Rome (AsiaNews) - "In this time of Advent, may Mary Immaculate teach us to listen in silence to the voice of God, and receive his Grace which frees from sin and every selfishness so that we can taste true joy." In his address at the foot of the statue of the Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna, Benedict XVI stressed the importance of silence, grace and joy. As required by tradition, the pope stopped at the Chiesa della Santissima Trinità (Church of the Most Holy Trinity) in front of Via Condotti before reaching the piazza. His visit to Piazza di Spagna has now come to signal the start of the Christmas season, with all of its decorations and shopping.
However, for the pope "coming together-Romans, pilgrims and visitors-at the foot of the statue of our spiritual Mother makes us feel united in the sign of the faith," especially "in the Year of Faith that the whole Church is experiencing."
Speaking about the Gospel for the Mass of the Immaculate, that of the Annunciation, (Lk, 1:26-38), the pontiff noted the value of silence. "The encounter between the divine message and the Immaculate Virgin went unnoticed. No one knew about it; no one talked about it. It was an event that, if it occurred today, would leave no sign in the newspapers or magazines because it was a mystery that occurred in silence. What is truly great often goes unnoticed and quiet silence is more fruitful than the frenzy that characterises our cities. . . . All this action prevents us from stopping, being quiet, listening to the silence in which the Lord makes his discreet voice heard."
Instead, on the day of the Angel's announcement, Mary was "very deep in thought and yet ready to listen to God. There was no obstacle in her, no barrier, nothing that would separate her from God. This is what we mean when we speak of her being without original sin. Her relationship with God is free from any rift. There is no separation, no shadow of selfishness, but a perfect agreement. Her small human heart is perfectly "centred" on God's big heart."
"Coming here, near this monument to Mary, in the centre of Rome," the pope added, "reminds us first of all that the voice of God does not go with noise and turmoil. His plan for our life as individuals and society cannot be seen by keeping to the surface; it requires going to a deeper level where the forces at work are not economic or political but moral and spiritual. This is where Mary invites us to come and be in tune with God's action."
Another element the pontiff stressed in his address is Grace. In his words, "the salvation of the world is not the work of man, science, technology or ideology. [. . .] Grace means love in its purity and beauty. It is God himself as he revealed himself in the salvific story in the Bible that Jesus Christ fulfilled."
"Mary is called the 'favoured one' (Lk, 1:28). With this identity she reminds us of God's pre-eminence in our life and in the history of the world. She reminds us that the power of God's love is stronger than evil, and that it fills the void that selfishness creates in the history of people, families, nations and the world. Such emptiness can become hell, where human life is pulled towards the bottom and emptiness, losing meaning and light. The false remedies the world offers to fill the void, drug use above all, in fact widen the gap. Only love can save us from such a fall, but not any love. It must have the purity of Grace, which God transforms and renews to fill the lungs with fresh, clean air and new vital energy. Mary tells us that, as much as man can fall, he is never too low for God, who has descended in hell. However led astray our heart may be, God is always "greater than our heart' (1 Jn, 3:20). Grace's soft breath can disperse the darkest clouds, and make life beautiful and rich in meaning even under the most inhumane situations."
Finally, the third element is joy, "the real joy that spreads from a heart unshackled from sin. Sin carries a negative sadness that leads us to clam up. Grace brings true joy, which does not depend on possessing things, but is rooted in the innermost, deepest part of oneself, which nothing and no one can take away."
"Even though some believe that Christianity is an obstacle to joy because they see it as an ensemble of prohibitions and rules, it is essentially an 'evangel', a 'good tiding'. In fact, Christianity is the proclamation of the victory of Grace over sin, of life over death. Even if it entails giving up certain things and imposing a certain discipline on mind, heart and behaviour, it is because in man we find the poisonous root of selfishness that harms oneself and others. We must therefore learn to say no to the voice of selfishness and yes to that of real love. Mary's joy is full because in her heart sin casts no shadow. Such joy coincides with the presence of Jesus in her life: Jesus conceived and carried in the womb; living under her maternal care; a teenager, a young man and a mature man; Jesus who leaves home, followed from a distance with faith until the cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is the joy of Mary and the Church."