In his homily, the Holy Father affirmed that "the light of Christmas that shone out in the night, illuminating the manger of Bethlehem where Mary, Joseph and the shepherds stood in silent adoration, today shines and is visible to everyone. The Epiphany is a mystery of light, symbolically represented by the star that guided the journey of the Magi."
"The light that emerged at Christmas and today appears to peoples, is the love of God, revealed in the person of the Word incarnate," which is thus "the principle of universal reconciliation, ...the final goal of history." For this reason, the Pope added, "on this Solemnity, ...the liturgy includes the so-called 'announcement of Easter:' indeed, the liturgical year embraces the entire parabola of the history of salvation, at the center of which is the 'Triduum of the Lord, crucified, buried and risen'."
Benedict XVI pointed out that the Magi "adored a simple Child in the arms of Mother Mary, because in Him they recognized the source of the dual light that had guided them: the light of the star and the light of Scripture. They recognized in Him the King of the Jews, glory of Israel, but also the King of all peoples."
He went on: "The liturgical context of Epiphany also shows the mystery of the Church and her missionary dimension. The Church is called to bring the light of Christ to shine in the world, reflecting it in herself as the moon reflects the light of the sun."
The Pope then highlighted the fact that the Church "is holy, but is formed by men and women with their limitations and errors. It is Christ, He alone, Who giving us the Holy Spirit can transform our misery and renew us constantly. He is the light of peoples, lumen gentium, Who chose to illuminate the world through His Church."
Later, after the conclusion of Mass, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.
He expressed his "most cordial best wishes for peace and goodness in the Lord" to Christians of the Eastern Churches which, following the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas on this day.
"It seems natural today," he added, "to think back to World Youth Day, which last August brought together more than a million young people in Cologne, Germany, having as their motto the words used by the Magi to refer to Jesus: 'we have come to adore Him'."
The Holy Father affirmed how "that memorable event ...represented a true 'epiphany.' In fact the pilgrimage of young people, in its most profound dimension, may be seen as a journey guided by the light of a 'star,' by the light of faith.
"Today I would like to extend to the whole Church the message I then proposed to the young people gathered on the banks of the Rhine: 'Open wide your hearts to God! Allow yourselves to be surprised by Christ! Open the doors of your freedom to His merciful love! Present your joys and your sorrows to Christ, letting Him illuminate your minds with His light and touching your hearts with His grace'."
The Pope continued: "It is my wish that the whole Church, as in Cologne, may breath the atmosphere of 'epiphany' and of authentic missionary commitment stimulated by the appearance of Christ, light of the world, sent by God the Father to reconcile and unify humanity with the power of love. In this spirit, let us pray with fervor for the full unity of all Christians, that their testimony may become a ferment of communion for the whole world."
After the Angelus, the Pope recalled that this day is also the Day of Missionary Children and mentioned "the thousands of solidarity initiatives" supported by the Pontifical Work of the Holy Childhood, "educating children to grow in a spirit of openness to the world and of attention to the difficulties of their more disadvantaged peers. I too, in my ministry, rely on the prayers of children and on their active participation in the Church's mission."