Pope Benedict XVI's Angelus Message on Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pope Benedict began his Sunday at the Roman parish of Santa Maria delle Grazie where he celebrated Mass and underlined the importance of community spirit. He also referred to the season of Advent which was a theme he returned to back at the Vatican for the recitation of the Angelus. He told the faithful in St Peter’s Square that Christians were called to live this period before Christmas without being distracted by commercial messages and by the festive lights even if low key as a result of the economic crisis. Instead, he continued, they should look to Christ the “true light of the world”. In this season, he said “ we should live waiting for Jesus, and not stop waiting for his coming.” Christians should keep their eyes fixed on Christ so that “if, in fact, we persevere ‘vigilant in prayer and rejoicing in praise,’ our eyes will be able to recognize in him the true light of the world that comes to enlighten our darkness.”

Tens of thousands of pilgrims were at St. Peter’s Square for the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. The title is taken from St. Paul’s injunction in the day’s reading: “gaudete in Domino semper,” meaning “rejoice always in the Lord.” The day marks a change in the Church’s liturgical colors from the somber purple of Advent to a more hopeful shade of rose. Pope Benedict acknowledged the importance of time for rest and relaxation. However, he added that true joy is “not the result of fun,” but is “something more profound” that is “tied to the relationship with God.” Those who have encountered Christ in their lives “experience in the heart a serenity and joy that no one and no situation can remove.”

The Pope paraphrased the famous words of the fourth and fifth century bishop St. Augustine of Hippo. He searched elsewhere in vain for truth, peace and joy before concluding that “the heart of man is restless, (and) cannot find peace and serenity until it rests in God.” Therefore, true joy is not a “passing mood” nor “something that can be reached through its own efforts.” Instead, it is a gift “born from the encounter with the living person of Jesus.” “In this season of Advent,” the Pope continued, “we strengthen our certainty that the Lord came among us and continually renews his consoling presence of love and joy.” God is “closer to us than we are to ourselves,” he added, citing St. Augustine’s description of God as “more inward than my innermost and higher than my uppermost.”

After praying the Angelus with pilgrims, the Pope turned his thoughts and words to the thousands of families who had gathered in St. Peters Square for the traditional blessing of the “bambinelli,” the little statues of the baby Jesus that will take pride of place in family cribs. “Dear children,” said the Pope, “when you pray in front of your nativity scene, remember me as well, as I remember you. Thank you and Merry Christmas!” In response, the children cheered and released balloons and paper lanterns into the air in celebration and thanksgiving. Then the Pope recalled the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and stressed that the first right is the right to life.

Finally Benedict XVI greeted the English-speaking believers saying:"I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today for this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, we hear the voice of John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, encouraging us to prepare the way of the Lord. Through renewed faith, prayer and penance, may we too become authentic heralds of the Lord’s coming among us at Christmas. May God bless all of you!" He also welcomed the representatives of the Movement for Life, who are in Rome for the ‘Mother of Teresa prize’, which is awarded in memory of Chiara Lubich, founder of the ‘Focolari’ Movement.

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