The anecdote of the audience of this Wednesday, August 17, was the Swiss guard who collapsed a few meters away from Pope Francis. He did his duty to the point of exhaustion. Curiosities aside, the Holy Father continued his catechesis on old age with a reflection on Daniel's prophetic dream. This vision at the beginning of the Apocalypse refers to the resurrected Jesus, who presents himself as Messiah, Priest and King, eternal, omniscient and immutable (1:12-15).
Christian artistic tradition has depicted God the Father as a kindly old man with a white beard. Without puerile sentimentality, the Holy Father stressed the validity of the image: "The biblical term most often used to indicate an old man is `zaqen', which comes from `zaqan', and means `beard'. The snow-white hair is an ancient symbol of a very long time, of an immemorial time, of an eternal existence. There is no need to demystify everything for children: the image of a God who watches over everything with snow-white hair is not a silly symbol, it is a biblical image, it is noble and even tender. The figure of the Apocalypse standing in the midst of the golden candlesticks coincides with that of the "Ancient of Days" of Daniel's prophecy. He is as old as all mankind, even older. He is as old and new as the eternity of God."
Children are a blessing
The Pontiff also highlighted the biblical example of Simeon and Anna in the presentation of Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem. "Old age," Pope Francis pointed out, "on its journey towards a world in which the love that God has infused in Creation will finally radiate without hindrance, must fulfill this gesture made by Simeon and Anna, before taking their leave. Old age must bear witness to the children that they are a blessing". The strength of this sign indicates the dignity and inalienable value of human life, for which the Holy Father underlined that our destiny in life cannot be annihilated, not even by death.
The credibility of the elderly is very great for children, which is why a great complicity is born between them. "Young people and adults," the Pope continued, "are not capable of giving a witness as authentic, tender and moving as that of the elderly. It is irresistible when an elder blesses life as it comes to him, putting aside any resentment for life when he leaves. The testimony of the elderly unites the generations of life, the same as the dimensions of time: past, present and future. It is painful - and harmful - to see the ages of life conceived as separate worlds, in competition with each other, each seeking to live at the expense of the other."
The wisdom of old age
Over the last few months Pope Francis stressed the value of the contribution of the elderly to the family and society today. "The alliance between the elderly and children will save the human family," the pontiff stressed. And he ended his remarks by asking: "Can we give back to children, who need to learn how to be born, the tender witness of the elderly who possess the wisdom of death? Can this humanity, which with all its progress seems like an adolescent born yesterday, recover the grace of an old age that clings to the horizon of our destiny? Death is certainly a difficult passage of life, but it is also one that concludes the time of uncertainty and throws away the clock. Because the beautiful part of life, which no longer has deadlines, begins precisely then".