Saturday, March 25, 2006

Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord

From Pope Benedict's Homily Today:
Saint Augustine imagines a dialogue between himself and the Angel of the Annunciation, in which he asks: "Tell me, O Angel, why did this happen in Mary?" The answer, says the Messenger, is contained in the very words of the greeting: "Hail, full of grace" (cf. Sermo 291:6). In fact, the Angel, "appearing to her", does not call her by her earthly name, Mary, but by her divine name, as she has always been seen and characterized by God: "Full of grace - gratia plena", which in the original Greek is 6,P"D4JTµXv0, "beloved" (cf. Lk 1:28). Origen observes that no such title had ever been given to a human being, and that it is unparalleled in all of Sacred Scripture (cf. In Lucam 6:7). It is a title expressed in passive form, but this "passivity" of Mary, who has always been and is for ever "loved" by the Lord, implies her free consent, her personal and original response: in being loved, Mary is fully active, because she accepts with personal generosity the wave of God’s love poured out upon her. In this too, she is the perfect disciple of her Son, who realizes the fullness of his freedom through obedience to the Father. In the second reading, we heard the wonderful passage in which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Psalm 39 in the light of Christ’s Incarnation: "When Christ came into the world, he said: . . . ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will, O God’" (Heb 10:5-7). Before the mystery of these two "Here I am" statements from Christ and from the Virgin, each of which is reflected in the other, forming a single Amen to God’s loving will, we are filled with wonder and thanksgiving, and we bow down in adoration.
What a great gift, dear Brothers, to be able to conduct this evocative celebration on the Solemnity of the Lord’s Annunciation! What an abundance of light we can draw from this mystery for our lives as ministers of the Church! You above all, dear new Cardinals, what great sustenance you can receive for your mission as the eminent "Senate" of Peter’s Successor! This providential circumstance helps us to consider today’s event, which emphasizes the Petrine principle of the Church, in the light of the other principle, the Marian one, which is even more fundamental. The importance of the Marian principle in the Church was particularly highlighted, after the Council, by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II, in harmony with his motto Totus tuus. In his spirituality and in his tireless ministry, the presence of Mary as Mother and Queen of the Church was made manifest to the eyes of all. More than ever he adverted to her maternal presence in the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981 in Saint Peter’s Square. In memory of that tragic event, he had a mosaic of the Virgin placed high up in the Apostolic Palace, looking down over Saint Peter’s Square, so as to accompany the key moments and the daily unfolding of his long reign. It is just one year since his pontificate entered its final phase, full of suffering and yet triumphant and truly paschal. The icon of the Annunciation, more than any other, helps us to see clearly how everything in the Church goes back to that mystery of Mary’s acceptance of the divine Word, by which, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Covenant between God and humanity was perfectly sealed. Everything in the Church, every institution and ministry, including that of Peter and his successors, is "included" under the Virgin’s mantle, within the grace-filled horizon of her "yes" to God’s will. This link with Mary naturally evokes a strong affective resonance in all of us, but first of all it has an objective value. Between Mary and the Church there is indeed a connatural relationship that was strongly emphasized by the Second Vatican Council in its felicitous decision to place the treatment of the Blessed Virgin at the conclusion of the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

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