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Sunday, December 8, 2013

0315: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0315: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
 by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 



On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on 8 December, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief addresses before the recitation of the Angelus, eight speeches, and one homily delivered on these occasions.


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Thursday, 8 December 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is a day of intense spiritual joy when we contemplate the Virgin Mary,high beyond all other, lowlier is none... the consummation planned by God’s decree”, as is sung by the great poet Dante (Par., XXXIII, 3).

In Mary shines forth the eternal goodness of the Creator who chose her in his plan of salvation to be the mother of his Only-begotten Son; God, foreseeing his death, preserved her from every stain of sin (see Concluding Prayer). In this way, in the Mother of Christ and our Mother the vocation of every human being is perfectly fulfilled. All men and women, according to St Paul, are called to be holy and blameless in God’s sight, full of love (see Eph 1: 4, 5).

Looking at Mary, how can we, her children, fail to let the aspiration to beauty, goodness and purity of heart be aroused in us? Her heavenly candour draws us to God, helping us to overcome the temptation to live a mediocre life composed of compromises with evil, and directs us decisively towards the authentic good that is the source of joy.

Today, my thought goes to 8 December 1965, when the Servant of God Paul VI solemnly closed the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the greatest ecclesial event of the 20th century which Bl. John XXIII had opened three years earlier. Amid the exultation of numerous faithful in St Peter’s Square, Paul VI entrusted the implementation of the conciliar Documents to the Virgin Mary, calling upon her with the dear title of “Mother of the Church”.

Presiding at a solemn Eucharistic celebration in the Vatican Basilica this morning, I wanted to give thanks to God for the gift of the Second Vatican Council.

Furthermore, I wished to pay homage to Mary Most Holy for having accompanied these 40 years of the Church’s richly eventful life. In a special maternal way, Mary has kept watch over the Pontificates of my venerable Predecessors, each one of whom, with great pastoral wisdom, steered the boat of Peter on the course of authentic conciliar renewal, ceaselessly working for the faithful interpretation and implementation of Vatican Council II.

Dear brothers and sisters, to crown this day entirely dedicated to the Holy Virgin, following an ancient tradition I will go this afternoon to Piazza di Spagna, to the feet of the statue of the Immaculate. I ask that you spiritually unite with me in this pilgrimage, intended to be an act of filial devotion to Mary in order to entrust to her the beloved city of Rome, the Church and all of humanity.


HOMAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO THE IMMACULATE IN “PIAZZA DI SPAGNA”

PRAYER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Thursday, 8 December 2005

On this day dedicated to Mary I have come, for the first time as Successor of Peter, to the feet of the statue of the Immaculate here in Piazza di Spagna, ideally continuing the Pilgrimage made many times by my Predecessors. I feel that I am accompanied by the devotion and affection of the Church living in this city of Rome and in the entire world. I bring with me the concerns and hopes of present-day humanity and come to lay them at the feet of the heavenly Mother of the Redeemer.

On this remarkable day, the 40th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, my thought goes to 8 December 1965 when, exactly at the end of the Homily during the Eucharistic celebration in St Peter’s Square, the Servant of God Paul VI addressed his thought to Mary, “the Mother of God and our spiritual Mother..., the creature in whom the image of God is reflected with absolute clarity, without any disturbance as happens in every other human creature”.

The Pope then asked: “Is it not perhaps in directing our gaze on this woman who is our humble sister and at the same time our heavenly Mother and Queen, the spotless and sacred mirror of infinite beauty, that we can... [begin] our post-conciliar work? Does not the beauty of Mary Immaculate become for us an inspiring model, a comforting hope?”.

He then concluded: “...we think it is so for us and for you. And this is our most exalted and, God willing, our most valuable parting wish” (see The Teachings of Pope Paul VI, III, 1965).

Recalling the many events that have marked the last 40 years, how can we not relive today the various moments that have highlighted the Church’s journey in this period?

Mary sustained the Pastors, and in the first place the Successors of Peter, in their demanding ministry at the service of the Gospel during these 40 years; she guided the Church towards the faithful understanding and application of the conciliar Documents.

For this reason, serving as spokesperson for the entire Ecclesial Community, I wish to thank the Most Holy Virgin and I turn to her with the same sentiments that animated the Council Fathers, who dedicated to Mary the last chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, underlining the inseparable relationship that unites the Virgin to the Church.

Yes, we want to thank you, Virgin Mother of God and our most beloved Mother, for your intercession for the good of the Church. You, who in embracing the divine will without reserve were consecrated with all of your energies to the person and work of your Son, teach us to keep in our heart and to meditate in silence, as you did, upon the mysteries of Christ’s life.

May you who reached Calvary, ever-deeply united to your Son who from the Cross gave you as mother to the disciple John, also make us feel you are always close in each moment of our lives, especially in times of darkness and trial.

You, who at Pentecost, together with the Apostles in prayer, called upon the gift of the Holy Spirit for the newborn Church, help us to persevere in the faithful following of Christ. To you, a “sign of certain hope and comfort”, we trustfully turn our gaze “until the day of the Lord shall come” (Lumen Gentium, no. 68).

You, Mary, are invoked with the insistent prayer of the faithful throughout the world so that you, exalted above all the angels and saints, will intercede before your Son for us, “until all families of peoples, whether they are honoured with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (ibid., no. 69). Amen.


CAPPELLA PAPALE ON THE 40th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE CLOSURE OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Thursday, 8 December 2005

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Pope Paul VI solemnly concluded the Second Vatican Council in the square in front of St Peter’s Basilica 40 years ago, on 8 December 1965. It had been inaugurated, in accordance with John XXIII’s wishes, on 11 October 1962, which was then the Feast of Mary’s Motherhood, and ended on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

The Council took place in a Marian setting. It was actually far more than a setting: it was the orientation of its entire process.

It refers us, as it referred the Council Fathers at that time, to the image of the Virgin who listens and lives in the Word of God, who cherishes in her heart the words that God addresses to her and, piecing them together like a mosaic, learns to understand them (see Lk 2: 19, 51).

It refers us to the great Believer who, full of faith, put herself in God’s hands, abandoning herself to his will; it refers us to the humble Mother who, when the Son’s mission so required, became part of it, and at the same time, to the courageous woman who stood beneath the Cross while the disciples fled.

In his Discourse on the occasion of the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Paul VI described Mary as “tutrix huius Concilii” - “Patroness of this Council(see Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum II, Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes, Vatican City, 1966, p. 983) and, with an unmistakable allusion to the account of Pentecost transmitted by Luke (see Acts 1: 12-14), said that the Fathers were gathered in the Council Hall “cum Maria, Matre Iesu” and would also have left it in her name (p. 985).

Indelibly printed in my memory is the moment when, hearing his words: “Mariam Sanctissimam declaramus Matrem Ecclesiae” - “We declare Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church”, the Fathers spontaneously rose at once and paid homage to the Mother of God, to our Mother, to the Mother of the Church, with a standing ovation.

Indeed, with this title the Pope summed up the Marian teaching of the Council and provided the key to understanding it. Not only does Mary have a unique relationship with Christ, the Son of God who, as man, chose to become her Son. Since she was totally united to Christ, she also totally belongs to us. Yes, we can say that Mary is close to us as no other human being is, because Christ becomes man for all men and women and his entire being is “being here for us”.

Christ, the Fathers said, as the Head, is inseparable from his Body which is the Church, forming with her, so to speak, a single living subject. The Mother of the Head is also the Mother of all the Church; she is, so to speak, totally emptied of herself; she has given herself entirely to Christ and with him is given as a gift to us all. Indeed, the more the human person gives himself, the more he finds himself.

The Council intended to tell us this: Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church that she and the Church are inseparable, just as she and Christ are inseparable. Mary mirrors the Church, anticipates the Church in her person, and in all the turbulence that affects the suffering, struggling Church she always remains the Star of salvation. In her lies the true centre in which we trust, even if its peripheries very often weigh on our soul.

In the context of the promulgation of the Constitution on the Church, Paul VI shed light on all this through a new title deeply rooted in Tradition, precisely with the intention of illuminating the inner structure of the Church’s teaching, which was developed at the Council. The Second Vatican Council had to pronounce on the institutional components of the Church: on the Bishops and on the Pontiff, on the priests, lay people and Religious, in their communion and in their relations; it had to describe the Church journeying on, “clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification...” (Lumen Gentium, no. 8).

This “Petrine” aspect of the Church, however, is included in that “Marian” aspect. In Mary, the Immaculate, we find the essence of the Church without distortion. We ourselves must learn from her to become “ecclesial souls”, as the Fathers said, so that we too may be able, in accordance with St Paul’s words, to present ourselves “blameless” in the sight of the Lord, as he wanted us from the very beginning (see Col 1: 21; Eph 1: 4).

But now we must ask ourselves: What does “Mary, the Immaculate” mean? Does this title have something to tell us? Today, the liturgy illuminates the content of these words for us in two great images.

First of all comes the marvellous narrative of the annunciation of the Messiah’s coming to Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth. The Angel’s greeting is interwoven with threads from the Old Testament, especially from the Prophet Zephaniah. He shows that Mary, the humble provincial woman who comes from a priestly race and bears within her the great priestly patrimony of Israel, is “the holy remnant” of Israel to which the prophets referred in all the periods of trial and darkness.

In her is present the true Zion, the pure, living dwelling-place of God. In her the Lord dwells, in her he finds the place of his repose. She is the living house of God, who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man. She is the shoot which sprouts from the stump of David in the dark winter night of history. In her, the words of the Psalm are fulfilled: “The earth has yielded its fruits” (Ps 67: 7).

She is the offshoot from which grew the tree of redemption and of the redeemed. God has not failed, as it might have seemed formerly at the beginning of history with Adam and Eve or during the period of the Babylonian Exile, and as it seemed anew in Mary’s time when Israel had become a people with no importance in an occupied region and with very few recognizable signs of its holiness.

God did not fail. In the humility of the house in Nazareth lived holy Israel, the pure remnant. God saved and saves his people. From the felled tree trunk Israel’s history shone out anew, becoming a living force that guides and pervades the world.

Mary is holy Israel: she says “yes” to the Lord, she puts herself totally at his disposal and thus becomes the living temple of God.

The second image is much more difficult and obscure. This metaphor from the Book of Genesis speaks to us from a great historical distance and can only be explained with difficulty; only in the course of history has it been possible to develop a deeper understanding of what it refers to.

It was foretold that the struggle between humanity and the serpent, that is, between man and the forces of evil and death, would continue throughout history.

It was also foretold, however, that the “offspring” of a woman would one day triumph and would crush the head of the serpent to death; it was foretold that the offspring of the woman - and in this offspring the woman and the mother herself - would be victorious and that thus, through man, God would triumph.

If we set ourselves with the believing and praying Church to listen to this text, then we can begin to understand what original sin, inherited sin, is and also what the protection against this inherited sin is, what redemption is.

What picture does this passage show us? The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbours the suspicion that in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom.

The human being lives in the suspicion that God’s love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself. Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God.

He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God’s level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.

Love is not dependence but a gift that makes us live. The freedom of a human being is the freedom of a limited being, and therefore is itself limited. We can possess it only as a shared freedom, in the communion of freedom: only if we live in the right way, with one another and for one another, can freedom develop.

We live in the right way if we live in accordance with the truth of our being, and that is, in accordance with God’s will. For God’s will is not a law for the human being imposed from the outside and that constrains him, but the intrinsic measure of his nature, a measure that is engraved within him and makes him the image of God, hence, a free creature.

If we live in opposition to love and against the truth - in opposition to God - then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis.

We call this drop of poison “original sin”. Precisely on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one’s own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves.

In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being. We think that Mephistopheles - the tempter - is right when he says he is the power “that always wants evil and always does good” (J.W. von Goethe, Faust I, 3). We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary.

If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us we can see that this is not so; other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer or wealthier, but harms and belittles them.

This is something we should indeed learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: the person who abandons himself totally in God’s hands does not become God’s puppet, a boring “yes man”; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.

The person who turns to God does not become smaller but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself. The person who puts himself in God’s hands does not distance himself from others, withdrawing into his private salvation; on the contrary, it is only then that his heart truly awakens and he becomes a sensitive, hence, benevolent and open person.

The closer a person is to God, the closer he is to people. We see this in Mary. The fact that she is totally with God is the reason why she is so close to human beings.

For this reason she can be the Mother of every consolation and every help, a Mother whom anyone can dare to address in any kind of need in weakness and in sin, for she has understanding for everything and is for everyone the open power of creative goodness.

In her, God has impressed his own image, the image of the One who follows the lost sheep even up into the mountains and among the briars and thornbushes of the sins of this world, letting himself be spiked by the crown of thorns of these sins in order to take the sheep on his shoulders and bring it home.

As a merciful Mother, Mary is the anticipated figure and everlasting portrait of the Son. Thus, we see that the image of the Sorrowful Virgin, of the Mother who shares her suffering and her love, is also a true image of the Immaculate Conception. Her heart was enlarged by being and feeling together with God. In her, God’s goodness came very close to us.

Mary thus stands before us as a sign of comfort, encouragement and hope. She turns to us, saying: “Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of him! Have the courage to risk with faith! Have the courage to risk with goodness! Have the courage to risk with a pure heart! Commit yourselves to God, then you will see that it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God’s infinite goodness is never depleted!”.

On this Feast Day, let us thank the Lord for the great sign of his goodness which he has given us in Mary, his Mother and the Mother of the Church. Let us pray to him to put Mary on our path like a light that also helps us to become a light and to carry this light into the nights of history. Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Friday, 8 December 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we celebrate one of the most beautiful and popular feasts of the Blessed Virgin: the Immaculate Conception. Not only did Mary commit no sin, but she was also preserved from original sin, the common legacy of the human race. This is due to the mission for which God had destined her from eternity: to be the Mother of the Redeemer. All this is contained in the truth of faith of the “Immaculate Conception”.

The biblical foundation of this Dogma is found in the words the Angel addressed to the young girl of Nazareth: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!” (Lk 1: 28). “Full of grace” - in the original Greek, kecharitoméne - is Mary’s most beautiful name, the name God himself gave to her to indicate that she has always been and will always be the beloved, the elect, the one chosen to welcome the most precious gift, Jesus: “the incarnate love of God” (Deus Caritas Est, no. 12). We might ask: why exactly did God choose from among all women Mary of Nazareth? The answer is hidden in the unfathomable mystery of the divine will.

There is one reason, however, which is highlighted in the Gospel: her humility. Dante Alighieri clearly emphasizes this in the last Hymn of Paradise: “Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son, lowly and exalted more than any creature, the fixed goal of eternal counsel...” (Paradise, XXXIII, 1-3). In the Magnificat, her canticle of praise, the Virgin herself says: “My soul magnifies the Lord... because he looked upon his servant in her lowliness” (Lk 1: 46, 48).

Yes, God was attracted by the humility of Mary, who found favour in his eyes (see Lk 1: 30). She thus became the Mother of God, the image and model of the Church, chosen among the peoples to receive the Lord’s blessing and communicate it to the entire human family.

This “blessing” is none other than Jesus Christ. He is the Source of the grace which filled Mary from the very first moment of her existence. She welcomed Jesus with faith and gave him to the world with love. This is also our vocation and our mission, the vocation and mission of the Church: to welcome Christ into our lives and give him to the world, so “that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3: 17).

Dear brothers and sisters, may today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception illuminate like a beacon the Advent Season, which is a time of vigilant and confident waiting for the Saviour. While we advance towards God who comes, let us look at Mary, who “shines forth..., a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen Gentium, no. 68).

With this awareness, I invite you to join me in Piazza di Spagna this afternoon, when I will renew the traditional act of homage to this sweet Mother by grace and of grace. Let us now turn to her, addressing her with the prayer that recalls the Angel’s announcement.


TRIBUTE OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO THE STATUE OF MARY IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

PRAYER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Spanish Steps, Rome, Friday, 8 December 2006

O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,

Again this year, with filial love, we meet at the foot of your image to renew to you the homage of the Christian community and of the city of Rome. Let us pause in prayer here, following the tradition inaugurated by previous Popes, on the solemn day in which the liturgy celebrates your Immaculate Conception, a mystery that is a source of joy and hope for all the redeemed.

We greet you and call upon you with the Angel’s words: “full of grace” (Lk 1: 28), the most beautiful name that God himself has called you from eternity.

“Full of grace” are you, Mary, full of divine love from the very first moment of your existence, providentially predestined to be Mother of the Redeemer and intimately connected to him in the mystery of salvation.

In your Immaculate Conception shines forth the vocation of Christ’s disciples, called to become, with his grace, saints and immaculate through love (see Eph 1: 4). In you shines the dignity of every human being who is always precious in the Creator’s eyes.

Those who look to you, All Holy Mother, never lose their serenity, no matter what the hardships of life.

Although the experience of sin is a sad one since it disfigures the dignity of God’s children, anyone who turns to you discovers the beauty of truth and love and finds the path that leads to the Father’s house.

“Full of grace”, are you, Mary, which, welcoming with your “yes” to the Creator’s plan, opened to us the path of salvation. Teach us also at your school to say our “yes” to the Lord’s will. Let it be a “yes” that joins with your own “yes”, without reservations or shadows, a “yes” that the Heavenly Father willed to have need of in order to beget the new Man, Christ, the one Saviour of the world and of history.

Give us the courage to say “no” to the deceptions of power, money, pleasure; to dishonest earnings, corruption and hypocrisy, to selfishness and violence; “no” to the Evil One, the deceitful prince of this world; to say “yes” to Christ, who destroys the power of evil with the omnipotence of love. We know that only hearts converted to Love, which is God, can build a better future for all.

“Full of grace”, are you, Mary! For all generations your name is a pledge of sure hope. Yes! Because as the great poet, Dante, wrote, for us mortals you are “a source of living hope” (Paradise, XXXIII, 12). Let us come once again as trusting pilgrims to draw faith and comfort, joy and love, safety and peace from this source, the wellspring of your Immaculate Heart.

Virgin “full of grace”, show yourself to be a tender and caring Mother to those who live in this city of yours, so that the true Gospel spirit may enliven and guide their conduct; show yourself as Mother and watchful keeper of Italy and Europe, so that people may draw from their ancient Christian roots fresh vigour to build their present and their future; show yourself as a provident and merciful Mother to the whole world so that, by respecting human dignity and rejecting every form of violence and exploitation, sound foundations may be laid for the civilization of love.

Show yourself as Mother, especially to those most in need: the defenceless, the marginalized and outcasts, to the victims of a society that all too often sacrifices the human person for other ends and interests.

Show yourself, O Mary, as Mother of all, and give us Christ, the Hope of the world! “Monstra Te esse Matrem”, O Virgin Immaculate, full of grace! Amen!


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Saturday, 8 December 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the path of Advent shines the star of Mary Immaculate, “a sign of certain hope and comfort” (Lumen Gentium, no. 68). To reach Jesus, the true light, the sun that dispels all the darkness of history, we need light near us, human people who reflect Christ’s light and thus illuminate the path to take. And what person is more luminous than Mary? Who can be a better star of hope for us than she, the dawn that announced the day of salvation? (see Spe Salvi, no. 49). For this reason, the liturgy has us celebrate today, as Christmas approaches, the Solemn Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: the mystery of God’s grace that enfolded her from the first instant of her existence as the creature destined to be Mother of the Redeemer, preserving her from the stain of original sin. Looking at her, we recognize the loftiness and beauty of God’s plan for everyone: to become holy and immaculate in love (see Eph 1: 4), in the image of our Creator.

What a great gift to have Mary Immaculate as mother! A mother resplendent with beauty, the transparency of God’s love. I am thinking of today’s young people, who grow up in an environment saturated with messages that propose false models of happiness. These young men and women risk losing hope because they often seem orphans of true love, which fills life with true meaning and joy. This was a theme dear to my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, who so often proposed Mary to the youth of our time as the “Mother of Fair Love”. Unfortunately, numerous experiences tell us that adolescents, young people and even children easily fall prey to corrupt love, deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, lure them into the deadends of consumerism; even the most sacred realities, like the human body, a temple of God’s love and of life, thus become objects of consumption and this is happening earlier, even in pre-adolescence. How sad it is when youth lose the wonder, the enchantment of the most beautiful sentiments, the value of respect for the body, the manifestation of the person and his unfathomable mystery!

Mary Immaculate, whom we contemplate in all her beauty and holiness, reminds us of all this. From the Cross, Jesus entrusted her to John and to all the disciples (see Jn 19: 27), and from that moment she has been the Mother of all humanity, the Mother of hope. Let us address our prayer to her with faith, while we go in spirit on pilgrimage to Lourdes where on this very day a special Jubilee Year begins on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of her apparitions in the Grotto of Massabielle. May Mary Immaculate, “Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!” (Spe Salvi, no. 50).


ACT OF VENERATION TO THE IMMACULATE AT THE SPANISH STEPS

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saturday, 8 December 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At an event which has now become a tradition, we are meeting here at the Spanish Steps to offer our floral tribute to Our Lady on the day when the whole Church celebrates the feast of her Immaculate Conception. Following in the footsteps of my Predecessors, I also join you, dear faithful of Rome, to pause at Mary’s feet with filial affection and love. For 150 years she has watched over our City from the top of this pillar. Today’s act is a gesture of faith and devotion which our Christian community repeats from year to year, as if to reaffirm its commitment of fidelity to she who in every circumstance of daily life assures us of her help and motherly protection.

This expression of piety is at the same time an opportunity to offer to all who live in Rome or who are spending a few days as pilgrims and tourists, an opportunity, despite the diversity of cultures, to feel they are one family gathered around a Mother who has shared the daily efforts of every woman and mother of a family. She is, however, a completely singular mother, for she was chosen in advance by God for a unique and mysterious mission: to bring forth to earthly life the Father’s Eternal Word, who came into the world for the salvation of all people. And Mary, Immaculate in her conception - this is how we venerate her today -, travelled her earthly pilgrimage sustained by undaunted faith, steadfast hope and humble and boundless love, following in the footsteps of her Son, Jesus. She was close to him with motherly solicitude from his birth to Calvary, where she witnessed his crucifixion, transfixed by suffering but with unwavering hope. She then experienced the joy of the Resurrection, at dawn on the third day, the new day, when the Crucified One left the tomb, overcoming for ever and definitively the power of sin and death.

Mary, in whose virginal womb God was made man, is our Mother! Indeed, from the Cross before bringing his sacrifice to completion, Jesus gave her to us as our Mother and entrusted us to her as her children. This is a mystery of mercy and love, a gift that enriches the Church with fruitful spiritual motherhood. Let us turn our gaze to her, especially today, dear brothers and sisters, and imploring her help, prepare ourselves to treasure all her maternal teaching. Does not our Heavenly Mother invite us to shun evil and to do good, following with docility the divine law engraved in every Christian’s heart? Does not she, who preserved her hope even at the peak of her trial, ask us not to lose heart when suffering and death come knocking at the door of our homes? Does she not ask us to look confidently to our future? Does not the Immaculate Virgin exhort us to be brothers and sisters to one another, all united by the commitment to build together a world that is more just, supportive and peaceful?

Yes, dear friends! On this solemn day, the Church once again holds up Mary to the world as a sign of sure hope and of the definitive victory of good over evil. The one whom we invoke as “full of grace” reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters and that God is our Creator and our Father. Without him, or even worse, against him, we human beings will never be able to find the way that leads to love, we will never be able to defeat the power of hatred and violence, we will never be able to build a lasting peace.

May the people of every nation and culture welcome this message of light and hope: may they accept it as a gift from the hands of Mary, Mother of all humanity. If life is a journey and this journey is often dark, difficult and exhausting, what star can illuminate it? In my Encyclical Spe Salvi, published at the beginning of Advent, I wrote that the Church looks to Mary and calls on her as a “star of hope” (no. 49). During our common voyage on the sea of history, we stand in need of “lights of hope”, that is, of people who shine with Christ’s light and “so guide us along our way” (ibid.). And who could be a better “Star of Hope” for us than Mary? With her “yes”, with the generous offering of freedom received from the Creator, she enabled the hope of the millennia to become reality, to enter this world and its history. Through her God took flesh, became one of us and pitched his tent among us.

Thus, inspired by filial trust, we say to her: “Teach us, Mary, to believe, to hope, to love with you; show us the way that leads to peace, the way to the Kingdom of Jesus. You, Star of Hope, who wait for us anxiously in the everlasting light of the eternal Homeland, shine upon us and guide us through daily events, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!”.

I join the pilgrims who have gathered at the Marian Shrines of Lourdes and Fourvière to honour the Virgin Mary in this Jubilee Year of the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions to St Bernadette. Thanks to their trust in Mary and her example, these pilgrims will become true disciples of the Saviour. With their pilgrimages they offer the many faces of the Church to those who are seeking and who come to visit the Shrines. On their spiritual journey they are called to demonstrate the grace of their Baptism, to be nourished with the Eucharist, to find in prayer the strength for witness and solidarity with all their brothers and sisters in humanity. May shrines develop their vocation to prayer and to offering hospitality to people who desire to rediscover the path to God, especially through the Sacrament of Forgiveness. I also address my cordial greetings to all those, in particular young people, who are joyfully celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception, especially to the organizers of the lighting display of the city of Lyon. I ask the Virgin Mary to watch over the inhabitants of Lyon and of Lourdes, and I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to them all as well as to the pilgrims who have joined the celebrations.


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square , Monday, 8 December 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The mystery of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which we are solemnly celebrating today, reminds us of two fundamental truths of our faith: original sin first of all, and then the victory over it through Christ’s grace, a victory that shines in a sublime way in Mary Most Holy. The existence of what the Church calls “original sin” is unfortunately glaringly obvious, if we merely look around us and first of all within ourselves. The experience of evil is in fact so consistent that it imposes itself and raises in us the question: where does it come from? Especially for a believer, this question is even more profound: if God, who is absolute Goodness, created all things, where does evil come from? The first pages of the Bible (Gn 1-3) respond precisely to this fundamental question which challenges every human generation with the narrative of Creation and of the fall of our first parents: God created all things so that they might exist and in particular he created the human being in his own image; he did not make death but death entered the world through the envy of the devil (see Wis 1: 13-14; 2: 23-24) who, rebelling against God, deceived men and women and induced them to rebel as well. This is the drama of the freedom which God accepts to the very end for love, but promises that a woman’s son will crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gn 3: 15).

From the very beginning, therefore the “Eternal Design” as Dante would say, has a “fixed goal” (Paradise, XXXIII, 3): the Woman predestined to become Mother of the Redeemer, Mother of the One who humbled himself unto death to restore us to our original dignity. In God’s eyes, this woman has always had a face and a name: “full of grace” (Lk 1: 28), as the Angel addressed her when he visited her at Nazareth. She is the new Eve, the Bride of the new Adam, destined to be Mother of all the redeemed. This is what St Andrew of Crete wrote: “The Theotokos, Mary, the common refuge of all Christians, was the first to be liberated from the primitive fall of our first parents” (see Homily IV on the Nativity, PG 97, 880 A). And today’s liturgy says that God “prepared the Virgin Mary to be the worthy mother of his Son... and kept her sinless from the first moment of her being ... to let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death” (see Opening Prayer for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).

Dear friends, in Mary Immaculate we contemplate the reflection of the Beauty that saves the world: the beauty of God resplendent on the Face of Christ. In Mary this beauty is totally pure, humble, free from all pride and presumption. Thus the Virgin showed herself to St Bernadette, 150 years ago, in Lourdes, and thus she is venerated at numerous shrines. This afternoon, in accordance with the tradition, I too will pay homage to her at the monument dedicated to her in the square near the Spanish Steps. Let us invoke the Immaculate Virgin confidently, repeating with the Angelus the words of the Gospel that today’s liturgy proposes for our meditation.


HOMAGE TO THE IMMACULATE AT THE SPANISH STEPS

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Monday, 8 December 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

About three months ago I had the joy of going on pilgrimage to Lourdes, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the historical apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St Bernadette. The celebration of this unique anniversary ends precisely today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, because in showing herself to Bernadette for the last time in the Grotto of Massabielle, the “beautiful Lady”, as Bernadette called her, revealed her name, saying “I am the Immaculate Conception”. She said this in the local dialect and the little visionary related the phrase, to her unknown and incomprehensible, to her parish priest.

“Immaculate Conception”: we too repeat that mysterious name with feeling, here, at the foot of this monument in the heart of Rome; and countless brothers and sisters of ours are doing the same in thousands of other places in the world, at shrines and in chapels as well as in Christian homes. Today, wherever a Catholic community exists, Our Lady is venerated in it with this stupendous and marvellous name: the Immaculate Conception. Of course, the conviction that Mary’s conception was immaculate had already existed for centuries before the apparitions in Lourdes, but which came as a heavenly seal after my venerable Predecessor, Bl. Pius IX, defined the Dogma on 8 December 1854. On today’s feast, so dear to Christian people, this expression rises from hearts and is pronounced by lips as our heavenly Mother’s name. Just as a child raises his eyes to his mother’s face and on seeing her smile forgets every fear and every pain, so do we, turning our eyes to Mary, recognize in her “God’s smile”, the immaculate reflection of divine light; in her we find new hope even in the midst of the problems and tragedies of the world.

It is a tradition that the Pope joins with the homage of the City, bringing Mary a basket of roses. These flowers express our love and devotion: the love and devotion of the Pope, of the Church of Rome and of the inhabitants of this City, who feel they are spiritual children of the Virgin Mary. Roses, symbolically, can express everything beautiful and good that we have done during the year because at this traditional encounter we all desire to offer everything to our Mother, convinced that we could not have done anything without her protection and without the graces that daily she obtains for us from God. Yet, as the saying goes, there is no rose without a thorn, and on the stems of these magnificent white roses too there is no lack of thorns that represent for us difficulty and suffering, the troubles that have marked and still mark people’s lives and the life of our community. Joys are presented to our Mother but anxieties are also entrusted to her, since the faithful are confident that they will find comfort and support in her to go forward, so as not to be disheartened.

O Immaculate Virgin, at this moment I would especially like to entrust to you the “little ones” of our City: the children, first of all, and above all those who are seriously ill, children who are disabled and those who are suffering the consequences of oppressive family situations. Watch over them and grant that they may feel the warmth of God’s love in the affection and help of those who are beside them! To you, O Mary, I entrust the lonely elderly, the sick, immigrants who find it hard to adjust, families that find it difficult to make ends meet and people who cannot find employment or who have lost a job indispensable for their survival. Teach us, Mary, to show solidarity with those in difficulty, to fill the ever increasing social gaps. Help us to foster a more lively sense of the common good, of respect for public property, and spur us to view the city and more than ever our City of Rome as the patrimony of all, making each one of us do our part, to build a more just and supportive society with awareness and commitment.

O Immaculate Mother, who are a sign of certain hope and comfort to everyone, help us to let ourselves be attracted by your immaculate purity. Your beauty Tota Pulchra, as we sing today assures us that the victory of love is possible; indeed, that it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin, and that redemption from any form of slavery is therefore possible. Yes, O Mary, help us to believe with greater trust in good, to wager on giving freely, on service, on non-violence, on the power of the truth. Encourage us to be alert, not to give into the temptation of easy evasions, to face reality and its problems with courage and responsibility. This is what you did, a young woman called to stake everything on the Word of the Lord. May you be a loving mother for our young people, so that they may have the courage to be “watchmen of the dawn”, and give this virtue to all Christians so that they may be the heart of the world in this difficult period of history. Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and our Mother, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On 8 December we celebrate one of the most beautiful Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. But what does Mary being “Immaculate” mean? And what does this title tell us? First of all let us refer to the biblical texts of today’s Liturgy, especially the great “fresco” of the third chapter of the Book of Genesis and the account of the Annunciation in the Gospel according to Luke. After the original sin, God addresses the serpent, which represents Satan, curses it and adds a promise: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gn 3: 15). It is the announcement of revenge: at the dawn of the Creation, Satan seems to have the upper hand, but the son of a woman is to crush his head. Thus, through the descendence of a woman, God himself will triumph. Goodness will triumph. That woman is the Virgin Mary of whom was born Jesus Christ who, with his sacrifice, defeated the ancient tempter once and for all. This is why in so many paintings and statues of the Virgin Immaculate she is portrayed in the act of crushing a serpent with her foot.

Luke the Evangelist, on the other hand, shows the Virgin Mary receiving the Annunciation of the heavenly Messenger (see Lk 1: 26-38). She appears us the humble, authentic daughter of Israel, the true Zion in which God wishes to take up his abode. She is the shoot from which the Messiah, the just and merciful King, is to spring. In the simplicity of the house of Nazareth dwells the pure “remnant” of Israel from which God wants his People to be reborn, like a new tree that will spread its branches throughout the world, offering to all humanity the good fruit of salvation. Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary stays obedient to the Lord’s will, with her whole being she speaks her “yes” and makes herself entirely available to the divine plan. She is the new Eve, the true “mother of all the living”, namely, those who, because of their faith in Christ, receive eternal life.

Dear friends, what an immense joy to have Mary Immaculate as our Mother! Every time we experience our frailty and the promptings of evil, we may turn to her and our hearts receive light and comfort. Even in the trials of life, in the storms that cause faith and hope to vacillate, let us recall that we are her children and that our existence is deeply rooted in the infinite grace of God. Although the Church is exposed to the negative influences of the world, she always finds in Mary the star to guide her so that she may follow the route pointed out to her by Christ. Indeed, Mary is the Mother of the Church, as Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council solemnly proclaimed. Therefore, while we thank God for this marvellous sign of his goodness, let us entrust to the Virgin Immaculate each one of us, our families and communities, the entire Church and the whole world. This afternoon I shall do so too, in accordance with tradition, at the foot of the monument dedicated to her in Piazza di Spagna.


HOMAGE TO THE IMMACULATE AT THE SPANISH STEPS

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the heart of Christian cities, Mary is a sweet and reassuring presence. In her discreet style, she gives everyone peace and hope, both in the happy and sad moments of life. In churches, chapels or on the walls of buildings there is a painting, mosaic or a statue as a reminder of the presence of the Mother, constantly watching over her children. Here too in Piazza di Spagna, Mary is placed high up as though on guard over Rome.

What does Mary tell the city? Of what does her presence remind us? It reminds us that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Rom 5: 20), as the Apostle Paul wrote. She is the Immaculate Mother who tells people in our day too: Do not be afraid, Jesus has defeated evil, he has uprooted it, delivering us from its rule.

How great is our need of this good news! Every day, in fact, in the newspapers, on television and on the radio bad news is broadcast, repeated, amplified, so that we become used to the most terrible things and inured to them, and in a certain way poisoned, since the negative effect is never completely eliminated but accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts grow gloomy. For this reason, the city needs Mary whose presence speaks of God, reminds us of the victory of Grace over sin and leads us to hope, even in the most difficult human situations.

In the city invisible people live or survive who every now and then hit the front page headlines or television news and are exploited to the very last, as long as the news and images are newsworthy. This is a perverse mechanism which unfortunately few are able to resist. The city first hides them and then exposes them to public scrutiny, pitilessly or with false pity. Instead, there is in every person the desire to be accepted as a person and considered a sacred reality, for every human history is a sacred history and demands the utmost respect.

The city, dear brothers and sisters, is all of us! Each one of us contributes with his life to its moral atmosphere, for better or for worse. The border between good and evil runs through every heart and none of us should feel entitled to judge others. Rather, each one must feel duty bound to improve him or herself. The mass media always tends to make us feel like “spectators”, as if evil concerned only others and certain things could never happen to us. Instead, we are all “actors” and, for better or for worse, our behaviour has an influence on others.

We often complain of the pollution of the atmosphere that in some parts of the city is unbreathable. It is true. Everyone must do his or her part to make the city a cleaner place. Yet, there is another kind of contamination, less perceptible to the senses, but equally dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it makes us smile less, makes our faces gloomier, less likely to greet each other or look each other in the eye.... The city has many faces but unfortunately collective dynamics can make us lose our in-depth perception of them. We perceive everything superficially. People become bodies and these bodies lose their soul, they become things, faceless objects that can be exchanged and consumed.

Mary Immaculate helps us to rediscover and defend what lies within people, for in her is a perfect transparency of the soul in the body. She is purity in person, in the sense that spirit, soul and body are fully consistent with one another and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to be open to God’s action and to see others as he sees them: starting with the heart. And to look at them with compassion, with love, with infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, despised, or exploited. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”.

I want to pay homage publicly to all those who in silence, not with words but with deeds, strive to practice this evangelical law of love that propels the world forward. There are so many of them even here in Rome and they rarely hit the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who have realized that it is not worth condemning, complaining or accusing; that it is better to respond to evil by doing good. This changes things; or rather it changes people, and hence improves society.

Dear Roman friends, and all of you who live in this city! While we are busy in our daily routine, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She tells each one of us that wherever sin increases, grace may abound all the more, starting in your own heart and in your life! And the city will be more beautiful, more Christian and more human.

Thank you, Holy Mother, for your message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today our meeting for the prayer of the Angelus acquires a special light in the context of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In the Liturgy of this Feast the Gospel of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38) is proclaimed. It contains, precisely, the dialogue between the Angel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin. “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you”, God’s messenger says, and in this way reveals Mary’s most profound identity, the “name” so to speak, with which God himself recognizes her: “full of grace”. This expression that is so familiar from childhood because we say it every time that we recite the “Hail Mary”, gives us the explanation of the mystery we are celebrating today. In fact, from the moment when she was conceived by her parents, Mary was the object of unique favour on the part of God who, in his eternal plan, chose her in advance to be Mother of his Son made man and, consequently, preserved from original sin. Therefore the Angel addressed her with this name which means implicitly, “always filled with God’s love”, with his grace.

The mystery of the Immaculate Conception is a source of inner light, hope and comfort. Amidst the trials of life and, especially, the contradictions that man experiences within and around himself. Mary, Mother of Christ, tells us that Grace is greater than sin, that God’s mercy is more powerful than evil and it is able to transform it into good. Unfortunately, every day we experience evil, which is manifested in many ways including relationships and events, but whose root is in the human heart, a wounded, sick heart that is incapable of healing itself. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the origin of all evil is disobedience to God’s will and that death has the upper hand because human freedom has yielded to the temptation of the Evil One.

But God does not fail in his plan of love and life: through a long and patient process of reconciliation he prepared the new and eternal Covenant, sealed in the Blood of his Son, who in order to offer himself in expiation was “born of woman” (Gal 4:4). This woman, the Virgin Mary, benefited in advance from the redeeming death of her Son and was preserved from the contagion of sin from the moment of her conception. Therefore, with her Immaculate Heart, she tells us: entrust yourselves to Jesus, he saves you.

Dear friends, this afternoon I shall renew the traditional homage to the Immaculate Virgin at the monument dedicated to in Piazza di Spagna. With this act of devotion I make myself an interpreter of the love of the faithful of Rome and of the whole world for the Mother that Christ has given to us. I entrust to her intercession the most pressing needs of the Church and of the world. May she help us above all to have faith in God, to believe in his Word, always to reject evil and to choose good.


ACT OF VENERATION OF THE IMMACULATE VIRGIN IN PIAZZA DI SPAGNA

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Immaculate of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year too we have arranged to meet here, in Piazza di Spagna, to pay homage to the Immaculate Virgin on the occasion of her solemn Feast. I address my cordial greeting to all of you who have come here in great numbers, as well as to those who are taking part via radio and television. We are gathered round this historic monument, which today is surrounded by a mass of flowers, a sign of the love and devotion of the Roman People for the Mother of Jesus. The most beautiful gift, the most pleasing to her and which we are offering to her, is our prayer, the prayers we carry in our hearts and entrust to her intercession. They are invocations of thanksgiving and petition: thanksgiving for the gift of faith and for all the good we receive from God; and petition for the various needs, for the family, for health and for work, for every difficulty that life makes us encounter.

But when we come here, especially on this occasion of 8 December, what we receive from Mary is far more important than what we offer her. In fact, she gives us a message destined for each one of us, for the City of Rome and for the whole world. I, who am the Bishop of this City, also come to listen, not only for myself, but for everyone. And what does Mary say? She speaks to us with the Word of God who was made flesh in her womb. Her “message” is nothing other than Jesus, the One who is the whole of her life. It is thanks to him and for him that she is Immaculate. And just as the Son of God became a man for our sake, so too she, the Mother, was preserved from sin for our sake, for everyone, in anticipation of God’s salvation for every human being.

Thus Mary tells us that we are all called to open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit in order, in our ultimate destiny, to attain an immaculate state, fully and definitively free from evil. She tells us this with her own holiness, with her gaze full of hope and compassion which evokes words such as these: “Do not fear, my child, God loves you; he loves you personally; he thought of you before you came into the world and called you into being to fill you with love and with life; and for this reason he came to meet you, he made himself like you, he became Jesus, God-man, like you in all things but without sin; he gave himself for your sake to the point of dying on the Cross, and thus he gave you a new life, free, holy and immaculate” (see Eph 1:3-5).

Mary gives us this message and, when I come here on this Feast, it impresses me because I feel it is addressed to the whole City, to all the men and women who live in Rome: even to those who do not think of it, who do not even remember that today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception; to those who feel lonely and forsaken.

Mary’s gaze is God’s gaze upon each one of us. She looks at us with the Father’s love itself and blesses us. She acts as our “advocate” and we invoke her thus in the Salve, Regina: Advocata nostra. Even if everyone were to speak badly of us, she, the Mother, would speak well of us because her immaculate Heart is in tune with God’s mercy. So it is that she sees the City: not as an anonymous agglomeration but as a constellation in which God knows each one personally by name, one by one, and calls us to shine with his light. And those who in the world’s eyes are the first, to God are the lowliest; those who are little to God are great.

The Mother looks at us as God looked at her, a humble young girl of Nazareth, insignificant in the world’s eyes but chosen and precious to God. He recognizes in each one his or her likeness to his Son Jesus, even though we are so different! But who knows the power of divine Grace better than her? Who knows better than her that nothing is impossible for God who can even draw good from evil?

This, dear brothers and sisters, is the message we receive here, at the feet of Mary Immaculate.

It is a message of trust for every person of this City and of the whole world; a message of hope not made of words but of her history itself. She, a woman of our lineage, who gave birth to the Son of God and shared her whole life with him! And today she tells us: this is also your destiny, your own destiny and the destiny of all: to be holy like our Father, to be immaculate like our Brother Jesus Christ, to be loved children, all adopted in order to form a great family with no boundaries of colour or language, because God, Father of every human being, is one.

Thank you, O Mother Immaculate, for being with us always! May you never cease to watch over our City: comfort the sick, encourage the young and sustain families. Instill in them the strength to reject evil in all its forms and to choose good, even when it comes at a cost and entails going against the tide. Give us the joy to feel loved by God, blessed by him, predestined to be his children.

Immaculate Virgin, our sweetest Mother, pray for us!


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Thursday, 8 December 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church solemnly celebrates the Immaculate Conception of Mary. As Bl. Pius IX declared in the Apostolic Letter Ineffabilis Deus of 1854, she “was preserved, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, free from all stain of original sin”. This truth of faith is contained in the words of greeting the Archangel Gabriel addressed to her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Lk 1:28). The expression “full of grace” indicates that marvellous work of the love of God, who through his Only-Begotten Son incarnate who died and rose again, wanted to restore to us the life and the freedom, lost by original sin. Because of this, since the 2nd century both in the East and the West, the Church invokes and celebrates the Virgin who with her “yes” brought Heaven closer to earth, becoming “Genetrix of God and nurturer of our life”, as St Romanus the Melodus expressed it in an old song (Canticum XXV in Nativitatem B. Mariae Virginis, in J.B. Pitra, Analecta Sacra t. I, Paris 1876, 198). In the 7th century St Sophronius of Jerusalem praised the greatness of Mary, for in her the Holy Spirit came to dwell, and said: “You surpass all the gifts that God’s magnificence ever bestowed on any human person. More than anyone you are made rich by God dwelling in you” (Oratio II, 25 in SS. Deiparæ Annuntiationem: PG 87, 3, 3248 AB). And St Bede the Venerable explains: “Mary is blessed among women, for with the dignity of virginity she has enjoyed the grace to be parent to a son who is God” (Hom I, 3: CCL 122, 16).

We are also given the “fullness of grace” which we must make shine in our life, for, as St Paul writes: the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... has blessed us ... with every spiritual blessing ... even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless .... to be his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3-5). We receive this sonship through the Church on the day of Baptism. In this regard St Hildegarde of Bingen wrote: “The Church is, therefore, the virgin mother of all Christians. In the secret power of the Holy Spirit she conceives them and brings them to the light, offering them to God in such a way that they too might be called sons of God” (Scivias, visio III, 12: CCL Continuatio Mediævalis XLIII, 1978, 142). And, finally, among the many who have sung of the spiritual beauty of the Mother of God, St Bernard of Clairvaux stands out. He declares that the invocation “Hail, Mary full of grace” is “pleasing to God, to angels and to men. To men, thanks to her motherhood, to the angels, thanks to her virginity, to God, thanks to her humility” (Sermo XLVII, De Annuntiatione Dominica: SBO VI,1, Rome 1970, 266).

Dear friends, in anticipation of the customary homage we will pay to Mary Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna this afternoon, let us offer our fervent prayer to the one who intercedes before God, that she help us to celebrate with faith the Birth of the Lord so close at hand.


ACT OF VENERATION OF THE IMMACULATE VIRGIN IN PIAZZA DI SPAGNA

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Immaculate of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Thursday, 8 December 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Every year the important Feast of Mary Immaculate invites us to meet here, in one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, to pay homage to her, the Mother of Christ and our Mother. I greet with affection all of you present here, as well as all those who are joining us via radio and television. I thank you for your unanimous support in my act of prayer.

Mary is portrayed, on the top of the pillar around which we have gathered, by a statue which, in part, recalls the passage from the Book of Revelation that has just been proclaimed: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). What is the meaning of this image? It represents at the same time Our Lady and the Church.

First of all the “woman” of the Book of Revelation is Mary herself. She appears “clothed with the sun, that is, clothed with God: the Virgin Mary in fact is wholly surrounded by God’s light and lives in God. This symbol of her luminous garment clearly expresses a condition that concerns Mary’s whole being: she is “full of grace”, filled with God’s love. And “God is light”, St John says further (1 Jn 1:5). Here, therefore, the One who is “full of grace”, “the Immaculate One”, reflects in her whole person the light of the “sun” which is God.

This woman has under her feet the moon, a symbol of death and of mortality. Indeed Mary is fully associated with the victory of Jesus Christ, her Son, over sin and death; she is free from any shadow of death and totally filled with life. Just as death no longer has power over the risen Jesus (see Rom 6:9), so, through a grace and a rare privilege of Almighty God, Mary has left it behind her and gone beyond it. And this is manifest in the two great mysteries of her life: in the beginning, having been conceived without original sin, which is the mystery that we are celebrating today; and, at the end, being taken up body and soul into Heaven, into God’s glory. However, the whole of her earthly life was also a victory over death, because it was spent entirely at God’s service, in the unreserved sacrifice of herself to him and to her neighbour. For this reason Mary is in herself a hymn to life; she is the creature in whom Christ’s words have already come true: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

In the vision of the Book of Revelation there is a further detail: upon the head of the woman clothed with the sun there is “a crown of twelve stars”. This sign symbolizes the 12 tribes of Israel and means that the Virgin Mary is at the centre of the People of God, of the entire communion of saints. And thus this image of the crown of 12 stars ushers us into the second great interpretation of the heavenly portent of the “woman clothed with the sun”: as well as representing Our Lady, this sign personifies the Church, the Christian community of all time. She is with child, in the sense that she is carrying Christ in her womb and must give birth to him in the world. This is the travail of the pilgrim Church on earth which, amidst the consolations of God and the persecution of the world, must bring Jesus to men and women.

It is for this very reason, because she is carrying Jesus, that the Church comes up against the opposition of a ferocious adversary, represented in the apocalyptic vision by “a great red dragon” (Rev 12:3). This dragon sought in vain to devour Jesus — the “male child”, destined to rule all the nations” (12:5) — because Jesus, through his death and resurrection, ascended to God and is seated on his throne. Therefore the dragon, defeated once and for all in Heaven, directly attacks the woman — the Church — in the wilderness of the world. However in every epoch the Church is sustained by the light and strength of God who nourishes her in the desert with the bread of his Word and of the Holy Eucharist. And so it is that in every tribulation, in all the trials she meets over time and in the different parts of the world the Church suffers persecution but turns out to be victorious. And in this very way the Christian community is her presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness.

The one threat of which the Church can and must be afraid is the sin of her members. Whereas Mary is indeed Immaculate, free from any stain of sin, the Church is holy but at the same time she is blemished by our sins. This is why the People of God, on pilgrimage through time, addresses its heavenly Mother and asks for help; it asks her to accompany it on its journey of faith, to encourage the commitment to Christian living and to support its hope. We are in need of this, especially at this time which is so difficult for Italy, for Europe, and for various parts of the world.

May Mary help us to see that there is a light beyond the blanket of thick fog in which reality seems to be enveloped. For this reason, we too, especially on this Feast, do not cease to ask her for help with filial trust: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who turn to you”. Ora pro nobis, intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Iesum Christum!


SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Saturday, 8 December 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A happy feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to you all! In this Year of Faith I would like to emphasize that Mary is Immaculate through a freely given gift of God’s grace, which, however, found perfect willingness and cooperation in her. It is in this sense that she is “blessed” because “she believed” (Lk 1:45) and because she had steadfast faith in God. Mary represents that “remnant of Israel”, that holy root which the Prophets proclaimed. The promises of the Old Covenant find a ready welcome in her. In Mary the Word of God is met with listening, acceptance and a response; he encounters that “yes” which enables him to take flesh and to come and dwell among us.

In Mary humanity and history are truly opened to God, they welcome his grace and are prepared to do his will. Mary is a genuine expression of Grace. She represents the new Israel, which the Scriptures of the Old Testament describe with the symbol of the bride. And St Paul takes up this language in his Letter to the Ephesians where he speaks of marriage and says “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (5:25-27). The Fathers of the Church developed this image and thus the Doctrine of the Immaculate Virgin first came into being with reference to the Church virgin-mother and, subsequently, to Mary. Thus Ephraim the Syrian writes poetically: “Just as [it was] because these bodies themselves have sinned and are themselves dying, that the earth, their mother was also accursed (see Gen 3:7-19), because of this body which is the incorruptible Church, her land was blessed from the outset. This land is the body of Mary, a temple in which a seed was sown” (Diatessaron 4, 15: sc 121, 102).

The light that shines from the figure of Mary also helps us to understand the true meaning of original sin. Indeed that relationship with God which sin truncates is fully alive and active in Mary. In her there is no opposition between God and her being: there is full communion, full understanding. There is a reciprocal “yes”: God to her and her to God. Mary is free from sin because she belongs entirely to God, she empties herself totally for him. She is full of his Grace and of his Love.

To conclude, the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary expresses the certainty of faith that God’s promises have been fulfilled and that his Covenant does not fail but has produced a holy root from which came forth the blessed Fruit of the whole universe, Jesus the Saviour. The Immaculate Virgin shows that Grace can give rise to a response, that God’s fidelity can bring forth a true and good faith.

Dear friends, this afternoon, as is the custom, I shall be going to Piazza di Spagna to pay homage to Mary Immaculate. Let us follow the example of the Mother of God, so that in us too the Lord’s grace may find an answer in genuine and fruitful faith.


ACT OF VENERATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saturday, 8 December 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is always a special joy to meet here in Piazza di Spagna, on the Feast of Mary Immaculate. Gathering together — Romans, pilgrims and visitors — at the foot of the statue of our spiritual Mother makes us feel united in the faith. I am pleased to emphasize in the Year of Faith that the entire Church is living. I greet you with deep affection and I would like to share a few simple thoughts with you, suggested by the Gospel for this Solemnity: the Gospel of the Annunciation.

First of all, we are always struck by and made to reflect on the fact that this moment crucial to humanity’s destiny, the moment in which God was made man, is shrouded in deep silence. The encounter between the divine messenger and the Immaculate Virgin takes place completely unnoticed; nobody knows and nobody talks about it. It is an event which, were it to happen in our time, would leave no trace in the newspapers and magazines, because it is a mystery that happens in silence. What is truly great often goes unnoticed and peaceful silence proves more fruitful than the frenetic restlessness characteristic of our cities, but which — by comparison — people were already experiencing in important cities such as Jerusalem at that time; the pressure that makes us unable to stop, to be calm, to listen to the silence in which the Lord enables us to hear his discreet voice.

Mary, on the day she received the announcement of the Angel, was in deep recollection and at the same time open to listening to God. In her there was no obstacle, no screen, nothing that separated her from God. This is the meaning of her being without original sin: her relation with God was free from even the slightest flaw; there is no separation, there is not a shadow of selfishness, but perfect harmony; her small human heart is perfectly “centred” in the great heart of God. So it is, dear brothers and sisters, that coming here to this monument to Mary in the heart of Rome reminds us primarily that God’s voice is not recognized in noise and bustle; his plan for our personal and social life is not perceived by remaining on the surface but rather by descending to a deeper level, where the active power is not economic or political but moral and spiritual. There Mary invites us to come down and to put ourselves in tune with God’s action.

There is something else, something even more important which Mary Immaculate tells us when we come here, and it is that the world’s salvation is not the work of human beings — of science, of technology, of an ideology — but it comes from Grace. What does this word mean? Grace means Love in its purity and beauty, it is God himself as he revealed himself in salvation history, recounted in the Bible and in its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Mary is called “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) and with her specific identity she reminds us of God’s primacy in our life and in the history of the world, she reminds us that the power of God’s love is stronger than evil, that it can fill the void that selfishness creates in the history of individuals, families, nations and the world.

These forms of emptiness can become hells where human life is drawn downwards and towards nothingness, losing its meaning and its light. The world suggests filling this emptiness with false remedies — drugs are emblematic — that in reality only broaden the abyss. Only love can prevent this fall, but not just any kind of love: a love that contains the purity of Grace — of God who transforms and renews — and can thus fill the intoxicated lungs with fresh oxygen, clean air, new energy for life. Mary tells us that however low man may fall it is never too low for God, who descended even into hell; however far astray our heart may have gone, God is always “greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20). The gentle breath of Grace can dispel the darkest cloud and can make life beautiful and rich in meaning even in the most inhuman situations.

And from this derives the third thing that Mary Immaculate tells us. She speaks of joy, that authentic joy which spreads in hearts freed from sin. Sin brings with it a negative sadness that leads to withdrawal into self. Grace brings true joy that does not depend on possessions but is rooted in the innermost self, in the depths of the person, and nothing and no one can remove it. Christianity is essentially an “evangelo”, “Good News”, whereas some think of it as an obstacle to joy because they see it as a collection of prohibitions and rules.

Christianity is actually the proclamation of the victory of Grace over sin, of life over death. And if it entails self-denial and discipline of the mind, of the heart and of behaviour, it is precisely because in the human being there is a poisonous root of selfishness which does evil to oneself and to others. It is thus necessary to learn to say “no” to the voice of selfishness and “yes” to that of genuine love. Mary’s joy is complete, for in her heart there is not a shadow of sin. This joy coincides with the presence of Jesus in her life: Jesus conceived and carried in her womb, then as a child entrusted to her motherly care, as an adolescent, a young man and an adult; Jesus seen leaving home, followed at a distance with faith even to the Cross and to the Resurrection; Jesus is Mary’s joy and is the joy of the Church, of us all.

In this Season of Advent Mary Immaculate teaches us to listen to the voice of God who speaks in silence; to welcome his Grace that sets us free from sin and from all selfishness in order thereby to taste true joy. Mary, full of grace, pray for us! 



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