On February 24, thousands turned out at the Vatican to attend the final Angelus blessing bestowed by Pope Benedict XVI as pontiff. Huge monitors were placed near St. Peter's Square so that those pilgrims, of the approximately 200,000, who could not enter the square would be able to see the Pope at the window of his study shortly before noon.
The Pope was greeted with applause as thousands cried 'Long live the Pope!' in various languages. Before beginning his short meditation, he responded saying, “Thank you, thank you very much.” He then commented on the Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Lent, which recounts the Transfiguration of the Lord.
“Luke the Evangelist,” he said, “places particular attention on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as He prayed. His is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a type of spiritual retreat that Jesus undergoes on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James, and John, the three disciples who are always present at the moments of the Master's divine manifestation. The Lord, who had foretold His death and resurrection shortly before, offers His disciples an anticipation of His glory. Again at the Transfiguration, as at His Baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father: 'This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.' The presence of Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, is very important."
The entire history of the Covenant is directed toward Him, the Christ, who brings about a new 'exodus', not to the promised land, as in the time of Moses, but to heaven. Peter's exclamation, 'Master, it is good that we are here', represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine comments: “Peter … on the mountain ... had Christ as the Bread of his soul. Should he then depart from there to return to struggles and sorrows, while up above he was full of the holy love for God that inspired him to saintly behaviour?”
“Meditating on this Gospel passage, we can draw a very important teaching from it. First of all, the primacy of prayer, without which the entire commitment of ministry and charity is reduced to activism. During Lent we learn to give the proper time to the prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, prayer is not an isolation from the world and its contradictions, as Peter would have wanted on Mount Tabor. Instead, prayer leads to a path of action. 'The Christian life—I wrote in this year's Lenten Message—consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from Him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love.'”
“I hear this Word of God addressed to me in a special way at this moment of my life. The Lord has called me to 'scale the mountain', to dedicate myself still more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church. If God asks me this it is precisely so that I might continue to serve her with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to give up to now, but in a way more suitable to my age and my strength. Let us call upon the intercession of the Virgin Mary: May she help all of us to always follow the Lord Jesus, in prayer and in works of charity.”
After praying the Angelus, and conveying greetings in various languages, the Pope thanked everyone for expressing their closeness and prayers. He said “We also give thanks to God for this sun we have today." Despite forecasts of rain, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining in time for his appearance.
In addressing Polish pilgrims, the Pope reaffirmed that on Mt. Tabor, Christ “revealed the splendour of His divinity to His disciples, giving them the certainty that, through suffering and the cross we can gain resurrection. We always have to perceive His presence, His glory, and His divinity in the life of the Church, in contemplation, and in everyday events.”
Finally, speaking to the many Italians from various areas of the peninsula, he bade them farewell saying: “Thank you, again. We will always be close in prayer.”