Benedict XVI chose to speak to representatives of the world's peoples – who gathered in St Peter's as they do every year for the celebration of the Mother of God and of the World Day of Peace – about the Face of God, that countenance radiant with blessing. It is the Face that every human creature, even unwittingly, has always sought and seeks, the Face that time gradually unveiled and that was fully revealed at last in Jesus.
In the Incarnation of Christ the human being can properly understand, if he so wishes, that tenderness of God which Byzantine art was able to intuit and portray in the icon of Mary, in the gaze the little Jesus fixes upon his Mother, who in turn contemplates the Face of the Son and rests on our faces. And anyone attentive to this tenderness can consequently change his own outlook and heart and by so doing take the path that leads to peace.
The Pope's reflection addressed the essential and, before the diplomats who represent the nations of the earth, spoke to everyone. Denouncing the torment in children's faces – which the Pontiff described as “a reflection of God's gaze on the world” – caused every day by wars, violence, exploitation and sexual abuse, thereby violating “the person, sacred because of the innocence of childhood” that Paul vi described in his Homily for the closure of the Second Vatican Council. Just as violence is every day recorded in the world, and has been once again in Pakistan, in the horrendous attempt that deliberately targeted both young and old, gathered at a village for a children's volleyball game.
Benedict xvi looks to God and for this reason speaks of the human being with realism. The faces he describes then acquire a precise identity: they are the faces of children of various nationalities who spend every day at school. They cry and laugh in the same way; they are the faces of little innocents that call into question the responsibility of each one for the “false justifications of war and violence”; the faces of the lowliest, whom they looked upon with tenderness and for whom the 37 witnesses to Christ, assassinated in the year that has just ended, gave their lives, and whose stories were followed up by the Agency Fides ; and the face, lastly, of creation itself, in which the reflections of God's Face can be recognized and which is an appeal to the responsibility of each one.
Those who can truly perceive this multiplicity of faces, therefore, see the Face of God incarnate in the Child whom his Mother holds in her arms to show to the shepherds of Bethlehem and to the people come from afar. Just as the Church – prefigured by Mary – shows and offers Christ to every human being.
St. Peter’s Square
Nov. 17, 2019
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