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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:

"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.

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 theme.

1. So as to penetrate into the biblical and liturgical fullness of the meaning of Advent, two directions must be followed. It is necessary to "go back" to the beginnings, and at the same time to "go down" in depth. We have already done so/this, for the first time, last Wednesday, choosing as themes of our meditation the first words of the book of Genesis: "In the beginning God created" (Beresit bara Elohim). Towards the end of the theme developed last week,
among other things we observed that, so as to understand Advent in its full meaning, we also need to introduce ourselves to the theme of "man". The full meaning of Advent arises/springs from reflection on the Reality of God who creates, and in/by creating reveals Himself/His very self (this is the first and fundamental revelation, and also the first and fundamental truth of our "Creed"). The full meaning of Advent emerges at the same time from deep reflection on the reality of man. During today's meditation we will get a little closer to this second reality which is man.

2. A week ago we talked about/were entertained by 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 make up/are part of 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, differs a little 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 instead the inspired author wants/wishes to highlight first the intention and the plan of the Creator (of God-Elohim); we read there in fact: "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in/after our likeness'" (Gen 1, 26). As if the Creator entered into Himself/His very self, as if, in/by creating, not only did He call from nothing(ness) into existence with the word: "be", but as if, in a particular way, he drew man from the mystery of his own Being. This is comprehensible/understandable, because it not only concerns/is not only about the Being, but he Image. The image must "reflect", it must, in a certain way, almost reproduce "the substance" of its Prototype. The Creator says, furthermore, "in/after our likeness". It is obvious that it should not be understood as a "portrait", but as a living being, who lives a life similar to that of God.

Only after these words, which bear witness, so to speak, to the design/plan of God-Creator, does the Bible speak of the act itself of the creation of man: "God created man in his 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 thus: the design/plan, the act itself of creation and the blessing: "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth; 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: "God saw what 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: according to Bible/biblical scholars, it was written around the IX century before Christ. That text contains the fundamental truth of our faith, the first article of the apostolic "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, without distinction of ideology on the conception of the world, that man, while/though belonging to the visible world, to nature, differs in some way from this same nature/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, strong in that which he is/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 precisely these faculties/these very faculties that constitute man. On this point the book of Genesis is extraordinarily precise. In defining man "image of God", it puts in evidence/shows the reason that for which/why man is man; that for which/the reason why he is a being distinct from all the other creatures of the visible world.

The numerous attempts that science has made — and continues to make — in various fields are well known, so as to demonstrate man's links with the natural world and his dependence on it, in order to insert him in the history of the evolution of different species. While respecting these researches, we cannot limit ourselves to them. If we analyse man in the depths of his being, we see that he differs more than he resembles the world of nature. Anthropology and philosophy also proceed in this direction, when they seek 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 the "image of God", lets it be understood that the answer to the mystery of his humanity is not (to be) found along the road of similarity with the world of nature. Man resembles God more than nature. In this sense Psalm 82, 6 says: "You are gods", the words that will then be taken up by Jesus/Jesus will then take up again (cf Jn 10, 34).

4. This affirmation is bold/audacious. One needs to have faith to accept it. However reason, without prejudice, is not opposed to this truth about man, on the contrary, it sees in it a complement to that which/what emerges from the analysis of human reality and above all of the human spirit.

It is very 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" someone/some people, due to the archaic way of expression, but at the same time it is impossible not to marvel at the actuality of that story/narrative, when the core of the problem is taken into consideration.

And here is the text: "Then the Lord God molded/formed man with/of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and man became a living being. Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, to the east, and there he placed the man whom he had fashioned/formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, amongst which the tree of life in the midst of the garde, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to irrigate the garden, then it divided and formed four courses/rivers ...
The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate it and keep it ...
Then the Lord said: 'It is not good for man to be alone; I want to give him a helper who is similar to him'. Then the Lord God fashioned/formed out of the ground every sort of wild beast and all the birds of the sky/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. Thus the man gave names to all the cattle, to all the birds of the sky/air and to all the wild beasts, but man did not find a helper who was similar to him" (Gen 2, 7-20).

What do we witness? Here, the first "man" accomplishes/performs/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 — proportionally demonstrate/show the greatest similarity to/with him, "to/with man", who is also endowed with vegetative and sensitive life.

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

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

The biblical description concludes: "Man did not find a helper similar to him" (Gen 2, 20).

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

Advent means "the Coming".

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

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

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

"1. Already for the third time in these our Wednesday meetings, I am taking up the theme of Advent, following the rhythm of the Liturgy, which in the simplest and at the same time deepest way introduces us into the life of the Church. The Second Vatican Council, which has given us a rich and universal doctrine on the Church, has called/drawn our attention also to/on the Liturgy. Through it we know not only what the Church is, but we experience, day by day, that of which she lives. We too live of/by it because we are the Church: "The liturgy ... contributues in the highest degree to what that the faithful express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the genuine nature of the true Church, which has the characteristic of being, at the same time, human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, fervent in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world and, yet, 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". So as to penetrate the reality of Advent, we have so far tried to look in the direction of who comes and for whom he comes. We have thus spoken of a God who, creating the world, reveals his very self/himself: of a God Creator. And last Wednesday we spoke of man. Today we will continue, so as 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 principally on the texts of the Old Testament Prophets. In it the prophet Isaiah speaks almost every day. He was, in the history of the People of God of the ancient/old covenant, a particular "interpreter" of the promise, which this People had long ago
obtained from God in the person of their progenitor: Abraham. Like all the other prophets, and perhaps more than (them) all, Isaiah strengthened in his contemporaries the faith in the promises of God confirmed by the covenant at the foot of Mount Sinai. He taught above all perseverance in waiting and faithfulness: "People in Zion ... the Lord will come to save the peoples and will make his powerful voice heard for the joy of your hearts" (cf Is 30, 19.30).

When Christ was in the world, he referred several times to the words of Isaiah. He said clearly: "Today this scripture is accomplished/has been fulfilled which you have heard with your ears" (Lk 4, 21).

2. The liturgy of Advent is of historical character. The waiting for/expectation of the coming of the Anointed (Messiah) was an historical process. In fact it has permeated the whole history of Israel, which was chosen precisely so as to prepare for the coming of the Saviour.

Our considerations however go, in a certain way, beyond the daily liturgy of Advent. Let us thus return to the basic question: why does God come? Why does he want to come to man, to humanity? To these questions let us seek adequate answers and let us seek them in the very beginnings, that is, before even the history of the chosen People began. This year, our attention is turned to the first chapters of the book of Genesis. The "historical" Advent would not be understandable without an accurate/ a careful reading and analysis of those chapters.

Thus, seeking an answer to the question: "why" Advent?, we must once again reread carefully/attentively the whole description of the creation of the world and, in particular, of the creation of man. It is significant (as I have already had occasion to mention) how the single/individual days of creation end by observing: "God saw that it was good"; and, after the creation of man: " ... he saw that it was very good". This observation, as I already said last week, is united with/joined to/combined with the blessing of creation, and above all with an explicit blessing of man.

In all this description there stands before us a God who, to use the expression of St Paul, is pleased with truth, with the good (cf 1 Cor 13, 6). There where there is joy, which springs from the good, there is love. And only there where there is love, is there the joy which comes from the good. The book of Genesis, right from its first chapters, reveals to us God who is Love (though St John will use this expression much later). He is Love, because he rejoices in the good. Creation is thus at the same time an authentic donation/gift: there where there is love, there is gift.

The book of Genesis indicates the beginning of the existence of the world and of man. Interpreting it we must certainly, as St Thomas Aquinas did, construct a consequent 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 gift. God who creates the visible world is 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, from the very beginning, introduces not only in(to) the order of existence, but also in(to) the order of donation/giving. The fact that man is "image and likeness" of God means, among other things, that he is able to receive the gift, that he is sensible/sensitive/appreciates to this gift, and that he is capable of reciprocating it. Therefore right from the beginning God 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 the supernatural gift of God through which we become children of God and heirs of/to heaven.

3. What links/connection does all this have with Advent? we can justly/rightly ask ourselves. I respond/answer: Advent was delineated for the first time at/on the horizon of the history of man, when God revealed Himself as the One who is pleased/delights in the good, who loves and who gives.

In this gift to man God did not limit himself to "giving him" the visible world — this is clear from the beginning — but in giving to man the visible world, God wants to give him also his very self/Himself, 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 His very Self/Himself to him, admitting him to participation in his mysteries, even/indeed to participation in his life. This takes place/is actuated/carried out in a tangible way in the relationships between family members: husband-wife, parents-children. That is why the prophets refer very often to these relationships, so as to show the true image of God.

The order of grace is possible only "in the world of persons". It concerns the gift which always tends to the formation and communion of persons; in fact the book of Genesis presents us with such a donation. 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 render/make him participant in his designs/plans. He wants to render/make him participant in his life. He wants to render/make him happy with his own happiness (with his own Being).

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

The reality of Advent is among other things expressed by the following words of St Paul: "God ... wishes/wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2, 4).

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


Saluti

"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 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.

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.

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 ultimate/last meditation on Advent. The Lord is close/near, the liturgy of Advent reminds us every day. We all feel this closeness of the Lord: as/both us, priests, reciting every day the wonderful "major antiphons" of Advent, as/and all Christians who seek to prepare their hearts and their consciences for his coming. I know that in this period the confessionals of churches in my homeland, Poland, are besieged (no less than during Lent). I think that it is certainly also the case in Italy and wherever a deep spirit of faith makes one feel the need to open one's soul to the Lord who is about to come. The greatest joy of this waiting/expectation of Advent is that which children live. I remember that, in the parishes of my homelands, it was precisely they who hurried most willingly for/to the masses celebrated at dawn (so-called "Rorate ... ", from the word with which the liturgy opens: "Rorate coeli": Drop down, heavens, from above) (Is 45, 8). They counted every day how many "steps/rungs" still remained on the "heavenly ladder", from/by which Jesus would descend to the earth, so as to be able to meet him at midnight on Christmas in the crib of Bethlehem.

The Lord is close!

2. We have already spoken a week ago about this approach of the Lord. It was, in fact, the third theme of the Wednesday considerations, chosen for Advent this year. We have meditated successively, going back to the very beginnings of humanity, that is, to the book of Genesis, on the fundamental truths of Advent: God who creates (Elohim) and in this creation simultaneously reveals his very Self/Himself; man, created in the image and likeness of God, "reflects" God in the visible created world. These were the first and fundamental themes of our meditations during Advent. Then the third theme which can be briefly summed up in the word: "grace". "God wishes/wills that all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2, 4). God wishes man to become participant in his truth, his love, his mystery, so that he may take part in the life of God himself. "The tree of life" symbolizes this reality from the very first pages of Holy Scripture. But on/in the same pages we also encounter another tree: the book of Genesis calls it "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen 2, 16). In order for/that man to be able to/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 it is given to us/we are given to understand it from his earthly history — as well as our human inner experience and our moral 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 much charge of existential truth about man they contain/How charged they are with existential truth on man! Truth which each of us feels as one's/his own. Did not Ovid, the ancient Roman poet, a pagan, say explicitly: "Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor": I see what is best/better, I approve of it, but I follow what is worst/worse (Metamorphoses VII, 20). His words do not deviate/differ much from what St Paul wrote later: "I cannot understand even what I do: in fact I do not that which I want, but that which detest" (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 has been defined as the "tree of life" and that which has been defined 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 them: that which is expressed with/by the word: sin.

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

I would however like us today to concentrate on that "first sin" which — despite that which/what is commonly thought — is described in the book of Genesis with such precision that it shows all the depth of the "reality of man" contained in it. This sin "is born" contemporaneously "from without/outside", that is, from temptation, and "from within/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 become like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3, 5). The content of the temptation strikes that which/what the Creator himself shaped/moulded in man, because, in fact, he was created in the "likeness of God", which means: "cosi/in a way like God". It also strikes the desire for knowledge that is in man, and the desire for dignity. Only/Except that both are falsified, so that the desire for knowledge like that for dignity — that is, for the resemblance to God — are in the act of temptation used to set man against God. The tempter puts man against God by suggesting to him that God is his adversary, that he seeks/tries to keep him, man, in a state of "ignorance"; that he seeks/tries to "limit him" so as to subject/subdue/subordinate him. The tempter says: "You will not die at all. Indeed, God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will become like God, knowing good and evil" (According to the ancient translation: "you will be like gods") (Gen 3, 4-5).

It is necessary, not only/just once, to meditate on this "archaic" description. I do not know if many other passages can also be found in Holy Scripture in which the reality of sin is described not only in its form of origin/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 has used against God precisely that which in him was of God, that which was to serve/should have served to bring him closer to God.

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

He comes however "because of sin"; he comes "despite sin"; he comes so as to take away sin.

Let us not marvel/wonder therefore that, on Christmas night, he does not find a place/room in the houses of Bethlehem and has to/must be born in a stable (in the grotto/cave which served as 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."


Saluti

"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.

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."