Before the Angelus
After the Angelus
At midday today, Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.
The following is the Pope’s introduction to the Marian prayer:
Before the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning, and happy feast day!
Today we contemplate the beauty of Mary Immaculate. The Gospel, which narrates the episode of the Annunciation, helps us to understand what we celebrate, above all through the greeting of the angel. He addresses Mary with a word not easy to translate, which means “filled with grace”, “created by grace”, “full of grace” (Lk 1: 28). Before calling her Mary, he calls her full of grace, and thus reveals the new name that God has given her and that suits her more than the name given to her by her parents. We also call her thus, in every Hail Mary.
What does “full of grace” mean? That Mary is full of the presence of God. And if she is entirely inhabited by God, there is no place in her for sin. It is an extraordinary thing, because everything in the world, unfortunately, is contaminated by evil. Every one of us, looking within, sees dark sides. Even the greatest saints were sinners and all the realities, even the most beautiful, are affected by evil: all except Mary. She is the only “green oasis” of humanity, the only uncontaminated one, created immaculate so as to fully welcome, with her “yes”, God Who came into the world and thus began a new history.
Every time we acknowledge that she is full of grace, we pay her the greatest compliment, the same one God made to her. A pleasant compliment to pay to a women is to say to her, politely, that she appears youthful. When we say to Mary she is full of grace, in a certain sense we also tell her this, at the highest level. In fact, we always recognize her as young, because she never aged through sin. There is only one thing that really does make us grow old and age inwardly: not age, but sin. Sin ages us, because it makes the heart sclerotic. It closes it, makes it inert, it makes it fade. But she who is full of grace is empty of sin. And so she is always youthful, she is “younger than sin”, she is “the youngest of humankind” (G. Bernanos, Diary of a country priest, II, 1988, p.195).
Today the Church congratulates Mary by calling her “all beautiful”, tota pulchra. As her youth does not reside in her age, so her beauty does not consist in exteriority. Mary, as the Gospel of today shows, does not excel in visibility: from a simple family, she lived humbly in Nazareth, an almost unknown village. And she was not famous: even when the angel visited her, no one knew, and there was no reporter there that day. Our Lady did not even have a comfortable life, but knew worries and fears: she was “greatly troubled” (verse 29), says the Gospel, and when the angel “departed from her” (v.38), so her problems increased.
However, she who was full of grace lived a beautiful life. What was her secret? We can perceive it by looking again at the scene of the Annunciation. In many paintings, Mary is depicted sitting in front of the angel with a small book in her hand. This book is the Scripture. Thus Mary used to listen to God and speak with Him. The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, it then took flesh in her womb. Remaining with God, in dialogue with him in every circumstance, Mary made her life beautiful. It is not appearance, not what passes, but rather the heart focused on God that makes life beautiful. Today we look with joy at she who is full of grace. Let us ask her to help us stay youthful, saying “no” to sin, and to live a beautiful life, saying “yes” to God.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet with affection all pilgrims present today, especially families and parish groups. I greet the confraternity and the athletes of Rocca di Papa, and the students of the Salesian Schools of Milan.
On this feast of Mary Immaculate, Italian Catholic Action carries out the renewal of membership. I address my thoughts to its diocesan and parish associations, encouraging everyone to strengthen their formative commitment to being credible witnesses to the Gospel. May the Virgin bless Catholic Action and make fruitful its intention to serve the evangelizing mission of the Church.
This afternoon I will go to Piazza di Spagna to carry out again the traditional act of homage and to pray at the foot of the monument to Mary Immaculate. I ask you to join with me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother. All together, with the spirit, before the Madonna.
I wish you all a happy feast day and a good Advent journey. Please do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch, and goodbye!