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On the Annunciation

"Mary's 'Yes' Is the Reflection of Christ's Own 'Yes'"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

March 25 is the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year it coincides with a Sunday of Lent and so will be celebrated tomorrow. In any case, I would like to linger over this stupendous mystery of the faith that we contemplate every day in the recitation of the Angelus.

The annunciation, narrated at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke, is a humble human event, hidden -- no one saw it, no one knew about it, but Mary -- but at the same time decisive for the history of humanity. When the Virgin pronounced her "yes" to the angel's announcement, Jesus was conceived and with him the era of history began which would be ratified at Easter as the "new and eternal covenant."

In reality, Mary's "yes" is the reflection of Christ's own "yes" when he entered the world, as is noted in the Letter to the Hebrews in an interpretation of Psalm 39: "As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7). The Son's obedience is reflected in the Mother's and thus, by the meeting of these two "yeses," God was able to take on a human face. This is why the annunciation is also a Christological feast, because it celebrates a central mystery of Christ: his incarnation.

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your Word." Mary's reply to the angel is extended in the Church, which is called to make Christ present in history, offering its own availability so that God might continue to visit humanity with his mercy. The "yes" of Jesus and Mary is in this way renewed in the "yes" of the saints, especially the martyrs, who are killed because of the Gospel.

I emphasize this because yesterday, March 24, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, we celebrated the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs: bishops, priests, religious, and lay people who were cut down as they carried out their mission of evangelization and human betterment.

These missionary martyrs, as this year's theme says, are the "hope for the world," because they bear witness that the love of Christ is stronger than violence and hate. They did not seek out martyrdom, but they were ready to give their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel. Christian martyrdom is justified only as the supreme act of love for God and our brothers.

In this Lenten season we often contemplate the Madonna as on Calvary she seals the "yes" she pronounced at Nazareth. United to Christ, the testimony of the Father's love, Mary lived martyrdom of the soul. Let us call on her intercession with confidence, so that the Church, faithful to her mission, bear courageous witness to God's love before the whole world.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In Italian, he said:]

Next Sunday we celebrate the solemn and suggestive liturgy of Palm Sunday, with which we begin Holy Week. In these circumstances the 22nd World Youth Day will take place.

This year's theme is Jesus' commandment: "As I have loved you, love one another" (John 13:34). To prepare ourselves for this day and the celebration of Easter, I invite the young people of the Diocese of Rome to a penitential liturgy that I will preside over on the afternoon of Thursday, March 29, in St. Peter's Basilica. Those who wish to may approach the sacrament of confession, a true encounter with God's love, which every man needs to live in joy and in peace.


[In English he said:]

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. In particular I greet the members of the International Federation for Family Development and I encourage them in the vital work of promoting the rights and responsibilities of the family. May our Lenten journey continue to be marked by forgiveness and the resolve to transform sin and desolation into the life and joy of Easter. Upon all of you and your loved ones, I invoke the strength and peace of Christ our Lord!

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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