift and the Fruit of Human Effort

Man is made for the peace which is God's gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God' (Mt 5:9)" (Message, 1). This beatitude "tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort ... It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation" (ibid., 2, 3). Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.

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The Interior Peace of Mary

We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today's liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which "she gave birth to her first-born son" (Lk 2:7), many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.

Theotokos: Mother of God

The Gospel passage finishes with a mention of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. Through his messenger, God himself had said to Mary - as well as to Joseph - that the Name to be given to the child was "Jesus" (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31); and so it came to be. The Name which God had already chosen, even before the child had been conceived, is now officially conferred upon him at the moment of circumcision. This also changes Mary's identity once and for all: she becomes "the mother of Jesus", that is the mother of the Saviour, of Christ, of the Lord. Jesus is not a man like any other, but the Word of God, one of the Divine Persons, the Son of God: therefore the Church has given Mary the title Theotokos or Mother of God.

The Splendour of the Face of God

The first reading reminds us that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God, according to the text from the Book of Numbers, which hands down the blessing used by the priests of the People of Israel in their liturgical assemblies. This blessing repeats three times the Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time it is linked to two words indicating an action in favour of man: "The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (6:24-26). So peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favour, in which he turns towards us the splendour of his face.

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Contemplating the Face of God Is the Greatest Happiness

For sacred Scripture, contemplating the face of God is the greatest happiness: "You gladden him with the joy of your face" (Ps 21:7). From the contemplation of the face of God are born joy, security and peace. But what does it mean concretely to contemplate the face of the Lord, as understood in the New Testament? It means knowing him directly, in so far as is possible in this life, through Jesus Christ in whom he is revealed. To rejoice in the splendour of God's face means penetrating the mystery of his Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of his interior life and of his will, so that we can live according to his plan of love for humanity.

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The Hidden Face of the Father Revealed in the Visible Human Face of the Son

In the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians (4:4-7), Saint Paul says as much as he describes the Spirit who, in our inmost hearts, cries: "Abba! Father!" It is the cry that rises from the contemplation of the true face of God, from the revelation of the mystery of his Name. Jesus declares, "I have manifested thy name to men" (Jn 17:6). God's Son made man has let us know the Father, he has let us know the hidden face of the Father through his visible human face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, he has led us to understand that, in him, we too are children of God, as Saint Paul says in the passage we have just heard: "The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, 'Abba, Father'" (Gal 4:6).

Jesus Christ, the Splendour of the Face of God the Father

Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons in the Son, and thus of having, on life's journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace - "peace with God" - which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome (cf. Rom 5:2). Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (5:5).

Contemplate the Face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace

May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen!

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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