Like Mary, we too are asked to listen to God speaking to us and to welcome His will.
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At 12:00 noon on Monday, December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Today marks the 160th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which Pope Pius IX issued on December 8, 1854, with the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus [God ineffable].
The following is a translation the Pope’s address, which was delivered in Italian:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning, and Happy feast day.
The message of today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary may be summed up in these words: everything is God’s free gift, everything is grace, everything is the gift of His love for us. The Angel Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace” (Lk 1:28). In her there is no room for sin, for God chose her from all eternity as the mother of Jesus, and He preserved her from original sin. Mary cooperates with grace and surrenders herself it it, saying to the angel: “Let it be done to me according to thy word” (v. 38). She does not say: “I will do as you say.” No! She rather says: "Let it be done to me …." And the Word was made flesh in her womb. We too are asked to listen to God speaking to us and to welcome His will. According to logic of the Gospel, nothing is more active and fruitful that hearing and welcoming the Word of the Lord that comes from the Gospel, from the Bible. The Lord is always speaking to us!
The attitude of Mary of Nazareth shows us that being comes before doing, and that we must allow God to act in order truly to be what He wants us to be. He it is who works wonders in us. Mary is receptive, but not passive. Just as on the physical plane she receives the power of the Holy Spirit but then gives flesh and blood to the Son of God that is formed in her, so on the spiritual plane she welcomes grace and cooperates with it through faith. That is why St. Augustine stated that the Virgin “conceived in her heart even before she conceived in the womb" (Discourses, 215, 4). She first conceived faith, and then she conceived the Lord. This mystery of the welcoming of grace, which in Mary, though a unique privilege, was without any obstacle of sin, is a possibility for everyone. Indeed, St. Paul opens his Letter to the Ephesians with these words of praise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (1:3). Just as Mary is greeted by St. Elizabeth as "blessed among women" (Lk 1:42), so we, too, have always been “blessed," that is loved, and therefore "chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless" (Eph. 1:4). Mary was preserved, while we have been saved through baptism and faith. Everyone, however, both her and us, through Christ, “to the praise of his glorious grace" (v. 6), the grace with which the Immaculata was filled in all fullness.
Faced with the love, faced with the mercy and the divine grace that has been poured into our hearts, we have one single duty: gratitude. None of us can buy salvation! Salvation is a free gift of God, a free gift of God who comes to us and dwells within us. As we have received freely, so we are called freely to give (cf. Mt 10:8); in imitation of Mary, who, immediately after welcoming the announcement, went to share the gift of fruitfulness with her cousin Elizabeth. For, if everything has been given to us, so everything must be given back. How? By allowing the Holy Spirit to make us a gift for others. The Spirit is a gift for us and we, by the power of the Spirit, must be a gift for others and allow the Holy Spirit to make us instruments of acceptance, instruments of reconciliation, instruments of forgiveness. If we allow our lives to be transformed by the grace of the Lord, in order that the Lord’s grace might transform us, we will not be able to keep for ourselves the light that comes from his face, but we will let it shine through us to enlighten others. Let us learn from Mary, who kept her gaze ever fixed on her Son and his face, and became "the face that most resembled Christ" (Dante, Paradiso, XXXII, 87). And now we turn to her with the prayer that recalls the announcement of the Angel.
Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition