Thursday, January 1, 2015


Last night at St. Peter's Pope Francis celebrated first Vespers of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. This morning in the New Year of 2015 His Holiness celebrated Solemn Mass for this Solemnity and the World Day of Peace.

Below the videos are the homilies of Pope Francis for each Liturgy.

First Solemn Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God with Exposition and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Te Deum (please note that Vatican Radio needs a better editor in titling Vespers! It isn't the Te Deum Mass! tut-tut!):

This morning's Mass is primarily in Latin and the Holy Father uses the Roman Canon:

And this is a summary of the Papal Solemn Sung Vespers homily from the Vatican Insider:

Francis, at the Te Deum, talks about the scandals in Rome: if society forces the poor to become criminals, it is in extreme poverty; ‘we need to serve the weak, not take advantage of them’. He also quotes Benigni

Domenico Agasso jr Rome
‘The poor and the marginalised need to be at the centre of our preoccupations and our daily actions. We need to serve the weak, not take advantage of them’. Francis said this in his homily in the Vatican Basilica during the celebration of the Vespers and the Te Deum, the thanksgiving hymn for the past year. He spoke of Rome and the recent scandals that involved the city. ‘The serious episodes of corruption that recently came to light require a serious and aware conversion and a renewed commitment to building a fairer and more supportive city’, said the Pope in his last public appearance of 2014.

The Pope started by saying that ‘the Word of God explains to us, today especially, the meaning of time, to understand that time is not a reality estranged from God simply because He chose to reveal Himself and save us in history. The meaning of time, temporality, is the atmosphere of the epiphany of God, that is the manifestation of God and His concrete love. Time is the messenger of God, as St. Peter Favre said’.

He went on: ‘today’s liturgy reminds us of this statement by the apostle John: “My children, the hour has come”, and St. Paul speaking of the “fullness of time”. Therefore, today it shows us how time, which has been “touched” by Christ and by God, received new and surprising meanings. It has become “saving time”, definitive time of saving and grace’.

All this ‘leads us to think of the end of life. There was a beginning and there will be an end. With this truth, which is as simple and fundamental as it is neglected and forgotten, the Holy Mother Church teaches us to end the year and our days with an examination of conscience. Through this, we go back to past events; we thank God for every gift we have received and for all the good we could do and, at the same time, we think of our faults and our sins. To say thanks and to ask for forgiveness’. This is Francis’ invitation. He remembered that, ‘this is what we do, even today, at the end of the year. Let us praise the Lord with the Te Deum hymn, and at the same time, let us ask for forgiveness. The attitude of thanksgiving prepares us for humility, to recognise and welcome the gifts of the Lord’.

The Pope reminds us that ‘the apostle Paul epitomises, in the reading of today’s Vespers, the fundamental reason for our thanksgiving to God. He has made us their children; He adopted us as children. This undeserved gift fills us with gratitude and wonder! Some might say, “but are we not their children, simply through our being human?” Certainly, because God is Father of every person who is born. But without forgetting that we are far from Him through original sin, that separated us from our Father: our filial relationship is deeply hurt’.

That is why God sent ‘his Son to redeem us at the cost of His blood. If there is redemption, that is because there is slavery. We used to be sons and daughters but we became slaves by following the voice of the Evil One. No one else redeems us from that substantial slavery if not Jesus, who became man through the Virgin Mary and died on the cross to free us from the slavery of sin and return us to our lost filial condition’.

Francis added that ‘at the same time, the very gift we thank for is the reason for our examination of conscience, to review our personal and community life, and to ask; what is our way of life like? Do we live as children or as slaves? Do we live as people baptised in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, redeemed, free? Or do we live according to worldly, corrupted logic, doing what the devil makes us believe is in our best interest?’.

The Pope highlighted that ‘there always is, in our walk of life, a tendency to resist liberation; we fear freedom and, paradoxically, we unconsciously prefer slavery. Freedom scares us because it forces us to face time and our responsibility to use it well. Slavery reduces time to the moment, making us feel safer. It makes us live moments disjointed from their past and our future’. He added that ‘in other words, slavery prevents us from living fully and truthfully our present, because it makes it devoid of past and shuts it off from the future and eternity. Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly and hope’.

Francis then quoted Roberto Benigni, without calling him by name, and his show about the Ten Commandments. ‘A few days ago a great Italian artist said that it was easier for the Lord to take Israelites out of Egypt than take Egypt out of the hearts of Israelites. They had been materially freed from slavery, but during the march in the desert, facing various difficulties and hunger, they began to miss Egypt, where they “ate… onions and garlic”; they, however, forgot that they ate at the table of slavery, because it seemed safer, safer than freedom, which is riskier. How we like being enslaved by so many fireworks that look beautiful but only last a moment! This is the rule of the moment!’

Therefore, ‘the quality of our work, our life and our presence in the city depends on this examination of conscience. Also our service for the common good, our participation to public and ecclesiastical institutions’.

Because of this, being the bishop of Rome, Francis wanted to stress that, ‘our life in Rome is a great gift, because it means we live in the eternal city. Therefore, let us thank the Lord for that. But at the same time it is also a great responsibility. So let us ask ourselves: in this city, in this ecclesiastical community, are we freemen or slaves? Are we the salt or the light? Are we the yeast? Or are we listless, dull, hostile, discouraged, irrelevant, and tired?’

Then, the Pope warned that ‘without a doubt the serious episodes of corruption, which recently came to light, require a serious and aware conversion of the hearts for moral and spiritual rebirth. They also require a renewed commitment to building a fairer and more supportive city, where the poor, the weak and the marginalised are at the centre of our preoccupations and our daily actions. A great attitude of Christian freedom is necessary to defend the poor and not defend ourselves against the poor, as well as to serve the weak and not take advantage of them’.

The Pope suggested that ‘when they asked St. Lawrence to bring and show the treasures of the Church, he simply brought some poor people. When, in a city, the poor and the weak are cared for, rescued and helped to support themselves in society, they become the treasure of the Church and a treasure in society. Instead, when a society ignores the poor, persecutes them, criminalises them and forces them to become criminals; that society reaches extreme poverty, it loses freedom and prefers ‘the garlic and the onions’ of slavery, the slavery of its own selfishness, the slavery of its own cowardice, and it ceases to be a Christian society’.

This is the homily of Pope Francis for this morning's Mass:

Today we are reminded of the words of blessing which Elizabeth spoke to the Virgin Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:42-43).

This blessing is in continuity with the priestly blessing which God had given to Moses to be passed on to Aaron and to all the people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). In celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Most Holy Mother of God, the Church reminds us that Mary, more than anyone else, received this blessing. In her the blessing finds fulfilment, for no other creature has ever seen God’s face shine upon it as did Mary. She gave a human face to the eternal Word, so that all of us can contemplate him.

In addition to contemplating God’s face, we can also praise him and glorify him, like the shepherds who came away from Bethlehem with a song of thanksgiving after seeing the Child and his young mother (cf. Lk 2:16). The two were together, just as they were together at Calvary, because Christ and his mother are inseparable: there is a very close relationship between them, as there is between every child and his or her mother. The flesh (caro) of Christ – which, as Tertullian says, is the hinge (cardo) of our salvation – was knit together in the womb of Mary (cf. Ps 139:13). This inseparability is also clear from the fact that Mary, chosen beforehand to be the Mother of the Redeemer, shared intimately in his entire mission, remaining at her Son’s side to the end on Calvary.

Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she received from him the knowledge of the heart, the knowledge of faith, nourished by her experience as a mother and by her close relationship with her Son. The Blessed Virgin is the woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plans; she is the believer capable of perceiving in the gift of her Son the coming of that “fullness of time”(Gal 4:4) in which God, by choosing the humble path of human existence, entered personally into the history of salvation. That is why Jesus cannot be understood without his Mother.

Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church; the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church. To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an “absurd dichotomy”, as Blessed Paul VI wrote (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). It is not possible “to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church” (ibid.). For the Church is herself God’s great family, which brings Christ to us. Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God who became man, was put to death, rose from the dead to save us, and is now living in our midst. Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church. It is the Church which says today: “Behold the Lamb of God”; it is the Church, which proclaims him; it is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments.

This, the Church’s activity and mission, is an expression of her motherhood. For she is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity. No manifestation of Christ, even the most mystical, can ever be detached from the flesh and blood of the Church, from the historical concreteness of the Body of Christ. Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.

Dear brothers and sisters! Jesus Christ is the blessing for every man and woman, and for all of humanity. The Church, in giving us Jesus, offers us the fullness of the Lord’s blessing. This is precisely the mission of the people of God: to spread to all peoples God’s blessing made flesh in Jesus Christ. And Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, the model of the pilgrim Church, is the one who opens the way to the Church’s motherhood and constantly sustains her maternal mission to all mankind. Mary’s tactful maternal witness has accompanied the Church from the beginning. She, the Mother of God, is also the Mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women, and of every people.

May this gentle and loving Mother obtain for us the Lord’s blessing upon the entire human family. On this, the World Day of Peace, we especially implore her intercession that the Lord may grant peace in our day; peace in hearts, peace in families, peace among the nations. The message for the Day of Peace this year is “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters”. All of us are called to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces. May he guide and sustain us, who, in order to make us all brothers and sisters, became our servant.


John Nolan said...

At Vespers the tall crucifix was on the altar, to be replaced by the lower one at Mass (which means the seventh candle has to go to the side, otherwise it looks incongruous). This is surely not so that the Pope can be better seen, but because Francis when celebrating Mass prefers the figure of Christ crucified to be at (his) eye level, reflecting a particularly Jesuit spirituality. He often focuses on it and NEVER plays to the crowd. He should bless them when going out, however.

Nice restrained Marian vestments too - I liked the lace ornamentation on the deacons' albs, not too excessive. Mass IX again - good, and authentically Gregorian, unlike most of Mass VIII (de Angelis) which used to be de rigueur.

Anonymous said...

It's "tsk, tsk," not "Tisk, tisk."

John Nolan said...

It's neither. It's 'tut-tut' according to Chambers.

Anonymous said...

As usual John Nolan, you're right on target. With the Church and the world in a state of conflict and zero right in on the essence...what the Pope is wearing and the candlestick arrangement.

How do you do it? You're amazing.

Rood Screen said...

John Nolan,

Great observation. I have yet to see one of His Holiness's Mass celebrations, and I've wondered about his use of the cross. The altar cross makes little sense if it does not become the focus of attention, just as the Holy Mass makes no sense if Jesus is not the center of attention.

Rood Screen said...


The crucifix is the sign of man's salvation from eternal conflict and chaos. If you would only allow the One depicted on it to soften your heart, you would not post such personal attacks against another Christian, especially not on the Octave of Christmas. Let Jesus love you, and you will love others.

Tevye said...

At Mass today, not a word was said about the feast formerly known as the Circumcision. Here's a fairly bizarre but intriguing article....Google:
Happy Holy Circumcision Day
There's an article from "The Daily Beast".

George said...

Mary, Mother of God

Just as the first light of dawn heralds the appearance of the sun from which it comes forth, so the Blessed Virgin was that first light of the Dawn of Redemption from which the Son of God would spring forth.
Just as the sun would be of no benefit to man without the atmosphere - and the moisture and oxygen it contains, so also was the human flesh of Mary necessary to provide flesh to Christ, the Son of God, by whom man would be redeemed.
Just as the moon sends down to us light which is not of it's own generation, but comes from the sun, so does the Mother of God reflect down to us the Light of her Divine Son, by whose Light we are spiritually re-generated. So on this first day of the year we honor her who is first among angels and men.

Православный физик said...

A blessed new year to you Father, great observation John Nolan.

Anonymous said...

JBS - Misspelling is misspelling, inside or outside the Octave of Christmas. Jesus loves me, but He detests poor spelling.

Rood Screen said...


What are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know how many have read "Happy Holy Circumcision Day" but won't admit it.

John Nolan said...

Interesting point by Tevye about the feast of the Circumcision (1 Jan.) It's one of those 'layered' feasts. The oldest layer is the octave day of the Nativity (hence the Introit 'Puer natus'). The second layer is the celebration of Mary's divine motherhood, and the most recent (although dating from the sixth century) is the circumcision, with the gospel taken from Luke 2:21.

After Vatican II the second layer was given prominence and in the Novus Ordo it is primarily a feast of Our Lady with the Introit (Salve Sancta Parens) and the other Propers reflecting this. However, the Gospel (Luke 2:16-21) includes the verse concerning the circumcision and naming of the child Jesus. The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, which in the 1962 calendar falls next Sunday is suppressed altogether in the Novus Ordo and replaced by the Mass 'Dum medium silentium' which used to be the Mass within the octave of the Nativity but was replaced by the feast of the Holy Family which used to be the Sunday after the Epiphany, which Sunday is now the Baptism of the Lord.

Confused? Well, the bishops of England and Wales have confused things further by moving the Epiphany to the nearest Sunday, which this year is 4 Jan. If you want to celebrate Epiphany on the correct day you will need to find an EF Mass, or cross the Scottish border, or find a Benedictine monastery which hasn't messed about with the calendar. Incidentally, if the nearest Sunday happens to fall after 6 Jan., or if 6 Jan. falls on a Saturday or a Monday (as happened last year) then the Baptism of the Lord, an important new feast making the end of the Christmas season in the newer calendar, gets displaced.

Rood Screen said...

John Nolan,

I'm curious, why are there different episcopal conferences in the UK? I know that in civil affairs the UK avoids federalism (much to the displeasure of Cecil Rhodes, who sought the creation of a federal empire), so it's interesting to see the Church there split in the way.

John Nolan said...


The English hierarchy was restored by Pius IX in 1850, although the Catholic bishops were forbidden by Act of Parliament from using the titles of the pre-Reformation sees now occupied by the bishops of the established Church.

The Scottish hierarchy was separately restored by Leo XIII in 1878. Since the established Church in Scotland is Presbyterian, the Catholic bishops could, and did, assume the titles of the ancient sees.

In Ireland the hierarchy did not need to be restored since its existence was continuous, although in penal times the bishops had to be non-resident. The Protestant Church of Ireland set up a parallel hierarchy. The partition of Ireland in 1922 did not effect the ecclesiastical set-up.

So for historical reasons there are three separate hierarchies and therefore three episcopal conferences, the one for Ireland being responsible for the whole island.