Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus on Sunday. Addressing pilgrims and tourists gathered in St Peter’s Square beneath the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father spoke of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin, Elisabeth – the episode narrated during the Gospel reading for the day. “The episode,” said Pope Benedict, “does not represent a mere gesture of courtesy, but dramatises with great simplicity the encounter of the Old Testament with the New Testament.” The Holy Father explained that the elderly and yet miraculously fertile Elisabeth represents Israel awaiting the Messiah. Noting that the expression with which Elisabeth greets Mary, “Blessed art thou among women,” is one that in the Hebrew Scriptures is spoken to the warrior women Jael and Judith, whose efforts saved the nation of Israel from peril, Pope Benedict says, “Now, it is spoken to the gentle young woman who shall before too long give birth to the Saviour of the World.” Pope Benedict went on to say that the scene of the Visitation also expresses the beauty of welcoming. “Wherever there are those who welcome one another, where there is careful attention, wherever there are people who make room for another,” he said, “there is God – and the joy that comes from Him.”
“Let us imitate Mary in the Christmas season, visiting to those who are experiencing difficulty, especially the sick, the imprisoned, the elderly and little children,” prayed Pope Benedict, “and let us also imitate Elisabeth, who received her guest as God, Himself.” The Pope concluded by asking the faithful to pray that all men might seek God earnestly, and find that it is God Himself who comes first to visit us.”
After the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Benedict had greetings for pilgrims in many languages, including English:
I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. Today, as we approach the Solemnity of our Lord’s Birth among us, let us strive again to make room in our hearts to welcome the Christ child with love and humility before such a great gift from on high. In anticipation, let me already wish you and your families a holy and peaceful Christmas!