Keeping the Spirit of the Jubilee Alive|
One Year Ago Today:
HOLY FATHER CELEBRATES THE ANNUNCIATION IN NAZARETH
Urges Renewal of Faith
NAZARETH, MAR 26 (ZENIT.org).- Yesterday the Pope visited the city of
Jesus' boyhood, Nazareth, celebrating Mass in the Basilica of the
Annunciation, where Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she was to
be the Mother of the savior.
Several thousand gathered in the Basilica, despite heavy security and
the ongoing tensions over the building of a mosque in the square. In
fact, the Muslims had chosen to have their "tent mosque" in operation
when the Pope arrived. During the Mass, the muezzin began to call local
Muslims to prayer, but the celebration went on as scheduled
In his homily, the Holy Father connected the Feast of the Annunciation
with the journey of faith of Abraham, whom he had celebrated previously
in a "spiritual pilgrimage" to Ur of the Chaldeans, starting his Jubilee
journey to the holy places. "That journey has brought us today to
Nazareth, where we meet Mary, the truest daughter of Abraham," he
explained. "It is Mary above all others who can teach us what it means
to live the faith of 'our father.' In many ways, Mary is clearly
different from Abraham; but in deeper ways 'the friend of God' and the
young woman of Nazareth are very alike."
Each of these two received a promise from God, which became something
completely unexpected. In both cases, the promise seemed impossible --
Sarah was sterile, and Mary a virgin. How were they to give birth?
However, both of these models responded with a "yes." "Like Abraham,
Mary must walk through darkness, in which she must simply trust the One
who called her. Yet even her question, 'How can this come about?',
suggests that Mary is ready to say yes, despite her fears and
uncertainties," the Pope explained. "Mary asks not whether the promise
is possible, but only how it will be fulfilled."
The Holy Father urged his listeners to raise their prayers to Mary. "I
pray, first, for a great renewal of faith in all the children of the
Church. A deep renewal of faith: not just as a general attitude of life,
but as a conscious and courageous profession of the Creed."
John Paul II further consecrated the families of the Holy Land and of
the whole world to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God. He also prayed
that Mary would "teach us the way of humble and joyful obedience to the
Gospel in the service of our brothers and sisters, without preferences
and without prejudices."
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER IN THE BASILICA OF THE ANNUNCIATION
March 25, 2000
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to your word" (Angelus Prayer).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. 25th March in the year 2000, the Solemnity of the Annunciation in the
Year of the Great Jubilee: on this day the eyes of the whole Church turn
to Nazareth. I have longed to come back to the town of Jesus, to feel
once again, in contact with this place, the presence of the woman of
whom Saint Augustine wrote: "He chose the mother He had created; He
created the mother he had chosen" (Sermo 69, 3, 4). Here it is
especially easy to understand why all generations call Mary blessed (cf.
I warmly greet Your Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, and thank you for
your kind words of presentation. With Archbishop Boutros Mouallem and
all of you Bishops, priests, religious women and men, and members of
the laity I rejoice in the grace of this solemn celebration. I am
happy to have this opportunity to greet the Franciscan Minister General,
Father Giacomo Bini, who welcomed me on my arrival, and to express to
the Custos, Father Giovanni Battistelli, and the Friars of the Custody
the admiration of the whole Church for the devotion with which you carry
out your unique vocation. With gratitude I pay tribute to your
faithfulness to the charge given to you by Saint Francis himself and
confirmed by the Popes down the centuries.
2. We are gathered to celebrate the great mystery accomplished here two
thousand years ago. The Evangelist Luke situates the event clearly in
time and place: "In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God
to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man
named Joseph ... The virgin's name was Mary" (1:26-27). But in order to
understand what took place in Nazareth two thousand years ago, we must
return to the Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. That text enables
us, as it were, to listen to a conversation between the Father and the
Son concerning God's purpose from all eternity. "You who wanted no
sacrifice or oblation prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in
holocausts or sacrifices for sin. Then I said ... 'God, here I am! I am
coming to obey your will'" (10:5-7). The Letter to the Hebrews is
telling us that, in obedience to the Father's will, the Eternal Word
comes among us to offer the sacrifice which surpasses all the sacrifices
offered under the former Covenant. His is the eternal and perfect
sacrifice which redeems the world.
The divine plan is gradually revealed in the Old Testament, particularly
in the words of the Prophet Isaiah which we have just heard: "The Lord
himself will give you a sign. It is this: the virgin is with child and
will soon give birth to a child whom she will call Emmanuel" (7:14).
Emmanuel - God with us. In these words, the unique event that was to
take place in Nazareth in the fullness of time is foretold, and it is
this event that we are celebrating here with intense joy and happiness.
3. Our Jubilee Pilgrimage has been a journey in spirit, which began in
the footsteps of Abraham, "our father in faith" (Roman Canon; cf. Rom
4:11-12). That journey has brought us today to Nazareth, where we meet
Mary, the truest daughter of Abraham. It is Mary above all others who
can teach us what it means to live the faith of "our father". In many
ways, Mary is clearly different from Abraham; but in deeper ways "the
friend of God" (cf. Is 41:8) and the young woman of Nazareth are very
Both Abraham and Mary receive a wonderful promise from God. Abraham was
to be the father of a son, from whom there would come a great nation.
Mary is to be the Mother of a Son Who would be the Messiah, the Anointed
One. "Listen!", Gabriel says, "You are to conceive and bear a son ...
The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David ... and His
reign will have no end" (Lk 1:31-33).
For both Abraham and Mary, the divine promise comes as something
completely unexpected. God disrupts the daily course of their lives,
overturning its settled rhythms and conventional expectations. For both
Abraham and Mary, the promise seems impossible. Abraham's wife Sarah was
barren, and Mary is not yet married: "How can this come about", she
asks, "since I am a virgin?" (Lk 1:34).
4. Like Abraham, Mary is asked to say yes to something that has never
happened before. Sarah is the first in the line of barren wives in the
Bible who conceive by God's power, just as Elizabeth will be the last.
Gabriel speaks of Elizabeth to reassure Mary: "Know this too: your
kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son" (Lk
Like Abraham, Mary must walk through darkness, in which she must simply
trust the One who called her. Yet even her question, "How can this come
about?" suggests that Mary is ready to say yes, despite her fears and
uncertainties. Mary asks not whether the promise is possible, but only
how it will be fulfilled. It comes as no surprise, therefore, when
finally she utters her fiat: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what
you have said be done to me" (Lk 1:38). With these words, Mary shows
herself the true daughter of Abraham, and she becomes the Mother of
Christ and Mother of all believers.
5. In order to penetrate further into the mystery, let us look back to
the moment of Abraham's journey when he received the promise. It was
when he welcomed to his home three mysterious guests (cf. Gen 18:1-15),
and offered them the adoration due to God: tres vidit et unum adoravit.
That mysterious encounter foreshadows the Annunciation, when Mary is
powerfully drawn into communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy
Spirit. Through the fiat that Mary uttered in Nazareth, the Incarnation
became the wondrous fulfilment of Abraham's encounter with God. So,
following in the footsteps of Abraham, we have come to Nazareth to sing
the praises of the woman "through whom the light rose over the earth"
(Hymn Ave Regina Caelorum).
6. But we have also come to plead with her. What do we, pilgrims on our
way into the Third Christian Millennium, ask of the Mother of God? Here
in the town which Pope Paul VI, when he visited Nazareth, called "the
school of the Gospel", where "we learn to look at and to listen to, to
ponder and to penetrate the deep and mysterious meaning of the very
simple, very humble and very beautiful appearing of the Son of God"
(Address in Nazareth, 5 January 1964), I pray, first, for a great
renewal of faith in all the children of the Church. A deep renewal of
faith: not just as a general attitude of life, but as a conscious and
courageous profession of the Creed: "Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto
ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est."
In Nazareth, where Jesus "grew in wisdom and age and grace before God
and men" (Lk 2:52), I ask the Holy Family to inspire all Christians to
defend the family against so many present-day threats to its nature, its
stability and its mission. To the Holy Family I entrust the efforts of
Christians and of all people of good will to defend life and to promote
respect for the dignity of every human being.
To Mary, the Theotókos, the great Mother of God, I consecrate the
families of the Holy Land, the families of the world.
In Nazareth where Jesus began His public ministry, I ask Mary to help
the Church everywhere to preach the "good news" to the poor, as He did
(cf. Lk 4:18). In this "year of the Lord's favor", I ask her to teach
us the way of humble and joyful obedience to the Gospel in the service
of our brothers and sisters, without preferences and without prejudices.
"O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your
mercy hear and answer me. Amen" (Memorare).
ECUMENICAL MEETING WITH GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM
March 25, 2000
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. With profound gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity I make this visit to
the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and I greet all of you in
the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank Your Beatitude
Patriarch Diodoros for your fraternal hospitality and for the kind words
you have addressed to us. I greet Your Beatitude Patriarch Torkom, and
all the Archbishops and Bishops of the Churches and Ecclesial
Communities present. It is a source of great joy to know that the Heads
of Christian communities in the Holy City of Jerusalem meet frequently
to deal with matters of common interest to the faithful. The fraternal
spirit which prevails among you is a sign and a gift to the Christians
of the Holy Land as they face the challenges before them.
Need I say that I am greatly encouraged by this evening's meeting? It
confirms that we have set out on the path to knowing one another better,
with the desire to overcome the mistrust and rivalry inherited from the
past. Here in Jerusalem, in the City where our Lord Jesus Christ died
and rose from the dead, His words ring out with special resonance,
particularly the words He spoke on the night before He died: "that they
may all be one;... so that the world may believe that You have sent Me"
(Jn 17:21). It is in response to that prayer of the Lord that we are
together here, all followers of the one Lord despite our sad divisions,
and all conscious that His will obliges us, and the Churches and
Ecclesial Communities we represent, to walk the path of reconciliation
This meeting reminds me of the historic meeting here in Jerusalem
between my predecessor Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch
Athenagoras I, an event which laid the foundations of a new era of
contacts between our Churches. In the intervening years we have learned
that the road to unity is a difficult one. This should not discourage
us. We must be patient and persevering, and continue to move ahead
without wavering. The warm embrace of Pope Paul and Patriarch
Athenagoras stands out as a prophetic sign and source of inspiration,
urging us on to new efforts to respond to the Lord's will.
2. Our aspiration to fuller communion between Christians takes on a
special meaning in the Land of the Savior's birth and in the Holy City
of Jerusalem. Here, in the presence of the different Churches and
Communities, I wish to reaffirm that the ecclesial note of universality
fully respects legitimate diversity. The variety and beauty of your
liturgical rites, and of your spiritual, theological and canonical
traditions and institutions, testifies to the richness of the divinely
revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church, as it has
developed down the centuries in the East and in the West. There exists a
legitimate diversity which in no way is opposed to the unity of the Body
of Christ, but rather enhances the splendor of the Church and
contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission (cf. Ut Unum Sint,
50). None of this wealth must be lost in the fuller unity to which we
3. During the recent Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in this Year of
the Great Jubilee, many of you joined in prayer for greater
understanding and cooperation among all Christ's followers. You did so
in the awareness that all the Lord's disciples together have a common
mission to serve the Gospel in the Holy Land. The more united we become
in prayer around Christ, the more courageous we shall become in
confronting the painful human reality of our divisions. The pilgrim path
of the Church through this new century and the new millennium is the
path traced out for her by her inherent vocation to unity. Let us ask
the Lord to inspire a new spirit of harmony and solidarity among the
Churches in facing the practical difficulties which beset the Christian
community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
4. Fraternal cooperation among the Christians of this Holy City is no
mere option; it has a significance all its own in communicating the love
which the Father has for the world in sending His only Son (cf. Jn
3:16). Only in a spirit of mutual respect and support can the Christian
presence flourish here in a community alive with its traditions and
confident in facing the social, cultural and political challenges of an
evolving situation. Only by being reconciled among themselves can
Christians play their full part in making Jerusalem the City of Peace
for all peoples. In the Holy Land, where Christians live side by side
with the followers of Judaism and Islam, where there are almost daily
tensions and conflicts, it is essential to overcome the scandalous
impression given by our disagreements and arguments. In this City it
should be eminently possible for Christians, Jews and Muslims to live
together in brotherhood and freedom, in dignity, justice and peace.
5. Dear Brothers in Christ, it has been my intention to give a clearly
ecumenical dimension to the Catholic Church's celebration of the Jubilee
Year 2000. The opening of the Holy Door at the Basilica of Saint
Paul-outside-the-Walls, at which so many Churches and Ecclesial
Communities were represented, symbolized our passing together through
the "door" which is Christ: "I am the door, if any one enters by me, he
will be saved" (Jn 10:9). Our ecumenical journey is precisely this: a
journey in Christ and through Christ the Saviour to the faithful
fulfilment of the Father's plan. With God's grace the Two Thousandth
Anniversary of the Incarnation of the Word will be a "favorable time",
a year of grace for the ecumenical movement. In the spirit of the Old
Testament Jubilees, this is a providential time for us to turn to the
Lord in order to ask forgiveness for the wounds which the members of our
Churches have inflicted upon one another down the years. This is the
time to ask the Spirit of Truth to help our Churches and Communities to
engage in an ever more fruitful theological dialogue, which will enable
us to grow in the knowledge of the truth and come to the fullness of
communion in Christ's Body. From the exchange of ideas our dialogue will
then become an exchange of gifts: a more authentic sharing of the love
which the Spirit unceasingly pours into our hearts.
Your Beatitude reminded us of Christ's prayer on the eve of His Passion
and Death. This prayer is His last will and testament, and it challenges
us all. What will be our response? Dear Brothers in Christ, with
hope-filled hearts and unfailing trust, let us make the Third Christian
Millennium the Millennium of our new-found joy in the unity and peace of
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
March 25, 2001
volume 12, no. 84
JUBILEE MOMENTS TO REMEMBER