AUDIENCE OF 2/7/07
As mentioned by Mary, the general audience today was a two-part event. First, at St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father greeted the bishops of Lombardy and the pilgrims who came with them to Rome on their ad-limina visit. After addressing them briefly, he proceeded to Aula Paolo VI for the regular catechesis and audience.
First, here is a translation of his words to the Lombard congregation:
Dear brothers and sisters of the Lombard Diocese:
I greet you first, my dear brothers in the episcopate, who have come to Rome for the visit ad-limina apostolorum. And with you, I greet the pilgrims who have accompanied you on this significant occasion of intense communion with the Successor of Peter.
The living Church in Lombardy, represented here by all its components, has an important role it must continue to carry out in Lombard society: to announce the Gospel and bear witness to it in every field, especially where there emerge the negative traits of a consumerist and hedonistic culture, of secularism and individualism, and where old and new forms of poverty are evident, with worrying signs of juvenile unrest and the phenomena of violence and criminality.
If the various educational institutions and agencies seem to be going through difficult times, nevertheless great moral and idealistic resources are not lacking among your people, who are rich in noble religious and familial traditions.
I have seen in my convereations with you, dear brothers in the episcopate, how the Church in Lombardy is truly a living Church, rich with the dynamism of faith and even with the missionary spirit, capable and determined to transmit the torch of the faith to future generations and to the world of our time. I am grateful to you for this dynamism of faith which truly flourishes in Lombardy.
Your field of action is vast. On the one hand, you must defend and promote the culture of human life and of the law. On the other hand, an ever more consistent personal as well as communitarian conversion to Christ is necessary.
Indeed, to make faith grow in man, who was made in the image and likeness of his Creator, we must consistently and more intimately penetrate the mystery of Christ and spread His message of salvation.
We should do all we can to know even better the figure of Jesus, to know Him not only at 'second hand' butw ith a knowledge gained through encountering Him in prayer, in the liturgy, in love for our neighbor.
It is certainly a difficult task, but the words of the Lord are comforting: "And behold, I am with you always until the end of time" (Mt 28,20).The Lord is with us today, tomorrow, up to the end of the world! So may your evangelical witness intensify such that in every area, Christians - guided by the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cfr 1 Cor 3, 16-17)- may be living signs of supernatural hope.
In these times, with so much anguish and so many problems, there is need for hope. And our hope comes precisely from the promise of our Lord and His presence. I encourage you, dear bishops, to guide the energetic people of Lombardy in their course, relying in every situation on unerring divine assistance. Let us move ahead with the Lord's help!
And here is a translation of his catechesis:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Taking a new turn in the gallery of portraits of the first witnesses of Christian faith that we began several weeks ago, today we will consider a married couple. The spouses Priscilla and Aquila were in the orbit of the many co-workers who gravitated around the Apostle Paul, and whom I had mentioned briefly last week.
On the basis of the information we have, this married couple carried out a very active role in the early post-Paschal events of the Church.
The names Aquila and Priscilla are Latrn, but the man and woman who bore these names were of Jewish origin. But at least Aquila came geographically from the Jewish diaspora in northern Anatolia, which faces the Black Sea, in what is now Turkey. Whereas Priscilla, whose name is found abbreviated at times as Prisca, was probably a Jew from Rome (cfr Acts 18,2).
In any case, they came from Rome to Corinth, where Paul met them at the start of the 50s. He associated with them because, as Luke tells us, they shared the same trade of tent weavers and he was welcomed outright in their home (cfr ACts 18,3).
The reason they came to Corinth was the decision by the emperor Claudius to drive out from Rome Jews residing in the city. The historian Suetonius tells us that the Jews were expelled because "they provoked riots in behalf of a certain'Cresto'" (cfr "Life of the 12 Caesars: Claudius," 125).
We can see the historian did not even know the name - writing Cresto
instead of Cristo
- and had a very confused idea of what had happened. In any case, there were discords within the Jewish community on the question of whether Jesus was the Christ. For the emperor, this was all he needed to expel all the Jews from Rome.
We can deduce that this couple had embraced the Christian faith in Rome as early as the 40s, and now they found in Paul not only someone who shared their faith - that Jesus is the Christ - but who was also an apostle, called directly by the Risen Lord. And so, they first met in Corinth where they welcomed Paul into their home and they worked together making tents.
At a later date, they moved to Ephesus in Asia Minor. There they had a decisive role in completing the Christian formation of Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, whom we talked about last Wednesday.
Because he only had a sketchy knowledge of Christianity, "Priscilla and Aquila listened to him, then took him in and exposed him correctly to the way of God.(Acts 18,26). When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus, he explicitly sent along with his greeting, that of "Priscilla and Aquila, along with the community assembled in their home" (16,19).
That is how we come to learn of the very important role that this couple played in the primitive Church: they welcomed into their home the group of local Christians when they assembled to hear the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist.
It was precisely that type of assembly that is called ekklesia
in Greek - in Latin ecclesia
, in Italian, chiesa
-which means a convocation, an assembly, a meeting. And so, in the home of Aquila and Priscilla, the Church, the convocation of Christ, came together to celebrate the Eucharist. We can see how the reality of the Church was born in the homes of believers.
Christians, in fact, until the end of the third century, did not have their own places of worship. Initially, they used the Jewish synagogues, until the original symbiosis between the Old and New Testaments became unbdound, and the Church of the Gentiles was forced to give itself its own identity, though still profoundly rooted in the Old Testament.
After this 'rupture', they assembled in houses, which thus became a Church. Finally in the third century, true edifices for Christian worship began to be built. But in the first century and through the second century, it was Christian hiomes that became true churches where, as I said, they read Sacred Scriptures together and they celebrated the Eucharist.
That is how it was in Corinth, for example, where Paul mentions a certain "Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole community" (Rom 16, 23), or at Laodicea, where the community assembled in the house a certain Ninfa (cfr Col 4,15), or at Colossus, where the assembly took place at the house of one Archippus (cfr Pm 2).
Subsquently returning to Rome, Aquila and Priscilla continued to exercise this most precious function even in the capital of Empire. In fact, Paul, writing to the Romans, sends this precise greeting: "Please welcome Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers in Jesus Christ; to save my life they have risked their own heads, and to them, not only I am grateful, but all the Churches of the Gentiles. Also greet the community that assembles in their house" (Rm 16,3-5).
What extraordinary praise for the spouses in these words! Being said by no less than the Apostle Paul. He acknowledges them explicitly as two true and important co-workers in his apostolate.
The reference to the fact that they had risked their lives for him probably has to do with their intervention in his favor during one of his times in prison, perhaps in Ephesus itself (cfr Acts 19,23; q Cor 15, 32; 2 Cor 1, 8-9).
That to his own thanks Paul aassociates directly the thanks from all the Churches of the Gentiles - even if we could consider the expression somewhat exaggerated - allows us to deduce how wide was their radius of action, or at any rate, their influence in propagating the Gospel.
Subsequent hagiographic tradition has confered a particular prominence on Priscilla, despite the problem of her being confounded with another Prscilla who was a martyr. In any case, here in Rome, we have a church dedicated to St. Prisca on the Aventine, and the Catacombs of Priscilla on via Salaria.
This is the way the memory of this lady is perpetuated, one who was most certainly very active and very valuable in the early history of Roman Christianity.
One thing is sure. Along with the thanks of those first Churches, of which St. Paul wrote, we also owe her our thanks, because thanks to the faith and the apostolic commitment of lay faithful, of families, and of married couples like Prscilla and Aquila, Christianity was able to reach forward up to our own generation. It could grow, and not only from the work of the Apostles announced it,
In order to be rooted in the people themselves, in order to develop actively, it needed the commitment of these families, these spouses, these Christian communities of faithful laymen who offered 'humus' for the growth of the faith. And always, that is the only way the Church can grow.
In particular, this couple demonstrate how important tthe work is of Christian spouses. When they are sustained by the faith and a strong spirituality, then their courageous commitment for the Church and in the Church comes naturally. The routine community of their dally lives is extended and is somehow sublimated in taking on responsibility for the mystical Body of Christ (the Church), no matter if it is only for a small part of that wider church. It was that way in the first generation, and it will often be that way.
There is a further lesson from the example of Priscilla and Zquila that we cannot overlook: every home can transform itself into a little church. Not only in the sense that Christian love - made up of altruism and reciprocal caring - should reign in it, but in the sense that all of family life, based on faith, must revolve around the unique Lordship of Jesus Christ.
It was not by chance that in the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul compared the marital relationship to the spousal communion between Christ and the Church (cfr Eph 5,25-33). Indeed, we could maintain that the Apostle indirectly modelled the life of the entire Church on that of the family. Because the Church is really the family of God.
And so we honor Priscilla and Aquila as nodels of conjugal life, responsibly committed to the service of the whole Christian community. And we find in them the model of the Church, God's family for all time.
Later, the Holy Father said the following in English:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today’s catechesis, we consider a married couple, Priscilla and Aquila, who played an active part in the early Church, and particularly in the ministry of Saint Paul.
The Apostle first met them in exile in Corinth, and then again in Ephesus and finally in Rome. At Ephesus, they instructed Apollos in the faith and in every city they opened their home to the local Christian community for worship.
Paul praises them in his Letter to the Romans as his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I, but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks" (Rom 16:3-4).
This remarkable tribute bespeaks their great influence in the apostolic Church and reminds us that we ourselves have received the faith through the witness of countless committed Christians like them.
Priscilla and Aquila show us the important role played by married couples in the life of the Church. Every home is called to become a "domestic church" in which family life is completely centred on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his Bride (cf. Eph 5:25-33).
I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, China, and the United States of America. May your visit to Rome inspire you to live the truth of the Gospel ever more fully. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
At the end, he had special messages for the Italian-speaking pilgrims:
I address a heartfelt welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the diocesan assistants of Catholic Action, accompanied by General Assistant Mons. Francesco Lambiasi.
Dear friends, in the face of a worrying 'educational emergency', you are called to communicate the faith to the new generations, facillitating the econunter with Christ of so many children and youth.
Never tire of reminding them - it may be difficult but is so necessary .as well as very beautiful - that only the Gospel can fully satisfy the expectations of the human heart and can create a new humanism.
Now I greet you, the missionaries of San Carlo (Scalabriniani), who are celebrating your Chapter-General meeting these days, and wish you well that you may always be fathers in the faith and a guide in life in accordance with the Holy Spirit, for the persons and communities entrusted to your pastoral care.
My thoughts go finally to the young, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, be witnesses everywhere for non-violence - this is so important today! - and for peace, for with this generous commitment, you would be contributing to build a better future for everyone.
You, dear ones who are afflicted, with your suffering, feel that you are 'co-workers' of Christ in His suffering, He who carries the pain of the world, and in doing so, gives us life and joy...
And you, my dear newlyweds, build your happiness day after day, as the apostle Paul exhorts, jopful in hope, strong in tribulatiions, persevering in prayer, concerned about the needs of your brothers (Rom 12, 12-13).
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 12/02/2007 2.07]