— — —
Dear brothers and sisters!
I wish you all a happy Feast of Mary Immaculate! In this Year of Faith I would like to emphasize that Mary is Immaculate by a gratuitous gift of the grace of God that, however, she was perfectly open to and cooperated with. In this sense she is “blessed” because she “believed” (Luke 1:45), because she had a firm faith in God. Mary represents that “remnant of Israel,” that holy root announced by the prophets. The promises of the Old Covenant are welcomed in her. In Mary the Word of God finds an ear, acceptance, response, he finds that “yes” that allows him to take flesh and to come dwell among us. In Mary humanity, history truly open to God, accept his grace, are ready to do his will. Mary is the genuine expression of grace. She is the new Israel that the Scriptures of the Old Testament describe with the symbol of the bride. And St. Paul takes this language up again in the Letter to the Ephesians where he speaks of matrimony and says that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, purifying her with the bath of water through the word, to present the Church to himself, all glorious, without a blemish or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and immaculate” (5:25-27). The Fathers of the Church developed this image and so the doctrine of the Immaculate was first born in reference to the Church as virgin-mother, and then in reference to Mary. Ephraim the Syrian poetically wrote: “As bodies themselves have sin and die, and the land that is their mother is cursed (cf. Genesis 3:17-19), so because of this body that is the incorruptible Church, her land is blessed from the beginning. This land is the body of Mary, the temple in which a seed has been sown” (Diatessaron 4, 15: SC 121, 102).
The light that emanates from the figure of Mary helps us also to understand the true meaning of original sin. In Mary, in fact, that relationship with God that sin destroys is totally alive and active. In her there is no opposition between God and her being: there is complete communion, complete understanding. There is a reciprocal “yes,” of God to her and of her to God. Mary is free from sin because she is wholly of God, totally expropriated for him. She is full of his grace of his love.
In conclusion, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary expresses the certainty of faith that the promises of God are realized: that his covenant does not fail, but has produced a holy root, from which sprung the Fruit that is the most blessed of all the universe, Jesus the Savior. Mary Immaculate demonstrates that grace is capable of bringing about a response, that God’s fidelity is capable of generating a true and good faith.
Dear friends, this afternoon, as is customary, I will go to the 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 might find an answer in a genuine and fruitful faith.[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear brothers and sisters,
I wish first of all to assure my nearness to the people of the Philippines have been struck recently by a violent hurricane. I pray for the victims, for their families and for the many displaced persons. May faith and charity be the force to deal with this difficult trial.[In English he said:]
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![Concluding in Italian he said:]
Happy feast day to all of you. Thank you![Translation by Joseph Trabbic]