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Mary is the Virgin Mother of God

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 13 September 1995 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. In the Constitution Lumen gentium, the Council states that "joined to Christ the head and in communion with all his saints, the faithful must in the first place reverence the memory 'of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ'" (n. 52). The conciliar Constitution uses these terms from the Roman Canon of the Mass, thereby stressing how faith in the divine motherhood of Mary has been present in Christian thought since the first centuries.

In the newborn Church Mary is remembered with the title "Mother of Jesus". It is Luke himself who gives her this title in the Acts of the Apostles, a title that corresponds moreover to what is said in the Gospels: "Is this not ... the son of Mary?", the residents of Nazareth wonder according to the Evangelist Mark's account (6:3); "Isn't Mary known to be his mother?", is the question recorded by Matthew (13:55).

2. In the disciples' eyes, as they gathered after the Ascension, the title "Mother of Jesus" acquires its full meaning. For them, Mary is a person unique in her kind: she received the singular grace of giving birth to the Saviour of humanity; she lived for a long while at his side; and on Calvary she was called by the Crucified One to exercise a "new motherhood" in relation to the beloved disciple and, through him, to the whole Church.

For these who believe in Jesus and follow him, "Mother of Jesus" is a title of honour and veneration, and will forever remain such in the faith and life of the Church. In a particular way, by this title Christians mean to say that one cannot refer to Jesus' origins without acknowledging the role of the woman who gave him birth in the Spirit according to his human nature. Her maternal role also involves the birth and growth of the Church. In recalling the place of Mary in Jesus' life, the faithful discover each day her efficacious presence in their own spiritual journey.

3. From the beginning, the Church has acknowledged the virginal motherhood of Mary. As the infancy Gospels enable us to grasp, the first Christian continuities themselves gathered together Mary's recollections about the mysterious circumstances of the Saviour's conception and birth. In particular, the Annunciation account responds to the disciples' desire to have the deepest knowledge of the events connected with the beginnings of the risen Christ's earthly life. In the last analysis, Mary is at the origin of the revelation about the mystery of the virginal conception by the work of the Holy Spirit.

This truth, showing Jesus' divine origin, was immediately grasped by the first Christians for its important significance and included among the key affirmations of their faith. Son of Joseph according to the law, Jesus in fact, by an extraordinary intervention of the Holy Spirit, was in his humanity only the son of Mary, since he was born without the intervention of man.

Mary's virginity thus acquires a unique value and casts new light on the birth of Jesus and on the mystery of his sonship, since the virginal generation is the sign that Jesus has God himself as his Father.

Acknowledged and proclaimed by the faith of the Fathers, the virginal motherhood can never be separated from the identity of Jesus, true God and true man, as "born of the Virgin Mary", as we profess in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Mary is the only Virgin who is also a Mother. The extraordinary co-presence of these two gifts in the person of the maiden of Nazareth has led Christians to call Mary simply "the Virgin", even when they celebrate her motherhood.

The virginity of Mary thus initiates in the Christian community the spread of the virginal life embraced by all who are called to it by the Lord. This special vocation, which reaches its apex in Christ's example, represents immeasurable spiritual wealth for the Church in every age, which finds in Mary her inspiration and model.

4 The assertion: "Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary" already implies in this event a transcendent mystery, which can find its most complete expression only in the truth of Jesus' divine sonship. The truth of Mary's divine motherhood is closely tied to this central statement of the Christian faith: she is indeed the Mother of the Incarnate Word, in whom is "God from God ... true God from me God". The title "Mother of God", already attested by Matthew in the equivalent expression "Mother of Emmanuel", God-with-us (cf. Mt 1.23), was explicitly attributed to Mary only after a reflection that embraced about two centuries. It is third-century Christians in Egypt who begin to invoke Mary as "Theotókos", Mother of God.

With this title, which is broadly echoed in the devotion of the Christian people, Mary is seen in the true dimension of her motherhood: she is the Mother of God's Son, whom she virginally begot according to his human nature and raised him with her motherly love, thus contributing to the human growth of the dime person who came to transform the destiny of mankind.

5. In a highly significant way, the most ancient prayer to Mary ("Sub tuum praesidium...", "We fly to thy patronage...") contains the invocation: "Theotókos, Mother of God". This title did not originally come from the reflection of theologians, but from an intuition of faith of the Christian people. Those who acknowledge Jesus as God address Mary as the Mother of God and hope to obtain her powerful aid in the trials of life.

The Council of Ephesus in 431 defined the dogma of the divine motherhood, officially attributing to Mary the title "Theotókos" in reference to the one person of Christ, true God and true man.

The three expressions which the Church has used down the centuries to describe her faith in the motherhood of Mary: "Mother of Jesus", "Virgin Mother" and "Mother of God", thus show that Mary's motherhood is intimately linked with the mystery of the Incarnation. They are affirmations of doctrine, connected as well with popular piety, which help define the very identity of Christ."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je souhaite la bienvenue aux pèlerins de langue française. Je salue en particulier le groupe d’anciens du diocèse d’Oran. Chers amis, je vous remercie de prier pour l’Afrique à la veille du voyage que je vais entreprendre. Que le Christ, Fils de Dieu, Fils de Marie et frère de tous les hommes, protège l’Afrique et tous les Africains!

Que Dieu vous bénisse et qu’Il vous garde!

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to greet the English–speaking visitors and pilgrims present today, especially those from England, Ireland, Indonesia, India, Korea, the Philippines and the United States of America. Upon all of you, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai pellegrini giapponesi

Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Cari pellegrini del Giappone, benvenuti a Roma.

Auspico che il vostro pellegrinaggio romano diventi una buona occasione per rinnovare la vostra fede cristiana, per rinforzare la vostra buona volontà, e per testimoniarla verso il vostro prossimo.

Rendiamo grazie a Dio.

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Nach dieser Betrachtung grüe ich Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, sehr herzlich. Besonders heie ich die Teilnehmer an den Leserreisen der Kirchenzeitung für das Erzbistum Köln und des Bistumsblattes ”Paulinus“ aus Trier sowie die Evangelisch–Lutherische Kirchengemeinde Schnathorst–Tengern willkommen. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen und all jenen, die uns in der gläubigen Verehrung der Mutter Gottes verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo cordialmente a los visitantes de lengua española; en particular a los peregrinos y grupos parroquiales de España, Nicaragua, Colombia, Argentina y Puerto Rico. Asimismo, saludo a la Delegación de Militares chilenos y a los argentinos del colegio de Salta “Bachillerato Humanista Moderno” y de la Fundación Universitaria del Río de la Plata. Saludo también a los numerosos jóvenes de las Comunidades Neocatecumenales de España y México. Al desearos que todos vosotros améis cada vez más a la Virgen María, os imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, saúdo–vos a todos, especialmente aos visitantes de Portugal e aos brasileiros vindos de Matão, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina e São Paulo. Neste dia de peregrinação ao Santuário de Fátima, penso também na multidão de fiéis lá reunida, retornando peregrino em espírito para confiar à Virgem Maria de modo particular os caminhos da evangelização e da paz em África. Amanhã, se Deus quiser, irei visitar a África para, com os seus filhos e filhas, celebrar e confirmar as suas comunidades cristãs na fidelidade a este momento histórico de graça que é a Assembleia Sinodal, vivida por tão esperançoso Continente. Peço a todos os homens e mulheres de boa vontade que não esqueçam a África! Peço aos crentes que me acompanhem, peregrinos comigo do Evangelho da esperança, da vida e da paz. A todos os presentes e aos vossos familiares, a minha Bênção Apostólica!

Ai fedeli polacchi  

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski! W szczególności witam ks. bpa Ignacego Jeża, który – jak przystało na jego osiemdziesiątkę – pielgrzymował do Loreto z młodzieżą europejską i tam ich wszystkich odmładzał swoimi wspomnieniami, w szczególności z obozu koncentracyjnego w Dachau.

Pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski: z Krakowa – straż pożarną ze Zdybniowic–Wróblowic, Katolickie Stowarzyszenie Młodzieży – KSM w drodze z Loreto do Krakowa, z Mistrzejowic – parafię Matki Bożej Nieustającej Pomocy oraz zespół z Zakopanego, który już swoje odegrał no i ze skutkiem, bo deszcz przeszedł: (“Nie lyj dyscu, nie lyj”). Witam grupy: z Warszawy – pielgrzymkę archidiecezji, młodzież akademicką z Warszawy–Pragi, parafię Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej, Narodzenia Pańskiego oraz Liceum Ogólnokształcące Sióstr Nazaretanek; z Łodzi – parafię Najświętszej Eucharystii; z Lublina – parafię Serca Pana Jezusa; również młodzież z diecezji drohiczyńskiej, radomskiej, pelplińskiej, siedleckiej, z archidiecezji szczecińskiej orazChór “Hejnał” ze Szczecina. Dobrze, że deszcz przeszedł, bo byłoby ciężko śpiewać! Bardzo dziękujemy za tę pieśń! Pozdrawiam ponadto inne grupy z wielu miast Polski: z Katowic, Kołobrzegu, Słupska, Mirkowa, Rychnowic, Nysy, Piły, Pelplina, Bydgoszczy, Jelcza, Nowego Targu, Białegostoku, Zabrza, Nowego Sącza, Zielonej Góry, Rybnika i Bielska–Białej.

Katecheza dzisiejsza była druga w cyklu maryjnym. Po katechezach o Kościele, które trwały parę lat, mamy teraz cykl maryjny, bliski naszemu sercu. Jesteśmy w dobrym momencie, bo wczoraj była uroczystość Imienia Matki Bożej, a pojutrze będzie uroczystość Matki Boskiej Bolesnej. Te dwie uroczystości odnoszą się do tej samej tajemnicy Bogarodzicy, Matki Chrystusa, Matki Boga–Człowieka. Tajemnicy, która jest jedną z kluczowych tajemnic naszej wiary – wiary we wcielenie Słowa Przedwiecznego, Syna Bożego i w odkupienie świata. Stąd ta nasza pobożność maryjna jest zawsze pobożnością skoncentrowaną na Chrystusie, na Jego zbawczym dziele. Starajmy się, ażeby święta maryjne, które tak wiele zawsze znaczyły dla Polaków, nie traciły na swoim znaczeniu również na tym ostatnim etapie, kiedy przecież przybliżamy się do początku trzeciego tysiąclecia od narodzenia Chrystusa, czyli od tajemnicy wcielenia.

Bóg zapłać za wasze odwiedziny i za śpiew, i szczęść Boże!

Ai gruppi di pellegrini italiani

Nel salutare i pellegrini di lingua italiana, rivolgo anzitutto il mio pensiero ai sacerdoti delle Diocesi di Bologna, Forlì, Cesena e Rimini, che celebrano il 50o di sacerdozio. Carissimi Fratelli, il Buon Pastore vi ricolmi sempre della sua carità. Saluto inoltre le Suore Piccole Missionarie Eucaristiche. Care Sorelle, il Capitolo Generale che state svolgendo rinnovi il vostro slancio apostolico al servizio dell’educazione cristiana, specialmente dei più svantaggiati.

* * *

Desidero rivolgere anche un cordiale benvenuto ai bambini di Chernobyl, ospiti della Diocesi di Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro. Saluto poi i giovani della parrocchia di Sant’Andrea in Maggianico (Lecco), per i quali volentieri accendo la fiaccola, che essi porteranno quale segno di pace e di amicizia.

* * *

Sono lieto di accogliere le Rappresentanti della “Lega per l’allattamento materno”, come pure le Socie della Federazione Italiana Donne Arti Professioni ed Affari, ed auspico che le loro rispettive attività contribuiscano a sostenere le donne nel duplice compito di madri e di lavoratrici.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati agli sposi novelli

Il mio pensiero va infine ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli oggi presenti. Domani la Chiesa celebra la festa dell’Esaltazione della Santa Croce. Cari giovani, ringrazio Dio perché nei vostri raduni, anche nell’ultimo a Loreto, portate sempre la Croce. Avete capito che essa è segno di amore e di vita: siate fedeli alla Croce di Cristo! Voi, cari malati, che portate il peso della vostra condizione, condividetelo con Cristo e, uniti a Lui, offritelo per la salvezza del mondo. E voi, cari sposi novelli, ponete la vostra famiglia sotto il segno della Croce, per vivere ogni giorno nella reciproca donazione.

Annunciata la convocazione dei Vescovi della Bosnia ed Erzegovina, della Croazia, della Federazione Jugoslava, della Macedonia e della Slovenia  

Pieno di gratitudine al Signore per l’indimenticabile incontro con tanti giovani, radunati intorno alla Madonna di Loreto, desidero oggi invitarvi a continuare a pregare per la pace nella regione del Sud-est dell’Europa, specialmente nella martoriata Bosnia Erzegovina.

Ampi settori di quelle popolazioni sono tuttora sottoposti a gravissime sofferenze, ma tutti auspichiamo che i negoziati in corso siano i primi passi verso la pace. Sappiamo quanto è difficile edificare la pace su basi ferme e giuste. Tutto ciò esige non solo il rispetto di tutti i diritti umani, il ritorno degli esuli e dei profughi, ma anche e soprattutto il perdono e la riconciliazione.

La Chiesa cattolica, fedele alla missione affidatale dal Signore, continuerà a promuovere e ad appoggiare ogni iniziativa dei “costruttori di pace”. In questo contesto, ho convocato a Roma, per martedì 17 ottobre prossimo, i Vescovi della Bosnia Erzegovina, della Croazia, della Federazione Jugoslava, della Macedonia e della Slovenia, per studiare insieme a loro come affrettare l’avvento di una pace duratura e venire incontro alle legittime esigenze di quanti sono vittime di questa interminabile guerra.

Vi invito fin d’ora a pregare per il buon esito di tale incontro.


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