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Comment on Philippians 2:6-11

10/28/2005 - 5:00 AM PST

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"Plan of Salvation Is First Fulfilled in the Son"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Wednesday at the general audience, which he used to comment on a canticle in Chapter 2 of the Letter to the Philippians.

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1. Once again, following the course proposed by the Liturgy of Vespers with various psalms and canticles, we heard resound the amazing and essential hymn inserted by St. Paul in the Letter to the Philippians (2:6-11).

In the past we already underlined that the text comprises a double movement: of descent and ascent. In the first, Christ Jesus, from the splendor of divinity that belongs to him by nature, chooses to descend to the humiliation of "death on a cross." Thus he shows himself truly man and our Redeemer, with a genuine and full participation in our reality of sorrow and death.

2. The second movement, of ascent, reveals the paschal glory of Christ that, after death, manifests itself again in the splendor of his divine majesty.

The Father, who accepted the act of obedience of the Son in the incarnation and passion, now "exalts" him above all, as the Greek text says. This exaltation is expressed not only through his enthronement at the right hand of God, but also with the bestowing on Christ of a "name that is above every name" (verse 9).

Now, in biblical language the "name" indicates the true essence and specific function of a person; it manifests his deep and profound reality. To the Son, who out of love humiliated himself in death, the Father confers an incomparable dignity, the loftiest "Name," that of "Lord," proper to God himself.

3. In fact, the proclamation of faith -- intoned unanimously in heaven, on earth and under the earth bowed in adoration -- is clear and explicit: "Jesus Christ is Lord" (verse 11). In Greek, it is affirmed that Jesus is "Kyrios," certainly a royal title, which in the Greek translation of the Bible made reference to the name of God revealed to Moses, a sacred and unpronounceable name.

On one hand, then, there is recognition of the universal lordship of Jesus Christ, who receives the homage of the whole of creation, seen as a subject prostrated at his feet. On the other hand, however, the acclamation of faith declares Christ subsistent in the divine form or condition, presenting him therefore as worthy of adoration.

4. In this hymn, reference to the scandal of the cross (see 1 Corinthians 1:23), even before the true humanity of the Word made flesh (cf. John 1:14), is interlaced and culminates with the event of the Resurrection. The sacrificial obedience of the Son is followed by the glorifying response of the Father, who unites himself to the adoration of humanity and of creation. Christ's singularity arises from his function of Lord of the redeemed world, which was bestowed on him because of his perfect obedience "unto death." The plan of salvation is first fulfilled in the Son and the faithful are invited -- above all in the liturgy -- to proclaim it and to live its fruits.

This is the end to which we are led by the Christological hymn that for centuries the Church has meditated on, sung and considers [a] guide of life: "Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).

5. Let us give ourselves now to the meditation that St. Gregory Nazianzen has wisely composed on our hymn. In a poem in honor of Christ the great Doctor of the Church of the fourth century declares that Jesus Christ "did not strip himself of any constitutive part of his divine nature and yet, despite this, he saved me as a healer who bends over the fetid wounds. ... He was of David's stock, but he was the creator of Adam. He had flesh, but was also a stranger to the body. He was given birth by a mother, but a virgin mother; he was circumscribed, but also immense. And he was laid in a manger, but a star served as guide to the Magi, who arrived bringing him gifts and before him bent their knee. As a mortal he struggled with the devil, but, invincible as he was, he overcame the tempter with a triple combat. ... He was victim, but also highest priest; he was sacrificer and yet he was God. He offered to God his blood and so purified the whole world. A cross raised him from the earth, but sin was pierced by nails. ... He visited the dead, but rose from hell and resurrected many who were dead. The first event is precisely of human misery, but the second shows the richness of the incorporeal being ... the immortal Son assumed that earthly form, because he loves you" (Carmina Arcana, 2: "Collana de Testi Patristici" [Collection of Patristic Texts] LVIII, Rome, 1986, pp. 236-238).

[Improvising, the Holy Father added:]

At the end of this meditation, I would like to emphasize two phrases for our life.

First of all, this piece of advice ...

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