The Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history.
These are the first words of Saint John Paul II’s Redemptor Hominis, the encyclical that set the stage for the late Holy Father’s entire pontificate. Released in March 1979, this letter covered Christian anthropology, addressing the Incarnation and what it reveals about God and man:
Through the Incarnation God gave human life the dimension that he intended man to have from his first beginning; he has granted that dimension definitively—in the way that is peculiar to him alone, in keeping with his eternal love and mercy, with the full freedom of God—and he has granted it also with the bounty that enables us, in considering the original sin and the whole history of the sins of humanity, and in considering the errors of the human intellect, will and heart, to repeat with amazement the words of the Sacred Liturgy: “O happy fault...which gained us so great a Redeemer!”
It is through Christ’s Incarnation and Redemption that God, in His loving mercy, made it possible for man to live out his highest calling: to be one with the Lord, who made us for Himself. He reconciled us to Himself, and He gave us His Son, who revealed to us what we are called to be.
Made in the image and likeness of God, who is love, man is made to love. As St. John Paul II wrote:
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself.” If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly “expressed” and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created!
In his search for meaning in his life, man must participate in Christ in order to find it. For this reason, John Paul II wrote, the Church must be united in pointing man’s gaze towards Christ. For Jesus is the way to each man, and man is:
…the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption.
Man is the way for the Church, and so the Church must be aware of all that opposes the true dignity of the person in the modern world and see to it that the person is given primacy over all things.
|The Redeemer of man was a central part of St. John Paul II's |
pontificate, and so He is also central to our permanent exhibit.
As human persons, constantly searching for freedom and meaning in our lives, we must embrace the truth that these things can only be found in Christ. Through prayer and repentance, through the Sacraments, and through communion with one another, we unite ourselves with Christ and so find ourselves in love. St. John Paul II spent his entire pontificate preaching this truth about man, and he encouraged the Church to continue protecting human persons and pointing them towards Christ.
Construction has just begun on our new chapel, which is being built to accommodate more than 500 pilgrims. The artistic centerpiece of this sacred space includes a floor to ceiling mosaic of Christ the High Priest, entitled “Redemptor Hominis.” St. John Paul II put the Redeemer of Man at the center of his pontificate, and so we hope to make Him the center of pilgrims’ experiences when they visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.
St. John Paul II, Pray for Us!