Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to begin this meeting of ours by offering cordial good wishes to all of you, superiors and officials, papal representatives and staff of the Nunciatures worldwide, all those working in the Roman Curia and to your families. Best wishes for a holy and serene Christmas and a happy New Year 2017!
Saint Augustine, contemplating the face of the Baby Jesus, exclaimed: “immense in the form of God, tiny in the form of a slave”. To describe the mystery of the Incarnation, Saint Macarius, the fourth-century monk and disciple of Saint Anthony Abbot, used the Greek verb “smikryno”, to become small, to reduce to the bare minimum. He says: “Listen attentively: the infinite, unapproachable and uncreated God, in his immense and ineffable goodness has taken a body, and, I dare say, infinitely diminished his glory”.
Christmas is thus the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order, the order of the dialectician and the mathematician. In this upset lies all the richness of God’s own thinking, which overturns our limited human ways of thinking (cf. Is 55: 8-9). As Romano Guardini said: “What an overturning of all our familiar values – not only human values but also divine values! Truly this God upsets everything that we claim to build up on our own”. At Christmas, we are called to say “yes” with our faith, not to the Master of the universe, and not even to the most noble of ideas, but precisely to this God who is the humble lover.
Blessed Paul VI, on Christmas of 1971, said: “God could have come wrapped in glory, splendour, light and power, to instill fear, to make us rub our eyes in amazement. But instead he came as the smallest, the frailest and weakest of beings. Why? So that no one would be ashamed to approach him, so that no one would be afraid, so that all would be close to him and draw near him, so that there would be no distance between us and him. God made the effort to plunge, to dive deep within us, so that each of us, each of you, could speak intimately with him, trust him, draw near him and realize that he thinks of you and loves you… He loves you! Think about what this means! If you understand this, if you remember what I am saying, you will have understood the whole of Christianity”.
God chose to be born a tiny child because he wanted to be loved. Here we see, as it were, how the logic of Christmas is the overturning of worldly logic, of the mentality of power and might, the thinking of the Pharisees and those who see things only in terms of causality or determinism.The thought of this last paragraph reminds me of the particular charism of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity - the "I thirst" of Jesus on the Cross seen as a call that he should be loved.
And I laughed heartily when, at the end, Pope Francis referred to the reaction of one participant at the corresponding occasion in 2014:
When, two years ago, I spoke about the illnesses, one of you came to say to me: “Where must I go, to the pharmacy or to confession?” “Well… both!” I replied. And when I greeted Cardinal Brandmüller, he looked me in the eye and said: “Acquaviva!” I, at the time, did not understand, but later, thinking about it, I remembered that Acquaviva, the third general of the Society of Jesus, had written a book which we students read in Latin; the spiritual fathers made us read it, and it was entitled: Industriae pro Superioribusejusdem Societatis ad curandos animae morbos [roughly translates as "Guidance for Superiors of the Society for the care of illnesses of the soul"], that is, the illnesses of the soul. Three months ago, a very good edition came out in Italian, done by Father Giuliano Raffo, who died recently, with a good prologue which indicates how to read the book, and also with a good introduction. It is not a critical edition, but it is a really beautiful translation, very well done, and I believe it could be useful. As a Christmas gift, I would like to offer it to each one of you. Thank you.
NOTE: The Italian text includes extensive footnotes that have not been included in the English translation.