The Pertinacious Papist has posted the full text of Pope Benedict's Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia on December 22, and Sandro Magister posted the bulk of it, both of them offering commentary. Zenit also has a translation. An official English translation has not been released, and I will plan to add a link here after it is.
The Pope's reference to marriage as a lifelong bond between a man and a woman drew news attention as he spoke of the importance of including in the Christian message "a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God."
The overall theme of his greeting was one of the joy given by the Holy Spirit, which he described as a joy "of being in harmony with oneself, which can only be achieved by being in harmony with God and his creation."
With this post, I would like to summarize, and more or less outline, the Pope's greeting, in order to place that portion of the greeting in its context. Of course, it is well worth reading the entire message.
In his greeting, the Pope looked back over the Church's key events of the past year:
1. It was a year of anniversaries that bring us to the future: 50 years since the death of Pope Pius XII and election of Pope John XXIII; 40 years since the Encyclical Humanae Vitae; 30 years since the death of Pope Paul VI.
2. June 28 marked the inauguration of the Pauline Year.
3. World Youth Day, the papal journeys to the U.S. and France, and the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God stand out in particular. Speaking of the Synod, he said of Scripture:
"This Word has shaped our common history and will continue to do so. And so we realize all over that precisely because the Word is so personal, then we can understand it correctly and totally only within the 'we' of the community instituted by God - always conscious that we can never exhaust it completely, that it always has something new to say to each generation."
Speaking of World Youth Day in Sydney, he mentioned the "long exterior and interior path" that leads to the week of World Youth Day, including the procession of the cross and the icon as a part of the spiritual preparation, and also mentioned the long road that follows, as new friendships are inspired that are "capable of making new places of faith emerge in the world, which are also places of hope, and of charity that is practised and lived."
The central theme of the World Youth Day in Sydney, he said, was joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Pope pointed out "the orientation that was implicit in the theme", discussing four dimensions of pneumatology (the knowledge of the Holy Spirit) and their implications:
1. "Faith in the Creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian Creed. . . .
The ultimate basis of our responsibility towards the earth is our faith in creation." The Church "should validate this responsibility in public. . . . In so doing, it should defend not just the earth, water and air as gifts of Creation that belong to everyone. She should also protect man from destroying himself."
The Holy Father then mentioned the Scholastics who spoke of marriage, as a lifelong bond between a man and a woman, as a "sacrament of creation." The Church's message cannot be limited to "only the message of salvation." Rather, he said, "Part of the announcement that the Church should bring to men is a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God."
2. Addressing other aspects of pneumatology, the Holy Father said that faith tells us that "the Spirit speaks, so to say, in human words; it has entered history, and as the force that shapes history, it is also a Spirit that speaks. It is the Word which comes to us in ancient Scriptures and in the New Testament."
3. The third dimension of pneumatology consists "in the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit."
4. The fourth dimension of pneumatology is "the connection between the Spirit and the Church." The Body of Christ is "an organism of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Father said:
"Thus with the subject of the Holy Spirit which oriented World Youth Day in Australia, and in a more hidden way, the weeks of the Bishops Synod, the entire breadth of Christian faith is made visible, a breadth which leads, from responsibility for Creation and for man's existence in tune with Creation, through Scriptures and the story of salvation, to Christ, and from there, to the living community of the Church - in its structure and responsibility, as in its vastness and freedom, expressed as much in the multiplicity of charisms as in the Pentecostal image of the multitude of languages and cultures."
An integral part of celebration, he said, is joy given by the Holy Spirit. "It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, which can only be achieved by being in harmony with God and his creation." "The missionary spirit of the Church," he said, is "nothing but the impulse to communicate the joy that has been given to us."
At the close of the year, he expressed a wish that such joy "may always be alive in us and thus irradiate the world in its tribulations" and that it "may be given to us abundantly in the New Year."