By Virginia Forrester

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Before the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Immaculate Mary, which is situated in the context of Advent, time of waiting: God will fulfill what He has promised. However, today’s feast proclaims to us that something has already been fulfilled, in the person and the life of the Virgin Mary. Today we consider the beginning of this fulfillment, which is even before the birth of the Lord’s Mother. In fact, Her Immaculate Conception leads us to that precise moment in which Mary’s life began to beat in Her mother’s womb: the sanctifying love of God was already there, preserving Her from the contamination of evil, which is the common heredity of the human family.

The Angel’s greeting to Mary resounds in today’s Gospel: “Hail, full of grace. The lord is with you! (Luke 1:28).” God had always thought of her and wanted Her, in His inscrutable plan, as a creature full of grace, namely, full of His love. However, to be filled it’s necessary to make room, to empty oneself, to step aside. Precisely as Mary did, who was able to listen to the Word of God and entrust herself totally to His Will, receiving it without reservations in Her life. So much so that in Her the Word was made flesh. Thanks to Her “yes” this was possible. To the Angel who asks Her if She is willing to become the Mother of Jesus, Mary answers: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38).

Mary doesn’t lose herself in much reasoning; She doesn’t put obstacles to the Lord, but entrusts herself promptly and leaves room for the action of the Holy Spirit. She immediately puts her whole being and personal history at God’s disposition, so that the Word and Will of God can be shaped and brought to completion. Thus, corresponding perfectly to God’s plan for Her, Mary becomes the “all beautiful,” the “all holy,” but without the least shade of self-satisfaction. She is humble. She is a masterpiece but remains humble, little, poor. Mirrored in Her is God’s beauty, which is all love, grace, and gift of self.

I like to stress the word with which Mary describes Herself in giving Herself to God: She professes Herself “the handmaid of the Lord.” From the beginning, Mary’s “yes” to God assumes an attitude of service, of attention to the needs of others. It’s attested concretely in the fact of the visit to Elizabeth, which follows immediately after the Annunciation. Availability to God is found in the willingness to take charge of our neighbor’s needs — all this without clamor or ostentation, without seeking places of honor, without publicity, because charity and works of mercy don’t need to be exhibited as a trophy. Works of mercy are done in silence, in hiddenness, without boasting about doing them. We are called to follow Mary’s example also in our communities, practicing the style of discretion and hiddenness.

May our Mother’s feast help us to make our whole life a “yes” to God, a “yes” made of adoration of Him and of daily gestures of love and service.

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

After the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Beatified yesterday at Huehuetenango, in Guatemala, was James Miller, Religious of the Christian Brothers Schools, killed out of hatred for the faith in 1982, in the context of the civil war. May the martyrdom of this exemplary educator of young people, who paid with his life for his service to the Guatemalan people and Church, reinforce in that dear Nation ways of justice, peace, and solidarity. Applause for the new Blessed!

Being held tomorrow in Paris will be a meeting of the Presidents of Ukraine, Russia, and France, and of the Federal Chancellor of Germany — known as “Normandy Format” — to seek solutions to the painful conflict underway now for years in Eastern Ukraine. I accompany the meeting with prayer, with an intense prayer, because peace is needed there, and I invite you to do the same so that this initiative of political dialogue will contribute to bear fruits of peace in justice to that territory and to its population.

I greet you all affectionately, pilgrims of Italy and of various countries, in particular, the Polish faithful of Warsaw and Lublin, the Irish policemen and the young people of Sorbara, Modena. A special greeting goes to the Daughters of the Cross, recently recognized as a Public Association by the Cardinal Vicar.

Renewed in Italian parishes, on this feast of the Immaculate Conception, is their adherence to Catholic Action. I wish all the members and groups a good course of formation, of service and of witness.

I bless the faithful of Rocca di Papa and the torch with which they will light the large star on the town’s Fortress in honor of Mary Immaculate. And my thought goes also to the Shrine of Loreto, where today the Holy Door will be opened for the Loreto Jubilee: may it be rich in grace for the pilgrims of the Holy House.

This afternoon I will go to Saint Mary Major to pray to Our Lady, and then to Piazza di Spagna for the traditional act of homage at the foot of the monument to the Immaculate. I ask you to join me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother.

I wish you all a happy feast and a good Advent journey to Christmas, with the guidance of the Virgin Mary.

Please, don’t forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch and goodbye!

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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