On Mary, Full of Grace

«With Her ‘Yes,’ She Brought Heaven Near to Earth»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the Church solemnly celebrates the immaculate conception of Mary. As Pope Pius IX declared in his apostolic letter «Ineffabilis Deus» of 1854, she «was preserved from every stain of original sin by a special grace and privilege of almighty God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race.» This truth of faith is contained in the Archangel Gabriel’s words of greeting: «Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! (Luke 1:28). The expression «full of grace» indicates the marvelous deed of the love of God, who desired to give back to us — through his only-begotten incarnate Son, who died and rose again — the life and freedom that we lost with sin. It was this that led the Church in the East and West to invoke and celebrate the Virgin who, with her «yes,» brought heaven near to earth, becoming «the Mother of God and the nurse of our life,» as St. Romanos the Melodist writes in an ancient song (Canticum XXV in Nativitatem B. Mariae Virginis, in J.B. Pitra, Analecta Sacra t. I, Parigi 1876, 198). In the 7th century St. Sophronius of Jerusalem praises the greatness of Mary since in her the Holy Spirit came to dwell: «You surpass all the gifts that God’s magnificence ever bestowed on any human being. 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 because with her virginity she enjoyed the grace of being the mother of a son who is God» (Hom I, 3: CCL 122, 16).

Upon us too is bestowed the «fullness of grace» that we must make shine in our life, because «the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,» St. Paul writes, «has blessed us with every spiritual blessing … and has chosen us before the creation of the world to be holy and immaculate … predestining us to be his adopted sons» (Ephesians 1:3-5). We receive this filiation through the Church on the day of baptism. In this regard St. Hildegard writes: «The Church is, therefore, the virgin mother of all Christians. By the secret power of the Holy Spirit she conceives them and gives them birth, offering them to God is such a way that they are also 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, there stands out St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who says that the invocation «Hail, Mary, full of grace» is «pleasing to God, the angels and men. To men because of her maternity, to Angels because of her virginity and to God because of her humility» (Sermo XLVII, De Annuntiatione Dominica: SBO VI, 1, Roma 1970, 266).

Dear friends, in anticipation of the customary homage that we will pay to Mary in the Piazza di Spagna this afternoon, we offer our fervent prayer to her who intercedes with God that she might help us to celebrate with faith the Birth of the Lord, which is now drawing near.

[Following the Angelus the Holy Father spoke to the faithful in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear friends!

I offer a special greeting to the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate, recalling with devotion and affection the mourned Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, who led it for so many years. May the Virgin assist you always, dear friends, in each of your activities.

[In English he said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors on this great feast-day when we honor the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her sinless perfection, Mary is a great sign of hope for the Church and for the world, a sign of the marvels that God’s grace can accomplish in us, his human creatures. In these days of Advent, in company with the holy and immaculate Mother of God, let us prepare to welcome her Son into our lives and into our hearts. May God bestow his blessings of joy and peace upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish for all of you the best spiritual fruits on this feast of the Virgin Mary, of our Mother. Thank you. Happy feast day to all of you!

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