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Advent

Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church) and is also the beginning of the Western liturgical year. It is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming. The term Advent is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming".

Papa Francis's words during Advent in: 2017, 2016,
the Jubilee of Mercy 2015, 2014 & 2013.

Papa Benedict XVI's words during Advent in: the Year of Faith 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 & 2005.

Papa St John Paul II's words during Advent in: 1987 & 1978

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Advent (1st of 4)      

"Advent — as a liturgical time of the ecclesial year — takes us back to the beginnings of Revelation. And precisely at the beginnings we encounter immediately the fundamental link between these two realities: God and man.

3 2us on Advent by Father Anthony Doe       

"Advent is the time when we pray that the Holy Spirit will move deeply and mysteriously in the hearts of all of us; will prepare that place where Jesus can be born deep within our own lives, our own spirits, our own hearts, as he was born in the life of his mother Mary."

Sunday Evangelium with Fr Andrew Pinsent on 1st Sunday of Advent      
[Recorded in 2010 - hence reference to Benedict XVI rather than Pope Francis :o]

"If we put God first in our lives, then we lose nothing. All that we do will ultimately be well-ordered and fruitful. May God keep us safely in the ark of the Church, whatever the storms of this life, and bring us one day safely to the shore of His eternal kingdom."

Sunday Evangelium with Fr Marcus Holden on 2nd Sunday of Advent      

"Christmas is not just a memory or an aspiration. It's a living experience because the babe who was born still lives and we receive him whom the angels adored. The very word Christmas means the Mass of Christ. We celebrate Christmas by getting in on the act, by gazing in wonder like the shepherds and adoring like the wise men."

Sunday Evangelium with Fr Marcus Holden on 3rd Sunday of Advent      

"This joy that we speak about now is a joy that is filled with substance. It means that we're basically and irrevocably a hope-filled people, that Christ is our joy and that he comes to us. That is why we rejoice. We know that on this great stage of the world we are in a divine comedy, not a tragedy. We don't know the details of the script but we know the general outline. We know that it has all been guaranteed in its good endings, no matter how difficult things may get within the story. Life is full of light and shadow but it ends in complete and total light."

Sunday Evangelium with Fr Marcus Holden on 4th Sunday of Advent      

".. that is what happens when we confess - we are reborn, we are revivified to live forever - there is no greater miracle than that. It is the most important preparation now for the coming of Christ at Christmas - think of Mary and Joseph. We are told that they prepare a place for him in a stable. Our souls are lowly stables but we can make of our hearts a place for him. We could bring back love and the way to do this is through confession."

Catechesis by St John Paul II on Advent (1 of 4)      
General Audience, Wednesday 29 November 1978 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Even if the liturgical time of Advent only begins next Sunday, from today I desire to speak about this cycle.

We are by now accustomed to the term "advent"; we know what it means, but precisely by the fact that we are so familiar with it, we perhaps do not come to understand all the richness that this concept contains.

Advent means "coming".

Thus we must ask ourselves: who is it that comes? and for whom does he come? To this question we immediately find the answer. Even children know that it is Jesus who comes, for them and for all men. He comes one night to Bethlehem, he is born in a grotto, which serves as a stable for the animals.

Children know this, so too do adults who participate in the children's joy, and who on Christmas night seem to become children too. Nevertheless many are the questions that are asked. Man has the right, and even the duty, to question so as to know. There are also those who doubt and, although they participate in the joy of Christmas, seem strangers to the truth that it contains.

Precisely for this reason we have the time of Advent, so that every year we can penetrate anew into this essential truth of Christianity.

2. The truth of Christianity corresponds to two fundamental realities which we can never lose sight of. They are both closely connected. It is precisely this link, so intimate that one reality seems to explain the other, that is the characteristic note of Christianity. The first reality is called "God", the second: "man". Christianity arises from a particular, reciprocal relationship between God and man. In recent times — especially during the Second Vatican Council — it was discussed at length, whether such a relationship was theocentric or anthropocentric. There will never be a satisfactory answer to this question if we continue to consider the two terms of the question separately. In fact Christianity is anthropocentric precisely because it is fully theocentric; and at the same time it is theocentric thanks to its singular anthropocentrism.

But it is precisely the mystery of the incarnation which, by itself, explains this relationship.

And it is for this reason that Christianity is not only a "religion of advent", but Advent itself.

Christianity lives the mystery of the real coming of God to man, and constantly throbs and pulsates with this reality. It is simply the very life of Christianity. It is about a reality both profound and simple, that is close to the understanding and sensibility of every man and above all of the one who, on Christmas night, knows how to become a child.

Not in vain did Jesus once say: "If you do not become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18, 3).

3. So as to understand in depth this twofold reality with which Christianity throbs and pulsates every day, it is necessary to go back to the very beginnings of Revelation, indeed almost to the beginnings of human thought.

At the beginnings of human thought there can be different conceptions; the thought of each individual has its own history in his life, from childhood. However in speaking of the "beginning" I do not intend so much to deal with the history of thought. I wish instead to note that at the very bases of thought, that is at its sources, is found the concept of "God' and the concept of "man". Sometimes they are covered by a layer of many other different concepts (in particular in today's civilization of "materialist" and also "technocratic reification"), but that does not mean that these concepts do not exist or that they are not at the bases of our thought. Even the most elaborate atheistic system makes sense only if it presupposed that it knows the meaning of the idea of "Theos", that is to say God. In this regard the pastoral Constitution of Vatican II rightly teaches us that many forms of atheism derive from the lack of an adequate rapport with this concept of God. Thus they are, or at least they can be, negations of something or rather of Someone other who does not correspond to the true God.

4. Advent — as a liturgical time of the ecclesial year — takes us back to the beginnings of Revelation. And precisely at the beginnings we encounter/meet
immediately the fundamental link between these two realities: God and man.

Taking in hand the first book of Sacred Scripture, that is, Genesis, we begin by reading the words: "Beresit bara!: In the beginning He created ... " There then follows the name of God, which in this biblical text sounds "Elohim". In the beginning He created, and the one who created is God. These three words constitute as it were the threshold of Revelation. A
t the beginning of the book of Genesis God is not only defined with the name "Elohim"; other parts of this book also use the name "Yahweh".  The verb "created" speaks even more clearly about/of him. This verb in fact reveals God, who God is. It expresses his substance not so much in itself as par rapport with the world, that is, with all of the creatures subject to the laws of time and space. The circumstantial complement "in the beginning" indicates God as the One who is before this beginning, who is not limited either by time or space, and who "creates", that is, who "gives beginning" to everything that is not God, that which constitutes the visible and invisible world (according to Genesis: the heaven and the earth). In this context the verb "created" says of God firstly that he himself exists, that he is, that he is the fullness of being, that such fullness manifests itself as Omnipotence, and that this Omnipotence is both Wisdom and Love. The first sentence of Sacred Scripture tells us all this about God. In this way the concept of "God" is formed in our intellect, if we refer to the beginnings of Revelation.

It would be significant to examine the rapport between the concept of "God", as we find it at the beginnings of Revelation, with that which we find at the bases of human thought (even in the case of the negation of God, that is, of atheism). But today I do not intend to develop this subject.

5. I wish instead to note that at the beginnings of Revelation — in the same book of Genesis — and this already in the first chapter, we find the fundamental truth about man, whom God ("Elohim") creates in his "image and likeness". We read in fact: "God said: let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves" (Gen 1, 26), and further on: "God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1, 27).

I will return to the problem of man next Wednesday. But today
already I must point out this particular relationship between God and his image, that is to say, man.

This relationship illuminates us on the very bases of Christianity. It also allows us to give a fundamental answer to two questions: first, what does "Advent" mean, second, why precisely is "Advent" part of the very substance of Christianity?

I leave these questions to your reflection. We will return to them
more than once in our future meditations. The reality of Advent is full of the deepest truth about God and man."

Saluti:

Ai malati


"Ora voglio rivolgere un saluto particolare agli ammalati. Con sincera benevolenza di padre e di pastore vi invito a rinnovare la vostra adesione totale a Cristo crocifisso, dalle cui sofferenze tutti noi in quanto cristiani traiamo la realtà della nostra salvezza. La Chiesa perciò conta anche su di voi. Che il Signore vi aiuti a tener ferma la vostra fede e la vostra speranza, perché si compia la sua volontà sia nel dolore che nella guarigione."

Ai giovani sposi

"Poiché è pure presente un numeroso gruppo di giovani sposi, intendo salutare anche loro con particolare affetto. Il Signore vi conceda un mutuo amore indefettibile, che il tempo non consumi mai, e lo renda fecondo sia con la reciproca maturazione di fronte alla vita sia con la responsabile procreazione di figli buoni e sani. Il Signore vi sostenga con la sua grazia e la mia Benedizione vi accompagni sempre."

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Advent (2 of 4)
General Audience, Wednesday 6 December 1978 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest Sisters and Brothers,
I am returning to last Wednesday's subject.

1. To penetrate into the biblical and liturgical fullness of the meaning of Advent, it is necessary to follow two directions. We must "go back" to the beginnings, and at the same time "go down" in depth. We did so already, for the first time, last Wednesday, choosing as the subject of our meditation the first words of the book of Genesis: "In the beginning God created" (Beresit bara Elohim). Towards the end of the subject developed last week, we pointed out, among other things, that, to understand Advent in its full meaning, it is also necessary to tackle the subject of "man". The full meaning of Advent emerges from reflection on the Reality of God who creates — and creating reveals himself (this is the first and fundamental revelation, and also the first and fundamental truth of our "Creed"). The full meaning of Advent comes at the same time from deep reflection on the reality of man. We will approach this second reality, man, a little more during today's meditation.

2. A week ago we dwelt on the words of the book of Genesis, in which man is defined as the "image and likeness of God". It is necessary to reflect with greater intensity on the texts that speak of it. They belong to the first chapter of the book of Genesis, in which the description of the creation of the world is presented in the succession of seven days. The description of the creation of man, on the sixth day, is somewhat different from the preceding descriptions. In these descriptions we are witnesses only of the act of creation, expressed with the words: "God said — Let there be ... "; here, on the contrary, the author wishes to highlight first the intention and the plan of the Creator (of God-Elohim); we read, in fact: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'" (Gen 1, 26). As if the Creator entered into himself; as if, creating, not only did he call things into existence from nothingness with the words: "Let there be", but, as if, in a special way, he drew man from the mystery of his own Being. That is understandable, because it is not a question just of Being, but of the Image. The image must "reflect", it must, in a certain way, almost reproduce "the substance" of its Prototype. The Creator says, furthermore, "after our likeness". It is clear that it must not be understood as a "portrait", but as a living being, who will live a life similar to that of God.

Only after these words, which bear witness, so to speak, to the plan of God-Creator, does the Bible speak of the act itself of the creation of man: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1, 27).

This description is made complete by the blessing. There are, therefore: the plan, the act of creation itself and the blessing: "And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth'" (Gen 1, 28).

The last words of the description: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1, 31 ) — seem to be the echo of this blessing.

3. Certainly the text of Genesis is among the most ancient ones: according to biblical scholars, it was written in about the 9th century BC. That text contains the fundamental truth of our faith, the first article of the "Apostles' Creed". The part of the text, which presents the creation of man, is stupendous in its simplicity and at the same time in its depth. The affirmations it contains correspond to our experience and to our knowledge of man. It is clear to everyone, regardless of ideologies on the conception of the world, that man, though belonging to the visible world, to nature, is in some way differentiated from this nature itself. In fact, the visible world exists "for him" and he "has dominion" over it; although, in various ways, he is "conditioned" by nature, he "dominates" it. He dominates it, by the strength of what he is, of his capacities and faculties of the spiritual order, which differentiate him from the natural world. It is these very faculties that constitute man. On this point the book of Genesis is extraordinarily precise. Defining "God's image", it shows the reason why man is man; the reason why he is a being distinct from all the other creatures of the visible world.

Science has made — and continues to make — a great many attempts in various fields to prove man's ties with the natural world and his dependence on it, in order to integrate him in the history of the evolution of the various species. While respecting these researches, we cannot limit ourselves to them. If we analyse man in the depth of his being, we see that he differs more from the world of nature than he resembles it. Also anthropology and philosophy proceed in this direction, when they try to analyse and understand man's intelligence, freedom, conscience and spirituality. The book of Genesis seems to meet all these experiences of science, and, speaking of man as "God's image", lets it be understood that the answer to the mystery of his humanity is not to be found along the path of similarity with the world of nature. Man resembles God more than nature. Psalm 82, 6 says so: "You are gods", the words that Jesus will take up again subsequently (cf Jn 10, 34).

4. This is a bold affirmation. It is necessary to have faith to accept it. Reason, however, if unprejudiced, does not oppose this truth about man; on the contrary, it sees in it a complement to what emerges from the analysis of human reality, and above all of the human spirit.

It is extremely significant that already the same book of Genesis, in the long description of the creation of man, obliges man — the first man created (Adam) — to make a similar analysis. What we read there may "scandalize" some people, owing to the archaic way of expression, but at the same time it is impossible not to be astonished at the relevance of that narrative today, when it considers the heart of the matter.

Here is the text: "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers ...

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it ...

Then the Lord God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'. So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him" (Gen 2, 7-20).

What do we witness? The first "man" carries out the first and fundamental act of knowledge of the world. At the same time this act enables him to know and distinguish himself, "man", from all other creatures, and above all from those which as "living beings" — endowed with vegetative and sensitive life — show proportionally the greatest similarity with him, "with man", who is also endowed with vegetative and sensitive life.

It could be said that this first man does what every man of any time usually does; that is: he reflects on his own being and asks himself who he is.

The result of this cognitive process is the realization of the fundamental and essential difference: I am different. I am more "different" than "similar".

The Bible description concludes: "for the man there was not found a helper fit for him" (Gen 2, 20).

5. Why are we speaking of all this today? — We are doing so to understand better the mystery of Advent, to understand it from its very foundations — and thus penetrate with greater depth into our Christianity.

Advent means "the Coming".

If God "comes" to man, he does so because in the human being he has prepared a "dimension of expectation" through which man can "welcome" God, is capable of doing so.

Already the book of Genesis, and particularly this chapter, explains this when, speaking of man, it states that God "created (him)... in his own image" (Gen 1, 27)."

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Advent (3 of 4)
General Audience, Wednesday 13 December 1978 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. For the third time already in these Wednesday meetings of ours, I am dealing again with the subject of Advent, following the rhythm of the Liturgy, which introduces us into the life of the Church in the simplest and at the same time deepest way. The Second Vatican Council, which gave us a rich and universal teaching on the Church, called our attention also to the Liturgy. Through it we get to know not only what the Church is, but we experience, day by day, what she lives on. We, too, live by it because we are the Church: "It is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2).

Now the Church is living Advent and therefore our Wednesday meetings are centred on this liturgical period. Advent means "Coming". To penetrate the reality of Advent, we have tried so far to look in the direction of who comes and for whom he comes. We have therefore spoken of a God who, creating the world, reveals himself: of a God Creator. And last Wednesday we spoke of man. Today we will continue, in order to find a more complete answer to the question: why "Advent"? Why does God come? Why does he want to come to man?

The liturgy of Advent is based mainly on the texts of the Old Testament Prophets. The prophet Isaiah speaks in it nearly every day. In the history of the People of God of the Old Covenant, he was a particular "interpreter" of the promise, which this people had obtained from God a long time before in the person of the founder of the race: Abraham. Like all the other prophets, and perhaps more than them all, Isaiah strengthened in his contemporaries faith in God's promises confirmed by the Covenant at the foot of Mount Sinai. He taught above all perseverance in waiting and faithfulness: "0 people in Zion ... The Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard for the joy of your heart" (cf Is 30, 19 & 30).

When Christ was in the world, he referred several times to Isaiah's words. He said clearly: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4, 21).

2. The liturgy of Advent is of historical character. The expectation of the coming of the Anointed (Messiah) was a historical process. In fact, it permeated the whole history of Israel, which was chosen for the very purpose of preparing the Saviour's coming.

In a certain way, however, our reflections go beyond the daily liturgy of Advent. Let us return therefore to the basic question: why does God come? Why does he want to come to man, to humanity? Let us look for adequate answers to these questions and let us look for them at the very beginnings, that is, even before the history of the chosen people began. This year, our attention goes to the first chapters of the book of Genesis. The "historical" advent would not be understandable without a careful reading and analysis of those chapters.

Therefore, seeking an answer to the question: "Why" advent?, we must once more reread carefully the whole description of the creation of the world and, in particular, the creation of man. It is significant (as I have already had occasion to mention) how the single days of creation end with the observation: "God saw that it was good"; and, after the creation of man: " ... God saw it was very good". This observation, as I already said last week, is accompanied by the blessing of creation, and above all by an explicit blessing of man.

In all this description we have before us a God who, to use St Paul's expression, rejoices in truth, in the good (cf 1 Cor 13, 6). Where there is joy, springing from the good there is love. And only where there is love, is there the joy that comes from the good. The book of Genesis, right from its first chapters, reveals to us God who is Love (although this expression will be used much later by St John). He is Love, because he rejoices in the good. Creation is, therefore, at the same time a real giving: where there is love, there is giving.

The book of Genesis indicates the beginning of the existence of the world and of man. Interpreting this existence, we must certainly, as St Thomas Aquinas did, construct a consistent philosophy of being, a philosophy in which the very order of existence will be expressed. However, the book of Genesis speaks of the creation as a gift. God who creates the visible world is the giver; and man is the one who receives the gift. He is the one for whom God creates the visible world, the one whom God, right from the beginning, introduces not only to the order of existence, but also to the order of giving. The fact that man is the "image and likeness" of God means, among other things, that he is able to receive the gift, that he appreciates this gift, and that he is capable of reciprocating it. That is why God from the beginning establishes the covenant with man, and only with him. The book of Genesis reveals to us not only the natural order of existence, but at the same time, right from the beginning, the supernatural order of grace. We can speak of grace only if we admit the reality of the Gift. Let us recall from the catechism: grace is God's supernatural gift as the result of which we become children of God and heirs to heaven.

3. What connection has all this with Advent? — we may rightly wonder. I answer: Advent took shape for the first time on the horizon of man's history, when God revealed himself as the one who delights in the good, who loves and who gives.

In this gift to man God did not just "give him" the visible world — this is clear from the beginning — but giving man the visible world, God wants to give him Himself too, just as man is capable of giving himself, just as he "gives himself" to the other man: from person to person; that is, to give Himself to him, admitting him to participation in his mysteries, and even to participation in his life. This is carried out in a tangible way in the relationships between members of a family: husband-wife, parents­ children. That is why the prophets refer very often to these relationships, to show God's true image.

The order of grace is possible only "in the world of persons". It concerns the gift which always aims at the formation and communion of persons; in fact the book of Genesis presents to us such a giving. The form of this "communion of persons" is delineated in it right from the beginning. Man is called to familiarity with God, to intimacy and friendship with him. God wants to be close to him. He wants to make him a participant in his plans. He wants to make him a participant in his life. He wants to make him happy with his own happiness (with his own Being).

Because of all this the Coming of God is necessary, as is the expectation of man: the availability of man. We know that the first man, who enjoyed original innocence and the particular closeness of his Creator, did not show this availability. This first covenant of God with man was interrupted, but the will to save man did not cease on the part of God. The order of grace was not broken, and therefore Advent lasts always.

The reality of Advent is expressed, among other things, by the following words of St Paul: "God ... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (l Tim 2, 4).

That "God desires" is precisely Advent, and it is at the basis of every advent."

Ai Membri dell’“Accademia Sistina”

"Desidero ora rivolgere un particolare saluto al Signor Cardinale Pietro Palazzini e ai Membri dell’“Accademia Sistina” da lui accompagnati. So che già il mio amatissimo Predecessore Paolo VI ebbe modo, lo scorso anno, di significare il suo apprezzamento per il vostro Sodalizio, allora costituito. Anch’io sono lieto di confermare questo sentimento, incoraggiandovi nella vostra attività di ricerca intorno alla grande figura di Papa Sisto V e, in generale, di promozione culturale e umana nel nome e nel ricordo di questo illustre e tuttora ammirato Pontefice della Chiesa Romana. Con voi, Soci dell’Accademia, intendo anche salutare e benedire i pellegrini, che son qui convenuti dal suo paese natale."

A gruppi di malati

"A special greeting and blessing to the sick present here and to all those who are suffering. My thought flies and extends wherever in the world physical or moral pain torments and mortifies human beings."

Appello per la liberazione delle vittime dei sequestri

"Following the daily news items, we come across dramas and sufferings that wring our hearts. In particular I would like to recall today those who are in affliction owing to a form of violence which has, unfortunately, become so frequent in the last few years: that of kidnapping. It is a scourge unworthy of civil countries, which has, unfortunately also reached horrifying forms of cruelty. In God's name I beseech those responsible to release those whom they keep sequestered and I remind them that God is the avenger of men's actions. May the Lord really touch their hearts and cause that spark of humanity which cannot be absent from their spirits, to triumph, thus giving a laudable conclusion to a deeply deplorable act."

Alle coppie di giovani sposi

"Rivolgo poi un cordiale saluto e un augurio sincero ai novelli sposi che anche oggi sono presenti numerosi. Il Signore benedica il vostro amore, vi sia vicino e vi accompagni lungo la via che avete scelto di percorrere insieme, fino alla morte."

Catecheses by Pope St John Paul II on Advent (4 of 4)
General Audience, Wednesday 20 December 1978 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Our meeting today offers us the opportunity for the fourth and last meditation on Advent. The Lord is near, the Liturgy of Advent reminds us every day. This closeness of the Lord is felt by all of us: both by us priests, reciting every day the marvellous "major antiphons" of Advent, and by all Christians who try to prepare their hearts and their consciences for his coming. I know that in this period the confessionals of churches in my country, Poland, are thronged (no less than during Lent). I think that it is certainly the same in Italy also, and wherever a deep spirit of faith makes the need felt of opening one's soul to the Lord who is about to come. The greatest joy of this expectation of Advent is that felt by children. I remember that it was just they who hurried most willingly in the parishes of my country to the Masses celebrated at dawn, the so-called "Rorate ... ", from the word with which the liturgy opens: .. "Rorate coeli", (Drop down dew, 0 ye heavens, from above, Is 45, 8). Every day they counted how many "rungs" still remained on the "heavenly ladder", by which Jesus would descend to the earth in order to be able to meet him at midnight of Christmas in the crib of Bethlehem.

The Lord is near!

2. A week ago already, we spoke of this approach of the Lord. It was, in fact, the third subject of the Wednesday considerations chosen for Advent this year. We have meditated successively — going back to the very beginnings of mankind, that is, to the book of Genesis — on the fundamental truths of Advent: God who creates (Elohim) and in creating reveals himself at the same time; man, created in the image and likeness of God, "reflects" God in the visible created world. These were the first and fundamental subjects of our meditations during Advent. Then the third subject, which can be briefly summed up in the word: "grace". "God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2, 4). God wishes man to become a participant in his truth, his love, his mystery, so that he may share in the life of God himself. "The tree of life" symbolizes this reality already from the first pages of Holy Scripture. In the same pages, however, we also meet another tree: the book of Genesis calls it "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen 2, 16). In order that man may eat the fruit of the tree of life, he must not touch the fruit of the tree "of the knowledge of good and evil". This expression may sound like an archaic legend. But the more we penetrate "the reality of man", as we can understand it from his earthly history — and as our human inner experience and our conscience speak of it to each of us — the more we feel we cannot remain indifferent, shrugging our shoulders before these primitive biblical images. How charged they are with existential truth on man! A truth that each of us feels as his own. Did not Ovid, the ancient Roman poet, a pagan, say explicitly: "Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor" — I see and approve what is better, but I follow what is worse (Metamorphoses VII, 20). His words are not so different from what St Paul wrote later: "1 do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate" (cf Rom 7, 15). Man himself, after original sin, is between "good and evil".

"The reality of man" — the deepest "reality of man" — seems to be unfolded continuously between that which from the beginning was defined as the "tree of life" and that which has been defined as "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". Therefore in our meditations on Advent, which concern the fundamental laws, the essential realities, we cannot exclude another subject: the one that is expressed by the word: sin.

3. Sin. The catechism tells us in a simple way, easy to remember, that it is a transgression of God's commandment. Unquestionably sin is the transgression of a moral principle, the violation of a "norm" — and on this everyone agrees, even those who do not want to hear of "God's commandments". They, too, agree in admitting that the principal moral norms, the most elementary principles of behaviour, without which life and coexistence among men is not possible, are precisely what we know as "God's commandments" (in particular the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh and the eighth). Man's life, social life among men, takes place in an ethical dimension, and this is its essential characteristic, and it is also the essential dimension of human culture.

Today, however, I would like us to concentrate on that "first sin" which — in spite of what is commonly thought — is described in the book of Genesis so precisely that it shows all the depth of the "reality of man" contained in it. This sin "is born" contemporaneously "from outside", that is, from temptation, and "from inside". The temptation is expressed in the following word of the tempter: "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3, 5). The content of the temptation strikes what the Creator himself moulded in man — for, in fact, he was created "in the likeness of God", which means: "in a way like God". It also strikes the desire for knowledge that exists in man, and the desire for dignity. Except that both are falsified, so that the desire for knowledge like that for dignity — that is, resemblance to God — are in the act of temptation used to set man against God. The tempter puts man against God by suggesting that God is his enemy, that he tries to keep him, man, in a state of "ignorance"; that he tries to "limit him" in order to subject him. The tempter says: "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (according to the old translation: "you will be like gods") (Gen 3, 4-5).

We must meditate, and not just once, on this "archaic" description. I do not know if many other passages can be found in Holy Scripture in which the reality of sin is described not only in its original form, but also in its essence, that is, where the reality of sin is presented in such full and deep dimensions, showing how man used against God exactly what in him was God's, that is, what should have served to bring him nearer to God.

4. Why are we speaking of all this today? In order to understand Advent better. Advent means: God who comes, because he wills "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2, 4). He comes because he created the world and man out of love and established the order of grace with him.

He comes, however, "because of sin"; he comes "in spite of sin"; he comes to take away sin.

Let us not be surprised, therefore, that on Christmas night, he does not find room in the houses of Bethlehem and has to be born in a stable (in the cave which served as a shelter for the animals).

All the more important, however, is the fact that he comes. Every year Advent reminds us that grace, and that is God's will to save man, is more powerful than sin."

Ai malati

"Permettete che rivolga adesso il mio particolare pensiero a voi ammalati e infermi, che portate nel vostro corpo ferito e dolorante i segni della passione del Signore, e a voi anziani delle baracche della periferia romana, che siete amorevolmente assistiti – e oggi qui accompagnati – dalle buone suore di madre Teresa di Calcutta.A voi dirò con affezione del tutto speciale: sappiate sopportare la sofferenza con fortezza cristiana, senza mai perdervi d’animo. Il Signore è vicino a voi; date un valore superiore al vostro dolore, santificatelo con le vostre sofferenze, abbandonatevi con fiducia a Colui che misteriosamente vi prova, perché sappiate “soffrire insieme con lui, per essere con lui glorificati” (cf. Rm 8,17). La gioia del Natale, annunziata dagli angeli ai pastori di Betlemme, vi procuri conforto e sollievo, unitamente alla pace che è il dono più bello portato agli uomini dal neonato Redentore. Avvalori questi voti la speciale Benedizione Apostolica che di cuore imparto a voi e a quanti vi assistono."

Alle coppie di giovani sposi

"Saluto poi i novelli sposi che sono qui presenti. Ad essi e alla nuova famiglia cristiana rivolgo i miei auguri. Carissimi figli, il Signore ha benedetto il vostro amore e vi accompagna nel vostro cammino. Impegnatevi sempre più nel colloquio con Dio e nella santificazione della vita, proprio anche perché il Signore vi ha fatti incontrare e vi ha uniti. A tutti la mia benedizione."