Documents Homily of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Basilica of St Mary Major, 24 May 2003

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Today, three figures attract the attention of us believers, in this Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Successor of Peter and  St.  Pius V.

1.  The Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God
Let us then turn our attention first to the Holy Virgin, Mother of God, the Theotokos.  Divine Providence has brought us Catholics together in this Basilica, the first Marian church of Rome and of the West.Although we come from diverse parts of the world,we are united in the same faith and turn  to her, the Mother of God, happy to have been received in her house in this year of the Rosary proclaimed by the Holy Father.

Salve, sancta Parens, enixa puérpera Regem, qui coelum terramque regit in saecula saeculorum.

Everything in this holy temple speaks of the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  Here she appears to us in permanent relation to the august mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  The Father, who, in His plan of Salvation, deigned to send His Son into the world , asks of Mary of Nazareth her agreement and consent.  The Holy Spirit makes fruitful the ark of the new alliance, the golden temple.  And behold the miracle : ecce concipies in utero et paries filium et vocabis nomen eius Iesum.  Mary gives flesh to the eternal Word (cf.  Lk.  1:30-38).

But this temple does not only carry us in spirit to Bethlehem , to the "et incarnatus est" of our profession of faith, of which the "confessio", beneath this altar with its venerated relics of the manger is a permanent record.  This basilica also speaks to our common hope in the resurrection and the glory.  It is enough to contemplate the splendid mosaic in the apse: Mary, from the moment of the Annunciation to that of her glorious Assumption.  It is the whole life of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is presented to the prayerful contemplation of the believer: the mystery of our entire existence.

In fact, one of the intuitions of the Second Vatican Council, in continuity with the whole Tradition of the Church, is the relationship which is established between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church, of which She is the most eloquent icon.  The eigth chapter of the dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" is dedicated to the "Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and of the Church".  "Recognized and honored as the true Mother of God and of the Redeemer", she is, equally, "the daughter of the Father's predilection and the temple of the Holy Spirit", and, at the same time, "member of the Church and her image and most excellent model in faith and in charity, whom the same Catholic Church, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, venerates  with the affection of filial piety, as a most beloved mother" (Lumen gentium, no.53).

In this manner the same Council presents to us the Holy Virgin, always present to the daily vicissitudes of the Church, of every one of her members, and at the same time draws her close to our heart as the Auxilium Christianorum.  In her we contemplate the whole beauty of the Church, known and born in the divine heart of her Founder, in Whom everything is light and there are no shadows. The shadows which darken the Church's progress through history are cast by the human nature of her members, sinners poor and always in need of conversion and salvation.

2.  The Successor of Peter
The second figure  intensely present to us to-day is the venerable person of the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome and, as such, the Successor of Saint Peter.  He is -- as the Second Vatican Council teaches in continuity with Vatican I -- "the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity, both of the Bishops, and of the multitude of the faithful" (Lumen gentium, 23;cf.Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, Preamble  DZ 3050-3051).

Among the waves of history, he is "The Rock".  This is the Aramaic expression used by the Divine Founder of the Church in reference to Simon, as reported in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew.  But in order better to understand the thought of Christ regarding the "rock", let us turn to the epilogue to the 7th chapter of the same Gospel.  For Jesus the "Rock", or Peter, is that upon which an edifice can withstand the most terrible storms .We see the significance of the name conferred on Peter.The concept "Rock" signifies consistency,  resistance,  cohesion,  firmness,  solidity, and  strength.

With the eloquence which is characteristic of him, Saint Leo the Great taught: "This disposition of the Truth remains forever: and Peter, persevering with the solidity of the rock assigned to him, never again abandoned the rudder of the Church .  He in fact was placed before all  others and, thus, when he was  named "Peter" and  "Foundation", when he was constituted "guardian of the Kingdom of Heaven", and arbiter with  power to  bind and to loose, and to pass judgements which shall remain stable even in Heaven, we learnt the nature of  his union with Christ through the mystery of these titles" (St. Leo the Great , Sermo 3).

Our beloved Pope John Paul II  is the object of our thoughts, our prayers, and our profound and affectionate sense of ecclesial communion .  In these twenty-five years, his life and his supreme apostolic ministry have been characterized by an unwearying defense of the Truth, by a total dedication to the cause of the unity of the Church and by  prophetic and courageous pastoral work for the promotion of a true and just peace among peoples and among men.The weaker his physical condition,the more strongly does he exercise, in the sight of all humanity, his moral and spiritual authority.  "And thou,... confirm thy brethren!" (Lk 22:32).

We are very much aware of the storms and of the disbelief which present in the Mystical Body of Christ.  Such is the lot of the Church, divine in her essence and human in her members.  We suffer from the many contradictions which human nature and sin can inflict upon us through the painful history of our humanity and in the Church's pilgrimage towards her ultimate Fatherland.  But, we are invited constantly to renew  our trust in the Lord of History, the Founder and invisible Head of the Mystical Body: "Do not be afraid...I have conquered the world." (Jn 16:33)

The Church is victorious through the permanent assistance of the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of the stability of the Catholic faith: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Mt 16:18),victorious because  the Sacraments  assure  us the grace which transforms and sanctifies. The Church is victorious, because she is constructed upon the rock of Peter, which is nothing other than the  rock of Christ; victorious again because, in  communion with  her legitimate Pastors ,that note of catholicity is guaranteed which is indispensable for remaining in the mystical community of the Body of Christ.  The Church is  victorious finally in her Saints: many and expressive are the figures of outstanding sanctity with which the Holy Father has expanded the calendar of Saints, in the course of this quarter century of his Supreme Pontificate!

"Duc in altum!", exclaims John Paul II and in him there resounds the  voice of the Good Shepherd Himself.  "Men of little faith, why do you doubt?", "Cast out the nets for a catch .  .  .  Launch out into  the deep!" And they enclosed a very great multitude of fishes (cf.  Lk 5:4).

"Duc in altum!" Let us launch out into the deep in the bark of Peter.  With Saint Leo the Great, let us reaffirm our faith: "The solidity which he, Peter, become rock, takes from the rock of Chirst, is propagated even in his heirs .  .  ." (St.  Leo, Sermon V). Let us say with St.  Jerome: "I do not follow a primacy which is not that of Christ; through this I put myself in communion with the chair of Peter." (Letter to Damasus)

We are here to pray with the Auxilium Christianorum ,to embrace the Vicar of Christ with the warmth of our affection, and we do this with the most powerful reality that exists: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with which "the work of our redemption is accomplished" (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n.  2).It is a reality absolutely omnipotent, renewing in an unbloody manner the unique Sacrifice of the Cross, rendering substantially present the Body and the Blood of Christ.  The one and only  Savior represents in the rites of  this Holy Mass the infinite fruit of the bloody Sacrifice of the Cross, offered on account of our sins.

3.  The Venerable Rite of Saint Pius V
A providential co-incidence permits us  to render worship to God to-day, and to celebrate the divine Sacrifice according to the roman rite of the  Missal of Saint Pius V, whose mortal remains repose nearby in this Basilica.  Here is the third figure present in this celebration.

You yourselves, dearest faithful, particularly sensitive to this rite that has, throughout the centuries, constituted the official form of the roman Liturgy, have taken the initiative for today's celebration.  And I am very happy to be able to accede to  your request, made by many more than those present here to-day, both because it is animated with a filial devotion to the Holy Father, nigh on the occasion of the twenty- fifth anniversary of His Pontificate, and because of the recognition of the fruits of holiness which the Christian People have obtained from the Most Holy Eucharist in the accordance with this rite.

The  rite of Saint Pius V cannot be considered to be extinct and the Authority of the Holy Father has expressed his benevolent recognition of the faithful who, though recognizing the legitimacy of the roman rite renewed according to the indications of the Second Vatican Council, remain attached to the preceding rite and find in it valuable spiritual nourishment in their journey of sanctification.  On the other hand, the same Second Vatican Council declared that " .  .  . Holy Mother Church considers as having equal rights and honor the legitimate recognized rites, and she wills that in the future they be conserved and in every way fostered, and desires that, where it is necessary, they come to be prudently revised in an integral manner in the spirit of holy tradition and come to be given a new vigor according to the circumstances and necessities of our time" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n.  4)

The ancient roman rite hence conserves in the Church its right of citizenship among the multiformity of Catholic rites, both Latin and Oriental.  That which unites the diversity of these rites is the one faith in the Mystery of the Eucharist, the profession of which has always assured the unity of the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

John Paul II, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Motu Propio "Ecclesia Dei", exhorted "all Catholics to accomplish gestures of unity and to renew their own attachment to the Church, so that their legitimate diversity and different sensibility, worthy of respect, does not separate them one from another, but rather encourages them to announce the same Gospel; with the result that,as  the Holy Father proceeds, urged by the Holy Spirit who makes all  charisms flow together into unity,  all will be able to glorify the Lord and salvation be proclaimed to all nations." (Osservatore Romano, n. 26-27, Oct.  1998, p.  8)

All this constitutes a special motive of gratitude for the Holy Father.  We are grateful from our hearts for the exquisite and paternal comprehension which He shows towards those who desire to maintain alive, in the Church, the riches represented by this venerable liturgy, which  nourished his infancy and youth, which was that of his priestly ordination, of his first Mass, of his episcopal consecration, and which hence forms  part of his most beautify  spiritual crown of memories.

I know that you are immensely grateful to the Holy Father for the invitation given by him to the Bishops of the whole world " to be understanding towards, and to have a  renewed pastoral consideration for the faithful bound to the ancient rite and, at the threshold of the third millennium, to help all Catholics to live out the celebration of the holy mysteries with a devotion that amounts to a true nourishment for their spiritual life and  a source of peace" (loc.cit.):a devotion which, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, should be supreme "proper hoc quod in hoc sacramento totus Christus continetur" (III, q.  83, a.  4, ad 5).

We are all called to unity in the truth, with mutual respect for  diversity of opinions, upon the base of the same faith, proceeding "in eodem sensu" and mindful of the saying of Augustine: "in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas".

In the name of all of you and of all those who are today associated with us in this celebration, I address again the following words with the Holy Church, to the Most Holy Trinity, Who has given us Mary as a helper: "concede propitius, ut, tali praesidio muniti certantes in vita, victoriam de hoste maligno cónsequi valeámus in morte" (Missale Romanum, Mass of the Feast, Collect).

Praised be Jesus Christ

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