John Paul II on the New Millennium

On the occasion of the visit of Fr. Ciardi, who will speak on “Development of Christian Spirituality Through the Millennia,” I would like to offer some meditations upon the Apostolic Letter, Novo millennio ineunte, issued at the close of the Jubilee, January 6, 2001. Please see our website for details of his speech on December 1st at 730 pm in Cullen Hall.

Our speaker will speak about a text from that document. John Paul II foretold that the “spirituality of communion” would be a characterizing factor in the new millennium: “Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion.”  Novo millennio ineunte, § 43

Communion is to be a hallmark of Catholic faith. Fr Ciardi will explore the meaning of communion for the new spirituality. He proposes to consider the following: This prophecy offered by the Pope, following a deep and gradual study of the signs of the times, was echoed by leading theologians of our era. Why would the Holy Spirit compose this new spirituality for our day? What is its relationship with previous spiritualities? In what ways is it a continuation and yet bearer of something new? This lecture offers a new dimension in spiritual depth for those searching for the beauty, clarity and integrity intrinsic to going to God in unity.

The call for communion is placed in the context upon a profound meditation on the central mystery of faith — the Incarnation. The Incarnation roots the Christian faith in time, in history. So there are are rich invocations of history and time at the outset.

For example,  John Paul II said that the Jubilee, of Christ’s birth 2,000 years ago, was lived “not only as a remembrance of the past, but also as a prophecy of the future.” §3 By looking back to the life of Christ we in someway are also drawn forward to a fulfillment of time.

Or again, he said at the very outset of the Letter, he says:

At the beginning of the new millennium, and at the close of the Great Jubilee during which we celebrated the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus and a new stage of the Church’s journey begins, our hearts ring out with the words of Jesus when one day, after speaking to the crowds from Simon’s boat, he invited the Apostle to “put out into the deep” for a catch: “Duc in altum” (Lk 5:4). Peter and his first companions trusted Christ’s words, and cast the nets. “When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish” (Lk 5:6).

Duc in altum! These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb 13:8).

If “Be not afraid,” are a watchword for the papacy along its various points, “Put out into the deep” (Duc in altum) must be the watchword for the dynamism and legacy of his papacy.

John Paul II lived in a fullness of historical awareness —

“to remember the past with gratitude” — as a son of Poland he had a great sense of piety and gratitude for his parents, his homeland, his Church and his very life. There were many dark lessons, but he learned most of all that “love is stronger than sin” and stronger than death, so he always looks back with gratitude.

“to live the present with enthusiasm”  — he was always enthusiastic about the young people, about meeting new people and with love for human beings and their actions and words and personal presence.

“to look forward to the future with confidence” — from the outset of his papacy he looked forward with confidence to the year 2000 and as he stood in St Peter’s in January 2001 he looked far forward with the confidence of faith — put out into the deep. “When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish” (Lk 5:6)

A confident of the Pope rightly shared with me his thought that this Apostolic Letter should become a “Vade Mecum” for every Christian in the Third Millennium. In the next few posts I hope to give some indications why this is so..

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