The Featured Image
This item is actually both common and uncommon. It is the autographed photo of a pope. Although they are relatively common, they’re still highly sought after and a lot of people try to get them, which makes it fairly difficult. So maybe it’s a misnomer to say that they’re common. But the thing that makes this one uncommon is that it’s the first photograph signed by Pope Benedict XVI as pope. It was on May 9, 2005, so it was just 19-20 days after his election.
We can see the ‘PP’ next to his name on this item, as in many other documents in the Collection, dating way back in history. The significance of the ‘PP’ is that almost always, though not always, a pope will sign his papal name with ‘PP’, which simply is short for Papa or Daddy, indicating the spiritual fatherhood of the pope towards the faithful. So 99 per cent of the time the Holy Father signs in this manner symbolizing his universal role as our Shepherd. Imagine! His symbol of fathering us is contained right in his very name. And it has been used for hundreds of years. —Father Richard Kunst
A Very Personal Advent of One’s Own
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
Let us reflect on what the word “Advent” actually means. The Latin word adventus can be translated as “presence” or “arrival”. In the vocabulary of classical antiquity, it was a technical term for the arrival of a high official and especially for the arrival of kings or emperors in a province. It could, however, also express the arrival of a deity who emerged from hiddenness and gave proof of his presence through mighty works or of a god whose presence was solemnly celebrated in a cultic act.
The Christians adopted this word in order to express their special relationship to Jesus Christ. For Christians, he was the king who had entered this wretched province Earth and bestowed on it the gift of his visit; and they believed that he was present in the liturgical assembly. In general terms, when they used this word, they intended to say: God is here. He has not withdrawn from the world. He has not left us alone. Although we cannot see him and take hold of him as we do with objects in this world, nevertheless he is here, and he comes to us in many ways.
Accordingly, the word visitatio is closely connected to the meaning of the word “Advent”. This means “visit”, but our ecclesiastical language has long been accustomed to translate it as “visitation”. And a strange shift in our thinking has occurred here: the word “visitation” has almost completely lost the joyful contents of the word “visit”. We no longer think of its original meaning; rather, we think of “visitations” as burdens and labors that we interpret as a punishment “visited upon us” by God. But the opposite ought in fact to be the case! The word “visitation” (or “visit”) ought to help us perceive that even hard things may contain something of the beauty of Advent.
Just like a great joy, so too illness and suffering can be a very personal Advent of one’s own – a visit by the God who enters my life and wants to encounter me personally. Even when it is difficult for us, we should at least try to understand the days of our illness in this way: The Lord has interrupted my activity for a time in order to let me be still.
In my daily living, I have little time for him and little time for myself. I am completely involved from morning to evening in all the things I have to do, and I even succeed in eluding my own grasp, because I do not know how to be alone with myself. My job possesses me; the society in which I live possesses me; entertainment of various kinds possesses me; but I do not possess myself. And this means that I gradually go to seed like an overgrown garden, first in my external activities and, then, in my inner life, too. I am propelled along by my activities, for I am merely a cog in their great machinery.
But now God has drawn me out of all this. I am obliged to be still. I am obliged to wait. I am obliged to reflect on myself; I am obliged to bear being alone. I am obliged to bear pain, and I am obliged to accept the burden of my own self. All this is hard.
But may it not be the case that God is waiting for me in this stillness? May it not be the case that he is doing here what Jesus says in the parable of the vine: “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (Jn 15:2)?
If I learn to accept myself in these days of stillness, if I accept the pain, because the Lord is using it to purify me – does this not make me richer than if I had earned a lot of money? Has not something happened to me that is more durable and fruitful than all those things that can be counted and calculated?
A visit by the Lord – perhaps illness can present itself in a new light when we see it as a part of Advent. For when we rebel against it, this is not only because it is painful or because it is hard to be still and alone: we rebel against it because there are so many important things we ought to be doing and because illness seems meaningless. But it is not in the least meaningless! In the structure of human life as a whole, it is profoundly meaningful. It can be a moment in our life that belongs to God, a time when we are open to him and thus learn to rediscover our own selves.
Perhaps we should try an experiment. Let us understand the individual events of the day as little signs God sends us. Let us not take note only of the annoying and unpleasant things; we should endeavor to see how often God lets us feel something of his love. To keep a kind of inner diary of good things would be a beautiful and healing task.
The Lord is here. This Christian certainty is meant to help us look at the world with new eyes and to understand the “visitation” as a visit, as one way in which he can come to us and be close to us.
–“The Blessings of Christmas,” Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)