The message of the “feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary can be summed up in these words: everything is a grace, everything is a free gift from God and his love for us,” the Pope said to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“We too are asked to listen to God who speaks to us,” he continued. “Nothing is more active and fruitful than to listen and receive the Word of the Lord.”

Stating that “Mary is receptive, but not passive,” the Pontiff called upon Christians to act “in imitation of Mary, who, immediately after having received the announcement of the Angel, goes to share the gift of fertility with her cousin Elizabeth– because, if everything has been given, everything must be given back.”

“If our existence is to be transformed by the grace of the Lord, because the grace of the Lord transforms us, we cannot keep for ourselves the light that comes from his face, but we let it shine so that it illuminates others,” he added, as he quoted Dante, referring to Mary’s face as “the face that resembles Christ the most.”

Later on December 8, Pope Francis visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he venerated the Salus Populi Romani, a Marian icon. He then traveled to the Piazza di Spagna, where he made the tradition papal homage to the Immaculate before a statue of Our Lady.

“Knowing that you, our Mother, are completely free from sin gives us great comfort,” he prayed. “Knowing that evil has no power over you fills us with hope and fortitude in the daily struggle that we must fulfill against the threats of the evil one.”

With thanks to http://www.catholicculture.org