With thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer today, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about today’s Gospel, in which the Virgin Mary was invited by the Angel to conceive Jesus. The Holy Father then went on to note that the mystery of Christmas has a cosmic dimension in addition to its historical one.
The Pontiff commented briefly on the Gospel for this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the account of the Annunciation. Just a few days from the feast of Christmas, the Pope explained, “we are invited to fix our eyes on the ineffable mystery that Mary kept for nine months in her virginal womb: the mystery of God who becomes man.”
“This is the first hinge of the redemption. The second is the death and resurrection of Jesus, and these two inseparable hinges manifest a single divine plan: to save humanity and its history by assuming them to the utmost, taking on the entire weight of all the evil oppressing them."
“Christ is the son of grace, who, with his light, ‘transfigures and ignites the expectant universe,’” Benedict XVI recalled. “The feast of Christmas is connected to the winter solstice, when the days, in the northern hemisphere, start to get longer. In this regard, it may be that not everyone knows that St. Peter's Square is also a meridian: the obelisk, in fact, casts its shadow along a line that runs along the pavement toward the fountain under this window, and in these days the shadow is at its longest of the year.”
“This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking out the rhythm of prayer. The Angelus, for example, is recited in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, and with the meridian, which was used in ancient times to identify 'true noon', clocks were adjusted."
The Holy Father then greeted all those who will participate in various ways in the initiatives for the world year of astronomy, 2009, declared at the 400th anniversary of the first telescopic observations of Galileo Galilei. He said, "My predecessors of venerable memory included devotees of this science, like Sylvester II, who taught it, Gregory XIII, to whom we owe our calendar, and St. Pius X, who knew how to make sundials."
"If the heavens, according to the beautiful words of the psalmist, 'proclaim the glory of God,' then the laws of nature, which over the course of the centuries many men and women of science have helped us to understand better, are also a great stimulus to contemplate with gratitude the works of the Lord,” the Pope continued.
He then concluded, “Let us turn then our eyes toward Mary and Joseph, who are awaiting the birth of Jesus, and let us learn from them, the secret of recollection, in order to savor the joy of Christmas. Let us prepare ourselves to welcome with faith the Redeemer who comes to be with us, Word of the love of God for the humanity of every age."