HOMILY OF CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO,
Sunday, 12 December 1999
On this day of celebration, I address to you the words spoken by Jesus to the Apostles before he sat with them at table for the Last Supper:
I have longed to eat this Passover with you (Lk 22: 15).
Today Divine Providence has granted me this opportunity so full of meaning. I am therefore very pleased to be here with you today and to consecrate anew to the Lord this place of worship which is so dear to you.
With you, I could sing Psalm 83:
How lovely is your dwelling place,
1. The Greeting and Blessing of the Pope
In the exultation of which I have just spoken I come today into this assembly, bringing you the greeting and the blessing of Pope John Paul II, who has sent me as his Legate. He is well aware of your fidelity to Christ and his Church, the terrible persecutions which you have suffered, and your determination now to write a new page in the history of your community as you look confidently to the future.
In the name of the Holy Father, I greet especially your beloved Pastor, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, together with the priests who are his cherished co-workers, and the seminarians who are zealously preparing here for the priesthood.
I also extend most cordial and fraternal greetings especially to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop John Bukovsky, who has worked so hard to restore this church to Christian worship. With him, I greet all the Bishops here present, and the delegations of other Christian communities who have chosen to join us in this celebration.
2. A Day of Joy
Brothers and sisters, in the first reading we heard echoing beneath the vaults of this unforgettable dwelling-place of God the exhortation which Ezra the priest addressed to the people of Israel five centuries before Christ, when they returned in freedom to Jerusalem after the grim ordeal of the Babylonian exile: Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh 8: 10).
After their deportation, the Israelites celebrated their return to the homeland for seven days, with branches of olive, myrtle, palm and other leafy trees (Neh 8: 15). Today, in wintry Moscow, we cannot emulate the Jewish people rejoicing in their homeland, but we will sing no less our song of praise to the Lord for all the gifts that he has given after the very bitter years of persecution.
Today more than ever, we can all make our own the song of Mary: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.... The Almighty has done great things for me, holy is his name ... he has cast the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly (Lk 1: 46-55).
3. A House of Prayer
In the second reading, the Apostle John offers us the vision of a heavenly liturgy, in which the prayer of the saints rises to God like sweet-smelling incense placed on the altar.
My hope today is that this church, built by your forebears in the heart of Moscow at the beginning of this century, will always be a place of fervent prayer, where the almighty and eternal God is adored and thanked for gifts received and where ceaseless supplication is offered to him for all our needs.
As we read in the Book of Genesis, Jacob saw in a dream a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with the angels going up and down, and he cried out: Truly this is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven (Gn 28: 17). When he awoke, he took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar, pouring oil upon it and saying: This stone ... will be a house for God (Gn 28: 22).
Today we too think of every church as a holy place, a place of encounter with God, a ladder upon which the Lord comes down to us and we can rise to him.
In every building dedicated to worship, therefore, we see represented the symbol of Christianity, of God who descends towards man so that man may rise to him.
This is why Christians love and care for the splendour of their churches: they are buildings which lead us to the heart of the Christian mystery.
4. A Place of Fraternity
My brothers, in the Gospel the Lord has reminded us that the house of God is also the house of fraternal love. We have in fact listened to the invitation addressed to us by the Master in the well-known Sermon on the Mount, when he said: So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go: first be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Mt 5: 23, 24).
Thus the place of encounter with God also becomes a place of encounter with man. The house of God, domus Dei, becomes therefore the house of man, domus hominis. In this house, the children of the one Father know that they are brothers and sisters, and they pledge themselves to live this Christian ideal. On the door of this church, which today we dedicate to the Lord, we could well write what I once read at the entrace of a small hillside chapel in Italy: Here you enter to love God, from here you go out to love your fellow man.
Brothers and sisters, as I conclude these words, I would like to invite you to present your prayers to the Lord through the intercession of Mary most holy, the Immaculate Mother of Jesus, and through the intercession of all the saints. This is the meaning of the litany which we shall soon sing. Mary most holy was chosen by your forebears as the patroness of this beautiful church. From heaven may the Mother of Christ always watch over us and guide us all to meet Christ, in the eternal homeland of heaven.