Jesus Loves You!
“Jesus loves you!” Pope Benedict XVI assured the more than 50,000 pilgrims who crowded into St. Peter's Square for his general audience on Oct. 26. His spontaneous remark concluded his meditation on a canticle from Philippians 2:6-11, one of many canticles found in the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Pope explained how the text contains two movements. One highlights Christ's sacrifice, even to the humiliation of death on a cross, while the other reveals his paschal glory as he reappears after death “in the splendor of his divine majesty.”
The Father exalts the Son, the Holy Father said.
“This exaltation is expressed not only by enthroning him at the right hand of God but also by bestowing on him ‘the name that is above every name.’”
This name, he explained, is “Lord” — the name that belongs to God himself.
“The Son's sacrificial obedience is followed by the Father's glorifying response, in which the adoration of mankind and of creation is united,” Pope Benedict pointed out. “The plan of salvation is totally fulfilled in the Son and the faithful are invited — especially in the liturgy — to proclaim it and to reap its fruits.”
The Holy Father concluded his teaching with a commentary on the canticle by St. Gregory Nazianzen.
Setting aside his prepared text at the end of his catechesis, the Holy Father continued to speak extemporaneously.
“At the end of this meditation, I would like to emphasize two words for our life. The first is a piece of advice from St. Paul: ‘Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.’ Let us learn to have the same sentiments that Jesus had, conforming our way of thinking, making decisions and acting to the sentiments that Jesus had. If we follow this path, we will live a good life and follow the right path. The other is the word from St. Gregory Nazianzen: ‘Jesus loves you!’ This word of tenderness is a great consolation for us and a source of comfort. But it is also a great responsibility day after day.”
Continuing our journey through the psalms and canticles of the Liturgy of the Hours’ evening prayer, we have heard once again that marvelous and essential hymn that St. Paul included in his Letter to the Philippians (2:6-11).
In the past, we have pointed out that the text is composed of a downward movement and an upward movement. In the first movement, Jesus Christ, from the splendor of his divinity that belongs to him by nature, chooses to humble himself to “death on a cross.” Thus, he proves that he is truly man and truly our redeemer by participating in a real and full way in the reality of our suffering and death.
The second movement, the movement upwards, reveals the paschal glory of Christ, who manifests himself once again after death in the splendor of his divine majesty.
Christ Is Exalted
The Father, who had accepted the Son's act of obedience in the Incarnation and the passion, now “exalts” Christ in a way that is above all ways, as the Greek text says. This exaltation is expressed not only by enthroning him at the right hand of God, but also by bestowing on him “the name that is above every name” (verse 9).
In the language of the Bible, the word “name” indicates a person's true essence and specific role, and reveals an intimate and profound reality. The Father confers an incomparable dignity on the Son who, out of love, humbled himself in death — the most sublime “name,” the name “Lord,” the name that belongs to God himself.
Indeed, the proclamation of faith, which the chorus of those who are in heaven, on earth and under the earth intone while prostrated in adoration, is clear and explicit: “Jesus Christ is Lord” (verse 11). The Greek version states that Jesus is the Kyrios, which is undoubtedly a royal title and which is used in the Greek translation of the Bible to refer to God's name, a sacred name revealed to Moses that was not to be uttered.
We Reap the Fruits
On one hand, therefore, recognition is given to the universal lordship of Jesus Christ, to whom all of creation, which is envisioned as a servant prostrate at his feet, pays homage. On the other hand, however, this acclamation of faith declares that Christ subsists in the divine form or nature, and presents him, therefore, as worthy of adoration.
In this hymn, the reference to the scandal of the cross (see 1 Corinthians 1:23), and even earlier to the true humanity of the Word made flesh (see John 1:14), is connected to and culminates with the resurrection. The Son's sacrificial obedience is followed by the Father's glorifying response, in which the adoration of mankind and of creation is united. Christ's uniqueness emerges from his role as Lord of the redeemed world, which was bestowed on him because of his perfect obedience, “even to death.” The plan of salvation is totally fulfilled in the Son and the faithful are invited — especially in the liturgy — to proclaim it and to reap its fruits.
This is the goal towards which this Christ-centered hymn leads us and that the Church for centuries has meditated on, sang and considered as a guide to life: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
Jesus Loves Us
Let us now be guided by a meditation that St. Gregory Nazianzen in his wisdom composed based on this hymn. In a poem in honor of Christ, this great doctor of the Church from the fourth century declares that Jesus Christ “did not strip himself of any constitutive part of his divine nature, yet, despite this, he saved me as a healer who tends to fetid wounds. … He was of David's line, yet he was Adam's creator. He was made of flesh, yet he was also a stranger to the body. He was born of a mother, but of a virgin mother. He was circumscribed, yet he was also immense. He was laid in a manger, yet a star served as guide to the Magi, who arrived bringing him gifts and who knelt before him. As a mortal being, he wrestled with the devil, yet invincible as he was, he overcame the tempter in a threefold struggle. … He was a victim, yet he was also a high priest; he was the one who makes sacrifice and yet he was God. He offered to God his blood and in this way purified the whole world. A cross raised him from the earth, but sin was pierced by nails. … He walked among the dead, but rose from hell and resurrected many who were dead. The first event is part of our human misery, but the second befits the richness of a being that has no body. … The immortal Son assumed that earthly form because he loves you” (Carmina arcana, 2: Collana de Testi Patristici, LVIII, Rome, 1986, pp. 236-238).
- November 6-12, 2005