Pope's Homily at Mass on Solemnity of Immaculate Conception

Mary a “Sign of Hope for All the Living,” Says John Paul II

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily John Paul II delivered today during the concelebrated Mass at which he presided in St. Peter’s Basilica, on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The day also marked the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of this Marian dogma.

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1. “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).

With these words of the Archangel Gabriel, we address the Virgin Mary several times a day. We repeat them today with fervent joy, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, recalling that December 8 of 1854, when Blessed Pius IX proclaimed this admirable dogma of the Catholic faith precisely in this Vatican Basilica.

I cordially greet all those who have come here today, in particular the representatives of the National Mariological Societies, who took part in the International Marian Mariological Congress, organized by the Pontifical Marian Academy.

I also greet all of you here present, dear brothers and sisters, who have come to render filial homage to the Immaculate Virgin. I greet in a special way, the Lord Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to whom I renew my most cordial wishes for his priestly jubilee, expressing all my gratitude to him for the service, which with generous dedication he has rendered and continues to render to the Church as my vicar general for the Diocese of Rome and as president of the Italian episcopal conference.

2. How great is the mystery of the Immaculate Conception that today’s liturgy presents to us! A mystery that does not cease to attract the contemplation of believers and inspire the reflection of theologians. The theme of the Congress just recalled — “Mary of Nazareth Receives the Son of God in History” — has fostered deeper study of the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary as presupposition for receiving in her virginal womb the Word of God incarnate, Savior of the human race.

“Full of grace”: with this appellative, according to the Greek original of Luke’s Gospel, the Angel addresses Mary. This is the name with which God, through his messenger, wished to describe the Virgin. He ever thought of her and saw her in this way, “ab aeterno.”

3. In the hymn of the Letter to the Ephesians, proclaimed earlier, the Apostle praises God the Father because he “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3). With what most special blessings God looked upon Mary from the beginning of time! Truly blessed, Mary, among all women (see Luke 1:42)!

The Father chose her in Christ before the creation of the world, so that she would be holy and immaculate before him in love, predestinating her as the first fruits to filial adoption through Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

4. Mary’s predestination, as that of every one of us, is relative to the predestination of the Son. Christ is that “seed” that would “bruise the head” of the ancient serpent, according to the Book of Genesis (see Genesis 3:15); he is the Lamb “without blemish” (see Exodus 12:5; 1 Peter 1:19), immolated to redeem humanity from sin.

In anticipation of his salvific death, Mary, his Mother, was preserved from original sin and from every other sin. In the victory of the new Adam there is also that of the new Eve, Mother of the redeemed. The Immaculate is thus a sign of hope for all the living, who have conquered Satan through the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 12:11).

5. We contemplate today the humble maiden of Nazareth, holy and immaculate before God in charity (see Ephesians 1:4), that “charity,” which in its original source, is God himself, One and Triune.

Sublime work of the Most Holy Trinity is the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of the Redeemer! In the bull “Ineffabilis Deus,” Pius IX recalls that the Almighty has established “with one and the same decree the origin of Mary and the incarnation of divine Wisdom” (“Pius IX Pontificis Maximi Acta,” Pars prima, p. 559).

The Virgin’s “yes” to the Angel’s annunciation is situated in the concreteness of our earthly condition, in humble gift to the divine will of saving humanity not from history, but in history. In fact, preserved immune from every stain of original sin, the “new Eve” benefited in a singular way from the work of Christ as most perfect Mediator and Redeemer. Redeemed first of all by her Son, she participates fully in his holiness. She is already that which the whole Church desires and hopes to be. She is the eschatological icon of the Church.

6. Because of this, the Immaculate, who indicates “the beginning of the Church, Bride of Christ without blemish or wrinkle, radiant with beauty” ([see] Preface) always precedes the People of God on the pilgrimage of faith toward the Kingdom of Heaven (see “Lumen Gentium,” No. 58; encyclical “Redemptoris Mater,” No. 2).

In the immaculate conception of Mary the Church sees projected, anticipated in her most noble member, the saving grace of Easter.

In the event of the Incarnation she finds the Son and the Mother indissolubly united: “he who is the Church’s Lord and Head and she who, uttering the first fiat of the New Covenant, prefigures the Church’s condition as spouse and mother” (“Redemptoris Mater,” No. 1).

7. To you, Immaculate Virgin, predestined by God above every other creature as advocate of grace and model of holiness for his People, I renew this day in a special way the entrustment of the whole Church.

May you guide your children on the pilgrimage of faith, rendering them ever more obedient and faithful to the Word of God.

May you accompany every Christian on the path of conversion and holiness, in the struggle against sin and in the search for true beauty, which is always the sign and reflection of divine Beauty.

May you, again, obtain peace and salvation for all peoples. May the eternal Father, who willed you to be the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer, renew also in our time, through you, the wonders of his merciful love. Amen!

[Translation by ZENIT]

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