Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“Just and true are your ways”
May 11, 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
1. Brief and solemn, incisive and grandiose in tone: this is the
Canticle we have now heard and thus made our own, raising it to the
"Lord God the Almighty" (Rv 15: 3) as a hymn of praise. It is one of
the many prayerful texts with which the Book of Revelation is
studded, the last book of Sacred Scripture, a book of
judgment, salvation and above all, of hope.
History, in fact, is not in the hands of the powers of darkness,
chance or human decisions alone. When evil energy that we see is
unleashed, when Satan vehemently bursts in, when a multitude of
scourges and ills surface, the Lord, the supreme arbiter of
historical events, arises. He leads history wisely towards the dawn
of the new heavens and the new earth of which, in the image of the
new Jerusalem, the last part of the Book of Revelation sings (cf.
It is the just of history, the victors over the Satanic Beast, who
intone this Canticle on which we now intend to meditate. It is they
who, through their apparent defeat in martyrdom, are in fact the
true builders of the new world, with God, the supreme Architect.
2. They begin by exalting the "great and wonderful" "deeds" and
"ways" of the Lord that are "just and true" (cf. v. 3). The language
used in this Canticle is characteristic of the Exodus of Israel from
the slavery in Egypt. The first Canticle of Moses, which he
proclaimed after the Red Sea crossing, celebrates the Lord who is
"terrible in renown, worker of wonders" (Ex 15: 11). His second
Canticle, cited in Deuteronomy towards the end of the great
legislator's life, reaffirms "how faultless are his deeds, how right
all his ways" (Dt 32: 4).
There is consequently a desire to reaffirm that God is not
indifferent to human events but penetrates them, creating his own
"ways" or, in other words, his effective plans and "deeds".
3. According to our hymn, his divine intervention has a very precise
purpose: to be a sign that invites all the peoples of the earth to
conversion. The hymn thus invites all of us, ever anew, to
conversion. The nations must learn to "read" God's message in
history. The adventure of humanity is not confused and meaningless,
nor is it doomed never to be appealed against or to be abused by the
overbearing and the perverse.
It is possible
to discern the divine action that is concealed in history. The
Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution
Gaudium et Spes,
believers to examine the signs of the times in the light of the
Gospel, in order to find in them a manifestation of God's action
(cf. nn. 4, 11). This attitude of faith leads men and women to
recognize the power of God who works in history and thus to open
themselves to feeling awe for the name of the Lord. In biblical
language, in fact, this "fear" is not fright, it does not denote
fear, for fear of God is something quite different. It is
recognition of the mystery of divine transcendence. Thus, it is at
the root of faith and is interwoven with love. Sacred Scripture says
in Deuteronomy: "What does the Lord, your God, ask of you but to
fear the Lord, your God, and... to love... the Lord, your God, with
all your heart and all your soul" (cf. Dt 10: 12). As St Hilary of
Poitiers, a fourth-century Bishop, said: "All our fear is in love".
Along these lines, in our brief hymn taken from Revelation, fear and
the glorification of God are combined. The hymn says: "Who shall
not fear and glorify your name, O Lord?" (15: 4). Thanks to fear of
the Lord we are not afraid of the evil that rages in history and we
vigorously resume our journey through life. It is precisely thanks
to fear of God that we are not afraid of the world and of all these
problems, that we are not afraid of people, for God is more
powerful. Pope John XXIII once said, "Those who believe do not
tremble because, fearing God who is good, they are not afraid of the
world or of the future". And this is what the Prophet Isaiah says:
"Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are
weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened: "Be strong, fear
not!'" (Is 35: 3-4).
4. The hymn concludes by foretelling that a universal procession of
peoples will come and worship the Lord of history, revealed through
his "just and true judgments" (cf. Rv 15: 4). They will prostrate
themselves in adoration. And the one Lord and Saviour seems to
repeat to them the words he spoke on the last evening of his earthly
life when he said to his Apostles: "Take courage! I have overcome
the world!" (Jn 16: 33).
Let us conclude our brief reflection on the "song of the Lamb" (cf.
Rv 15: 3), sung by the just of Revelation, with an ancient
hymn of the Lucernarium, that is, a prayer at Vespers that
was formerly known to St Basil the Great of Cesarea. This hymn
says: "Come sunset, when we see the evening twilight fall, let us
praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit of God. You deserve
to be praised at every moment by holy voices, Son of God, you who
give life. For this the world glorifies you (S. Pricoco-M. Simonetti,
La preghiera dei cristiani, Milan, 2000, p. 97).
[To English-speaking pilgrims:]
In the name of Christ, I greet all the English-speaking visitors
present at the Audience, including pilgrims from England, Ireland
and the United States of America. I warmly welcome you to Rome, the
city of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and I pray that the time you
spend here may be a source of spiritual refreshment. Upon you and
all your loved ones, I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace.
[To special groups:]
Lastly I address you, young people, sick people
and newly-weds. The day after tomorrow is the liturgical
Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. Dear friends, I urge you to pray
ceaselessly and confidently to the Blessed Virgin, as I entrust to
her your every need.
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