Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“Prayer of Thanksgiving to the Lord”
H.H. Benedict XVI
May 25, 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
1. Psalm 116, which we have just prayed, has always been in use
in the Christian tradition, beginning with St Paul who, citing the
introduction of the Greek translation of the Septuagint, wrote to
the Christians of Corinth: "Since we have the same spirit of faith
as he had, who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke', we too
believe, and so we speak" (II Cor 4: 13).
The Apostle feels in spiritual harmony with the Psalmist, in serene
trust and sincere witness, notwithstanding suffering and human
weakness. Writing to the Romans, Paul takes up again verse two of
the Psalm and highlights a difference between God who is faithful
and man who is inconsistent: "God must be proved true even though
every man be proved a liar" (Rom 3: 4).
The Christian tradition has read, prayed and interpreted the text in
different contexts and thus all the wealth and depth of the Word of
God appears, which opens new dimensions and new situations.
Initially it was read above all as a text for martyrdom, but then in
the peaceful Church it increasingly became a Eucharistic text
because of the phrase "cup of salvation". In reality, Christ is the
first martyr. He gave up his life in a context of hate and
falsehood, but he transformed this anguish - and thus also this
context - into the Eucharist: into a festive thanksgiving. The
Eucharist is thanksgiving: "I will lift up the cup of salvation".
2. In the original Hebrew, Psalm 116 forms a single composition
with Psalm 115, which it follows. Both are the same
thanksgiving, directed to the Lord who frees from the nightmare of
death, from contexts of hate and lies.
In our text the memory of a distressing past surfaces: the person
praying has held high the torch of faith, even when on his lips
played the bitterness of despair and unhappiness (cf. Ps 116:
10). Indeed, around him an icy curtain of hatred and deceit is being
raised, as the neighbour shows himself to be false and unfaithful
(cf. v. 11).
The supplication, however, is now transformed into gratitude because
the Lord has remained faithful in this context of infidelity and has
saved his faithful [servant] from the dark vortex of lies (cf. v.
11). So, this psalm is for us a text of hope, because even in
difficult situations the Lord does not leave us, and therefore we
must hold the torch of faith on high.
The person praying thus prepares to offer a sacrifice of
thanksgiving, in which he will drink from the ritual chalice, the
cup of sacred libation that is a sign of acknowledgement for having
been freed (cf. v. 13), and find ultimate fulfilment in the Chalice
of the Lord. Thus, the Liturgy is the privileged place to raise up
acceptable praise to God the Saviour.
3. Indeed, explicit reference is made, other than to the sacrificial
rite, also to the assembly of "all his people", in front of which
the person praying fulfils his vows and witnesses to his faith (cf.
v. 14). It will be in this circumstance that he will make his
gratitude public, knowing well that, even when death is imminent,
the Lord bends lovingly over him. God is not indifferent to the
drama of his creature, but breaks his chains (cf. v. 16).
The person praying, saved from death, feels himself to be a
"servant" of the Lord, "son of your handmaid" (ibid.), a
beautiful Eastern expression to indicate one who has been born in
the master's own household. The Psalmist humbly and joyfully
professes his belonging to the house of God, to the family of
creatures united to him in love and fidelity.
4. The Psalm finishes, always through the words of the person
praying, by re-evoking the rite of thanksgiving that will be
celebrated in the "courts of the temple" (cf. vv. 17-19). In this
way, his prayer is situated in a community setting. His personal ups
and downs are spoken of so that it will serve as an incentive for
everyone to believe in and to love the Lord.
Therefore, we can perceive in the background the entire people of
God as the person praying thanks the Lord of life, who does not
abandon the righteous in the dark womb of suffering and death but
leads them to hope and life.
5. We conclude our reflection by entrusting ourselves to the words
of St Basil the Great who, in the Homily on Psalm 115,
commented on the question and answer contained in the Psalm as
follows: ""How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good
he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up'.
The Psalmist has understood the multitude of gifts he has received
from God: from non-existence he has been led into being, he has been
formed from the earth and given the ability to reason... he then
perceived the economy of salvation to be to the benefit of the human
race, acknowledging that the Lord gave himself up to redeem all of
us; and he hesitates, searching among all of the goods that belong
to him for a gift that might be worthy of the Lord. "How then,
shall I make a return to the Lord'? Not sacrifices nor
holocausts... but my entire life itself. For this he says: "I
will lift up the cup of salvation', giving the name "cup' to the
suffering of spiritual combat, of resisting sin to the point of
death; besides, that is what our Saviour taught us in the Gospel:
"Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by'; and again
to the Apostles: "Can you drink the cup I shall drink?',
clearly symbolizing the death that he welcomed for the salvation of
the world" (PG XXX, 109), thus transforming the sinful world into a
redeemed world, into a world of thanksgiving for the life the Lord
[To special groups:]
I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present
today. I greet especially the groups from England, Malta, Canada,
China and the United States of America, as well as the Missionaries
of Charity from various countries. God bless you all!
Today is Africa Day. My thoughts and prayers are with the beloved
people of Africa. I encourage our Catholic institutions to continue
giving generous attention to their needs, and I hope and pray that
the International Community will become ever more involved in the
problems of the African Continent.
Tomorrow, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, I will
preside at Holy Mass at seven o'clock in the evening, in the Square
of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. Afterwards our traditional
procession to Saint Mary Major will take place. I cordially invite
all of you to join this celebration where we together give witness
to our faith in Christ, present in the Eucharist.
Lastly, I address
you, dear young people, dear sick people, dear
newly-weds, expressing the wish that you serve God in joy and
love your neighbour with an evangelical
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