.- In celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the angelus prayer today at noon. The Pontiff said that this feast is a chance to "contemplate the reflection of the Beauty who saves the world: the beauty of God that shines on the face of Christ."
Thousands of pilgrims poured into St. Peter's Square today to pray the angelus with the Holy Father and hear his teaching on the Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict described her, saying, "this beauty is totally pure, humble, free from arrogance and presumption." This is how the Virgin appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, where she told the saint, "I am the Immaculate Conception," he reminded the faithful.
The Pope explained that the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary recalls two truths of the faith: the existence of original sin, and especially the victory of Christ over evil, a victory that shines so sublimely in the form of the Virgin Mary.
"The existence of what the Church calls ‘original sin’ is unfortunately overwhelmingly evident, if only we look around us and within ourselves. The experience of evil is so consistent that it arouses in us the question: where did it come from?" This question becomes an "even more profound one" for the believer, the Pope noted. "If God, who is absolute Kindness, has created everything, where does evil come from?" he asked.
Benedict XVI explained that the answer is clear from the first pages of the Bible, which tell the story of creation and the fall of the first parents.
"God created all that exists, in particular he has created human beings in his own image, he did not cause death, but it entered the world through the envy of the devil (Wisdom 1:13-14; 2,23-24), who rebelled against God, and also deceived men, causing them to rebel."
"It's the drama of the freedom that God picks us up out of love, pledging instead to be a son of a woman who crushed the head of the ancient serpent," he said, adding that "the woman predestined to be Mother of the Redeemer, the mother of the One who has been humiliated to bring us back to our original dignity."
"This Woman, in the eyes of God, has always had a face and a name: "full of grace," as she was called by the Angel visitors to Nazareth. She is the new Eve, the wife of Adam, made to be the mother of all redeemed," Pope Benedict said. He also quoted from Saint Andrew of Crete who said: "Mary Theotokos, the common refuge of all Christians, was the first to be released by early fall of our forefathers."
The Holy Father also pointed to today's liturgy, which says that God has "prepared a worthy dwelling for his son and, in anticipation of the death of him, has preserved from every stain of sin."
In keeping with tradition, Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Spanish Steps in Rome this afternoon, where he will pay homage to the image of the Immaculate Conception.