Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia
(29 Apr 09 - RV) "If the Liturgy is beautiful and dignified, it helps us to perceive the splendour of God".
That was the message at the heart of Pope Benedict XVI's catechesis in his Wednesday Audience, held in a sunny St Peter's Square.
The Pope's thoughts on the liturgy stemmed from his reflections on early Christian writers of East and West, in particular Saint Germanus, Bishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, who in the 8th century openly opposed Emperor Leo III's campaign against the use of sacred images, judging them to be a source of idolatry. Because of his opposition Germanus was forced to retire in exile to a monastery, where he later died. But his memory was not forgotten, and in the Second Council of Nicea, which restored devotion to sacred images, his name was honoured:
"The writings of Germanus, steeped in an ardent love of the Church and devotion to the Mother of God, have had a wide influence on the piety of the faithful both of the East and the West. He promoted a solemn and beautiful Liturgy and is also known for his insights in Mariology. In homilies on the Presentation and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Germanus extols her virtue and her mission. A text which sees the source of her bodily incorruption in her virginal maternity was included by Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. I pray that through the intercession of Saint Germanus we may all be renewed in our love of the Church and devotion to the Mother of God".
In comments in Italian Pope Benedict went on to say that God created man in his own image and likeness, but that this image has been soiled by human sin to such a point that it is almost unrecognisable to modern man. The Pope emphasised that sacred images teach us how to search for God in the face of Christ and the saints, who have been illuminated by Holiness.
Pope Benedict added that today we tend to only see what is negative in the Church, above all its sins; but that with the help of faith we become capable of seeing the Church in a more authentic way so we may rediscover its divine beauty. In this way a liturgy that is dignified and aims for beauty helps us all to rediscover the splendour of God".
Among the thousands present at this weeks audience was one very particular pilgrim who had made his way from America to greet Pope Benedict. And not for the first time. He is Joseph J. Esposito, New York City Police Chief. He told us why he had wanted to make this pilgrimage from the Big Apple together with his family:
"He had a tremendous influence on everybody in New York when he came, I would hope that he would have a similar influence when he goes to Israel, for peace. It's something we need and I think one of the main ways we are going to get there is through prayer, and who better to tell us to pray for it than the Holy Father".