This morning, the Pope traveled by helicopter from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo to the Vatican, where he landed shortly before 10 am. He then made his way to St. Peter's Square where he presided at his weekly general audience, attended by 16,000 people.
In keeping with his plan to extol the holiness of the Early Church Fathers, the Pope returned to consider the figure of St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-395) - who was also the subject of last week's catechesis –noting how the bishop saint always "showed a highly elevated sense of man's dignity."
For St. Gregory, "man's aim is to make himself like God ... through love, knowledge and the practice of virtues, ... in a perpetual and dynamic adherence to good, like a runner stretching forwards."
The Holy Father warned that our ability to take part in the sanctity of God is not a one-time gift, but rather, it is "a permanent journey, a constant commitment to progress ... because complete likeness to God can never be achieved. The history of each soul is that of a love ... open to new horizons, because God continually expands the possibilities of the soul, so as to make it capable of ever greater good."
"In this journey of spiritual ascent, Christ is the Model and the Master Who shows us the beautiful image of God. Looking at Him, each of us discovers ourselves to be 'the painter of our own life' in which our will undertakes the work and our virtues are the colors at our disposal."
"The value that St. Gregory gives to the word Christian is very important," said Pope Benedict, "because a Christian is one who bears the name of Christ, and one who bears the name of Christ must be like Him also in this life. ... But Christ, Gregory recalls, is also present in the poor," and he invites people to recognize the dignity of the poor, precisely because "they represent the Person of the Savior."
The Holy Father concluded by saying that "the path to God, then, passes through prayer and pureness of heart, and through love for others. Love is the stairway that leads to God."
Pope Benedict brought the audience to a close by addressing the Missionaries of Charity who have come to Rome for the tenth anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He also highlighted how "the life and witness of this true disciple of Christ ... are an invitation for you and for the entire Church always to serve God faithfully in the poorest and the most needy."