Archive for August, 2008

On Being Missionaries of Christ

August 30, 2008

“In God’s Field There Is Work for Everyone”

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Gospel (cf. Luke 10:1-12,17-20) presents Jesus sending out 72 disciples to the villages where he is about to arrive so that they will prepare the way.

This is unique to the evangelist Luke, who emphasizes that the mission is not reserved to the Twelve Apostles, but is extended to other disciples. In fact, Jesus says that “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2).

In God’s field there is work for everyone. But Christ does not limit himself to sending out. He also gives the disciples clear and precise rules of conduct.

First of all he sends them out “two by two,” so that they help each other and give an example of fraternal love. He notes that they will be “like lambs among wolves” — despite everything they must be peaceful and in every situation bring a message of peace; they will not take clothes or money with them, so as to live by what Providence offers them; they will care for the sick, as a sign of God’s mercy; where they are rejected, they will leave, limiting themselves to warning those who reject them that they are responsible for rejecting the kingdom of God.

St. Luke highlights the enthusiasm of the disciples over the good fruits of the mission, and records this beautiful expression of Jesus: “Do not rejoice because the demons are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). This Gospel reawakens in all the baptized the awareness of being missionaries of Christ, called to prepare the way for him with words and with the testimony of their lives.

Tomorrow I leave for Lorenzago di Cadore, where I will be the guest of the bishop of Treviso, in the house where the venerable John Paul II was already welcomed. The mountain air will be good for me and I will be able to dedicate myself more freely to reflection and prayer.

I wish all of you, especially those most in need, the possibility of taking a little vacation to reinvigorate your physical and spiritual energies and recover a salutary contact with nature. The mountains, in particular, evoke the upward ascent of the spirit, the elevation toward the “high measure” of our humanity, which daily life unfortunately tends to abase.

In this connection I would like to recall the fifth Pilgrimage of Young People to the Cross of Adamello, where twice the Holy Father John Paul II went. The pilgrimage took place recently and a short while ago culminated in the Holy Mass celebrated at a height of 3,000 meters. In greeting the archbishop of Trent and the general secretary of the Italian bishops’ conference, as well as the government officials of Trent, I also renew my appointment with all Italian young people for two days at Loreto, Sept. 1-2.

May the Virgin Mary always protect us, whether on mission or in just repose, so that we carry out our task with joy and with fruit in the vineyard of the Lord.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Angelus. In a special way I am pleased to greet those taking part in the “Interamnia World Cup,” handball tournament in Teramo, Italy. The participants in this event come from more than a hundred different Countries, some of which are in conflict with each other. Yet this peaceful gathering of athletes is an example of how sports can bring us together in the spirit of fellowship between peoples and cultures. Sports are indeed a sign that peace is possible.

In today’s Gospel we are reminded that the harvest is plenty but the labourers are few. Let us all pray that the Lord of the Harvest will continue to bless his Church with confident and generous workers. I thank you for your prayerful presence, and I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God upon you and your families.

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On the Freedom of Christ

August 30, 2008

“A Conscious Choice Motivated by Love”

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Biblical readings of the Mass this Sunday invite us to meditate on a fascinating theme that can summed up thus: freedom and the following of Christ. The evangelist Luke recounts that Jesus, “as the days in which he would be taken from the world were approaching, resolutely turned toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

With the expression “resolutely” we can glimpse something of the freedom of Christ. He knows in fact that death on the cross is waiting for him in Jerusalem but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself up for love. It is in his obedience to the Father that Jesus realizes his freedom as a conscious choice motivated by love. Who is freer than he, who is omnipotent?

He did not live his freedom, however, as license or dominion. He lived it as service. In this way he “filled” with content a freedom that would have otherwise remained an “empty” possibility to do or not do something. As the life itself of man, freedom takes its meaning from love. Who is more free? The one who holds onto all possibilities for fear of losing them, or the one who “resolutely” gives himself in service and thus finds himself full of life because of the love that he has given and received?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in present day Turkey, says: “You were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13).

Living according to the flesh means to follow the egoistic tendencies of human nature. Living according to the Spirit, however, means letting oneself be guided in intentions and deeds by the love of God that Christ has given to us. Christian freedom, therefore, is completely different from arbitrariness; it is following Christ in the gift of self, right up to the sacrifice on the cross.

It might seem paradoxical, but the Lord lived the culmination of his freedom on the cross, as the pinnacle of love. When on Calvary they shouted: “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!” He showed his freedom as Son precisely by remaining on the gibbet to fully accomplish the merciful will of the Father. Many other witnesses to truth have shared this experience: men and woman who remained free even in a prison cell and under the threat of torture. “The truth will set you free.” Those who belong to the truth will never be the slave of any power, but will always know how to freely be the servant of their brothers.

Let us look to Mary Most Holy. Humble handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin is the model of the spiritual person, totally free because she is immaculate, immune to sin, and completely holy, dedicated to the service of God and neighbor. With her maternal care may she help us to follow Jesus, to know the truth, and to live in the freedom of love.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

From Colombia comes the sad news of the barbarous assassination of 11 regional deputies of the department of Valle del Cauca, who were held hostage for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As I pray for them, I unite myself with the deep pain of their families and of the beloved Colombian nation which is once again shaken by fratricidal hate. I renew my earnest plea that all kidnapping cease immediately and that those who are victims of such inadmissible forms of violence be returned to the affection of their loved ones.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. Today’s Liturgy reminds us that to be a Christian means to follow Jesus. He is the Teacher, we are his disciples. May the Lord give us grace and courage so that our life will always be inspired by the words and actions of Jesus. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday.

On St. Basil

August 25, 2008

“He Shows Us How to Be Real Christians”

VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience. The audience took place in two phases: The Pope first greeted a crowd in St. Peter’s Basilica. Then he went to a packed Paul VI Hall, where he delivered the catechesis. The reflection focused on St. Basil and concluded with an appeal to young people to attend World Youth Day ’08 in Australia.

* * *

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. May your visit to this Basilica and to the city of Rome inspire you to imitate the apostles in following Christ and serving the Church. I assure you of my prayers for your families and friends at home, especially those afflicted by illness or suffering of any kind. God bless you all!

[Then, in Paul VI Hall, the Pope gave a catechesis on St. Basil]

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we remember one of the great Fathers of the Church, St. Basil, defined by Byzantine liturgical texts as a “light of the Church.” He was a great bishop of the fourth century, to whom the Churches of the East and West look with great admiration because of his sanctity of life, the excellence of his doctrine and the harmonious synthesis of his speculative and practical skills.

He was born around the year 330 to a family of saints, “a true domestic Church,” who lived in an atmosphere of profound faith. He carried out his studies with the best teachers of Athens and Constantinople. Unfulfilled by his worldly successes, and aware of having lost much time in vain pursuits, he himself confesses: “One day, waking up from a deep sleep, I turned to the wonderful light of the truth of the Gospels … and cried over my miserable life” (cf. Letters 223: PG 32, 824a). Attracted by Christ, I began to look to him and listen to him alone (cf. “Moralia” 80, 1: PG 31, 860bc).

He dedicated himself with determination to the monastic life in prayer, meditation on the sacred Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and to the exercise of charity (cf. Letters 2 and 22), following the example of his sister, St. Macrina, who was already living monastic asceticism. He was later ordained a priest and then, in 370, bishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia in what is present day Turkey.

Through preaching and writing, he carried out intense pastoral, theological and literary activities. With wise balance, he was able to blend service to souls with dedication to prayer and meditation in solitude. Taking advantage of his own personal experience, he favored the foundation of many “fraternities” or Christian communities consecrated to God, which he frequently visited (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus. “Oratio 43,29 in Laudem Basilii”: PG 36,536b). Through his words and his writings, many of which still exist today (cf. “Regulae Brevius Tractatae, Proemio”: PG 31,1080ab), he exhorted them to live and to grow in perfection. Many drew from his writings to establish norms of ancient monasticism, including St. Benedict, who considered St. Basil his teacher (cf. “Regula” 73:5).

In reality, St. Basil created a special kind of monasticism, not closed off from the local Church, but open to it. His monks were part of the local Church, they were its animating nucleus. Preceding others of the faithful in following Christ and not merely in having faith, they showed firm devotion to him — love for him — above all in works of charity. These monks, who established schools and hospitals, were at the service of the poor and showed Christian life in its fullness. The Servant of God, John Paul II, speaking about monasticism, wrote: “Many believe that monasticism, an institution so important for the whole Church, was established for all times principally by St. Basil — or that, at least, the nature of monasticism would not have been so well defined without Basil’s decisive contribution” (“Patres Ecclesiae,” 2).

As bishop and pastor of his vast diocese, Basil constantly worried about the difficult material conditions in which the faithful lived; he firmly condemned evils; he worked in favor of the poor and marginalized; he spoke to rulers in order to relieve the sufferings of the people, above all in moments of disaster; he looked out for the freedom of the Church, going up against those in power to defend the right to profess the true faith (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, “Oratio 43: 48-51 in Laudem Basilii”: PG 36,557c-561c). To God, who is love and charity, Basil gave witness by building hospitals for the needy (cf. Basil, Letters 94: PG 32,488bc), much like a city of mercy, that took its name from him “Basiliade” (cf. Sozomeno, “Historia Eccl.” 6,34: PG 67, 1387a). It has been the inspiration for modern hospital institutions of recovery and cure of the sick.

Aware that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” 10), Basil, though he was concerned with charity, the sign of faith, was also a wise “liturgical reformer” (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, “Oratio 43,34 in Laudem Basilii”: PG 36,541c). He left us a wonderful Eucharistic prayer (or anaphora) which is named after him, and helped to organize the prayer and the psalmody:

Because of him the people loved and knew the Psalms, and came to pray them even during the night (cf. Basil, “In Psalmum” 1,1: PG 29,212a-213c). In this way we can see how liturgy, adoration and prayer come together with charity, and depend upon each other.

With zeal and courage, Basil opposed heretics, who denied that Jesus Christ is God like the Father (cf. Basil, Letters 9,3: PG 32,272a; “Ep.” 52: 1-3: PG 32,392b-396a; “Adv. Eunomium” 1,20: PG 29,556c). In the same way, contrary to those who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, he taught that the Spirit is also God, and “must be numbered and glorified with the Father and the Son” (cf. “De Spiritu Sancto”: SC 17bis, 348). Because of this, Basil is one of the great Fathers that formulated the doctrine of the Trinity: one God, because he is love, he is God in three persons, who form the most profound unity in existence, divine unity.

In his love for Christ and his Gospel, the great Cappadocian also worked to heal the divisions within the Church (cf. Letters 70 and 243), working so that all might be converted to Christ and his word (cf. “De Iudicio” 4: PG 31,660b-661a), a unifying force, which all believers must obey (cf. ibid. 1-3: PG 31,653a-656c).

In conclusion, Basil spent himself completely in faithful service to the Church in his multifaceted episcopal ministry. According to the program laid out by him, he became “apostle and minister of Christ, dispenser of the mysteries of God, herald of the kingdom, model and rule of piety, eye of the body of the Church, pastor of Christ’s sheep, merciful physician, father and nurturer, cooperator with God, God’s farmer and builder of God’s temple” (cf. “Moralia” 80: 11-20: PG 31: 864b-868b).

This is the program that the holy bishop gives to those who proclaim the word — yesterday like today — a program that he himself generously put into practice. In 379, Basil, not yet 50 years old, consumed by hard work and asceticism, returned to God, “in the hope of eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (“On Baptism” 1,2,9). He was a man who truly lived with his gaze fixed on Christ, a man of love for his neighbor. Full of the hope and the joy of faith, Basil shows us how to be real Christians.

[Translation of the catechesis by ZENIT; original English © Copyright 2007 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana]

[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis on the church Fathers today brings us to the great fourth-century bishop, Saint Basil, whom the Byzantine liturgy refers to as a “light of the Church.” Though he had received the best education possible, at the conclusion of his studies he yearned to learn more. He discovered that only Christ could fulfill him, and so dedicated himself completely to a monastic life of prayer and charitable works. Ordained Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in 370, Basil tirelessly cared for his people and devoted himself continuously to meditation on the sacred word. He attended to the material needs of his flock, supported the poor and marginalized, and defended the freedom to profess the Christian faith. A special love for the sick led him to found many hospitals. Basil’s pastoral activity flowed from a deep devotion to the sacred liturgy; in fact, the Church still possesses a Eucharistic prayer bearing his name. Basil also firmly corrected those who denied the divinity of either Christ or the Holy Spirit. We find in Basil an outstanding model of free, total, and uncompromising service to the Church. May God give us the courage to imitate him.

I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience, especially the athletes and organizers of the European Maccabi Games. May God bestow abundant blessings upon all of you!

[The Pope then made an appeal to young people:]

Dear Young People,

One year from now we will meet at World Youth Day in Sydney! I want to encourage you to prepare well for this marvelous celebration of the faith, which will be spent in the company of your bishops, priests, Religious, youth leaders and one another. Enter fully into the life of your parishes and participate enthusiastically in diocesan events! In this way you will be equipped spiritually to experience new depths of understanding of all that we believe when we gather in Sydney next July.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As you know, these words of Jesus form the theme of World Youth Day 2008. How the Apostles felt upon hearing these words, we can only imagine, but their confusion was no doubt tempered with a sense of awe and of eager anticipation for the coming of the Spirit. United in prayer with Mary and the others gathered in the Upper Room (cfr Acts 1:14), they experienced the true power of the Spirit, whose presence transforms uncertainty, fear, and division into purpose, hope and communion.

A sense of awe and eager anticipation also describes how we feel as we make preparations to meet in Sydney. For many of us, this will be a long journey. Yet Australia and its people evoke images of a warm welcome and wondrous beauty, of an ancient aboriginal history and a multitude of vibrant cities and communities. I know that already the ecclesial and government authorities, together with numerous young Australians, are working very hard to ensure an exceptional experience for us all. I offer them my heartfelt thanks.

World Youth Day is much more than an event. It is a time of deep spiritual renewal, the fruits of which benefit the whole of society. Young pilgrims are filled with the desire to pray, to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the wonder of the human soul and shows the way to be “the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ” (Deus Caritas Est, 33).

It is this love — Christ’s love — for which the world yearns. Thus you are called by so many to “be his witnesses.” Some of you have friends with little real purpose in their lives, perhaps caught up in a futile search for endless new experiences. Bring them to World Youth Day too! In fact, I have noticed that against the tide of secularism many young people are rediscovering the satisfying quest for authentic beauty, goodness and truth. Through your witness you help them in their search for the Spirit of God. Be courageous in that witness! Strive to spread Christ’s guiding light, which gives purpose to all life, making lasting joy and happiness possible for everyone.

My dear young people, until we meet in Sydney, may the Lord protect you all. Let us entrust these preparations to Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians. With her, let us pray: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love.”

On the Freedom of Christ

August 23, 2008

“A Conscious Choice Motivated by Love”

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Biblical readings of the Mass this Sunday invite us to meditate on a fascinating theme that can summed up thus: freedom and the following of Christ. The evangelist Luke recounts that Jesus, “as the days in which he would be taken from the world were approaching, resolutely turned toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

With the expression “resolutely” we can glimpse something of the freedom of Christ. He knows in fact that death on the cross is waiting for him in Jerusalem but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself up for love. It is in his obedience to the Father that Jesus realizes his freedom as a conscious choice motivated by love. Who is freer than he, who is omnipotent?

He did not live his freedom, however, as license or dominion. He lived it as service. In this way he “filled” with content a freedom that would have otherwise remained an “empty” possibility to do or not do something. As the life itself of man, freedom takes its meaning from love. Who is more free? The one who holds onto all possibilities for fear of losing them, or the one who “resolutely” gives himself in service and thus finds himself full of life because of the love that he has given and received?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in present day Turkey, says: “You were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13).

Living according to the flesh means to follow the egoistic tendencies of human nature. Living according to the Spirit, however, means letting oneself be guided in intentions and deeds by the love of God that Christ has given to us. Christian freedom, therefore, is completely different from arbitrariness; it is following Christ in the gift of self, right up to the sacrifice on the cross.

It might seem paradoxical, but the Lord lived the culmination of his freedom on the cross, as the pinnacle of love. When on Calvary they shouted: “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!” He showed his freedom as Son precisely by remaining on the gibbet to fully accomplish the merciful will of the Father. Many other witnesses to truth have shared this experience: men and woman who remained free even in a prison cell and under the threat of torture. “The truth will set you free.” Those who belong to the truth will never be the slave of any power, but will always know how to freely be the servant of their brothers.

Let us look to Mary Most Holy. Humble handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin is the model of the spiritual person, totally free because she is immaculate, immune to sin, and completely holy, dedicated to the service of God and neighbor. With her maternal care may she help us to follow Jesus, to know the truth, and to live in the freedom of love.

From Colombia comes the sad news of the barbarous assassination of 11 regional deputies of the department of Valle del Cauca, who were held hostage for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As I pray for them, I unite myself with the deep pain of their families and of the beloved Colombian nation which is once again shaken by fratricidal hate. I renew my earnest plea that all kidnapping cease immediately and that those who are victims of such inadmissible forms of violence be returned to the affection of their loved ones.

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. Today’s Liturgy reminds us that to be a Christian means to follow Jesus. He is the Teacher, we are his disciples. May the Lord give us grace and courage so that our life will always be inspired by the words and actions of Jesus. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday.

On St. Cyril of Jerusalem

August 20, 2008

“His Catechesis Spans God’s Entire Plan of Salvation”

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focused on St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our attention today will be focused on St. Cyril of Jerusalem. His life represents the coming together of two dimensions: on one side, pastoral care and, on the other, involvement in the controversies that weighed upon the Church of the East at that time.

Born in 315 in Jerusalem, or in the surrounding areas, Cyril received a fine literary formation that became the basis of his ecclesiastical knowledge through the study of the Bible.

He was ordained a priest by Bishop Maximus. When Maximus died and was buried, in 348, Cyril was ordained a bishop by Acacius, the influential metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine, a follower of Arius who was convinced he had an ally in Cyril. Hence, Cyril was suspected to have received the episcopal nomination through concessions given to Arianism.

Cyril soon found himself at odds with Acacius for doctrinal as well as juridical reasons, because Cyril reinstated the autonomy of his own see, separating it from that of the metropolitan of Caesarea. During 20 years or so, Cyril suffered three exiles: the first in 357, by decree of a synod of Jerusalem; a second in 360 by Acacius; and a third in 367 — the longest, lasting 11 years — by Emperor Valens, a follower of Arianism. Not until 378, after the death of the emperor, was Cyril able to resume possession of his see, bringing back unity and peace to the faithful.

Despite certain writings from his day that call into question his orthodoxy, others of the same epoch defend it. Among the most authoritative is the synodal letter of 382, after the ecumenical council of Constantinople in 381, in which Cyril had a significant role. In that letter, sent to the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern bishops officially recognize the absolute authority of Cyril, the legitimacy of his episcopal ordination and the merits of his pastoral service, which death brought to an end in 387.

We have 24 of his celebrated catecheses, which he wrote as a bishop around the year 350. Introduced by a “Procatechesis” of welcome, the first 18 are addressed to catechumens or illuminandi (in Greek “photizomenoi”) and were kept in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

The first five deal with the dispositions required to receive baptism, conversion from pagan customs, the sacrament of baptism and the ten dogmatic truths contained in the creed or symbol of faith.

The following catecheses, Nos. 6-18, make up a “continual catechesis” of the Symbol of Jerusalem, which is anti-Arian. Of the last five, Nos. 19-23, the so-called mystagogical ones, the first two develop a commentary on the rites of baptism, the last three deal with confirmation, the Body and Blood of Christ and the Eucharistic liturgy. There is also an explanation of the Our Father (“Oratio Dominica”), which establishes a path of initiation to prayer that develops parallel to the initiation with the three sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

The foundation of instruction in the Christian faith developed, although amid controversy against the pagans, Judeo-Christians and followers of Manichaeism. The development of the instruction was based on the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament, with a language rich with images. Catechesis was an important moment, inserted into the broad context of the entire life, and especially the liturgical life, of the Christian community. Within this maternal womb, the gestation of the future Christian took place, accompanied by the prayer and witness of the brethren.

Taken together, Cyril’s homilies make up a systematic catechesis on the rebirth of the Christian through baptism. To the catechumen, Cyril says: “You have fallen into the nets of the Church (cfr. Matthew 13:47). Let yourself be taken alive: Do not run away, because it is Jesus who takes you to his love, not to give you death but the resurrection after death. You must die and rise again (cfr. Romans 6:11-14). … Die to sin, and live for justice, starting today” (Pro-Catechesis, No. 5).

From a “doctrinal” point of view, Cyril comments on the symbol of Jerusalem with recourse to the use of typology in the Scriptures, in a “symphonic” relationship between the two Testaments, pointing to Christ, the center of the universe. Typology will later be wisely described by Augustine of Hippo with these words: “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is revealed in the New” (“De Catechizandis Rudibus,” 4:8).

His catechesis on morality is anchored in profound unity to the doctrinal one: Dogma slowly descends into souls, which are asked to change their pagan ways to adopt new life in Christ, the gift of baptism. The “mystagogical” catechesis, was the height of instruction that Cyril imparted, no longer to catechumens, but to the newly baptized and neophytes during Easter week. He led them to discover the mysteries still hidden in the baptismal rites of the Easter vigil. Enlightened by the light of a faith, deepened in the strength of baptism, the neophytes were finally able to better understand the mysteries, having just celebrated the rites.

In particular, with the neophytes of Greek origin, Cyril focused on visual aspects, most suited to them. It was the passage from rite to mystery, which availed of the psychological effect of surprise and the experience lived in the Easter vigil. Here is a text explaining the mystery of baptism: “You were immersed in water three times and from each of the three you re-emerged, to symbolize the three days that Christ was in the tomb, imitating, that is, with this rite, our savior, who spent three days and three nights in the womb of the earth (cfr. Matthew 12:40).

“With the first emersion from the water you celebrated the memory of the first day that Christ spent in the tomb, with the first immersion you witnessed to the first night spent in the tomb: As he who in the night is unable to see, and he who in the day enjoys the light, you too experience the same thing. While at first you were immersed in the night and unable to see anything, reemerging, you found the fullness of day. Mystery of death and of birth, this water of salvation was for you a tomb and mother. … For you … the time to die coincides with the time to be born: One is the moment that achieved both events” (“Second Mystagogical Catechesis,” No. 4).

The mystery to behold is God’s design; this is achieved through the salvific actions of Christ in the Church. The mystagogical dimension complements that of symbols, expressing the lived spiritual experience that they cause to “explode.” From St. Cyril’s catechesis, based on the three components described previously — doctrinal, moral and mystagogical — there results a global catechesis in the Spirit. The mystagogical dimension brings about the synthesis of the first two, directing them to the sacramental celebration, in which the salvation of the entire person is realized.

It is an integral catechesis, which — involving the body, soul and spirit — remains emblematic of the catechetical formation of today’s Christians.

The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on the great teachers of the early Church, we now turn to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. Cyril is best known for his Catecheses, which reveal his orthodox doctrine and his pastoral wisdom. The Catecheses prepared the catechumens of the Church of Jerusalem first to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation, and then, after their Baptism, to understand more deeply the Church’s faith as expressed in the sacred mysteries. Based on the “symphonic” harmony of the Old and the New Testaments, and centered on the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of the coming of Christ, the Catecheses explained the articles of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, the reality of Baptism as an event of spiritual rebirth, and the importance of the sacramental life and personal prayer for every Christian. Cyril’s catechesis spans God’s entire plan of salvation, accomplished through the work of Christ in the Church. With their rich doctrinal, moral and mystagogical teaching, the Catecheses remain a model for instruction today, leading the whole person — body, soul and spirit — to a living experience of Christ’s gift of salvation.

I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today, including pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Kampala in Uganda, led by Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga. I also greet the group of supporters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and participants in the Jewish-Christian dialogue symposium organized by the Focolari Movement, as well as various groups from Wales, Norway, Malawi Australia, India and the United States. Upon you all and your families at home, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.