Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Mary is the Immaculate for a free gift from God who found in Her perfect willingness and cooperation. In this sense, she is 'blessed' because she 'believed'," (Lk, 1:45), said Benedict XVI as he explained the mystery of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, which Catholics celebrates today. In the Year of the Faith, the Pontiff chose to highlight that "in Mary the Word of God is heard, received and answered, finds the 'yes' that allows her to become flesh and come to live among us."
After speaking about the Immaculate and reciting the Angelus with the pilgrims who had gathered in Saint Peter's Square, the pope expressed his closeness to the people of the Philippines hit in recent days by Typhoon Bhopa, which has killed almost 500 people and left 300,000 homeless. "I pray for the victims, their families and the many displaced people," the Holy Father said. "May faith and brotherly charity give them the strength to face this difficult trial."
Before this, Benedict XVI focused on the many aspects of today's feast day. "In Mary," he explained, "humanity and history really open up to God, welcome his grace, ready to do his will. Mary is the genuine expression of Grace. She represents the new Israel which the Scriptures of the Old Testament describe with the symbol of the bride. Saint Paul uses this language in the Letter to the Ephesians when he speaks about marriage and says, "Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish' (Eph, 5:25-27)."
"Church Fathers developed this image and thus the doctrine of the Immaculate was born, first with reference to the Church as a virgin-mother, later to Mary. As Ephrem the Syrian poetically wrote, 'As the bodies have sinned and died, the earth, their mother, is cursed (cf Gen 3:17-19). Because of this body, the Church is incorruptible, its earth has been blessed from the start. This earth is the body of Mary, the temple in which a seed was placed (Diatessaron 4, 15: SC, 121:102)."
"The light that emanates from the figure of Mary also helps us understand the real meaning of original sin. The relationship with God broken by sin is in fact fully alive and operating in Mary. In her, there is no opposition between God and his being. There is full communion and understanding. There is a reciprocal 'yes' from God to her and from her to God. Mary is free from sin because she belongs entirely to God, totally expropriated for Him, full of his Grace and love."
"In conclusion, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary expresses the certainty of faith that God's promises have been fulfilled, that his covenant has not failed but has produced a healthy root, from which has sprung the blessed fruit of the whole universe, Jesus the Saviour. The Immaculate demonstrates that Grace can elicit a response, that faithfulness to God can generate a truly good faith."
Before taking his leave, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that he would visit the Spanish Steps this afternoon to pay homage to Mary Immaculate, placing flowers in front of the statue of Our Lady on top of the high column.
"Let us follow the example of the Mother of God," he said, "so that the grace of the Lord may find in us an answer in a genuine and fruitful faith."