Monday, December 08, 2008

The Name of the Rose

On the feast that marks Italy's unofficial "opening" of the Christmas season, the Pope continued the long-standing tradition of his predecessors with the early-evening prayer beneath the statue of Mary Immaculate at the center of Rome's Piazza di Spagna, a "jammed"-in crowd in attendance:
Laying a basket of white roses at the foot of a statue of Mary, Pope Benedict XVI said Catholics can lay everything at the feet of their heavenly mother.

"Symbolically, these roses can express everything beautiful and good that we have done during the year," the pope said during his visit to the center of Rome Dec. 8 for the traditional ceremony alongside the statue of the Immaculate Conception near the Spanish Steps.

"But, as the saying goes, 'Every rose has its thorn,' and the stems of these stupendous white roses are not lacking thorns, which represent the difficulties, sufferings and ills that have marked and still mark the lives of people and of our community," the pope said....

Offering the roses to Mary, the pope also entrusted to her his special prayers for children, particularly those who are sick, disadvantaged or suffering because of family problems.

He prayed for elderly people living alone, for the sick, for immigrants struggling to build a new life in a new country, for families who barely make ends meet and especially for people who recently have lost their jobs.
"Mary, teach us to be in solidarity with those who are in difficulty, to bridge the increasingly vast social disparities; help us cultivate a livelier sense of the common good," Pope Benedict prayed.

The pope said the beauty of Mary, conceived without sin, "assures us that the victory of love is possible; in fact, it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin and therefore it is possible to be redeemed from any form of slavery."

The example of Mary's life helps Christians believe in goodness, graciousness, service, nonviolence and the power of truth, he said.

"She encourages us to remain wakeful, not to give in to the temptation of easy escapes, but to face reality with all its problems with courage and responsibility," Pope Benedict said.

The pope said that, looking up at Mary, Christians experience the same sensation a child has when looking up at his or her mother "and, seeing her smile, forgets every fear and pain."
"Turning our gaze to Mary, we recognize in her the smile of God, the immaculate reflection of divine light, and we find new hope even in the midst of the problems and dramas of our world," Pope Benedict said.
Clearly, someone's doing a killer job with those iPods of his, because he did it again -- first, Van the Man... and now, Poison.

Good God.

The cross-town trip was Papa Ratzi's second appearance of the afternoon, following the customary Angelus for a holy day of obligation:

"In Mary Immaculate, we contemplate the reflection of the Beauty that saves the world: the beauty of God that shines on the face of Christ. In Mary, this beauty is absolutely pure, humble, free from any pride or presumption"...

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception affirms that Mary was preserved from "original sin." "The existence of what the Church calls 'original sin'," Benedict XVI explained, "is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly obvious, if we only look around ourselves, and above all within ourselves. The experience of evil is, in fact, so consistent that it raises within us the question: where does this come from? Especially for a believer, the question is even deeper: if God, who is absolute Goodness, has created everything, where does evil come from? The first pages of the Bible (Gn. 1-3) respond precisely to this fundamental question, which tests every human generation, with the story of creation and of the fall of the progenitors: God created everything for existence, and in particular he created the human being in his own image; he did not create death, but this entered the world through the envy of the devil (cf. Wis. 1:13-14; 2:23-24), who, rebelling against God, also drew men into deceit, inducing them to rebel. This is the drama of freedom, which God accepts completely for the sake of love, while promising that there will be a son of woman who will crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gn. 3:15)."

"From the beginning," the pope continued, "'the eternal counsel', as Dante would say, has a 'final aim' (Paradiso XXXIII, 3): the Woman predestined to become the mother of the Redeemer, the mother of Him who humbled himself to the utmost, in order to restore in us our original dignity. This Woman, in the eyes of God, has always had a face and a name: 'full of grace' (Lk. 1:28), as the angel called her when visiting her in Nazareth. She is the new Eve, wife of the new Adam, destined to be mother of all the redeemed. As Andrew of Crete wrote: 'The Theotókos Mary, the common refuge of all Christians, was the first to be liberated from the primitive fall of our progenitors' (Homily IV on the Nativity, PG 97, 880 A). And today's liturgy affirms that God has "prepared a worthy dwelling for his Son, and in anticipation of his death, has preserved her from all stain of sin' (Collect Prayer)."

PHOTO: AP/Pier Paolo Cito(1,2); AFP/Getty(3)