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Monday, March 24, 2014

0339: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0339: Reflections on the Solemnity of the
Annunciation of the Lord
 by Pope Benedict XVI 
during His Pontificate 



On three occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on 25 March, the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in 2006, 2007, and 2012. Here are the texts of two brief addresses before the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.



ORDINARY PUBLIC CONSISTORY
FOR THE CREATION OF NEW CARDINALS

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION WITH THE NEW CARDINALS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Saint Peter’s Square, Saturday, 25 March 2006

Dear Cardinals and Patriarchs,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For me it is a source of great joy to preside at this concelebration with the new Cardinals after yesterday’s Consistory, and I consider it providential that it should take place on the liturgical Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and under the sunshine that the Lord gives us. In the Incarnation of the Son of God, in fact, we recognize the origins of the Church. Everything began from there.

Every historical realization of the Church and every one of her institutions must be shaped by that primordial wellspring. They must be shaped by Christ, the incarnate Word of God. It is he that we are constantly celebrating:  Emmanuel, God-with-us, through whom the saving will of God the Father has been accomplished.

And yet - today of all days we contemplate this aspect of the Mystery - the divine wellspring flows through a privileged channel:  the Virgin Mary.

St Bernard speaks of this using the eloquent image of aquaeductus (see Sermo in Nativitate B.V. Mariae:  PL 183, 437-448). In celebrating the Incarnation of the Son, therefore, we cannot fail to honour his Mother. The Angel’s proclamation was addressed to her; she accepted it, and when she responded from the depths of her heart:  “Here I am... let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1: 38), at that moment the eternal Word began to exist as a human being in time.

From generation to generation, the wonder evoked by this ineffable mystery never ceases. St Augustine imagines a dialogue between himself and the Angel of the Annunciation, in which he asks:  “Tell me, O Angel, why did this happen in Mary?”. The answer, says the Messenger, is contained in the very words of the greeting:  “Hail, full of grace” (see Sermo 291: 6).

In fact, the Angel, “appearing to her”, does not call her by her earthly name, Mary, but by her divine name, as she has always been seen and characterized by God:  “Full of grace - gratia plena”, which in the original Greek is 6,P”D4JTµXv0,  “full of grace”, and the grace is none other than the love of God; thus, in the end, we can translate this word:  “beloved” of God (see Lk 1: 28). Origen observes that no such title had ever been given to a human being, and that it is unparalleled in all of Sacred Scripture (see In Lucam 6: 7).

It is a title expressed in passive form, but this “passivity” of Mary, who has always been and is for ever “loved” by the Lord, implies her free consent, her personal and original response:  in being loved, in receiving the gift of God, Mary is fully active, because she accepts with personal generosity the wave of God’s love poured out upon her. In this too, she is the perfect disciple of her Son, who realizes the fullness of his freedom and thus exercises the freedom through obedience to the Father.

In the Second Reading, we heard the wonderful passage in which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Psalm 39 in the light of Christ’s Incarnation:  “When Christ came into the world, he said:  ...”Here I am, I have come to do your will, O God’“ (Heb 10: 5-7). Before the mystery of these two “Here I am” statements, the “Here I am” of the Son and the “Here I am” of the Mother, each of which is reflected in the other, forming a single Amen to God’s loving will, we are filled with wonder and thanksgiving, and we bow down in adoration.

What a great gift, dear Brothers, to be able to conduct this evocative celebration on the Solemnity of the Lord’s Annunciation! What an abundance of light we can draw from this mystery for our lives as ministers of the Church!

You above all, dear new Cardinals, what great sustenance you can receive for your mission as the eminent “Senate” of Peter’s Successor! This providential circumstance helps us to consider today’s event, which emphasizes the Petrine principle of the Church, in the light of the other principle, the Marian one, which is even more fundamental. The importance of the Marian principle in the Church was particularly highlighted, after the Council, by my beloved Predecessor Pope John Paul II in harmony with his motto Totus tuus.

In his spirituality and in his tireless ministry, the presence of Mary as Mother and Queen of the Church was made manifest to the eyes of all. More than ever he adverted to her maternal presence in the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981 here in St Peter’s Square. In memory of that tragic event, he had a mosaic of the Virgin placed high up in the Apostolic Palace looking down over St Peter’s Square, so as to accompany the key moments and the daily unfolding of his long reign. It is just one year since his Pontificate entered its final phase, full of suffering and yet triumphant and truly paschal.

The icon of the Annunciation, more than any other, helps us to see clearly how everything in the Church goes back to that mystery of Mary’s acceptance of the divine Word, by which, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Covenant between God and humanity was perfectly sealed. Everything in the Church, every institution and ministry, including that of Peter and his Successors, is “included” under the Virgin’s mantle, within the grace-filled horizon of her “yes” to God’s will. This link with Mary naturally evokes a strong affective resonance in all of us, but first of all it has an objective value.

Between Mary and the Church there is indeed a connatural relationship that was strongly emphasized by the Second Vatican Council in its felicitous decision to place the treatment of the Blessed Virgin at the conclusion of the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

The theme of the relationship between the Petrine principle and the Marian principle is also found in the symbol of the ring which I am about to consign to you. The ring is always a nuptial sign. Almost all of you have already received one, on the day of your episcopal ordination, as an expression of your fidelity and your commitment to watch over the holy Church, the bride of Christ (see Rite of Ordination of Bishops).

The ring which I confer upon you today, proper to the cardinalatial dignity, is intended to confirm and strengthen that commitment, arising once more from a nuptial gift, a reminder to you that first and foremost you are intimately united with Christ so as to accomplish your mission as bridegrooms of the Church. May your acceptance of the ring be for you a renewal of your “yes”, your “here I am”, addressed both to the Lord Jesus who chose you and constituted you, and to his holy Church, which you are called to serve with the love of a spouse.

So the two dimensions of the Church, Marian and Petrine, come together in the supreme value of charity, which constitutes the fulfilment of each. As St Paul says, charity is the “greatest” charism, the “most excellent way” (I Cor 12: 31; 13: 13).

Everything in this world will pass away. In eternity only Love will remain. For this reason, my Brothers, taking the opportunity offered by this favourable time of Lent, let us commit ourselves to ensure that everything in our personal lives and in the ecclesial activity in which we are engaged is inspired by charity and leads to charity. In this respect too, we are enlightened by the mystery that we are celebrating today.

Indeed, the first thing that Mary did after receiving the Angel’s message was to go “in haste” to the house of her cousin Elizabeth in order to be of service to her (see Lk 1: 39). The Virgin’s initiative was one of genuine charity; it was humble and courageous, motivated by faith in God’s Word and the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. Those who love forget about themselves and place themselves at the service of their neighbour. Here we have the image and model of the Church!

Every Ecclesial Community, like the Mother of Christ, is called to accept with total generosity the mystery of God who comes to dwell within her and guides her steps in the ways of love. This is the path along which I chose to launch my Pontificate, inviting everyone, with my first Encyclical, to build up the Church in charity as a “community of love” (see Deus Caritas Est, Part II).

In pursuing this objective, venerable Brother Cardinals, your spiritual closeness and active assistance is a great support and comfort to me. For this I thank you, and at the same time I invite all of you, priests, deacons, Religious and lay faithful, to join together in invoking the Holy Spirit, praying that the College of Cardinals may be ever more ardent in pastoral charity, so as to help the whole Church to radiate Christ’s love in the world, to the praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen!


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Fifth Sunday of Lent, 25 March 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The 25th of March is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. This year it coincides with a Sunday in Lent and will therefore be celebrated tomorrow. I would now like, however, to reflect on this amazing mystery of faith which we contemplate every day in the recitation of the Angelus.

The Annunciation, recounted at the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel, is a humble, hidden event - no one saw it, no one except Mary knew of it -, but at the same time it was crucial to the history of humanity. When the Virgin said her “yes” to the Angel’s announcement, Jesus was conceived and with him began the new era of history that was to be ratified in Easter as the “new and eternal Covenant”.

In fact, Mary’s “yes” perfectly mirrors that of Christ himself when he entered the world, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, interpreting Psalm 40[39]: “As is written of me in the book, I have come to do your will, O God” (Heb 10: 7). The Son’s obedience was reflected in that of the Mother and thus, through the encounter of these two “yeses”, God was able to take on a human face.

This is why the Annunciation is a Christological feast as well, because it celebrates a central mystery of Christ: the Incarnation.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word”. Mary’s reply to the Angel is extended in the Church, which is called to make Christ present in history, offering her own availability so that God may continue to visit humanity with his mercy. The “yes” of Jesus and Mary is thus renewed in the “yes” of the saints, especially martyrs who are killed because of the Gospel.

I stress this because yesterday, 24 March, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, we celebrated the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs: Bishops, priests, Religious and lay people struck down while carrying out their mission of evangelization and human promotion.

These missionary martyrs, as this year’s theme says, are the “hope of the world”, because they bear witness that Christ’s love is stronger than violence and hatred. They did not seek martyrdom, but they were ready to give their lives in order to remain faithful to the Gospel. Christian martyrdom is only justified when it is a supreme act of love for God and our brethren.

In this Lenten Season we often contemplate Our Lady, who on Calvary sealed the “yes” she pronounced at Nazareth. United to Christ, Witness of the Father’s love, Mary lived martyrdom of the soul. Let us call on her intercession with confidence, so that the Church, faithful to her mission, may offer to the whole world a courageous witness of God’s love.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO MEXICO AND THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA

(MARCH 23-29, 2012)

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Expo Bicentenario Park, León, Sunday, 25 March 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground, dies and bears much fruit. This is his response to some Greeks who approached Philip asking: “we would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). Today we invoke Mary Most Holy and we ask her: “show Jesus to us”.

As we now pray the Angelus and remember the Annunciation of the Lord, our eyes too turn spiritually towards the hill of Tepeyac, to the place where the Mother of God, under the title of “the Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe” has been fervently honoured for centuries as a sign of reconciliation and of God’s infinite goodness towards the world.

My predecessors on the Chair of Saint Peter honoured her with affectionate titles such as Our Lady of Mexico, Heavenly Patroness of Latin America, Mother and Empress of this continent. Her faithful children, in their turn, who experience her help, invoke her confidently with such affectionate and familiar names as the Rose of Mexico, Our Lady of Heaven, Virgin Morena, Mother of Tepeyac, Noble Indita.

Dear brothers and sisters, do not forget that true devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (Lumen Gentium, no. 67). To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb.

At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope. She is the Mother of the true God, who invites us to stay with faith and charity beneath her mantle, so as to overcome in this way all evil and to establish a more just and fraternal society.

With these sentiments, I place once again this country, all of Latin America and the Caribbean before the gentle gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I entrust all their sons and daughters to the Star of both the original and the new evangelization; she has inspired with her maternal love their Christian history, has given particular expression to their national achievements, to their communal and social initiatives, to family life, to personal devotion and to the Continental Mission which is now taking place across these noble lands. In times of trial and sorrow she was invoked by many martyrs who, in crying out “Long live Christ the King and Mary of Guadalupe” bore unyielding witness of fidelity to the Gospel and devotion to the Church. I now ask that her presence in this nation may continue to serve as a summons to defence and respect for human life. May it promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred. May Holy Mary of Guadalupe bless us and obtain for us the abundant graces that, through her intercession, we request from heaven.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO MEXICO AND THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA

(MARCH 23-29, 2012)

CELEBRATION OF VESPERS
WITH THE BISHOPS OF MEXICO AND LATIN AMERICA

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Cathedral of Our Lady of Light, León, Sunday, 25 March 2012

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to be able to pray with all of you in this Basilica-Cathedral of León, dedicated to our Lady of Light. In the lovely painting venerated in this basilica, the Blessed Virgin holds her Son in one hand with immense tenderness while extending her other hand to succour sinners. This is how the Church in every age sees Mary. We praise her for giving us the Redeemer and we put our trust in her as the Mother whom her divine Son bequeathed to us from the Cross. For this reason, we invoke her frequently as “our hope” because she has shown us Jesus and passed down to us the great things which God constantly does for humanity. She does so simply, as a mother teaches her children at home.

A decisive sign of these great things is given to us in the reading just proclaimed at these Vespers. The people of Jerusalem and their leaders did not acknowledge Christ, yet, by condemning him to death, they fulfilled the words of the prophets (see Acts 13:27). Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that.

Another of God’s great works is evoked in the second of the psalms which we recited: “the rock” turns into “a pool, and flint into a spring of water” (Ps 113:8). What might have been a stumbling block and a scandal has, by Jesus’ triumph over death, become a cornerstone: “This is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes” (Ps 117:23). There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil. Let us instead ask the risen Lord to manifest his power in our weakness and need.

I have greatly looked forward to this meeting with you, the Pastors of Christ’s pilgrim Church in Mexico and in the different countries of this great continent. I see this meeting as an occasion to turn our gaze together to Christ, who has entrusted you with the splendid duty of preaching the Gospel among these peoples of sturdy and deep-rooted Catholic faith. Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment. Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint (see Rom 5:5).

I thank the Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, President of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference and the Latin American Episcopal Council, for the cordial welcome offered me in your name. I ask you, the various Pastors of the local churches that, on returning to your Dioceses, you bring to your faithful the warm affection of the Pope, who holds all their sufferings and aspirations deep in his heart.

In you I see reflected the concerns of the flocks which you shepherd, and I am reminded of the Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, where the participants applaud after an intervention by someone who exercises his ministry in particularly troubling situations for the Church’s life and mission. That applause is a sign of deep faith in the Lord and fraternity in the apostolate, as well as gratitude and admiration for those who sow the Gospel amid thorns, some in the form of persecution, others in the form of social exclusion or contempt. Neither are concerns lacking, for want of means and human resources, or for limitations imposed on the freedom of the Church in carrying out her mission.

The Successor of Peter shares these concerns and he is grateful for your patient and humble pastoral outreach. You are not alone amid your trials or in your successes in the work of evangelization. All of us are one in sufferings and in consolation (see 2 Cor 1:5). Know that you can count on a special place in the prayers of the one who has received from Christ the charge of confirming his brethren in faith (see Lk 22:31). He now encourages you in your mission of making our Lord Jesus Christ ever better known, loved and followed in these lands, and he urges you not to let yourselves be intimidated by obstacles along the way.

The Catholic faith has significantly marked the life, customs and history of this continent, in which many nations are commemorating the bicentennial of their independence. That was an historical moment in which the name of Christ continued to shine brightly. That name was brought here through the labours of outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely. They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society in accordance with the will of their Creator. This ideal of putting the Lord first and making God’s word effective in all, through the use of your own native expressions and best traditions, continues to provide outstanding inspiration for the Church’s Pastors today.

The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. A great contribution will be made to this goal by the continental mission being launched from Aparecida, which is already reaping a harvest of ecclesial renewal in the particular Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes the study, dissemination and prayerful reading of sacred Scripture, which proclaims the love of God and our salvation. I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone (see Rom 1:16). May you also be faithful witnesses and interpreters of the words of the incarnate Son, whose life was to do the will of the Father and who, as a man among men, gave himself up completely for our sake, even unto death.

Dear Brother Bishops, amid the challenges now facing us in our pastoral care and our preaching of the Gospel, it is essential to show great concern for your seminarians, encouraging them humbly “to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). No less fundamental is the need to remain close to your priests; they must never lack the understanding and encouragement of their Bishop, nor, if necessary, his paternal admonition in response to improper attitudes. Priests are your first co-workers in the sacramental communion of the priesthood, and you ought to show them a constant and privileged attention. The same should be said for the different forms of consecrated life, whose charisms need to be gratefully esteemed and responsibly encouraged, in a way respectful of the gift received. Greater attention is due to the members of the lay faithful most engaged in the fields of catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable activity and social commitment. Their faith formation is critical if the Gospel is to become present and fruitful in contemporary society. It is not right for them to feel treated like second-class citizens in the Church, despite the committed work which they carry out in accordance with their proper vocation, and the great sacrifice which this dedication at times demands of them. In all of this, it is particularly important for Pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided.

With these heartfelt words of encouragement, I urge you to be vigilant in proclaiming day and night the glory of God, which is the life of mankind. Stand beside those who are marginalized as the result of force, power or a prosperity which is blind to the poorest of the poor. The Church cannot separate the praise of God from service to others. The one God, our Father and Creator, has made us brothers and sisters: to be human is to be a brother and guardian to our neighbour. Along this path, in union with the whole human family, the Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the Good Samaritan who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us.

Beloved Brother Bishops, the Church in Latin America, which has often been joined to Christ in his passion, must continue to be a seed of hope enabling the world to see how the fruits of the resurrection have come to enrich these lands.

May the Mother of God, invoked as Our Lady of Light, dispel the darkness of our world and illumine our path, so that we can confirm the faith of the people of Latin America amid their struggles and aspirations, with integrity, valour and firm faith in the One who can do all things and loves all men and women to the fullest. Amen. 



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