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Mary's presence in the Upper Room at Jerusalem

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 28 June 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:14). In these simple words the author of Acts records the presence of Christ's mother in the upper room during the days of preparation for Pentecost.

But in the previous catechesis we entered the upper room and saw that the apostles, in obedience to Jesus' command prior to his departure to the Father, were assembled and "with one accord devoted themselves" to prayer. They were not alone, for other disciples, both men and women, were present with them. Among these persons pertaining to the original Jerusalem community, St. Luke, the author of Acts, also names Mary, Christ's mother. He names her among those present without adding anything special in her regard. We know, however, that Luke in his Gospel wrote at length about Mary's divine and virginal motherhood, on the basis of the information obtained by him in the Christian communities for a precise methodological motive (cf. Lk 1:1 ff.: Acts 1:1 ff.). This information was traced back at least indirectly to the earliest source of all data about Mary, namely, the mother of Jesus herself. Consequently, in Luke's twofold narrative, just as the coming into the world of God's Son is set in close relationship with the person of Mary, so now the birth of the Church is likewise linked with her. The simple statement that she was present in the upper room at Pentecost is sufficient to indicate to us the great importance attributed by Luke to this detail.

2. In the Acts of the Apostles Mary is as one of those taking part in the preparation for Pentecost as a member of the first community of the Church which was coming into being. On the basis of Luke's Gospel and of other New Testament texts a Christian tradition on Mary's presence in the Church was formed, which the Second Vatican Council summed up by hailing her as a preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church (cf. LG 53), inasmuch as she is the mother of Christ, the Man-God, and therefore the mother of God. The Council Fathers recalled in the introductory message the words of the Acts of the Apostles which we have reread. It was as though they wished to emphasize that just as Mary was present at the beginning of the Church, so likewise they desired her presence in the assembly of the apostles' successors gathered together in the second half of the twentieth century in continuity with the community of the upper room. In coming together for the work of the Council, the Fathers also wished "to devote themselves with one accord to prayer with Mary the mother of Jesus" (cf. Acts 1:14).

3. At the annunciation Mary had experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit. The angel Gabriel had said to her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called the Son of God" (Lk 1:35). Through the Spirit's coming down upon her, Mary was associated in a unique way with the mystery of Christ. In the encyclical Redemptoris Mater I wrote: "In the mystery of Christ she is present even 'before the creation of the world' (cf. Eph 1:4), as the one whom the Father 'has chosen' from eternity as mother of his Son in the Incarnation. And what is more, together with the Father, the Son has chosen her, entrusting her eternally to the Spirit of holiness" (RM 8).

4. In the upper room in Jerusalem, as the Paschal Mystery of Christ on earth reached its fulfillment, Mary together with the other disciples prepared for a new coming of the Holy Spirit which would mark the birth of the Church. It is true that she was already a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (LG 53) by her fullness of grace and by her divine motherhood. But she took part in the prayers for the Spirit's coming so that through his power there should burst out in the apostolic community the impulse toward the mission which Jesus Christ, on coming into the world, had received from the Father (cf. Jn 5:36), and on returning to the Father, had transmitted to the Church (cf. Jn 17:18). From the very beginning Mary was united to the Church as a disciple of her Son and as the most outstanding image of the Church in her faith and charity (cf LG 53).

5. The Second Vatican Council emphasized this in the Constitution on the Church where we read: "By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with his singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ" (LG 63).

"For in the mystery of the Church...the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion.... By her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit she brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father" (LG 63).

Mary's prayer in the upper room in preparation for Pentecost has a special significance, precisely because of the bond with the Holy Spirit established at the moment of the mystery of the Incarnation. Now this bond comes up again, enhanced with a new reference point.

6. In affirming that Mary "stands out" in the order of faith, the Council seems to hark back to Elizabeth's greeting to her cousin, the Virgin of Nazareth after the annunciation: "Blessed is she who believed" (Lk 1:45). The evangelist writes that "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:41) in replying to Mary's greeting and uttering those words. Moreover, according to the same Luke, "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" in the upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Therefore she also who "was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Mt 1:18) received at Pentecost a new fullness of the Holy Spirit. From that day onward her pilgrimage of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ was linked with the Church's own pilgrim journey.

The apostolic community needed her presence and that devotedness to prayer together with her, the mother of the Lord. It may be said that in that prayer with Mary, one perceives her special mediation deriving from the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As his mystical spouse, Mary implores his coming upon the Church born from the pierced side of Christ on the cross, and now about to be revealed to the world.

7. As can be seen, Luke's brief mention in Acts of the presence of Mary among the apostles and all those who "devoted themselves to prayer" in preparation for Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, has a very rich content.

In the Constitution Lumen Gentium the Second Vatican Council expressed this richness of content. According to this important conciliar text, she who in the midst of the disciples in the upper room devoted herself to prayer, is the mother of the Son, predestined by God to be "the first-born among many brethren" (cf. Rom 8:29). The Council however adds that she herself cooperated "in the regeneration and formation" of these "brethren" of Christ, with her motherly love. The Church in her turn—from the day of Pentecost—"by her preaching brings forth to a new and immortal life the sons who are born to her in baptism, who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God" (LG 64). The Church, therefore, by becoming herself a mother in this way, looks to the mother of Christ as her model. The Church's looking to Mary began in the upper room.


After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

PARMI LES PÈLERINS de langue française, je salue en particulier les jeunes filles d’Afrique qui viennent de séjourner à Lourdes au centre de formation des Auxiliaires de l’Apostolat. Je leur souhaite de trouver la vraie joie dans le don d’elles-mêmes et dans leurs services d’Eglise.

* * *

J’ADRESSE MES félicitations aux couples parisiens venus célébrer ici leurs noces d’or. Avec eux, je rends grâce, et je m’unis à leur prière pour leurs familles.

A la veille de la fête des saints Pierre et Paul, j’encourage tous ceux qui m’écoutent à renouveler leur sens de l’Eglise apostolique et à servir ensemble leurs frères avec générosité. Que Dieu vous bénisse! 

Ad un gruppo di visitatori di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I AM HAPPY to greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today. In particular I offer a warm welcome to the Choirs from South Africa and Denmark. May the beauty of your voices raised in praise of Almighty God bring many others to worship him in spirit and truth.

* * *

I AM ALSO PLEASED eo greet the pilgrims from Nigeria, Indonesia and the United States. Upon all those from English-speaking countries I invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.

Ad un gruppo giapponese di suore dell’Istituto “Miyazaki Caritas” 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

CARISSIME SUORE dell Istituto “Miyazaki Caritas”, so che state celebrando il 50° della fondazione del vostro Istituto. Vi auguro di promuovere quotidianamente la vostra attività di carità sotto la protezione della Madonna e secondo lo spirito di Don Bosco, che voi considerate vostro ideale Fondatore.

Con questo auspicio, vi imparto volentieri la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! 

Ad alcuni gruppi di pellegrini di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DESER KURZEN Betrachtung grüße ich alle anwesenden Pilger und Besucher aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern herzlich. Ich wünsche Euch einen guten Aufenthalt in der”Ewigen Stadt“und erteile Euch und Euren Familien für Gottes Schutz und treuen Beistand meinen Apostolischen Segen. 

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas

SALUDO CORDIALMENTE a los numerosos peregrinos y visitantes venidos de España y de América Latina. De modo especial, saludo a los Religiosos Legionarios de Cristo, que parten de Roma para dedicarse al apostolado; a los seminaristas españoles del “Amor Misericordioso”, de La Nora del Río (León); y a las Religiosas del Amor de Dios. A todos exhorto a trabajar abnegadamente para que, mediante vuestra labor apostólica, el Reino de Dios se haga presente cada vez más en vuestros ambientes. 

* * * 

SALUDO IGUALMENTE a los diversos grupos parroquiales de España y de Guatemala; así como a los grupos de estudiantes, de modo particular a los de Arquitectura, de Asunción (Paraguay). 

* * * 

A LOS REPRESENTANTES de la Red Mexicana de Distribuidores Chrysler deseo agradecerles su presencia aquí, y también el obsequio que han tenido a bien ofrecerme. 

* * * 

ME COMPLACE dirigir también mi saludo a los periodistas y personal técnico de la “Televisión de Galicia”, que están grabando algunos momentos de esta Audiencia. En vosotros saludo a todos los compañeros de los medios de comunicación social que estarán presentes en mi próximo viaje a Santiago de Compostela y Asturias, para celebrar la IV Jornada Mundial de la Juventud. Os aliento a realizar vuestra valiosa labor informativa y gráfica, sirviendo siempre a la verdad y respetando los superiores valores éticos y profesionales. Por medio de vosotros saludo a todas las personas, especialmente a los jóvenes, con quienes me encontraré en España.

Con mi sincero afecto imparto a todos mi Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai numerosi fedeli provenienti dal Brasile 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa

SAÙDO COM VOTOS da bem, graça e paz no Senhor Jesus Cristo, quantos participam nesta Audiência a me escutam. Em particular, sejam bem-vindos os numerosos Brasileiros anunciados e, tendo falado de Maria, Mãe da Igreja, especialmente os afiliados no Movimento de Schönstatt. Que Maria Santíssima, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, seja para todos “estrela da manhã”, a indicar, com seu exemplo e solicitude de Mãe, caminhos de vida eterna, para vós, para vossas famílias e para a grande família brasileira.

Com a minha Bênção! 

Ad alcuni gruppi ungheresi 

SONO PRESENTI all’udienza odierna alcuni gruppi ungheresi. Un gruppo è composto di sacerdoti e loro collaboratori della celebre abbazia benedettina di Pannonhalma. Gli altri pellegrini sono arrivati dalla diocesi di Györ, dalla città di Hegyeshalom e da altre parti dell’Ungheria. 

Ai connazionali polacchi 

OBECNJ SA pielgrzymi z parafii Maków Podhalański; z kościoła św. Anny w Warszawie, młodzież akademicka; ze Starego Sącza, parafia bł. Kingi; z Nowego Sącza, parafia św. Kazimierza; również z Nowego Sącza, parafia św. Katarzyny; z Tarnowa, młodzież z I Liceum Ogólnokształcącego z profesorami i rodzicami; z parafii Rzgów i Nowosolna, diecezja łódzka; Skarżysko-Kamienna, parafia Matki Boskiej Ostrobramskiej; Radom, parafia św. Stefana; Skaryszewo, parafia św. Jakuba Apostoła; Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, parafia św. Kazimierza; Jeżyska, parafia św. Stanisława Kostki, diecezja siedlecka; młodzież diecezji płockiej; pielgrzymka Wyższego Seminarium Duchownego w Białymstoku; służba zdrowia z parafii Bobowicko koło Międzyrzecza, diecezja gorzowska; kapłani archidiecezji poznańskiej na dwudziestopięciolecie święcen; pielgrzymi dekanatu międzychodzkiego, archidiecezja poznańska; pielgrzymi z parafii św. Józefa, Leszno; z parafii św. Wojciecha z Trzciela, diecezja gorzowska; z parafii św. Piotra i Pawła z Lubrzy, diecezja gorzowska; pielgrzymka Niższego Seminarium Księży Zmartwychwstanców z Poznania; grupa rodzin z Pułtuska; dwie grupy z Polonli Amerykańskiej; prócz tego uczestnicy grup turystycznych: Orbisu, Turysty, PKS z Warszawy oraz grupa Biura Turystyki Zagranicznej z Warszawy. 

Ad un gruppo di latinisti 

IAM HOC PLACET mihi loqui lingua Latina, ut humaniter consalutem studentes eidem illi antiquo, sed vivo semper sermoni in curriculo quod appellatur “Aestiva Romae Latinitas” simulque conlaudem publice confirmemque eorum sedula opera litterarum latinarum, etiam in scribendo et loquendo, ut hinc ex Urbe capite, latinitatis perennis quae praeclarissimis Christianae antiquitatis monumentis condecoratur, suam quisque ad patriam, vitam, et scholam redeant inflammati. 

Ai numerosi fedeli italiani 

Sono presenti a questa Udienza tre gruppi di pellegrini italiani, cui desidero porgere il mio benvenuto, con le parole di San Paolo: “Grazia a voi e pace a Dio, nostro Padre, e dal Signore Gesù Cristo”. Con questo saluto dell’Apostolo delle Genti, mi rivolgo innanzitutto al Signor Cardinale Giovanni Canestri ed ai giovani sacerdoti diocesani, con i quali egli ha trascorso a Rocca di Papa una settimana di studio e di spiritualità.

Questo incontro mi offre l’occasione per rinnovare l’espressione del mio apprezzamento a Lei, Signor Cardinale, il cui zelo pastorale ho avuto modo di conoscere sin da quando Ella esercitò il suo ministero episcopale nella diocesi di Roma. Ma mi offre pure l’opportunità di rivolgere a voi, sacerdoti della Arcidiocesi di Genova-Bobbio, l’esortazione di essere nel mondo testimoni di Cristo Sacerdote, proclamando la sua lieta verità con la parola e con la vita. 

* * * 

Saluto, poi le religiose appartenenti alle Congregazioni delle Suore della Purezza di Maria e delle Piccole Sorelle dei Poveri; per esse elevo una preghiera alla Madonna perché ottenga loro quelle grazie di luce e di carità, che le sostengano nella loro generosa e totale consacrazione al Signore.

A tutti imparto la mia confortatrice Benedizione Apostolica. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

È per me una vera gioia il concludere anche il fraterno incontro di quest’oggi con un particolare saluto ai giovani, ai malati ed alle coppie degli sposi novelli.

Carissimi, vi esorto a crescere nella consapevolezza dell’amore incomparabile che ha per ciascuno di voi Gesù Redentore, presente invisibilmente ma realmente nella storia vostra e dell’umanità intera. Rispondete alla sua chiamata, aderendo a Lui con la mente e con il cuore, con tutta la vostra persona. Gesù Cristo, con la vita divina che vi comunica mediante i sacramenti, nutre e custodisce la vostra esistenza in ogni momento, sia esso quello di apertura serena alla vita, o quello di dolorosa assimilazione a lui nell’infermità, o quello di gioiosa santificazione matrimoniale. Egli deve poter vivere nella vostra anima con la grazia vivificante. Sull’esempio degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo, di cui domani ricorre la festa, ricambiate la condiscendenza del Signore impegnandovi a testimoniare il suo Vangelo con l’esempio della vostra condotta cristiana, coraggiosamente coerente anche a costo di rinunce e sacrifici.

A tutti la mia Benedizione!

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