Pope delivers Christmas message at general audience
Pope Francis offered a Christmas message during his general audience on Dec. 28.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and again, Merry Christmas!
The liturgical season invites us to pause and reflect on the mystery of Christmas. And since today – today – marks the fourth centenary of the death of St Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church, we can take a cue from some of his thoughts. He wrote a great deal about Christmas. In this regard, today I am pleased to announce that the apostolic letter commemorating this anniversary is being published today. The title is “Everything Pertains to Love,” taking up a characteristic expression of the saint Francis de Sales. In fact, this is what he wrote in his “Treatise on the Love of God”; he wrote: “In Holy Church, everything pertains to love, lives in love, is done for love and comes from love.” And may we all go down this path of love, which is so beautiful.
Let us then try to delve a little deeper into the mystery of Jesus’ birth, “in the company” of St. Francis de Sales, thus uniting the two commemorations.
St. Francis de Sales, in one of his many letters addressed to St. Jeanne Frances de Chantal, he writes as follows: “I imagine I see Solomon on his ivory throne, all beautifully gilded and carved, which, as the Scripture tells us, had no equal in all the kingdoms of the earth (1 Kings 10:18-20) neither was there any king that could be compared, for glory and magnificence, with the king that sat upon it (1 Kings 10:23). And yet, I would a hundred times rather see the dear Jesus in his crib, than all the kings of the world on their thrones.” What he says is beautiful. Jesus, the King of the universe, never sat on a throne, never: He was born in a stable – we see it represented thus [indicating the manger scene in the Paul VI Hall] – wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; and finally He died on a cross and, wrapped in a sheet, was laid in the tomb. Indeed, the evangelist Luke, in recounting the birth of Jesus, insists a great deal on the detail of the manger. This means that it is very important not only as a logistical detail. But how to understand it as a symbolic element? In order to understand what kind of Messiah is He who was born in Bethlehem; what kind of King He is, Who Jesus is. Seeing the manger, gazing upon the cross, looking at His life, a life of simplicity, we can understand who Jesus is. Jesus is the Son of God Who saves us by becoming man, like us; stripping Himself of His glory and humbling Himself (cf. Phil 2:7-8). We see this mystery concretely in the focal point of the crib, namely in the Child lying in a manger. This is “the sign” that God gives us at Christmas: it was at the time for the shepherds in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:12), it is today, and it will always be so. When the angels announce the birth of Jesus, [they say,] “Go and you will find Him”; and the sign is: You will find a child in a manger. That is the sign. The throne of Jesus is the manger or the street, during His life, preaching; or the Cross at the end of His life. This is the throne of our King.
To all of you and your families, a happy Christmas season and a happy New Year!
The full text of the pope’s speech can be found at the Vatican website.