His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Program for Year 2000
Must Help Us Discover Glory of God Revealed in Christ
Vespers, First Sunday of Advent
November 30, 1996
1. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).
The liturgy offers us these words today, on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent, a season which prepares us for Christmas. However, they concern Christ's whole life, from his Nativity to the Paschal Mystery. During the Easter Vigil the celebrant speaks them while he blesses the candle: Christus herd et hodie; Principium et Finis; Alpha et Omega. Ipsius sunt tempora et saecula. Ipsi gloria et imperium, per universa aeternitatis saecula. The millenniums belong to Christ; all the millenniums of history, but especially the two that we have counted since his coming into the world. This second millennium of the Christian era, whose end we are rapidly approaching, belongs to him, while the beginning of the third is already imminent: Tertio millennio adveniente.
By becoming man, the Son of God, the Word consubstantial with the Father, took possession of our time in all its dimensions, and opened it to eternity. Eternity, in fact, is God's own dimension. By becoming man, the Son of God embraced human time with his humanity, to guide man through all the measures of this time towards eternity and to lead him to participation in the divine life, the true inheritance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In Christ's name we begin preparing for the Year 2000
2. For this reason, we men and women, pilgrims in time, "offer up a sacrifice of praise to God" through Christ, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes (cf. 13:15), that is, "the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name" (ibid.).
The Didache says with words that echo this passage: "We give you thanks, O holy Father, for your holy name which you have made to dwell in our hearts" (10, 2). The name of God, known in the Old Testament as Yahweh, the One who is (cf. Ex 3:14), in the New Testament is given a typical human expression: Jesus Christ.
It is in Christ's name that we begin, with these First Vespers of Advent, the immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The Church turns her gaze towards Christmas night, but at the same time she is already looking towards the great Easter Vigil.
3. We have just heard: "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever" (Heb 13:20-21). How clearly the words of the Letter to the Hebrews present the mystery of Christ's Death and Resurrection! He who in crossing the boundaries of death reveals himself as the conqueror of sin and Satan, also has the power to make us capable of doing good.
The programme of preparation for the third millennium spurs us to be aware of this consoling truth, contained in the short reading we have just heard. The sacred author urges us: "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (Heb 13:16). Is this not what I indicated in my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente? In it I called for love of neighbour and for social justice, referring to the Jubilee spirit as it has been handed down to us by Old Testament tradition (nn. 12-13).
The glory of God is man fully alive
4. Opus iustitiae, pax. Dear brothers and sisters, with our prayer let us beg for authentic peace, the fruit of justice and love. Opus iustitiae, opus laudis. The whole programme of preparation for the third millennium must help us discover the glory of God revealed in Christ.
The glory of God is inscribed in every creature, visible and invisible. In an eminent way, it is inscribed in man, created in the image and likeness of God, and raised by grace to divine sonship. At the same time, this glory is given to man and to the Church as a mission to be accomplished. This has been precisely the programme of countless saints. One need only recall St Benedict: "ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus", and St Ignatius of Loyola: "omnia ad mayorem Dei gloriam".
In announcing this programme, the Church is very far from suggesting any form of human alienation! That great Father of the Church, St Irenaeus, had understood this well. He affirmed: "Gloria Dei vivens homo", the glory of God is man fully alive (Adv. Haer. IV, 20, 7). Here is the truth about the glory of God which the Gospel offers us! In this light we wish to start the journey of immediate preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, and in this spirit we intend to continue it in every corner of the earth: in Urbe et in Orbe. This journey will lead us to the threshold of the Holy Door, which will be opened, please God, on the night of Christmas 1999, thus inaugurating the Great Jubilee.
5. To you, Mother of Christ, Mother of the first coming and of every coming, we entrust this programme: opus iustitiae et opus laudis.
To you, Mary, whom the Advent liturgy invites us to honour with the well-known antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli porta manes:
"Loving Mother of the Redeemer gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again."
"To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin as before.
"You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners!"