In his first general audience for 2006, held today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI used the words of St. Paul to show that human history must progress toward a concrete goal: one that is grounded in Christ, the Savior.
The theme for Wednesday’s catechesis was the Christological hymn found in St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians, which expounds on Christ as the firstborn of creation, and “He who resuscitates the dead".
The Pope began saying that "the text begins with an ample formula of thanks. This helps us to create a spiritual atmosphere to live these first days of 2006 well, along with our path during the entire new year".
He said that in the hymn, praise rises to "God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ", whom the Pope called the source of salvation.
This salvation, he continued, is described negatively as "liberation from the power of the darkness", and re-proposed by St. Paul in the positive, as "participation in the destiny of the saints of light".
The Holy Father pointed out that at the hymn’s opening, "Christ is presented as the firstborn of all of creation…He is the "image of the invisible God".
In the second part of the hymn, the Pope said, "the figure of Christ the Savior within the history of salvation is dominant…the head of the body, that is to say, the Church…”
“This”, he pointed out, “is the privileged saving horizon where the liberation and the redemption, the vital communion that runs between the head and the parts of the body, that is between Christ and the Christians, is fully manifested".
Speaking off-the-cuff, Pope Benedict said that "St. Paul shows us something of great importance, history has a goal, it has a direction, history moves towards a humanity united in Christ.”
“In other words,” the Holy Father continued, “St. Paul tells us yes, there is progress in history, there is one if we strive for evolution in history, progress is everything that allows us to come closer to Christ, thus bringing us closer to a united humanity, to true humanism…”
“And behind these indications”, he stressed, “is also hidden an imperative for us, to work for progress, something we all want: all of us can work towards the closeness of men towards Christ, we can personally conform to Christ, going along the line of true progress".
Pope Benedict told his audience that "Christ is He who opens the doors to eternal life, tearing us away from the limitation of death and evil.”
Here, he said “…is that "fullness" of life and grace that is in Christ Himself, and is given and communicated to us. With this vital presence, which allows us to participate in divinity, we are transformed internally, reconciled, pacified".
The Pope then recalled the words of Saint Proclo of Constantinople, quoting: "Who redeemed us was not merely man…nor was He a God deprived of a human nature: in fact, He had a body. Had He not transformed into man, He would not have saved me. Appearing in the womb of the Virgin, He became the condemned man. There lies the tremendous exchange, He gave the spirit and took on the flesh".
Benedict concluded his first audience of the new year saying that “we are faced with the work of God, who achieved Redemption because He became man.”
“He is at the same time the Son of God, Savior, but also our brother and because of this proximity He infuses the Divine Gift in us".