Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lectio Divina - 1/2

What is the Lectio Divina?

Lectio divina or divine reading is a dynamic, life-oriented approach to reading Holy Scriptures encouraged by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. In our Archdiocese, Archbishop Murphy Pakiam is a strong advocate of promoting the practice of lectio divina among laity.

This year, our parish has chosen as our New Image of the Parish (NIP) theme, “The Bible, A Guide for our Steps, A Light for the World.” As a focus, we want to make the Bible, the Word of God the centre of our lives, and the basis of mission: building Community and Unity, Discipleship, Prayer, Service, and Witnessing.

We have chosen Lectio Divina as the main method for promoting the reading and praying of the Bible. Lectio Divina is a blessing for the entire Church as it opens up the rich truths of Scripture for every Christian. Through it believers are invited to read, understand and deepen their appreciation of the Scriptures and to seek guidance for their lives in the teaching of Jesus.

Our real goal is to meet our Lord as we read his Word and allow him to transform our lives to be more like him through the work of the Holy Spirit.

How do we do Lectio Divina?


1. Reading the Scripture passage humbly and prayerfully. Do not rush.
2. So begin with a prayer and ask the Holy Spirit’s assistance
3. Read the passage slowly and carefully.
4. Avoid looking at the Lectio comments at this stage.
5. Have a notebook and pencil ready. Underline, or make a note of, any words or phrases that stand out to you. Write down any questions that occur to you.
6. Read the passage several times and read it aloud. Give yourself time to understand and appreciate what is being said.
7. Now read the Lectio comments and reflect on the ways they are similar or different to your first thoughts.

1. We must approach Scripture in faith expecting God to speak to us.
2. Here are some suggested approaches you may find helpful.
• Use your imagination. Picture the passage; put yourself into the scene and become part of the story. See things through the eyes of the other characters, listen to what they say, watch their reactions, imagine how they feel. Keep coming back to Jesus. Get to know him, his words, his actions, the way he responds – everything about him.
• Ask questions. Use your own questions and the questions given to think more deeply about the passage and what God wants to say to you. Ask Jesus why he did and said what he did. Try to understand his mind. Allow time to be quiet, to listen and hear his answer.
• Let the Word be a mirror for you. As we read the Bible it shows us more of what the Christian life looks like and where ours needs to change. We see how God’s Word applies to our daily life, as an individual, and as part of our community and society. We will find promises and encouragement, challenges and demands.
• Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions.

1. Using the words of the responsorial psalm can help us but we can also use our own words to have a conversation with a very special friend.
2. We can bring what is happening in our own life and in our community before God.
3. We speak and listen, listen and reflect – it is a conversation with God.
4. Only if necessary, use the texts that is suggested in this guide.

1. We now move from active reflection which uses words and thoughts to a time of silent contemplation. It is like to persons in love who move from discussion to just silently appreciating each other’s company.
2. Imagine yourself falling into God’s embrace.
3. Few words are necessary here. Let go of words and images, or just stay with one word or one image.
4. Contemplation gives us the opportunity for an intimate time of communion with God. Be still before God and invite him in.
5. Enjoy time in his presence. Just be with him and let him love you. Let him refresh your soul.

1. Prayer ultimately leads to action.
2. We will now ask the Holy Spirit to direct us in living out our prayer experience in our own personal life or in the community.

After you have finished your time of reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation you may want to jot down in a notebook any experiences or thoughts that particularly impressed you. You may find it helpful to look back at these later.

Tamil Youth Ministry

The Tamil Youth Ministry of the Church of Visitation is a vibrant ministry of working and college youth. Some of the activities planned for this year includes a 5 weeks Bible course, fund raising project, outreach project, fellowship programme etc.

Tamil Family Life Formation

The Family Life Ministry of the Visitation Tamil Apostolate organises frequent formations for parents as their children attend Sunday School. Topics cover various aspects of family life, e.g. parenting, psychology, marriage, faith formation etc. Family Life has been identified as one of the main pastoral priorities of the Church in Peninsular Malaysia and our parish of Visitation.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Announcements - 30th and 31st January 2010

Sacrament of Confirmation (All Language Groups)
Date: 6 February 2010
Time: 5.45 pm
All Confirmands are to assemble at the Visitation Hall downstairs by 5.15 pm on the same day.

Novena will be 5:15 pm.

Chinese New Year Lunch
28th February 2010
Time: 12.30 pm
Venue: Restoran Min Kok, Seremban
Tickets: RM30/- per pax.
Please contact: Paul Tan (012-3775953) or Violet Wong (016-6515273)

First Marriage Preparation Course (English)
Will commence on 20th February 2010
At the residence of Mark & Irene Hendroff.
Those intending to get married within the next 6 months, please register with them. Contact: 06-6335829/ 016-6858395

Those intending to get married, please contact the priests to discuss your wedding preparations at least 6 months prior to the proposed date.

District Pastoral Council
Date: 4 February 2010
Time: 8.00 pm
Place: Visitation Conference Room, Parochial House

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
2nd February 2010
The blessing of candles will take place during the 6.45 am Mass (at the Grotto). All are invited to bring their candles for blessing.

Liturgy of the Word for Children
7th February 2010 Sunday
(5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)
Children from Stds 2 to 6 are expected to participate
Time: 8.45 am
Place: Visitation Hall Downstairs

RCIA Half Day Recollection in preparation of Rite of Election
6th February 2010 Saturday
(English Language Group)
Venue: Visitation Hall, upstairs
Time: 1.30 pm to 5.15 pm
All Catechumens and sponsors/god parents are requested to attend. Please pray for the Catechumens.

Next Infant Baptism on 7th February 2010
Instruction for parents and godparents will be on 6th February 2010 at 7.30 pm.
Baptism forms are to be submitted to the Secretariat by 3rd February 2010

SSVP Recycling Project
31st January 2010
7.00 am to 1.00 pm

2nd Collection this weekend – 30 & 31st January 2010
for Haiti Earthquake Victims Relief Fund.
Please donate generously towards this disaster fund. Cheques can be made payable to the “Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur” indicating “Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.”

Fund Raising Breakfast Sale by Charismatic Prayer Group (English)
31st January 2010 after all 3 masses.
Kindly give your support.

Holy Hour
4th February 2010
Morning mass will be celebrated in the evening at 7.00 pm followed by Holy Hour @ 7.30 pm.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Clergy Annual Pastoral Assembly 2010

The Presbyterium of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur came together in Bayu Beach Hotel, Port Dickson, from the 26th to the 28th of January, for the Clergy Annual Pastoral Assembly (CAPA). In conjunction with the Year of the Priest and the PMPT theme which focused on the missionary aspect of discipleship, the theme chosen for this year's CAPA was "The Priest as Leader of the Missionary Community."

The theme was addressed from various angles: the priest's personal understanding of his own priesthood, people's perception and expectation of the priesthood, the leadership of priests in the light of Church documents and teachings, the fraternal community of the presbyterium, and finally the person of St. John Marie Vianney, seen as the model for priests. The process involved personal testimonies by priests from a cross section of the presbyterium, small group sharing, report on survey conducted by The Herald, theological reflections,movie review highlighting the spirituality of St. John Marie Vianney, and para-liturgical action of feet washing. The clergy generally felt that there was a need to find an integral balance between the relational and ministerial aspect of their priesthood, between pastoral and mission-oriented focus of their ministry, between the 'identity' (being) and 'ministry' (doing)that characterises their priesthood, between being leaders of faith communities and being part of a community of fellow priests.

More photos on Facebook.

Prophets of God's Truth

Fourth Ordinary Sunday Year C

Who is a prophet? Many people often think that a prophet is someone who foretells the future. Sometimes, the prophet does this but this isn’t the main task of the prophet. So who then is a prophet? A prophet is the messenger of God. He is the mouthpiece (spokesman) of God. He is a man who has been filled with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God through daily meditation and studying of the scriptures. It is through this studying of the scriptures that he comes to recognize the will of God for his time – what God is trying to say to his people in this time, under these circumstances and in this place. A prophet is not one who keeps silent. Once received, the message of God must be proclaimed. If not, God will raise other prophets to undertake the task.

The task of a prophet is not easy. Sometimes, the prophet is asked to give a message of hope and encouragement to God’s people. This is often welcomed. What is not easy to accept is the fact that the prophet is also given the task to challenge and condemn the people for their sinfulness. He is the conscience of the nation. It is here that the prophet faces opposition and rejection. Everyone likes to hear praises and words of encouragement. No one likes to hear criticism. But such criticism is necessary in order for us to grow. If we are not open to criticism, if we are not honest with ourselves, we would then be blind to the direction which God wants to lead us.

In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks of the many prophets in Israel’s history who were rejected by their own people and yet sometimes welcomed by others who were not Jews. Jesus too is such a prophet. When he speaks words of encouragement, like what he did in last week’s gospel reading, he receives people’s admiration. But in today’s gospel, Jesus chooses to reprimand his listeners. The Word of God is a double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. We must be prepared to hear not only words of encouragement but also words that would challenge our present way of life. In doing so, Jesus too is rejected.

What of us? Are we people who only like to hear praises and good things said about us? Or are we also able to accept a challenge to our present way of life? At the time of your baptism, each one of you was anointed to be a priest, prophet and king just like Jesus. Are you able to live up to this mission which you received at the time of your baptism?

Taking the prophetic role is difficult. No one wants to be the bad guy. That is why it is much easier to talk about people behind their backs then to confront them. As a prophetic people, we too are called to confront and challenge each other. Confrontation does not mean that we have no love. On the contrary, love is the reason why we must confront and act the prophet. In the second reading, we have the beautiful passage about love. Love is always patient and kind, it is never jealous, never boastful or conceited, or rude or selfish. Yes, all this is true. But the list also states that love delights in the truth. A prophet is not someone who is harsh and heartless. Rather, he is a person so full of love for God and his people that he is prepared to risk being rejected by his own people in speaking the truth to them.

Today, we are challenged to become such prophets. Love must be our motivation. Without love, we cannot be true prophets – we are only complainers and critics. Let us pray for the strength and the courage to speak the truth, but always to do so with love.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

OCPD organises dialogue with Christian pastors and Mosque Officials of Seremban

Last thursday, 21st January, a dialogue session was organised and hosted by the police at the Seremban Police Headquarters in Seremban 2. Pastors and elders from over 30 Christian churches in Seremban and mosque officials from 10 mosques were invited to this dialogue cum briefing session. The meeting was chaired by the OCPD of Negeri Sembilan District, ACP Saiful Azly Kamaruddin, who briefed the participants on the current security situation arising from the arson/ stone throwing attacks on churches. ACP Saiful gave an update on the status of police investigations. He also reassured the participants of police surveillance at both churches and mosques to prevent any future attacks on these places of worship. He, however,advised both church pastors and mosque officials to increase their own precautionary security measures to prevent future occurrences.

The session ended with an open question and answer session, with questions being posed by both mosque officials and church pastors. Overall, the dialogue session revealed that both mosques and churches shared common security issues and problems, and both sides agreed to cooperate with the police and with each other to ensure the continuation of the present atmosphere of peace and harmony that has been enjoyed these past decades.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This text is being fulfilled today ...

Third Ordinary Sunday Year C

What does the Bible mean to you? Whenever you hear the readings during the Liturgy of the Word, what are your feelings? Do you feel encouraged by these readings or challenged by them? Do you really pay attention to the readings or are you just waiting to receive holy communion? If we have never really paid attention to the readings read during the Liturgy of the Word or taken the trouble to read and study the bible, we may, perhaps, have left out one of the most important aspects of the Mass – the Liturgy of the Word. The liturgy of the Word is no less important than the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Both are equally important. Jesus who is truly present in the blessed sacrament is also present in the word proclaimed during the first half of the mass.

In the Gospel, Jesus reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He attributes what he has read to himself. He is the Word of God. He is the Word made flesh. He is the Word of life. This is the purpose of the Word of God: “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” If we have not really been paying attention to the readings every Sunday, we may perhaps have lost out on these promises. If we turn our ears away from hearing God’s word, we will only hear ‘bad news’ – the bad news which society and our experiences feed us with everyday of our lives. The good news of the Bible is this – that in spite of all the evil that we see, hear and experience in this world of ours, God’s salvation is far greater. The good news is that Jesus, the Word of God, has conquered evil and death. Yes, we continue to experience many problems and difficulties, but we believe that God has already won the victory through Jesus Christ. This is our good news. We are no longer poor because Jesus has promised us the treasures of heaven, treasures that will not eaten by moth or turn to dust – everlasting life.

Those who fail to listen to God’s word continue to be trapped and imprisoned by their fears and addictions. Jesus promised us that he has come to proclaim liberty to the captives. If we listen to him, we too can experience this liberation. The most important freedom is internal freedom – it is only eternal freedom that can promise lasting joy. Those of us who fail to listen to God’s word will continue to be blind. We will continue to be blind to our own mistakes and our sinfulness. We will continue doing things as if everything was alright. A blind man is in a worst position when he doesn’t realize that he is blind. If you feel that everything is going wrong in your life, if you feel that the burden of tragedies and problems after problems, Jesus has come to set you free. Jesus has come to set the downtrodden free and to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

In Asian society, the teacher has a place of high standing in society. We are to treat our teachers with reverence as how we treat our parents. Likewise, within the Church, those members who have been given the position of teaching and instructing and of spreading God’s word are given the first place. This does not mean that they are to be treated as better than others in the community. The reason for giving them the first place is because of the Word of God which has been entrusted to them. The Word of God must have a central and prominent place within the community. Likewise, the Word of God must also be the basis of each of our lives. It is not enough to recite prayers and attend mass. These are good. But what is far better, is the need to study and read the Bible so that the Word of God can become our daily guide. When we constantly read the bible and listen attentively to the readings at every Mass, the Word of God will find fulfillment in our lives. Then, we can echo the words of Jesus as he says: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pongal - Tamil Harvest Festival

Pongal is one of the most popular harvest festival of South India, mainly Tamil Nadu, where it is also considered the Tamil New Year. Pongal falls in the mid-January every year and marks the auspicious beginning of Uttarayan - sun's journey northwards. Pongal festival lasts for four days. Celebrations include drawing of Kolam, swinging & cooking of delicious Pongal, where newly harvested rice is ceremonially cooked in milk.

This harvest festival is also a time for communal thanksgiving, being grateful to God for all the material possessions, especially the fruits of the earth and of our labour.

As the date of cultural festival usually coincides with the Feast of Epiphany, Christians in Tamil Nadu have often made a link between both festivals. Pongal among Christians is also popularly known as the Feast of the 3 Kings (Wisemen) or Pongal Raja. The first fruits of the harvest represent the gifts that were brought by the Wisemen of the East to honour the Christ Child.

The Tamil Apostolate and Tamil speaking community of Visitation celebrates Pongal tomorrow morning at the 7.15 am Tamil mass. All are welcome to participate in this celebration as we wish our Tamil community: Pongal Vaathuggal!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When the wine runs out ...

Second Ordinary Sunday Year C

St. Paul in today’s second reading tells us: “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people; it is the same God who is working in all of them.” Do we agree with this statement? If we agree with this statement, can we see it happening in our own parish? Do we see a variety of gifts manifested in different ways in our parish? Do we see God’s spirit working in this parish through the many people who volunteer for ministry? Are you using your gift for the service of the community and the Church?

If God wishes his church and his community to grow stronger, he will certainly provide it with all the gifts necessary to do so. God will not fail his community. Nevertheless, we sometimes fail God and the community. This happens when we do not acknowledge our gifts and the gifts of others in the community. A community can only flourish if its members are able to recognize their own gifts and are able to affirm one another gifts. A community is in real danger of being destroyed if its members are only always expecting something from others and who are not prepared to give or share. A community is in real danger when its members are constantly criticizing and finding fault with one another. A community is in real danger when the gifts of its members are suppressed rather than identified and nurtured. A community is in real danger of being destroyed when the wine runs out.

Today’s gospel tells the story of the wedding at Cana. This joyous occasion nearly ended in tragedy because the most important element that was keeping the party going had finished – they ran out of wine. Sometimes, when we see the same people serving in the Church growing older and older with each passing year without any successor, we begin to think that the wine is also running out. No Wine, no new leaders, no new plans, no new members, no Holy Spirit! The END! Do you think that our parish, is heading in this direction? Do you think that our wine is running out and we are about to ‘close shop’?

Thousands of years ago, the people of Israel also thought that the destruction of their country meant the end of everything. They were called the “Forsaken” and “Abandoned” People. But Isaiah in the first reading gives an entirely different message. It is a message of hope. All is not lost because God will return to redeem them. They will be called by a new name, they will receive a new glory, they will be called “My Delight” and “The Wedded” for God has taken delight in them again. God has renewed his covenant with them – God has wedded them again. What brought about the change? They realized that glory and blessings came from God alone. No human power, riches or glory will last. Eventually all these things will run out. Only God’s blessings remain. Only God can ensure that the wine will never run out.

All is not lost! The wine need not run out. This community still has a chance to grow and become stronger. Firstly, we must recognize that we need conversion. We need God and Christ to become the center of our lives. We can no longer think that we can solve all our problems through human efforts. If we have the ability to solve problems, it is the ability which is given none other by God. If this community is to survive and grow, each of us must experience a conversion of heart. We need to be re-evangelised. If we have become complacent and satisfied with what we have, its time to wake up. It’s not enough to maintain the things that we have. The community and the church must grow; if not, it will die. Let us then pray that our community will be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit and that we will come to recognize our gifts and how we can use these gifts in the service of the Church.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Interfaith group visits burnt SIB church in Seremban 2

Seremban, Malaysia (January 13) – Fifteen religious leaders made up primarily of members of the Negeri Sembilan State branch of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBHST) paid a social visit to the Sidang Injil Borneo (Borneo Evangelical Assembly) Church in Seremban, which was recently fire bombed.

The church's front wooden door was charred in the pre-dawn attack. According to Pastor Eddy Marson Yasir, the senior pastor of the Church, the arson incident was discovered on the following morning by a church member and he was contacted immediately. “We have been occupying this building for the last 4 years and we’ve never had any incident. We have lived peacefully with our neighbours and do not know of anyone having any issues against us.”

The Seremban church incident brought the number of churches attacked in Malaysia within the week to nine. A Sikh temple was attacked with stones yesterday evening.

These incidences of violence to places of worship is unprecedented and follows after the controversial protests over the High Court ruling in favour of the Malaysian Catholic weekly newspaper, The Herald, allowing the latter to use the word “Allah” in its publications. Both Christians and Sikhs use the word “Allah” in their scriptures and publications.

Mr. Goh Kim Seng, the Buddhist representative in the interfaith council, said that all parties should respect the High Court decision to allow the use of the word for their own religious purposes.

“These incidences of violence could have been avoided if all parties were committed to regular dialogue. We live in a multi-religious society and country where we should learn to dialogue with one another for the purposes of living together in harmony,” added Rev. Christopher Mun, senior pastor of Tabernacle of Worship Church.

The interfaith group decided to pay to visit to the church as a sign of solidarity with the pastors and members of the congregation. “It all started as an informal conversation between the local Anglican priest, Rev. Albert Walters and I over steps that could be taken collectively in response to this incident,” said Fr. Michael Chua, the parish priest of the Roman Catholic Church of Visitation, who had initiated the visit.

During the visit, various suggestions were put forward and discussed as to how the interfaith council and the various religious communities should handle the current security situation in Malaysia. There was a consensus that the different communities should be reminded to remain calm and not to blame any party for these attacks. They also agreed to allow the police to handle the security situation.

The chairman of the interfaith council, Mr. Alfred Selvam said that his committee will be organizing a dialogue session with the state police head over the security situation of places of worship.

The visit concluded with a moment of silent prayer for peace and harmony.

Bishops' Conference: Keep Calm, Do not React and Pray

Malaysian Bishops Respond to Violence
Note Muslim Support; Say Root Is Politics, Not Religion

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, JAN. 12, 2010 ( Malaysian bishops are urging reconciliation in the wake of attacks against nine Christian churches over the weekend, and affirming the incidents stain the reputation of the country's Muslim majority.

The prelates responded to attacks on three Catholic and six Protestant churches in a communiqué made public today by the Fides news agency. The prelates are beginning their plenary assembly of bishops from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

The assembly, planned some time ago, had to change its agenda completely in the wake of the violence.

Known as moderate

The bishops' communiqué noted harmony between Islam and Christianity in Malaysia, and said the attacks stain the reputation of Malay Islam, "known for its moderation and its peaceful coexistence with other religions."

In fact, Fides reported, moderate Muslim groups have organized watches in churches to prevent a repeat of the violence.

The communiqué stated Christians "are committed to do everything possible to keep calm, not to respond to the provocations, and to pray so that the violence will not spread."

The attacks over the weekend come in the context of a Dec. 31 high court decision overturning a ban on Christian groups referring to God as Allah.

Both Christians and Muslims pointed to political motivations behind the violence.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Volunteer Night Watch Duty

Calling parishioners to come forward and volunteer for the Volunteer Night Watch shift duty which will be implemented on a rotation basis. This is to provide additional security for the Church premises during the night (12 am - 6 am). If interested, please call Jerome, our Parish Coordinating Council chairman - Tel: 012-3308071.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Driven by Love

Feast of Baptism of the Lord

What is the thing that you want most in life? Big car … good family … loving husband or a loving wife … filial children. Whatever it is you want most in life – that thing is the thing which you believe will bring the greatest happiness into your life. In other words, the thing which we want most in life is happiness. Pursuit of happiness is the driving force of life.

We work hard, we choose friends and the person we want to marry, we try to get good grades in school, good jobs – hoping that at the end of it all we will be happy. We try to please others hoping that they will come to accept us and love us. But let me tell you the truth – happiness is not something that we can achieve. Happiness is never the reward of doing something well. We can never buy happiness.

Rather, happiness is a gift from God. It is a gift freely given by God to those open to receive it. Happiness is knowing in the depths of one’s heart that one is truly loved by God. Happiness is knowing that we are loveable and that we are precious in the eyes of God. No matter how others may see us, no matter how others may judge us, nothing can change this single reality – we are loved by God.

This knowledge was the driving force behind Jesus. At his baptism, Jesus received this beautiful words from God the Father – “This is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on him.” Knowing that he was loved by his Father in heaven, Jesus began his mission to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. Although he faced many setbacks, although he was criticized and hated by many people, although he was rejected by his own relatives and neighbours, although he was betrayed by his own disciples, Jesus never waivered in his resolve. Only one thing mattered to him – knowing that he was loved by God and nothing … absolutely nothing can change that. On the cross, in the midst of his pain and loneliness, Jesus was sustained by the knowledge of God’s love for him and that God will never abandon him at this moment of his greatest need.

This is what God wants to tell each of you: “You are my Son. You are my daughter. You are precious. I love you very much!!!” We don’t have to prove ourselves to God. We don’t have to show him that we are good or that we are perfect. God loves us in spite of our sins and weaknesses.

If we live each day with this knowledge of God’s love for us, we will not easily give up especially when we are faced with criticism from others. Whenever we celebrate the Mass, we are reminded again and again that we are loved by God. It was because of love, that God sent his only Son to die for us. Jesus, who gives his body and blood, is living proof of this. The mass is proof of God’s love. Because we are loved by God, let us now share this love with every other person.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Feast of Epiphany

Epiphany (from Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια "appearance", "manifestation") is a Christian feast day which celebrates the revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. It falls on January 6 or on a Sunday close to that date. January 6 in the Julian Calendar, which is followed by some Eastern Churches, corresponds at present to January 19 in the Gregorian Calendar, which is the official civil calendar in most countries. On this day, Western Christians commemorate principally the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the child Jesus, i.e., his manifestation to the Gentiles; Eastern Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. It is also called Theophany, especially by Eastern Christians.

The observance had its origins in the early Christian Church, and was a general celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of: his birth; the visit of the Magi ("Wise Men", as Magi were Persian priests) to Bethlehem; all of Jesus' childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in Galilee. It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated.

Christians fixed the date of the feast on January 6 quite early in their history. Ancient liturgies noted Illuminatio, Manifestatio, Declaratio (Illumination, Manifestation, Declaration); cf. Matthew 3:13–17; Luke 3:22; and John 2:1–11; where the Baptism and the Marriage at Cana were dwelt upon. Western Christians have traditionally emphasized the "Revelation to the Gentiles" mentioned in Luke, where the term Gentile means all non-Jewish peoples. The Biblical Magi, who represented the non-Jewish peoples of the world, paid homage to the infant Jesus in stark contrast to Herod the Great (King of Judea), who sought to kill him.

The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus. St. Epiphanius says that January 6 is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion (Christ's "Birthday; that is, His Epiphany"). He also asserts that the Miracle at Cana occurred on the same calendar day.

In 385, the pilgrim Egeria (also known as Silvia) described a celebration in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which she called "Epiphany" (epiphania) that commemorated the Nativity of Christ. Even at this early date, there was an octave associated with the feast.

In a sermon delivered on December 25, 380, St. Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as ta theophania ("the Theophany", an alternative name for Epiphany), saying expressly that it is a day commemorating he hagia tou Christou gennesis ("the holy nativity of Christ") and told his listeners that they would soon be celebrating the baptism of Christ. Then, on January 6 and 7, he preached two more sermons, wherein he declared that the celebration of the birth of Christ and the visitation of the Magi had already taken place, and that they would now commemorate his Baptism. At this time, celebration of the two events was beginning to be observed on separate occasions, at least in Cappadocia.

Saint John Cassian says that even in his time (beginning of the 5th century), the Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and Baptism together on January 6. The Armenian Apostolic Church continues to celebrate January 6 as the only commemoration of the Nativity.

Epiphany in different Christian traditions

Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a major difference between them is precisely which events the feast commemorates. For Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi; Eastern churches celebrate the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. In both traditions, the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world (whether as an infant or in the Jordan), and the Mystery of the Incarnation.

Western Christian Churches

Even before the year 354, the Western Church had separated the celebration of the Nativity of Christ as the feast of Christmas and set its date as December 25; it reserved January 6 as a commemoration of the manifestation of Christ, especially to the Magi, but also at his baptism and at the wedding feast of Cana.

In parts of the Eastern Church, January 6 continued for some time as a composite feast that included the Nativity of Jesus: though Constantinople adopted December 25 to commemorate Jesus' birth in the fourth century, in other parts the Nativity of Jesus continued to be celebrated on January 6, a date later devoted exclusively to commemorating his Baptism.[13]

The West historically observed a twelve-day festival, starting on December 25, and ending on January 5, known as Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas. Some Christian cultures, especially those of Latin America and some in Europe, extend the season to as many as forty days, ending on Candlemas (February 2).

On the Feast of the Epiphany, the priest, wearing white vestments, will bless the Epiphany water, frankincense, gold, and chalk. Chalk is used to write the initials of the three magi over the doors of churches and homes. The letters stand for the initials of the Magi (traditionally named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), and also the phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates as "may Christ bless the house".

According to ancient custom, the priest announced the date of Easter on the feast of Epiphany. This tradition dated from a time when calendars were not readily available, and the church needed to publicize the date of Easter, since many celebrations of the liturgical year depend on it. The proclamation may be sung or proclaimed at the ambo by a deacon, cantor, or reader either after the reading of the Gospel or after the postcommunion prayer.

Prior to the reform of 1955, when Pope Pius XII abolished all but three liturgical octaves, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated Epiphany as an eight-day feast beginning on January 6 and ending on January 13, known as the Octave of Epiphany. They celebrated the feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday within the octave, and the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on the Sunday between January 2 and January 5 or, if there were no such Sunday, on January 2. They calculated Christmastide as the twelve days ending on January 5, followed by Epiphany time, consisting of the feast and its octave.

In the 1970 revision of the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 for countries where the feast is a Holy Day of Obligation. In other countries, it is celebrated on the Sunday after January 1. Christmastide ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is always on the Sunday after Epiphany (unless, where Epiphany is not a holy day of obligation, Epiphany is celebrated on January 7 or 8, in which case Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the following Monday).

The Roman Missal provides a formula with appropriate chant (in the tone of the Exsultet) for proclaiming on Epiphany, wherever it is customary to do so, the dates in the calendar for the celebration of Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, Ascension of Jesus Christ, Pentecost, the Body and Blood of Christ, and the First Sunday of Advent in the following Liturgical Year.

Eastern Christian Churches

Usually called the Feast of Theophany (Greek: Θεοφάνεια, "God shining forth" or "divine manifestation"), it is one of the Great Feasts of the liturgical year, being third in rank, behind only Pascha (Easter) and Pentecost in importance. Orthodox Christians that follow the Gregorian Calendar celebrate Epiphany on January 6, while those who follow the Julian Calendar celebrate it on January 19.

The earliest reference to the feast in the Eastern Church is a remark by St. Clement of Alexandria in Stromateis.

Today in Eastern Orthodox churches, the emphasis at this feast is on the shining forth and revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Second Person of the Trinity at the time of his baptism. It is also celebrated because, according to tradition, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist marked one of only two occasions when all three Persons of the Trinity manifested themselves simultaneously to humanity: God the Father by speaking through the clouds, God the Son being baptized in the river, and God the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove descending from heaven (the other occasion was the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor). Thus the holy day is considered to be a Trinitarian feast.

The Orthodox consider Jesus' Baptism to be the first step towards the Crucifixion, and there are some parallels in the hymnography used on this day and the hymns chanted on Good Friday.

The liturgical Forefeast of Theophany begins on January 1, and concludes with the Paramony on January 5. The Eve of the Feast is called Paramony (Greek: παραμονή, Slavonic: navechérie). Paramony is observed as a strict fast day. On this day the Royal Hours are celebrated, thus tying together the feasts of Nativity and Good Friday. The Royal Hours are followed by the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil which combines Vespers with the Divine Liturgy. During the Vespers, fifteen Old Testament lections which foreshadow the Baptism of Christ are read, and special antiphons are chanted.

The Orthodox Churches perform the Great Blessing of Waters on Theophany. The blessing is normally done twice: once on the Eve of the Feast—usually at a Baptismal font inside the church—and then again on the day of the feast, outdoors at a body of water. Following the Divine Liturgy, the clergy and people go in a Crucession (procession with the cross) to the nearest body of water, be it a beach, harbor, quay, river, lake, swimming pool, water depot, etc. (ideally, it should be a body of "living water"). At the end of the ceremony the priest will bless the waters. In the Greek practice, he does this by casting a cross into the water.

Theophany is a traditional day for performing Baptisms, and this is reflected in the Divine Liturgy by singing the baptismal hymn, "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia," in place of the Trisagion.

A Star is Born

Have you ever dreamt of being a movie star? Have you ever wished you could be a famous singer, or at least a famous karaoke singer? Even if you didn’t have these ambitions, there must be some time in your life when you wanted to be the center of attention. You wanted to be a star. For example, young children often cry or act naughty to get the attention of their parents. Adults are no different. We sulk and we throw tantrums in order to get attention. We feel jealous whenever other’s get the attention.

Today’s gospel is also about stars – many different stars but only one true Star. We have the bright star shining in the sky indicating to the wise men of the East the place where the Messiah was to be born. Was this the Star, the one true Star? No. This star only showed the way. Then we have the wise men. On the feast of the Epiphany, we usually place the statues of the three kings in the crib to indicate the visit of the wise men, who were not actually kings. Many people often think that these kings or wise men are the stars of today’s celebration. But they’re not the stars of the day. They were searching and making their way to the true star. Then there is King Herod. King Herod had great ambitions. He wanted to be the greatest king of his dynasty. He wanted to rival King David and Solomon. It is true that he controlled the largest territory in his dynastic line. But, he was still an insignificant vassal ruler in the massive Roman empire. King Herod wanted to be a star. He wanted to be THE Star but fell far short of it. When you are insecure and frightened of losing your position and power, you will make sure that there are no other rivals. This is the reason why Herod wanted to know the location of the Messiah so that he could get rid of his rival. Herod felt that there can only be one star and it had to be Herod himself.

King Herod was partly right. There has to be only one Star. One star which lights the way. One star that brightens the darkness. One star that points the way to salvation. One star where we can place all our hopes and aspirations. Jesus is that Star. Today’s feast is precisely about Jesus. It is not Herod, nor the wise men, nor even the star which should the way to find Jesus. Today’s feast about Jesus, the star which brightens the darkness of our lives and shows the way to salvation for all mankind. If Jesus is the Star of our lives, we cannot have other stars. Power, money, riches, feng shui, idols, charms – these can no longer be ‘stars’ in our lives. There is only one Star and he must be Jesus.

Three things are revealed about Jesus in today’s gospel. The three gifts are symbolic of this revelation. The gift of gold symbolizes the kingship of Christ. Jesus Christ is a king, but not like any other kings. His kingdom is not of this world. It is the kingdom of justice, peace and love. It is the kingdom which is established in the hearts of every man or woman who open themselves to God and allow God to be the Lord of their lives. It is the kingdom of humble service rather than of power. The second gift is the gift of frankincense. Incense is used in worship This gift symbolizes the divinity of Christ. Christ is no mere human person. He is God. He is God made man. He is God with us. Finally, we have the gift of myrrh which is used for burial. This last gift points to the passion of Christ. Christ must suffer and die in order for the world to be saved. This is his destiny. We as his followers must also be prepared to follow his way of living and even follow him on the way to the cross.

Today, we too pay homage to the greatest Star that was ever born. He is not any famous singer or actor. He isn’t a great king or a philosopher. He is so much more than all these things. He is Jesus. He is our Lord. He is our Saviour. He is our King.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Interview with Fr. Lawrence Andrew, Editor of The Herald

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, January 1

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is a liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on 1 January, the Octave Day of Christmas.

Mother of God - Theotokos

Theotokos (Greek: Θεοτόκος, translit. Theotókos) is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and some Protestants use the title Mother of God more often than Theotokos. The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human.

Theotokos specifically excludes the understanding of Mary as Mother of God in the eternal sense. Christians believe that God is the cause of all, with neither origin nor source, and is therefore "without a mother."

On the other hand, most Christians believe God the Son is begotten of God the Father "from all eternity", but is born "in time" of Mary. Theotokos thus refers to the Incarnation, when the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on human nature in addition to his pre-existing divine nature, this being made possible through the cooperation of Mary.

Since mainstream Christians understand Jesus Christ as both fully God and fully human, they call Mary Theotokos to affirm the fullness of God's incarnation. The Council of Ephesus decreed, in opposition to those who denied Mary the title Theotokos ("the one who gives birth to God") but called her Christotokos ("the one who gives birth to Christ"), that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. As Cyril of Alexandria wrote, "I am amazed that there are some who are entirely in doubt as to whether the holy Virgin should be called Theotokos or not. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how is the holy Virgin who gave [Him] birth, not [Theotokos]?" (Epistle 1, to the monks of Egypt; PG 77:13B). Thus the significance of Theotokos lies more in what it says about Jesus than any declaration about Mary.

Within the Orthodox and Catholic doctrinal teaching on the economy of salvation, Mary's identity, role, and status as Theotokos is acknowledged as indispensable, and is for this reason formally defined as official dogma.

History of the Feast

The feast was celebrated in the east before the west, but by the 5th century it was celebrated in France and Spain on the Sunday before Christmas. In Rome, even before the 7th century, 1 January was used as a celebration of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ had come to replace the Marian feast on 1 January. The celebration of the Feast of the Circumcision on 1 January was expanded to the entire Roman Catholic Church in 1570 when Pope Pius V promulgated the Roman Missal. In 1914, the feast of the "Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary" was established in Portugal, occurring on 11 October. In 1931, this feast was extended to the entire Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI and maintained on 11 October. Following the Second Vatican Council in 1974, Pope Paul VI removed the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ from the liturgical calendar, and replaced it with the feast of the "Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God."[1] Traditionalist Catholics continue to celebrate this feast day with the old name "The Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary" on 11 October.[2]

The feast is a celebration of Mary's motherhood of Jesus. The title “Mother of God” is a western derivation from the (Greek: Theotokos, the God-bearer). The term “Theotokos” was adopted at the Council of Ephesus as a way to assert the Divinity of Christ, from which it follows that what is predicated of Christ is predicated of God. So, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is the Mother of God. Therefore, the title “Mother of God” and the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God”, which celebrates her under this title, are at once Mariological and Christological.

"If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation"

Papal Message for World Peace Day

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2009 ( Here is the message Benedict XVI wrote for the Jan. 1 World Day of Peace. The letter was released today and is titled: "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation."

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1. At the beginning of this New Year, I wish to offer heartfelt greetings of peace to all Christian communities, international leaders, and people of good will throughout the world. For this XLIII World Day of Peace I have chosen the theme: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation. Respect for creation is of immense consequence, not least because "creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God's works",[1] and its preservation has now become essential for the pacific coexistence of mankind. Man's inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace and to authentic and integral human development -- wars, international and regional conflicts, acts of terrorism, and violations of human rights. Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from the neglect -- if not downright misuse -- of the earth and the natural goods that God has given us. For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen "that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying".[2]

2. In my Encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," I noted that integral human development is closely linked to the obligations which flow from man's relationship with the natural environment. The environment must be seen as God's gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations. I also observed that whenever nature, and human beings in particular, are seen merely as products of chance or an evolutionary determinism, our overall sense of responsibility wanes.[3] On the other hand, seeing creation as God's gift to humanity helps us understand our vocation and worth as human beings. With the Psalmist, we can exclaim with wonder: "When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps 8:4-5). Contemplating the beauty of creation inspires us to recognize the love of the Creator, that Love which "moves the sun and the other stars".[4]

3. Twenty years ago, Pope John Paul II devoted his Message for the World Day of Peace to the theme: Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation. He emphasized our relationship, as God's creatures, with the universe all around us. "In our day", he wrote, "there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened ... also by a lack of due respect for nature". He added that "ecological awareness, rather than being downplayed, needs to be helped to develop and mature, and find fitting expression in concrete programmes and initiatives".[5]

Previous Popes had spoken of the relationship between human beings and the environment. In 1971, for example, on the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII's Encyclical "Rerum Novarum," Paul VI pointed out that "by an ill-considered exploitation of nature (man) risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation". He added that "not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace - pollution and refuse, new illnesses and absolute destructive capacity - but the human framework is no longer under man's control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family".[6]

4. Without entering into the merit of specific technical solutions, the Church is nonetheless concerned, as an "expert in humanity", to call attention to the relationship between the Creator, human beings and the created order. In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an "ecological crisis" and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the "urgent moral need for a new solidarity".[7] His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of "environmental refugees", people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it -- and often their possessions as well -- in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.

5. It should be evident that the ecological crisis cannot be viewed in isolation from other related questions, since it is closely linked to the notion of development itself and our understanding of man in his relationship to others and to the rest of creation. Prudence would thus dictate a profound, long-term review of our model of development, one which would take into consideration the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications. The ecological health of the planet calls for this, but it is also demanded by the cultural and moral crisis of humanity whose symptoms have for some time been evident in every part of the world.[8] Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all. Our present crises - be they economic, food-related, environmental or social - are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together. Specifically, they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity, with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed. Only in this way can the current crisis become an opportunity for discernment and new strategic planning.

6. Is it not true that what we call "nature" in a cosmic sense has its origin in "a plan of love and truth"? The world "is not the product of any necessity whatsoever, nor of blind fate or chance... The world proceeds from the free will of God; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, in his intelligence, and in his goodness".[9] The Book of Genesis, in its very first pages, points to the wise design of the cosmos: it comes forth from God's mind and finds its culmination in man and woman, made in the image and likeness of the Creator to "fill the earth" and to "have dominion over" it as "stewards" of God himself (cf. Gen 1:28). The harmony between the Creator, mankind and the created world, as described by Sacred Scripture, was disrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, by man and woman, who wanted to take the place of God and refused to acknowledge that they were his creatures. As a result, the work of "exercising dominion" over the earth, "tilling it and keeping it", was also disrupted, and conflict arose within and between mankind and the rest of creation (cf. Gen 3:17-19). Human beings let themselves be mastered by selfishness; they misunderstood the meaning of God's command and exploited creation out of a desire to exercise absolute domination over it. But the true meaning of God's original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility. The wisdom of the ancients had recognized that nature is not at our disposal as "a heap of scattered refuse".[10] Biblical Revelation made us see that nature is a gift of the Creator, who gave it an inbuilt order and enabled man to draw from it the principles needed to "till it and keep it" (cf. Gen. 2:15).[11] Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Once man, instead of acting as God's co-worker, sets himself up in place of God, he ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, "which is more tyrannized than governed by him".[12] Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it.[13]

7. Sad to say, it is all too evident that large numbers of people in different countries and areas of our planet are experiencing increased hardship because of the negligence or refusal of many others to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminded us that "God has destined the earth and everything it contains for all peoples and nations".[14] The goods of creation belong to humanity as a whole. Yet the current pace of environmental exploitation is seriously endangering the supply of certain natural resources not only for the present generation, but above all for generations yet to come.[15] It is not hard to see that environmental degradation is often due to the lack of far-sighted official policies or to the pursuit of myopic economic interests, which then, tragically, become a serious threat to creation. To combat this phenomenon, economic activity needs to consider the fact that "every economic decision has a moral consequence" [16] and thus show increased respect for the environment. When making use of natural resources, we should be concerned for their protection and consider the cost entailed -- environmentally and socially -- as an essential part of the overall expenses incurred. The international community and national governments are responsible for sending the right signals in order to combat effectively the misuse of the environment. To protect the environment, and to safeguard natural resources and the climate, there is a need to act in accordance with clearly-defined rules, also from the juridical and economic standpoint, while at the same time taking into due account the solidarity we owe to those living in the poorer areas of our world and to future generations.

8. A greater sense of intergenerational solidarity is urgently needed. Future generations cannot be saddled with the cost of our use of common environmental resources. "We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries; for this reason we have obligations towards all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us, to enlarge the human family. Universal solidarity represents a benefit as well as a duty. This is a responsibility that present generations have towards those of the future, a responsibility that also concerns individual States and the international community".[17] Natural resources should be used in such a way that immediate benefits do not have a negative impact on living creatures, human and not, present and future; that the protection of private property does not conflict with the universal destination of goods;[18] that human activity does not compromise the fruitfulness of the earth, for the benefit of people now and in the future. In addition to a fairer sense of intergenerational solidarity there is also an urgent moral need for a renewed sense of intragenerational solidarity, especially in relationships between developing countries and highly industrialized countries: "the international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future".[19] The ecological crisis shows the urgency of a solidarity which embraces time and space. It is important to acknowledge that among the causes of the present ecological crisis is the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries. Yet the less developed countries, and emerging countries in particular, are not exempt from their own responsibilities with regard to creation, for the duty of gradually adopting effective environmental measures and policies is incumbent upon all. This would be accomplished more easily if self-interest played a lesser role in the granting of aid and the sharing of knowledge and cleaner technologies.

9. To be sure, among the basic problems which the international community has to address is that of energy resources and the development of joint and sustainable strategies to satisfy the energy needs of the present and future generations. This means that technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency. At the same time there is a need to encourage research into, and utilization of, forms of energy with lower impact on the environment and "a world-wide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them".[20] The ecological crisis offers an historic opportunity to develop a common plan of action aimed at orienting the model of global development towards greater respect for creation and for an integral human development inspired by the values proper to charity in truth. I would advocate the adoption of a model of development based on the centrality of the human person, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on a realization of our need for a changed life-style, and on prudence, the virtue which tells us what needs to be done today in view of what might happen tomorrow.[21]

10. A sustainable comprehensive management of the environment and the resources of the planet demands that human intelligence be directed to technological and scientific research and its practical applications. The "new solidarity" for which John Paul II called in his Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace [22] and the "global solidarity" for which I myself appealed in my Message for the 2009 World Day of Peace [23] are essential attitudes in shaping our efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth's resources, particularly today, when there is an increasingly clear link between combatting environmental degradation and promoting an integral human development. These two realities are inseparable, since "the integral development of individuals necessarily entails a joint effort for the development of humanity as a whole".[24] At present there are a number of scientific developments and innovative approaches which promise to provide satisfactory and balanced solutions to the problem of our relationship to the environment.

Encouragement needs to be given, for example, to research into effective ways of exploiting the immense potential of solar energy. Similar attention also needs to be paid to the world-wide problem of water and to the global water cycle system, which is of prime importance for life on earth and whose stability could be seriously jeopardized by climate change. Suitable strategies for rural development centred on small farmers and their families should be explored, as well as the implementation of appropriate policies for the management of forests, for waste disposal and for strengthening the linkage between combatting climate change and overcoming poverty. Ambitious national policies are required, together with a necessary international commitment which will offer important benefits especially in the medium and long term. There is a need, in effect, to move beyond a purely consumerist mentality in order to promote forms of agricultural and industrial production capable of respecting creation and satisfying the primary needs of all. The ecological problem must be dealt with not only because of the chilling prospects of environmental degradation on the horizon; the real motivation must be the quest for authentic world-wide solidarity inspired by the values of charity, justice and the common good. For that matter, as I have stated elsewhere, "technology is never merely technology. It reveals man and his aspirations towards development; it expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome material limitations. Technology in this sense is a response to God's command to till and keep the land (cf. Gen 2:15) that he has entrusted to humanity, and it must serve to reinforce the covenant between human beings and the environment, a covenant that should mirror God's creative love".[25]

11. It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our life-style and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view. We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles, "in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments".[26] Education for peace must increasingly begin with far-reaching decisions on the part of individuals, families, communities and states. We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests. A special role in raising awareness and in formation belongs to the different groups present in civil society and to the non-governmental organizations which work with determination and generosity for the spread of ecological responsibility, responsibility which should be ever more deeply anchored in respect for "human ecology". The media also have a responsibility in this regard to offer positive and inspiring models. In a word, concern for the environment calls for a broad global vision of the world; a responsible common effort to move beyond approaches based on selfish nationalistic interests towards a vision constantly open to the needs of all peoples. We cannot remain indifferent to what is happening around us, for the deterioration of any one part of the planet affects us all. Relationships between individuals, social groups and states, like those between human beings and the environment, must be marked by respect and "charity in truth". In this broader context one can only encourage the efforts of the international community to ensure progressive disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons, whose presence alone threatens the life of the planet and the ongoing integral development of the present generation and of generations yet to come.

12. The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction. The degradation of nature is closely linked to the cultural models shaping human coexistence: consequently, "when ‘human ecology' is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits".[27] Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics.[28] Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others.

Hence I readily encourage efforts to promote a greater sense of ecological responsibility which, as I indicated in my Encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," would safeguard an authentic "human ecology" and thus forcefully reaffirm the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbour and respect for nature.[29] There is a need to safeguard the human patrimony of society. This patrimony of values originates in and is part of the natural moral law, which is the foundation of respect for the human person and creation.

13. Nor must we forget the very significant fact that many people experience peace and tranquillity, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us. On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person. If the Church's magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things. In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the "dignity" of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man's salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms. The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the "grammar" which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate. In the same way, the opposite position, which would absolutize technology and human power, results in a grave assault not only on nature, but also on human dignity itself.[30]

14. If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation. The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation. In the light of divine Revelation and in fidelity to the Church's Tradition, Christians have their own contribution to make. They contemplate the cosmos and its marvels in light of the creative work of the Father and the redemptive work of Christ, who by his death and resurrection has reconciled with God "all things, whether on earth or in heaven" (Col 1:20). Christ, crucified and risen, has bestowed his Spirit of holiness upon mankind, to guide the course of history in anticipation of that day when, with the glorious return of the Saviour, there will be "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Pet 3:13), in which justice and peace will dwell for ever. Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is thus a duty incumbent upon each and all. It is an urgent challenge, one to be faced with renewed and concerted commitment; it is also a providential opportunity to hand down to coming generations the prospect of a better future for all. May this be clear to world leaders and to those at every level who are concerned for the future of humanity: the protection of creation and peacemaking are profoundly linked! For this reason, I invite all believers to raise a fervent prayer to God, the all-powerful Creator and the Father of mercies, so that all men and women may take to heart the urgent appeal: If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2009


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[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 198.

[2] Benedict XVI, Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7.

[3] Cf. No.48.

[4] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, XXXIII, 145.

[5] Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 1.

[6] Apostolic Letter "Octogesima Adveniens," 21.

[7] Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 10.

[8] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 32.

[9] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 295.

[10] Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 - c. 475 B.C.), Fragment 22B124, in H. Diels-W. Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Weidmann, Berlin,1952, 6th ed.

[11] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 48.

[12] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus," 37.

[13] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 50.

[14] Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," 69.

[15] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," 34.

[16] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 37.

[17] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 467; cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter "Populorum Progressio," 17.

[18] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus," 30-31, 43

[19] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 49.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, S. Th., II-II, q. 49, 5.

[22] Cf. No. 9.

[23] Cf. No. 8.

[24] Paul VI, Encyclical Letter "Populorum Progressio," 43.

[25] Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 69.

[26] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus," 36.

[27] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 51.

[28] Cf. ibid., 15, 51.

[29] Cf. ibid., 28, 51, 61; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus," 38, 39.

[30] Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter "Caritas in Veritate," 70.

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