Skip to content

On the Message of Christmas

"God Has Manifested His Good Will Toward Everyone"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 2, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the general audience last Wednesday, held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope delivered a reflection on the meaning of Christmas.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today's meeting takes place in the atmosphere of Christmas, permeated by the profound joy of the Savior's birth. We just celebrated, day before yesterday, this mystery, whose echo is prolonged in the liturgy of all these days. It is a mystery of light that the people of every age can relive in faith.

Resounding in our spirit are the words of John the Evangelist, whose feast we celebrate in fact today: "'Et Verbum caro factum est' -- the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). At Christmas, therefore, God has come to dwell among us, he has come for us, to stay with us. A question runs throughout these two thousand years of Christian history: But why did he do so? Why did God become man?"

The song that the angels intoned in the grotto of Bethlehem helps us to answer this question: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:14). The canticle of Christmas night, which enters in the Gloria, is now a part of the liturgy as are the other three canticles of the New Testament, which refer to Jesus' birth and infancy: the Benedictus, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis.

While the last three are placed respectively in lauds, in the morning, in the evening prayer of vespers and the night prayer of compline, the Gloria is placed precisely in the holy Mass. Added since the second century to the words of the angels were some acclamations: "We praise you for your great glory, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks," and later, other invocations: "Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, who takes away the sins of the world ..." until formulating a graceful hymn of praise which was sung for the first time in the Christmas Mass and later on all feast days.

Placed at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, the Gloria underlines the existing continuity between the birth and death of Christ, between Christmas and Easter, inseparable aspects of the one and only mystery of salvation.

The Gospel recounts that the angelic multitude sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." The angels announce to the shepherds that Jesus' birth "is" glory for God in the highest heaven; and "is" peace on earth for the men with whom he is pleased.

Appropriately, therefore, these words are usually placed in the grotto as an explanation of the mystery of Christmas, which has taken place in the manger. The term "gloria" (doxa) indicates the splendor of God which arouses the grateful praise of creatures. St. Paul would say: It is "knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). "Peace" (eirene) synthesizes the fullness of the messianic gifts, the salvation that, as the Apostle also observes, is identified with Christ himself. "He is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14).

And finally is the reference to "men with whom he is pleased." "Good will" (eudokia), in common language, makes one think of the "good will" of men, but here rather is indicated God's "good will" toward men, which knows no limits. Here, therefore, is the message of Christmas: With Jesus' birth, God has manifested his good will toward everyone.

Let us return to the question: "Why did God become man?" St. Irenaeus writes: "The word has become the dispenser of the Father's glory for the usefulness of men.... The glory of God is the living man -- 'vivens homo' -- and the life of man consists in the vision of God" ("Adv. Haer," IV, 20.5.7).

God's glory is manifested, therefore, in the salvation of man, whom God has so loved "who gave him," as John's Gospel affirms, "his only Son so that he who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). So love is the ultimate reason for Christ's incarnation.

Eloquent in this respect is the reflection of the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who wrote: God "is not, in the first place, absolute power, but absolute love whose sovereignty is not manifested in keeping for himself what belongs to him, but in its abandonment" ("Mysterium Paschale," 1,14).

The God we contemplate in the manger is the God-Love. On this point, the proclamation of the angels resounds for us also as an invitation: "May there be glory to God in the highest heaven, may there be on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased."

The only way to glorify God and to build peace in the world consists in the humble and confident acceptance of the gift of Christmas: love. The song of the angels can then become a prayer to utter frequently, and not only in this Christmas season. A hymn of praise to God in the highest heaven and a fervent invocation of peace on earth, which is translated in a concrete commitment to build it with our lives. This is the commitment that Christmas entrusts to us.

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our audience today is filled with the joy of Christmas, the mystery of God's eternal word made flesh for our salvation. Down the centuries Christians have contemplated this mystery of light, seeking to understand more fully why God chose to become man.

An answer to this question can be found in the joyful song of the angels on the first Christmas: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace among those whom he favors!" (Luke 2:14).

God's glory, shining on the face of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6), brings that peace which is the crowning of his messianic gifts. St. Irenaeus tells us that the word became flesh in order to give us a share in God's glory: "The glory of God is the living man, and the life of man consists in the vision of God" ("Adv. Haer.," 20.5.7).

Ultimately, the Incarnation is the fruit of God's infinite love for humanity; it reveals, in von Balthasar's insightful phrase, that God is not primarily absolute power, but absolute love, a love revealed in the complete gift of himself. May the song of the angels inspire us to give "glory to God" and to build "peace on earth," by humbly receiving the gift that God gives us at Christmas: the gifts of his love, the gift of his Son.

I offer a very cordial welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially the groups from Ireland and the United States of America. May your visit to Rome in these holy days be a source of spiritual joy and deepened faith in the word made flesh. Upon you and your families I invoke the grace and peace of the newborn Savior. Happy Christmas!

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Pope, Benedict, Christmas

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.