Pope Francis highlighted “the beauty of Mary’s heart” in his Angelus address on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The pope said on Dec. 8 that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel, described in St. Luke’s Gospel, revealed her deep humility.
“Within the domestic walls, a person reveals him or herself better than elsewhere. And it is precisely within that domestic intimacy that the Gospel gives us a detail that reveals the beauty of Mary’s heart,” he said.
“The angel calls her ‘full of grace.’ If she is full of grace, it means the Madonna is void of evil: she is without sin, Immaculate.”
The pope was giving his live-streamed address at a window overlooking a windswept St. Peter’s Square on a day marked by a public holiday in Italy.
Pope Pius IX promulgated a decree defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854.
In the decree, Ineffabilis Deus, he wrote: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
In his address, Pope Francis noted that Mary was “greatly troubled” by the Angel Gabriel’s words.
He said: “The angel’s greeting seemed too grand for her. Why? Because she feels her littleness within, and that littleness, that humility attracts God’s eyes.”
“Within the walls of the house of Nazareth, we thus see a marvelous characteristic of Mary’s heart: having received the highest of compliments, she is troubled because she hears addressed to her what she has not attributed to herself.”
“In fact, Mary does not credit prerogatives to herself, she does not hold claim to anything, she accounts nothing to her own merit. She is not self-satisfied, she does not exalt herself. For in her humility she knows she receives everything from God.”
He added that Mary was able to completely direct her life toward God and others.
“Mary Immaculate does not look on herself. This is true humility: not looking on oneself, but looking toward God and others,” he said.
Pope Francis made an early morning visit on Wednesday to the statue of the Immaculate Conception in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna.
The pope made the private visit shortly after 6 a.m., days after the Vatican announced that, for the second consecutive year, he would not make his customary public afternoon trip to the site due to the pandemic.
The Holy See press office said on Dec. 8 that the pope left a bouquet of white roses at the base of the column, before asking for the Virgin Mary’s intercession for the healing of the sick and respite for those affected by wars and the climate crisis.
He also prayed for the grace of conversion for “those who build walls to distance themselves from the pain of others.”
The press office said that the pope left at around 6:20 a.m. and traveled to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed before the icon of Salus Populi Romani, Mary Protection of the Roman People, before returning to the Vatican shortly after 7 a.m.
In his Angelus address, the pope noted that the angel appeared to Mary in her house, not in Nazareth’s main square.
He said: “In that little house of Nazareth beat the greatest heart that any creature has ever had. Dear brothers and sisters, this is extraordinary news for us! Because the Lord is telling us that to work marvelous deeds, he has no need of grand means and our lofty abilities, but our humility, eyes open to Him and others.”
“With this annunciation, within the poor walls of a small house, God changed history. Even today, he wants to do great things with us in our daily lives: in our families, at work, in everyday environments. God’s grace loves to operate there more than in great historical events.”
The pope urged Catholics not to view holiness as a “utopia” or “pious illusion” at odds with everyday life.
He said: “Let us ask the Madonna for a grace: that she free us from the misleading idea that the Gospel is one thing and life is another; that she enkindle enthusiasm in us for the ideal of sanctity which has nothing to do with holy cards and pictures, but is about living humbly and joyfully, like the Madonna, what happens each day, freed from ourselves, with our eyes fixed on God and the neighbor we meet.”
After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis noted that he returned on Monday from a five-day visit to Greece and Cyprus. He thanked God for the trip, as well as Catholics who had prayed for a successful journey.
He recalled the high points of his visit, beginning with Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea where he spent two days.
He said: “My wish for Cyprus is that it will always be a laboratory of fraternity, where encounter prevails over confrontation, where we welcome our brothers and sisters, especially when they are poor, discarded, emigrants.”
“I repeat that in the face of history, in the face of those who emigrate, we cannot remain silent, we cannot turn away.”
Turning to his three days in Greece, the pope highlighted his meetings with Ieronymos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Athens and All Greece.
“First he welcomed me into his home and the next day he came to visit me. I cherish this fraternity in my heart,” he said.
“I entrust to the Holy Mother of God the many seeds of encounter and hope that the Lord has scattered on this pilgrimage. I ask you to continue to pray that they may germinate in patience and flourish in trust.”
The pope noted that Wednesday marks the end of the Year of St. Joseph, which began on Dec. 8, 2020.
He also observed that the Jubilee Year of Loreto closes on Dec. 10. The jubilee year, which began Dec. 8, 2019, and was extended due to the pandemic, marks the 100th anniversary of the official proclamation of Our Lady of Loreto as the patroness of pilots and air passengers.
He said: “May the grace of these events continue to work in our lives and in the lives of our communities. May the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph guide us on the path to holiness.”
After greeting groups of pilgrims from Italy, Spain, and Mexico, the pope concluded: “Please do not forget to pray for me, and I will for you. Enjoy your lunch and arrivederci.”