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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
St Peter's Square, Saturday 8 December 2012 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"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 finds listening, acceptance, response, finds that 'yes' which enables Him to take flesh and 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 (cf 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, 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."

After the Angelus:

"Dear brothers and sisters, I would like first of all to assure my closeness to the peoples of the Philippines who have been hit in the past few days by a violent hurricane. I pray for the victims, for their families and for the many evacuees. May faith and brotherly love give strength in order to face this difficult trial.

En célébrant la solennité de l’Immaculée Conception, chers pèlerins francophones nous fêtons la splendeur du dessein de l’amour de Dieu qui, en Jésus, est né de Marie pour nous sauver du péché. La Vierge s’est remise totalement à celui qui l’a créée. Comme elle, celui qui se tourne vers Dieu trouve la liberté véritable, il devient véritablement lui-même et grand ! Saluons en Marie la beauté et la pureté à laquelle nous sommes tous appelés. Qu’elle nous apprenne à croire en Dieu qui nous dit toujours : « Sois sans crainte ! » Puisse cette fête fortifier notre foi ! Avec ma bénédiction.

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus prayer.  Today, with joyful hearts, we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through her powerful intercession, may the Lord grant us the grace to reject sin and persevere in the grace of baptism.  I wish you a happy feast day and invoke upon you and your families God’s abundant blessings!

Herzlich grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. Zum Hochfest der Empfängnis Marias sage ich euch allen ein herzliches „Grüß Gott“. Der Herr offenbart uns in Maria, daß er in seinem göttlichen Wirken auf die Mitarbeit seiner Geschöpfe zählt. Maria ist bereit, ihren Teil zur Menschwerdung des Gottessohns beizutragen. „Mir geschehe, wie du es gesagt hast“ (Lk 1,38), antwortet sie, als der Engel ihr den Willen Gottes verkündet. Dieser Wille übersteigt die Kraft eines Menschen. Wir können ihm nur folgen, wenn wir uns im Glauben Gott anvertrauen, uns durch die schöpferische Kraft seiner Liebe umwandeln lassen zu neuen Menschen. Die selige Jungfrau Maria soll uns ein Vorbild sein und Fürsprecherin, damit wir den Willen Gottes in unserem Leben erkennen und danach handeln. Euch und euren Familien wünsche ich einen gesegneten Feiertag!

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española que participan en esta oración mariana. Celebramos hoy la Solemnidad de la Virgen Inmaculada, preservada de toda mancha de pecado original. Es una fiesta en la que reconocemos que María Santísima, la toda hermosa, ha sido desde el primer momento de su existencia envuelta por el amor del Padre, colmada por la gracia del Hijo y cubierta con la sombra del Espíritu Santo. Encomiendo a Ella, al tenerla como ejemplo de gracia y modelo de santidad, los anhelos y buenos deseos que infunde en nosotros este tiempo de Adviento. Muchas gracias.

Pozdrawiam wszystkich Polaków. W adwentowym czasie oczekiwania na przyjście Pana towarzyszy nam Maryja niepokalanie poczęta. Sam Bóg zachował Ją od zmazy grzechu i obdarzył pełnią łaski, aby była godnym mieszkaniem Jego Syna. Oddajemy dziś chwałę Tej, która odpowiadając na Boże wezwanie dała doskonały wzór współpracy z Jego łaską. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!

Benedico tutti i soci dell’Azione Cattolica Italiana, che oggi rinnovano la loro adesione e la decisione di rispondere alla chiamata alla santità e alla corresponsabilità con i Pastori nella nuova evangelizzazione. Maria vi sostenga e vi accompagni!

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare gli aderenti al Movimento Cristiano Lavoratori. Saluto il gruppo di preghiera dell’Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata di Roma, nel giorno della Patrona. Desidero rivolgere l’auspicio che possano trovare soluzione i problemi che affrontano varie Istituzioni sanitarie cattoliche. Buona festa a tutti voi. Grazie!"

Papa Benedict XVI's Prayer to Mary
Piazza di Spagna, 8 December 2012 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"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!"