But no one should be afraid; the situation calls for a life of moderation and everyone’s collaboration with hope in God and trust in the “maternal presence of Mary”.
By placing in Mary’s hands the “expectations and hopes as well as the fears and difficulties that dwell in the heart,” Benedict XVI bid farewell to 2008 as he celebrated the first vespers of the solemnity of Mary, Holiest Mother of God, followed by the Te Deum, the traditional hymn of praise and thanksgiving.
“The year that ends and the one that begins,” stressed the Pope, “both come under the benedictory gaze of the Holiest Mother of God.”
In celebrating the first vespers of the Marian solemnity, he added, “many are the liturgical references to the mystery of the divine maternity of the Virgin.”
“Everything tonight,” he said, “makes us want to turn our gaze towards the One who ‘welcomed in her heart and body the Word of God and brought life into the world’. Exactly for this reason, says the Second Vatican Council, she ‘is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God’ (Cost. Lumen gentium, 53). The birthday of Christ, which we are currently celebrating, is entirely suffused with the light of Mary and, even as we pause to contemplate the child in the crèche, our gaze cannot but turn with recognitions toward his Mother, who with her ‘yes’ made the gift of Redemption possible. This is why Christmastide has profoundly Marian connotations. The birth of Jesus, the man-God, and Mary’s divine maternity are indissoluble realities. The mystery of Mary and the mystery of the only-begotten Son of God, who becomes man, form a single mystery, in which one helps to better understand the other.”
“In such times as ours, marked by uncertainty and concern for the future, it is necessary to experience the living presence of Christ. It is Mary, the Star of hope, who leads us to Him. It is her, with maternal love, who can lead to Jesus, especially the young, who bear in their heart irrepressible questions about the meaning of human existence. I know that various groups of parents, who come together to deepen their vocation, are seeking new ways to help their children find answers to the great existential questions. I cordially urge them, with the whole Christian community, to bear witness for the new generations of the joy that comes from meeting Jesus, who through his birth in Bethlehem did not come to take away anything but rather came to give us everything.”
If on Christmas night, Benedict XVI devoted special thoughts to the many ills that today afflict the world’s children, tonight he turned to young people”, who are “in charge of the future”.
“Do not fear,” he said, “the apostolic task that the Lord has given you; do not hesitate to choose a way of life that does not follow the prevailing hedonistic mindset. The Holy Spirit will provide you the necessary strength to bear witness of the joy of the faith and the beauty that is in being Christian. The rising need of evangelisation requires many workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Do not hesitate from answering promptly when he calls you. Society needs citizens who are not only concerned about their own interests because, as I said on Christmas Day, “[i]f people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.”
“This year comes to a close with the awareness of a growing social and economic crisis, which now involves the whole world,” said the Pope. “It is a crisis that requires greater moderation and solidarity from everyone, in order especially to help people and families in greater difficulty. The Christian community is committed” but “the collaboration of everyone is necessary because no one can build their happiness alone.”
“Even though quite a few dark clouds are gathering over our future, we must not be afraid. Our greatest hope as believers is in eternal life in the company of Christ and the entire family of God. This great hope gives us strength to face and overcome the difficulties of life in this world. The maternal presence of Mary ensures tonight that God shall never abandon us if we entrust ourselves to Him and follow his teachings.”
“Thus in Mary, with filial affection and trust, we place our expectations and hopes as well as the fears and difficulties that dwell in our heart, as we bid farewell to 2008 and prepare to welcome 2009.”
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