ROME – Rome was scorching August 2, with temperatures nearing 100° F. Workmen and tourists are the only ones left in the city, since native Romans fled to cooler places in order to escape the city’s heat and humidity.
Even St. Peter’s Square, which normally would be packed like every Wednesday for the pope’s general audience, is eerily quiet. Instead, the weekly papal appointment has been moved to the Paul VI hall inside the Vatican, where nearly 7,000 people gathered to escape the sun.
“One can feel the heat!” Pope Francs told those gathered, referring to the recent Roman heat wave.
But in his audience, it is precisely the Sun, the light that the pope reminds Christians to strive for.
Churches used to be oriented so that faithful entered from a Western entrance in order to continue their walk East toward the altar and the rising Sun. Baptisms also were once tied to the revolutions of the Earth around the Sun, with early Christians turning toward the West to renounce Satan and toward the East to profess their belief in God and Jesus.
The Sun, the pope said “was an important symbol for the ancient man, an allegory that has progressively disappeared in the course of time. Us men of the modern age are much less used to picking up the great signs from the Cosmos.”
The pope said that even though “we have lost sensibility to the language of the Cosmos,” Christians must always remember the meaning behind the baptismal rite.
“What does it mean to be Christian?” The pope asked. “It means looking at the light, continuing to profess our faith in the light, even when the world is enveloped by night and darkness.”
Yet Christians “do not live outside the world” and they are not “free from darkness, both outside and within” but they are “oriented” thanks to the redeeming grace of baptism.
“They don’t believe in darkness, but in the light of day,” the pope said. “they don’t succumb to the night, but they hope in the dawn; they are not beaten by death, but they await the resurrection; they are not bent by evil, because they always confide in the infinite possibilities of good.”
The pope reminded those present of another liturgical moment where light has a central role: During the Easter Vigil Mass. On that occasion congregants light their candles from the Easter candle and slowly the church, once covered in darkness, lights up.
“In that symbol there is the slow spreading of the Resurrection of Jesus in the life of all Christians,” Pope Francis said. “The life of the Church is a contamination of light.”
The pope asked Christians not to forget the importance of baptism. “We are born twice,” he said “the first to natural life, the second, thanks to the encounter with Christ, in the baptismal font.”
Through baptism, Christians become bringers of light especially to those who suffer and are in pain, the pope added, before giving homework to the faithful: Make sure they find out and remember the date of their baptisms.
“In the future, when the story of our days will be written, what will be said about us?” he asked. “That we were capable of hope, or that we put our light under a bushel? If we remain faithful to our Baptism, we will spread the light of hope in God and transmit reasons to live to future generations.”