On Saturday evening a group of us attended Vespers at St Peter's presided over by the Pope. It was a moving event, in which the Pope called us to the great theme of Advent, hope for the Lord's coming, a hope he has just medittated upon in his Encyclical Spe Salvi. I found it moving that the Pope wished to mark the beginning of this great season in person, at St Peter's, near the tomb of him who wrote, "Simply reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have." (1Peter 3:15)
I was with Fr Martin Edwards of Southwark Archdiocese who took some pictures - one of which I hope will find its way on here as a record of the event.
Many seem to focus on what the Pope was wearing that day and the style of throne on which he sat. It was all very impressive. Yet I was more struck by the Pope's homily where he referred us to the contrast between Christian hope an dhte nihilism of ancient and modern paganism. "Contempoorary nihilism...corrodes hope within man's heart, forcing him to think that within him and around him there reigns nothing: nothing before birth, nothing after death. In reality, if he lacks God, hope becomes less...The beyond...is not a place where we will end after death, it is instead the reality of God, the fullness of life for which every human being is, so to speak, striving. To this desire of man God has replied in Christ with the gift of hope."
He went on to say: "This is then the surprising discovery: my, our hope is preceded by the desire that God cultivates towards us! Yes, God loves us and exactly because of this He awaits us to turn to Him, to open our heart to His love, to place our hand into His and to remember that we are His children. This desire on God's part always precedes our hope, just as His love reaches us always first of all (cf 1Jn 4:10). In this sense Christian hope is "theologal": God is its source, its support and its end. What a great consolation there is in this mystery! My Creator has placed in my spirit a reflection of His desire of life for all. Every man is called to hope, a hope corresponding to the desire God has for him."