Tertio Millennio Adveniente
Toward the Third Millennium
 
Page 11

IV

IMMEDIATE PREPARATION

29. Against the background of this sweeping panorama a question arises: can we draw up a specific programme of initiatives for the immediate preparation of the Great Jubilee? In fact, what has been said above already includes some elements of such a programme.

A more detailed plan of specific events will call for widespread consultation, in order for it not to be artificial and difficult to implement in the particular Churches, which live in such different conditions. For this reason, I wished to consult the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and especially the Cardinals.

I am grateful to the members of the College of Cardinals who met in Extraordinary Consistory on 13-14 June 1994, considered numerous proposals and suggested helpful guidelines. I also thank my Brothers in the Episcopate who in various ways communicated valuable ideas, which I have kept carefully in mind while writing this Apostolic Letter.

30. The first recommendation which clearly emerged from the consultation regards the period of preparation. Only a few years now separate us from the Year 2000: it seemed fitting to divide this period into two phases, reserving the strictly preparatory phase for the last three years. It was thought that the accumulation of many activities over the course of a longer period of preparation would detract from its spiritual intensity.

It was therefore considered appropriate to approach the historic date with a first phase, which would make the faithful aware of general themes, and then to concentrate the direct and immediate preparation into a second phase consisting of a three-year period wholly directed to the celebration of the mystery of Christ the Saviour.

a) First Phase

31. The first phase will therefore be of an ante- preparatory character; it is meant to revive in the Christian people an awareness of the value and meaning of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 in human history. As a commemoration of the Birth of Christ, the Jubilee is deeply charged with Christological significance.

In keeping with the unfolding of the Christian faith in word and Sacrament, it seems important, even in this special anniversary, to link the structure of memorial with that of celebration, not limiting commemoration of the event only to ideas but also making its saving significance present through the celebration of the Sacraments. The Jubilee celebration should confirm the Christians of today in their faith in God who has revealed himself in Christ, sustain their hope which reaches out in expectation of eternal life, and rekindle their charity in active service to their brothers and sisters.

During the first stage (1994 to 1996) the Holy See, through a special Committee established for this purpose, will suggest courses of reflection and action at the universal level. A similar commitment to promoting awareness will be carried out in a more detailed way by corresponding Commissions in the local Churches. In a way, it is a question of continuing what was done in the period of remote preparation and at the same time of coming to a deeper appreciation of the most significant aspects of the Jubilee celebration.

32. A Jubilee is always an occasion of special grace, "a day blessed by the Lord". As has already been noted, it is thus a time of joy. The Jubilee of the Year 2000 is meant to be a great prayer of praise and thanksgiving, especially for the gift of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of the Redemption which he accomplished. In the Jubilee Year Christians will stand with the renewed wonder of faith before the love of the Father, who gave his Son, "that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). With a profound sense of commitment, they will likewise express their gratitude for the gift of the Church, established by Christ as "a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind".(14) Their thanksgiving will embrace the fruits of holiness which have matured in the life of all those many men and women who in every generation and every period of history have fully welcomed the gift of Redemption.

Nevertheless, the joy of every Jubilee is above all a joy based upon the forgiveness of sins, the joy of conversion. It therefore seems appropriate to emphasize once more the theme of the Synod of Bishops in 1984: penance and reconciliation.(15) That Synod was an event of extraordinary significance in the life of the post-conciliar Church. It took up the ever topical question of conversion ("metanoia"), which is the pre-condition for reconciliation with God on the part of both individuals and communities.

33. Hence it is appropriate that, as the Second Millennium of Christianity draws to a close, the Church should become more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling all those times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel and, instead of offering to the world the witness of a life inspired by the values of faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter-witness and scandal.

Although she is holy because of her incorporation into Christ, the Church does not tire of doing penance: before God and man she always acknowledges as her own her sinful sons and daughters. As Lumen Gentium affirms: "The Church, embracing sinners to her bosom, is at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, and incessantly pursues the path of penance and renewal".(16)

 

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