In the presence of 17,000 people at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the necessity of the Resurrection “in the mystery of salvation” to understand the teaching of St. Paul.
For Paul, the Pope began, Christ "is the principle for understanding the world and discovering the path of history." Unlike the Gospel writers, Paul was “not concerned with narrating the individual episodes of Jesus' life," the Holy Father said, explaining that instead, he “sought to sustain the nascent communities” by concentrating on “announcing Jesus Christ as the 'Lord,' living and present, now among His people."
The signature mark of St. Paul’s teaching is the announcement of the “central fact of ... the death and resurrection of Jesus as the culmination of His earthly journey and as the root of the subsequent development of all Christian faith, of all the reality of the Church,” Pope Benedict explained.
"For the Apostle, the Resurrection is not some isolated event, separate from His death: the Risen Christ is always same Christ Who before was crucified."
The Crucifixion-Resurrection event was the center of Paul’s fascination because there the Apostle saw Christ experience suffering in his humanity, and yet, remain one with the Father in his eternal existence, the Pope taught.
However, Benedict XVI said, to understand Paul's thought on "pre-existence and ... the incarnation of Christ" we need to know "certain Old Testament texts which highlight the role of Wisdom before the creation of the world, ... such as those that speak of creative Wisdom."
"These texts ... also speak of the descent of Wisdom which pitched its tent among us" as a premonition of "the tent of flesh" mentioned by St John the Evangelist. "But this descent of Wisdom ... implies the possibility of its being rejected," and St. Paul makes it clear that "Christ, like Wisdom, can be rejected, above all by those who dominate this world, so that in God's plan a paradoxical situation may be created in which ... the Cross ... is transformed into the way of salvation for all humankind."
This idea of Wisdom which descends to be exalted despite its rejection is further developed in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, the Holy Father said.
In that letter, Paul describes how Christ's descent as a man shows his “radical humility” and thereby “contrasts human pride.” This descent of Christ “truly is an expression of divine love, and it is followed by that elevation to heaven to which God draws us," Benedict stated.
In the Letters to the Colossians and Ephesians, Christ is described as "firstborn." This, the Pope explained, means that "the first among many children ... came down to make us His brothers and sisters."Finally, the Pope instructed, in the Letter to the Ephesians the Apostle considers "the divine plan of salvation," saying that "in Christ God wished to recapitulate all things. ... Christ reassumes all things and guides us to God. Thus He involves us in a movement of descent and ascension, inviting us to share in His humility, in other words His love for others and, hence, His glorification."