With an impressive meditation Benedict XVI introduced the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. It opened yesterday, in St Peter's, with a solemn celebration in which prayers resonated in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Hebrew.
The Pope recalled that at the heart of human events is the Incarnation of Christ and presented it through the motherhood of Mary whom the Council of Ephesus proclaimed “Mother of God” ( Theotókos ), a title that has remained very dear to the popular devotion of Eastern Christians.
Actually, the daring title consecrated by the Third great Council – wherein lies the importance of the pronouncement of Ephesus, Benedict XVI emphasized – makes it possible to overcome the failure of thought before the unbridgeable gap in the relationship between the human being and his Creator, who chose to take flesh in Jesus. As Luke wishes to make us understand by putting Mary at the centre of the first chapters of his Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles and by demonstrating God's closeness.
However Scripture speaks of the whole of history and the Pope stressed this by commenting on a verse of the Psalm sung at the beginning of the assembly: God is in the midst of gods that inexorably dwindle before Him. It is the fall of the gods, in the painful process that leads to surmounting polytheism and in the grandiose vision of the weakening of their power in the course of history through the witness of Christ and the blood of his martyrs.
Today too, Benedict XVI said, when the gods acquire the faceless aspect of anonymous financial capital that has enormous destructive power or the mask of fundamentalist terrorism that acts falsely in the name of God causes bloodshed, or again, in the guise of drugs, a voracious beast, and ideologies in opposition to marriage and chastity.
But these divinities will be defeated as was the dragon described in the Book of Revelation. It seeks to drown the woman in the river, but it is the earth, that is, the faith of the simple, which absorbs these currents that endeavour to submerge Christ's Church, to make it disappear.
In the Middle East – the Bishop of Rome asked the faithful in the Opening Homily of the Synod, to see with a “different perspective”, that of God – the continuity of the Christian presence remains fundamental, uninterrupted since the time of Jesus, inspite of persecutions, wars, difficulties and forms of intolerance and injustice. Salvation is universal but historically it passed through “the mediation of the People of Israel which then became that of Jesus Christ and of the Church”, the Pope reaffirmed, stressing that God's plan goes beyond history but does not by-pass humanity.
The land where Jesus was born is therefore the “cradle” of this universal plan and the Church is its sign and instrument, merely by being herself, in other words, “communion and hope”.
Once again Benedict XVI is looking ahead. As he did on his Visits to Turkey, to the Holy Land (Jordan, Israel and Palestine) and to Cyprus, proceeding in that friendly and constructive exchange between Christians, Muslims and Jews, which he called a “trialogue”.
This is why the Pope forcefully reasserted that the Synodal Assembly is a favourable opportunity for furthering the “dialogue with the Jews, to whom we are indissolubly bound by the long history of the Covenant, as well as with the Muslims”.
The Pope did so with the tranquil confidence of someone who knows that before the one Lord of history the gods and dominions of this world fell and will fall. In the prospect of a different perspective – God's.
St. Peter’s Square
Nov. 21, 2019
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