Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Living Stones of the Dwelling Place for God

Renewal of Baptismal Vows
and Papal Blessing of the Foundation Stones
of the Latin and Greek Melkite Churches
at Bethany Beyond the Jordan

Site of the Baptism of Jesus
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
May 10, 2009

The Holy Father: In the name of the Father, + and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen.

Peace be with you.
R. And also with you.

The Holy Father: Let us pause in contemplation on the banks of the River Jordan, which honor the Baptism of the Lord.
On the banks of the River Jordan, John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness and a herald of the coming of Jesus, went into all the region about the Jordan River, prepared the way of the Lord, by preaching and performing a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and by bearing witness to Jesus proclaiming him the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
To the waters of the River Jordan, Jesus came to be baptized by the hand of John.
As Jesus was baptized, above him the heavens opened and upon him the Spirit descended like a dove, as the voice of the Father was heard:
"This is my Son, the Beloved!"
Blessed by that Theophany, down the centuries, at the banks of this River Jordan, hosts of pilgrims have continued to honor the Baptism of the Lord.
As we recall that event with gratitude and reverence, let us now call to mind our own baptism and bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
(moment of silent prayer)

Blessed are you, Lord, all-powerful God,
in Christ, the living water of salvation,
you have granted us every blessing
and made of us a new creation.
Almighty Father,
in the holy signs of our faith
you renew the great events
of creation and redemption.
Bless + this water
and grant that all who are reborn in baptism
may be witnesses and heralds of the Easter
which is constantly renewed in your Church.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

(The Holy Father sprinkles the assembly and says:)
Let this water call to mind our baptism into Christ,
who has redeemed us by his death and resurrection.

Gospel Reading

The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark (Mark 1:7-11)
R. Glory to you, O Lord.

In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Address of Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear friends,

It is with great spiritual joy that I come to bless the foundation stones of two Catholic Churches to be built beside the river Jordan, a place marked by many memorable events in biblical history.

The prophet Elijah the Tishbite was from this area, not far north of Galaad. Near here, facing Jericho, the waters of the Jordan opened before Elijah, who was taken up by the Lord in a chariot of fire (cf. 2 Kg 2:9-12).

Here the Spirit of the Lord called John, the son of Zechariah, to preach a conversion of hearts. John the Evangelist also places in this area the meeting between the Baptist and Jesus, who at His baptism was “anointed” by the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and proclaimed the beloved Son of the Father (cf. Jn 1:28; Mk 1:9-11).

I greet with joy His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Melkite Church. I also greet with affection His Beatitude Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. I extend my warm best wishes to His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, to the Auxiliary Bishops present, particularly to Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey and the Most Reverend Salim Sayegh, whom I thank for his kind words of welcome. I am pleased to greet all the Bishops, priests, religious and faithful who accompany us today. Let us rejoice in the knowledge that the two buildings, one Latin, the other Greek Melkite, will serve to build up, each according to the traditions of its own community, the one family of God.

The foundation stone of a church is a symbol of Christ. The Church rests on Christ, is sustained by Him and cannot be separated from Him. He is the one foundation of every Christian community, the living stone, rejected by the builders but chosen and precious in God’s sight as the cornerstone (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5, 7). With Him, we too are living stones built into a spiritual house, a dwelling place for God (cf. Eph 2:20-22; 1 Pet 2:5).

Saint Augustine loved to refer to the mystery of the Church as the Christus totus, the whole Christ, the full or complete Body of Christ, Head and members. This is the reality of the Church; it is Christ and us, Christ with us. He is with us as the vine is with its own branches (cf. Jn 15:1-8). The Church is, in Christ, a community of new life, a dynamic reality of grace that flows from Him.

Through the Church, Christ purifies our hearts, enlightens our minds, unites us with the Father and, in the one Spirit, moves us to a daily exercise of Christian love. We confess this joyful reality as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

We enter the Church through baptism. The memory of Christ’s own baptism is brought vividly before us in this place. Jesus stood in line with sinners and accepted John’s baptism of penance as a prophetic sign of His own passion, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.

Down through the centuries, many pilgrims have come to the Jordan to seek purification, renew their faith and draw closer to the Lord. Such was the pilgrim Egeria, who left a written account of her visit during the late fourth century.

The Sacrament of Baptism, drawing its power from Christ’s death and resurrection, will be cherished especially by the Christian communities that gather in the new church buildings. May the Jordan always remind you that you have been washed in the waters of baptism and have become members of the family of Jesus. Your lives, in obedience to His word, are being transformed into His image and likeness. As you strive to be faithful to your baptismal commitment of conversion, witness and mission, know that you are being strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the prayerful contemplation of these mysteries enrich you with spiritual joy and moral courage. With the Apostle Paul, I encourage you to grow in the whole range of noble attitudes covered by the blessed name of agape, Christian love (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13). Promote dialogue and understanding in civil society, especially when claiming your legitimate rights.

In the Middle East, marked by tragic suffering, by years of violence and unresolved tensions, Christians are called to offer their contribution, inspired by the example of Jesus, of reconciliation and peace through forgiveness and generosity. Continue being grateful to those who lead you and serve you faithfully as ministers of Christ. You do well to accept their guidance in faith knowing that, by receiving the apostolic teaching they transmit, you welcome Christ and you welcome the One who sent Him (cf. Mt 10:40).

My dear brothers and sisters, we now proceed to bless these two stones, the beginning of two new sacred buildings. May the Lord sustain, strengthen and increase the communities that will worship in them. And may He bless you all with His gift of peace. Amen!

Profession of Faith

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal: In communion with the Holy Father, the Successor of the Apostle Peter and the Pastor of the Universal Church, who has come as a pilgrim to visit our land, let us together proclaim our faith.

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do believe.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
was crucified, died, and was buried,
rose from the dead,
and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do believe.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting?
R. I do believe.

The Holy Father: This is our faith.
This is the faith of the Church.
We are proud to profess it,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

Let us pray with confidence to the Father
in the words our Savior gave us:
R. Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

The Holy Father: Let us pray.
All-powerful and all-merciful Father,
you have created all things through your Son,
and have made Him
the unshakable foundation of your kingdom.
Through the gift of your eternal wisdom,
grant that the undertaking we begin
for your glory and our own well-being
may progress day by day
to its successful completion.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

(The Holy Father sprinkles the cornerstones with holy water.)

The Holy Father: The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.
R. Now and forever.

Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

May almighty God bless you,
the Father, + and the Son, +
and the Holy + Spirit.
R. Amen.


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