The Gift of JOY

It’s always interesting to know what a pope considers to be the hallmarks of authentic Christian life...

In The Infancy Narratives, Benedict suggests two such hallmarks: humility and joy.

Humility comes up as Benedict discusses the two annunciation scenes in the infancy narratives, that of the birth of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. The former, he notes, features a priest of Israel receiving a visit from an angel during the Temple liturgy, while the latter involves an unknown woman in simple surroundings living in a town, Nazareth, which has no real significance in the Old Testament.

Here’s what Benedict deduces from the contrast: “The sign of the New Covenant is humility, hiddenness – the sign of the mustard seed. The Son of God comes in lowliness.”

The stress on joy, meanwhile, comes out of Benedict’s discussion of the annunciation to Mary. He notes that Gabriel does not employ the usual Jewish greeting with Mary – shalom, or “peace” – but the Greek term chaĩre, which tradition renders as “hail,” but which really means something like “rejoice!”

 “Joy appears in these texts as the particular gift of the Holy Spirit,” the pope writes, “the true gift of the redeemer.

Benedict also notes that in Greek, the terms “joy” and “grace” share the same root. As he puts it, therefore, “joy and grace belong together.”

There you have it: According to Benedict XVI, humility and joy are core tests for Christian authenticity.

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