VATICAN CITY, DECEMBER 24, 2017 (Zenit.org).- Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
* * *
Before the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
On this Sunday, immediately preceding Christmas, we hear the Gospel of the Annunciation (Cf. Luke 1:26-38). In this evangelical passage, we note a contrast between the Angel’s promises and Mary’s response. This contrast is manifested in the dimension and the content of the expressions of the two protagonists. The Angel says to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (vv. 30-33). It’s a long revelation, which opens unheard of prospects. The child that will be born of this humble girl of Nazareth will be called Son of the Most High: it’s not possible to conceive a higher dignity than this. And, after Mary’s question, with which she asked for explanations, the Angel’s revelation becomes even more detailed and astonishing.
Instead, Mary’s response is a brief phrase, which doesn’t speak of glory, doesn’t speak of privilege, but only of willingness and service: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). The content is also different. Mary doesn’t exalt herself in face of the prospect of becoming, in fact, the Mother of the Messiah, but remains modest and expresses her own adherence to the Lord’s plan. Mary doesn’t boast. She is humble, modest. She remains as ever.
This contrast is significant. It makes us understand that Mary is truly humble and doesn’t want to show off. She acknowledges being little before God and is happy to be so. At the same time, she is aware that the realization of God’s plan depends on her answer, and that therefore she is called to adhere to it with her whole self.
In this circumstance, Mary appears with an attitude that corresponds perfectly to that of the Son of God when He comes into the world: He wants to become the Servant of the Lord, to put himself at the service of humanity to fulfill the Father’s plan. Mary says: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”; and, entering the world, the Son of God says: “Lo, I have come to do thy will” (Hebrews 10:7.9). Mary’s attitude fully reflects this statement of the Son of God, who becomes also Son of Mary. Thus Our Lady reveals herself a perfect collaborator of God’s plan, and she reveals herself also a disciple of her Son, and in the Magnificat she is able to proclaim that God has “exalted those of low degree” (Luke 1:52), because with her humble and generous response she obtained a lofty joy and also a lofty glory.
While we admire our Mother for her response to God’s call and mission, let us ask her to help each one of us to accept God’s plan in our life with sincere humility and courageous generosity.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our prayerful awaiting of the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we invoke the gift of peace for the whole world, especially for the populations that suffer most because of on-going conflicts. I renew, in particular, my appeal so that, on the occasion of holy Christmas, kidnapped persons – priests, men and women religious and lay faithful – are released and are able to return to their homes. Let us pray for them.
I also wish to assure my prayer to the population of the Island of Mindanao in the Philippines, affected by a storm that has caused numerous victims and destructions. May the merciful God receive the souls of the deceased and comfort all those suffering because of this calamity. Let us pray for these people.
I greet you all affectionately, Roman faithful and pilgrims from various countries, families, parish groups and Associations.
In these hours that separate us from Christmas, find a moment to stop in silence and in prayer before the Crib, to adore in your heart the mystery of the true Christmas, that of Jesus, who comes close to us with love, humility and tenderness.
And, in those moments, remember also to pray for me. Thank you! Have a Happy Sunday and a good lunch! Goodbye![Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican