VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening during a gathering in St. Peter’s Square marking the conclusion of May, the month dedicated to the Mary.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
We conclude the month of May with this suggestive meeting of Marian prayer. I greet you with affection and I thank you for your participation. I greet, first of all, Cardinal Angelo Comastri; along with him I also greet the other cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests who have participated in this evening celebration.
I extend my greeting to all consecrated persons and to you, my dear lay faithful, who have desired to offer homage to the Most Holy Virgin with your presence. This day we celebrate the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin and the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
All of this invites us to cast our gaze upon Mary with trust. To her, again this evening, we turn with the ancient and always relevant holy practice of the rosary. The rosary, when it is not a mechanical repetition of traditional formulas, is a biblical meditation that permits us to reflect on the events of the Lord’s life in the company of the Blessed Virgin, treasuring them, as she did, in our heart.
In many Christian communities there is the beautiful custom of reciting the rosary in a more solemn way together with the family and in parishes. Now that the month is ending, this good practice should not also end; indeed it should be continued with a still greater commitment, so that, in the school of Mary, the lamp of faith may shine ever brighter in the heart of Christians and in their houses.
On today’s feast of the Visitation the liturgy invites us to listen again to the passage of the Gospel of Luke that retells the journey of Mary from Nazareth to the house of he elderly cousin Elizabeth. Let us imagine the state of the Virgin after the Annunciation, when the angel left her. Mary found herself with a great mystery in her womb; she knew that something extraordinarily unique had happened; she realized that the last chapter in the history of the world’s salvation had begun. But everything around her remained as it was before, and the village of Nazareth knew nothing of that which had happened to her.
Before being concerned about herself, Mary thinks rather of the elderly Elizabeth, whom she knew was already in an advanced stage of pregnancy, and, driven by the mystery of love that she had just received into herself, she made her way “with haste” to go help Elizabeth. This is the simple and sublime greatness of Mary!
When she arrived at Elizabeth’s house, something happened that no painter could ever render with the same beauty and profundity as the actual event. The interior light of the Holy Spirit enveloped them. And Elizabeth, enlightened from on high, exclaims: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! To what do I owe this visit of my Lord’s mother to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the child leapt for joy in my womb. Blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s words” (Luke 1:42-45).
These words might seem to be excessive to us given the actual context. Elizabeth is one of the many elderly women in Israel, and Mary is an unknown girl from a remote village of Galilee. What can they be and what can they do in a world in which other persons count and other powers hold sway? Nevertheless, Mary once again stupefies us; her heart is limpid, totally open to God’s light; her soul is without sin, not weighed down by pride and by egoism.
Elizabeth’s words ignite a canticle of praise in her heart, which is an authentic and profound “theological” reading of history: a reading that we must continually learn from her whose faith is without shadows and without cracks. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Mary acknowledges God’s greatness. This is the first indispensable sentiment of faith; the sentiment that gives certainty to the human creature and liberates the creature from fear, even in the midst of history’s storms.
Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” with the eyes of faith God’s work in history. For this reason she is blessed, because she believed: by faith, in fact, she welcomed the word of the Lord and conceived the incarnate Word. Her faith allowed her to see that the thrones of the powerful of this world are all provisional, while the throne of God is the only rock that does not change and does not fall. And Mary’s “Magnificat,” after centuries and millennia, remains the truest and the deepest interpretation of history, while the readings of the many wise persons of this world have been disproved by the facts over the course of the centuries.
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us return home with the Magnificat in our heart. Let us carry in us Mary’s same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment into the hands of divine providence. Let us imitate her example of availability and generosity in serving our brothers and sisters. In fact, we are only able to raise a canticle of praise to the Lord by welcoming God’s love and making of our existence a disinterested and generous service of neighbor. May the Madonna obtain this grace for us, she who this night invites us to find refuge in her immaculate heart.[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]