Excerpts from Pope Benedict's new book

Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:38am EST
 
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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Tuesday presented "The Infancy Narratives," the last part in Pope Benedict's trilogy on the life of Jesus. The book will go on sale around the world on Wednesday with an initial print run of a million copies.

Here are some excerpts selected by the publishers for early release.

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On Mary's role in world history:

Yet most important of all is the fact that the genealogy ends with a woman: Mary, who truly marks a new beginning and relativizes the entire genealogy. Throughout the generations, we find the formula: "Abraham was the father of Isaac . . ."

But at the end, there is something quite different. In Jesus' case there is no reference to fatherhood, instead we read: "Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ" (Mt 1:16).

In the account of Jesus' birth that follows immediately afterward, Matthew tells us that Joseph was not Jesus' father and that he wanted to dismiss Mary on account of her supposed adultery. But this is what is said to him: "That which is conceived in Mary is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20). So the final sentence turns the whole genealogy around. Mary is a new beginning. Her child does not originate from any man, but is a new creation, conceived through the Holy Spirit.

The genealogy is still important: Joseph is the legal father of Jesus. Through him, Jesus belongs by law, "legally," to the house of David. And yet he comes from elsewhere, "from above"-from God himself. The mystery of his provenance, his dual origin, confronts us quite concretely: his origin can be named and yet it is a mystery. Only God is truly his "father."

The human genealogy has a certain significance in terms of world history. And yet in the end it is Mary, the lowly virgin from Nazareth, in whom a new beginning takes place, in whom human existence starts afresh.   Continued...