Set out anew from Christ!
On Saturday, 6 January, the Solemnity of the Epiphany,
the Holy Father celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square for the closing
of the Holy Door of the Great Jubilee. Concelebrating with the Pope
were the Cardinals and members of the Committee for the Great
Jubilee of the Year 2000, who were joined by thousands of priests,
religious and faithful from around the world. The sacred rite began
with the closing of the Holy Door in St Peter's Basilica by the Holy
Father, who then went in procession to the altar set up in front of
At the end of the liturgy, the Pope signed his Apostolic
Letter Novo millennio ineunte, in which he offers "some
reflections which can help the whole Christian Community to 'set
out' with fresh enthusiasm after the Jubilee event". Before the
final blessing of the Mass a solemn Te Deum was sung in
thanksgiving for the gift of the Holy Year.
During the Liturgy of the Word the Holy Father preached the
following homily in Italian. Here is a translation.
1. "All the peoples of the earth will adore you, O Lord!" This
acclamation from the Responsorial Psalm expresses very well the meaning
of the Solemnity of the Epiphany which we are celebrating today. It also
sheds light on todayís rite of the closing of the Holy Door.
"All the peoples of the earth will adore you, O Lord!" This is
a vision which speaks to us of the future, it makes us look far ahead.
There is an evocation of the ancient messianic prophecy, which will
fully come to pass when Christ the Saviour returns in glory at the end
of history. However the prophecy has had a first fulfilment, which is
both historical and prophetic, when the Wise Men came to Bethlehem,
bearing their gifts. Here was the beginning of the manifestation of
Christóhis "epiphany" preciselyóto
those who represented the peoples of the world.
This is a prophecy which is being fulfilled by degrees in the course of
time, according as the Gospel proclamation penetrates the hearts of
people and is planted in every part of the world. Was not the Great
Jubilee a kind of epiphany? By coming here to Rome or by going on
pilgrimage elsewhere in the many Jubilee Churches, countless individuals
in a sense set out in the footsteps of the Wise Men in search of Jesus.
The Holy Door is simply the symbol of the meeting with him. It is Christ
who is the true "Holy Door"; it is he who makes it possible
for us to enter the Fatherís house and who introduces us into the
intimacy of the divine life.
To Christ be glory and power through every age for ever
2. "All the peoples of the earth will adore you, O Lord!" Here
especially, in the centre of Catholicism, the impressive flow of
pilgrims from all continents have given us this year a vivid image of
the journey of the worldís peoples towards Christ. All kinds of people
came, all with the desire to contemplate the face of Christ and to
obtain his mercy.
"Christ yesterday and today / the beginning and the end / Alpha and
Omega; / all time belongs to him, / and all the ages; / to him be glory
and power / through every age for ever" (Liturgy of the Easter
Vigil). Yes, this is the hymn that the Jubilee, in the evocative context of the
transition to the new millennium, wished to raise to Christ, Lord of
history, two thousand years after his birth. Today this extraordinary
year officially closes, but the spiritual gifts poured out during the
year remain; the great "year of the Lordís favour", which
Christ began in the Synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:18-19) and which
will endure to the end of time, continues.
While today we close the Holy Door, a "symbol of Christ", the
Heart of Jesus remains more open than ever. He continues to say to a
humanity in need of hope and meaning: "Come to me, all who labour
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). Apart
from the numerous celebrations and initiatives which have marked it, the
great legacy which the Jubilee leaves us is the living and consoling
experience of "meeting Christ".
3. Today, I wish to express the gratitude and praise of the whole
Church. For this reason, at the end of this celebration, we shall sing a
solemn Te Deum of thanksgiving. The Lord has worked marvels for
us, he has filled us with his mercy. Today we must make our own the
happiness which filled the Wise Men on their journey to Christ:
"When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great
joy" (Mt 2:10). Above all, we must imitate them as they place at
the Childís feet not only their gifts but also their lives.
For the sake of her children and all humanity, the Church has sought in
this Jubilee year to be more resolute in fulfilling the role which the
star fulfilled in guiding the Wise Men on their journey. The Church
lives not for herself, but for Christ. She wants to be the
"star", the point of reference which helps people find the
path which leads to him.
The theology of the Fathers loved to speak of the Church as mysterium
lunae, in order to emphasize that, like the moon, she shines not
with her own light, but reflects Christ, who is her Sun. And I gladly
recall that this is how the Second Vatican Councilís Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church begins: "Christ is the light of the
nations, lumen gentium!" And the Council Fathers went on to
express their burning desire to "enlighten all people with the
light of Christ reflected on the face of the Church" (No. 1).
Mysterium lunae: the Great Jubilee has enabled the Church to live
with special intensity this vocation of hers. It is to Christ that she
has pointed in this year of grace, echoing once more the words of Peter:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal
life!" (Jn 6:68).
4. "All the peoples of the earth will adore you, O Lord!" The
universality of the call of the nations to Christ has been made more
strikingly evident this year. People of every continent and language
have come together in this Square. Countless voices have been raised
here in song, as a symphony of praise and a proclamation of brotherhood.
Of course I cannot mention at this moment all the many different
gatherings that have taken place. But I remember the children who opened
the Jubilee with their abounding sense of celebration, and the young
people who conquered Rome with their enthusiasm and the earnestness of
their witness. I think of the families, who presented a message of
faithfulness and communion, so necessary in our world, and of the
elderly, the sick and the handicapped, who offered such an eloquent
testimony of Christian hope. I think of the Jubilee of those in the
world of culture and learning who are daily engaged in the search for
The pilgrimage which two thousand years ago led the Wise Men from the
East to Bethlehem, in search of the new-born Christ, has been repeated
this year by millions and millions of Christís disciples, who have
come here not with "gold, frankincense and myrrh" but bringing
their own hearts, rich in faith and in need of mercy.
5. For this reason the Church rejoices today, exulting in the summons of
Isaiah: "Arise, shine forth, for your light has come... And nations
shall come to your light" (Is 60:1, 3). This sense of joy contains
no vain triumphalism. How could we possibly succumb to this temptation,
precisely at the end of such an intensely penitential year? The Great
Jubilee has offered us an extraordinary opportunity to carry out
"the purification of memories", seeking Godís forgiveness
for the infidelities of the Churchís children during these two
Before Christ crucified we remembered that, in contrast to the
overflowing grace which makes the Church "holy", we her
children are deeply marked by sin, and cast a shadow upon the face of
the Bride of Christ: no self-exaltation therefore but a deep sense of
our limitations and weaknesses. Yet we cannot but be filled with joy,
with that inner joy to which the Prophet calls us, a joy rich in
thanksgiving and praise, because it is based on our awareness of the
gifts received and our certainty of Christís enduring love.
In Christ we also meet the Father and the Spirit
6. Now it is time to look to the future, and the story of the Wise Men
can in a certain way give us our spiritual bearings. First of all, they
tell us that when we encounter Christ, we must learn to stop and
experience deeply the joy of intimacy with him. "When they entered
the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and bowing down they
worshipped him": from now on their lives would be for ever given to
the Child for whom they had endured the rigours of the journey and the
deceitfulness of men. Christianity is born, and continually draws new
life, from this contemplation of the glory of God shining on the face of
A face to be contemplated, seeing in his eyes the "features"
of the Father and allowing ourselves to be filled with the Spiritís
love. The great Jubilee pilgrimage has reminded us of this fundamental
Trinitarian aspect of the Christian life: in Christ we also meet the
Father and the Spirit. The Trinity is the origin and the fulfilment.
From the Trinity all things come, and to the Trinity all things return.
And yet, as in the case of the Wise Men, this immersion in contemplation
of the mystery does not stop us from journeying on, indeed it compels us
to start out afresh on a new stage of the journey on which we become
proclaimers and heralds. "They returned to their own country by a
different way". The Wise Men were in a sense the first
missionaries. Their encounter with Christ did not keep them in
Bethlehem, but made them set out anew on the paths of the world. We need
to set out anew from Christ and, in so doing, to set out anew from the
7. This is precisely what is asked of us, dear Brothers and Sisters, as
the fruit of the Jubilee which concludes today.
In connection with this commitment which awaits us, in a short while I
will sign the Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte", in which I
offer some reflections which can help the whole Christian community to
"set out" with fresh enthusiasm after the Jubilee event. Of
course, it is not a question of organizing, in the short term, other
major initiatives. We return to our normal activities, but this is
something quite different from taking a rest. Rather, we need to draw
from the experience of the Jubilee useful lessons which can give
inspiration and effective direction to our new commitment.
May the Church grow ever more in holiness
8. I offer these reflections to the particular Churches, as a sort of
"legacy" of the Great Jubilee, so that the Churches can
incorporate them in their pastoral planning. There is an urgent need
first of all to build on the desire to contemplate Jesus Christ which
the experience of this year has given us. In the human face of the Son
of Mary we recognize the Word made flesh, in the fullness of his
divinity and his humanity. The greatest artists óof
East and Westóhave striven to capture the
mystery of that Face. But is the Spirit, the divine
"iconographer", who etches that Face in the hearts of all who
contemplate him and love him. We need to "set out anew from
Christ", with the zeal of Pentecost, with renewed enthusiasm. To
set out from him above all in a daily commitment to holiness, with an
attitude of prayer and of listening to his word. To set out from him in
order to testify to his Love by living a Christian life marked by
communion, charity, and witness before the world. This is the programme
which I suggest in the present Apostolic Letter. It can all be reduced
to one word: "Jesus Christ!"
At the very beginning of my Pontificate, and countless times since, I
have exclaimed to the sons and daughters of the Church and to the world:
"Open wide the doors to Christ". I wish to do so yet again, at
the conclusion of this Jubilee, at the beginning of this new millennium.
9. "All the peoples of the earth will adore you, O Lord!" This
prophecy is already fulfilled in the heavenly Jerusalem, where all the
just of the world, and especially so the many witnesses to the faith,
are mysteriously gathered in that holy city where the sun is no more,
since the Lamb is its sun. There above, angels and saints join their
voices in singing the praises of God.
The pilgrim Church on earth, in her Liturgy, in her proclamation of the
Gospel, in her witness, echoes each day that heavenly song. May the Lord
grant that, in the new millennium, the Church will grow ever more in
holiness, that she may become in history a true epiphany of the merciful
and glorious face of Christ the Lord. Amen!