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Dear brothers and sisters!
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after Jesus' birth, shows us Mary and Joseph, who in obedience to the Mosaic Law travel to the temple of Jerusalem to offer the child, as the first born, to the Lord and ransom him by a sacrifice (cf. Luke 2:22-24). It is one of the cases in which the liturgical time reflects historical time, because today it has been precisely 40 days since the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord; the theme of Christ the Light, which has characterized the cycle of Christmas feasts and culminates in the Solemnity of Epiphany, is taken up again and prolonged in today's feast.
The ritual gesture of Jesus' parents, which takes place in the form of the humble discretion that characterizes the Incarnation of the Son of God, is received in a unique way by the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. By divine inspiration they recognize in that child the Messiah announced by the prophets. In the meeting between the venerable old Simeon and Mary, the young mother, the Old and the New Testament join together in a marvelous way in giving thanks for the gift of the Light, which shown in the darkness and prevented it from taking over: Christ the Lord, light to enlighten the nations and the glory of his people Israel (cf. Luke 2:32).
On the day in which the Church recalls the presentation of Jesus in the temple, we celebrate the Day of Consecrated Life. In effect, the Gospel episode to which we refer constitutes a significant icon of the self-donation of those who have been called to represent, in the Church and in the world, the characteristic traits of Jesus: virgin, poor, obedient, the Consecrated One of the Father. Thus in today's feast we celebrate the mystery of consecration: the consecration of Jesus, the consecration of Mary, the consecration of all those who place themselves in the following of Jesus for the love of the Kingdom of God.
Following the ideas of Blessed John Paul II, who celebrated it for the first time in 1997, the day dedicated to the consecrated life has some particular purposes. It intends to respond first of all to the need to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of this state of life, which pertains to the sanctity of the Church. To each consecrated person today is dedicated the prayer of the whole Community, who gives thanks to God the Father, giver of every good gift, for the gift of this vocation, and with faith calls upon him once more. Moreover, this occasion aims to increase more and more the recognition of the value of the witness of those who have chosen to follow Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels by promoting knowledge and esteem for the consecrated life among the People of God. Finally, the Day of Consecrated Life intends to be, above all for you, dear brothers and sisters, who have embraced this state in the Church, a precious occasion to renew the decisions and revive the sentiments that have inspired and inspire your gift of yourselves to the Lord. This we wish to do today; this is a task that you are called to accomplish every day of your life.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, I have, as you know, called for the Year of Faith, which will open in October. All of the faithful, but in a special way the members of the institutes of consecrated life, have welcomed this initiative as a gift, and I hope that they will live the Year of Faith as a favorable time for interior renewal -- for which one always feels the need -- with a deepening of the essential values and of the demands of their consecration. During the Year of Faith you, who have accepted the call to follow Christ more closely through the profession of the evangelical counsels, are called to deepen still further your relationship with God. The evangelical counsels, accepted as an authentic rule of life, reinforce the faith, hope and charity that unite us to God. This profound nearness to the Lord, which must be the element that has priority and that characterizes your existence, will bring you to a renewed commitment to him and it will have a positive influence on your particular presence and the form of your apostolate among the People of God, through the contribution of your charisms, in fidelity to the magisterium, with the goal of being witnesses of faith and grace, credible witnesses for the Church and the world of today.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the means that it will judge adequate, will suggest directions and do its best to ensure that this Year of Faith constitutes for all of you a year of renewal and fidelity, so that all consecrated men and women engage in the new evangelization with enthusiasm. While I address my cordial greeting to the prefect of that dicastery, Monsignor João Braz de Aviz -- whom I have chosen to be among those whom I will make cardinals at the next consistory -- I gladly welcome this moment to thank him and his collaborators in the precious service that they give to the Holy See and to the whole Church.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]