Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered at midday before and after praying the Angelus on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, together with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The 8th of December we celebrate one of the most beautiful feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception. But what does it mean that Mary is the "Immaculate"? And what does this title tell to us?
First of all we refer to the biblical texts of today's liturgy, especially the great "fresco" of the third chapter of the Book of Genesis and the account of the Annunciation of the Gospel of Luke. After original sin, God turned to the serpent, which represents Satan, he curses him and adds a promise: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
It is the proclamation of revenge: Satan at the beginning of creation seems to have the upper hand, but the son of a woman will come who will crush his head. Thus, through the woman's offspring, God himself will triumph. That woman is the Virgin Mary, from whom was born Jesus Christ who, with his sacrifice, has defeated once and for all the ancient tempter. Because of this, in so many painting and statues of the Immaculate, she is represented in the act of crushing a serpent under her foot.
The evangelist Luke, instead, shows us the Virgin Mary who receives the annunciation of the heavenly messenger (cf. Luke 1:26-38). She appears as the humble and authentic daughter of Israel, true Zion in whom God wishes to make his dwelling. She is the young plant from which the Messiah must be born, the just and merciful King.
In the simplicity of the home of Nazareth lives Israel's pure remnant from which God wishes to have his people be born again, as a new tree that will extend its branches in the whole world, offering all men good fruits of salvation. As opposed to Adam and Eve, Mary remains obedient to the Lord's will, with her whole self she pronounces her "yes" and places herself fully at the disposition of the divine plan. She is the new Eve, true "mother of all the living" -- that is, of all those who by faith in Christ receive eternal life.
Dear friends, what immense joy to have Mary Immaculate as Mother! Every time we experience our frailty and the suggestion of evil, we can turn to her, and our heart receives light and comfort.
Also in life's trials, in the storms that make faith and hope vacillate, we think that we are her children and that the roots of our existence sink in the infinite grace of God. The Church herself, even if exposed to the negative influences of the world, always finds in her the star to direct and follow the route indicated by Christ.
Mary is in fact the Mother of the Church, as Pope Paul VI and Vatican Council II solemnly proclaimed. While, therefore, we render thanks to God for this wonderful sign of his goodness, we entrust to the Immaculate Virgin each one of us, our families and the community, the whole Church and the entire world.