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Mary was united to Jesus on the Cross

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 25 October 1995 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. Saying that "the Virgin Mary ... is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer" (Lumen gentium, n. 53), the Council draws attention to the link between Mary's motherhood and Redemption.

After becoming aware of the maternal role of Mary, who was venerated in the teaching and worship of the first centuries as the virginal Mother of Jesus Christ and therefore as the Mother of God, in the Middle Ages the Church's piety and theological reflection brought to light her co-operation in the Saviour's work.

This delay is explained by the fact that the efforts of the Church Fathers and of the early Ecumenical Councils, focused as they were on Christ's identity, necessarily left other aspects of dogma aside. Only gradually could the revealed truth be unfolded in all its richness. Down the centuries, Mariology would always take its direction from Christology. The divine motherhood of Mary was itself proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus primarily to affirm the oneness of Christ's person. Similarly, there was a deeper understanding of Mary's presence in salvation history.

2. At the end of the second century, St Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, already pointed out Mary's contribution to the work of salvation. He understood the value of Mary's consent at the time of the Annunciation, recognizing in the Virgin of Nazareth's obedience to and faith in the angel's message the perfect antithesis of Eve's disobedience and disbelief, with a beneficial effect on humanity's destiny. In fact, just as Eve caused death, so Mary, with her "yes", became "a cause of salvation" for herself and for all mankind (cf. Adv. Haer., III, 22, 4; SC 211, 441). But this affirmation was not developed in a consistent and systematic way by the other Fathers of the Church.

Instead, this doctrine was systematically worked out for the first time at the end of the 10th century in the Life of Mary by a Byzantine monk, John the Geometer. Here Mary is united to Christ in the whole work of Redemption, sharing, according to God's plan, in the Cross and suffering for our salvation. She remained united to the Son "in every deed, attitude and wish" (cf. Life of Mary, Bol. 196, f. 122 v.). Mary's association with Jesus' saving work came about through her Mother's love, a love inspired by grace, which conferred a higher power on it: love freed of passion proves to be the most compassionate (cf. ibid., Bol. 196, f. 123 v.).

3. In the West St Bernard, who died in 1153, turns to Mary and comments on the presentation of Jesus in the temple: "Offer your Son, sacrosanct Virgin, and present the fruit of your womb to the Lord. For our reconciliation with all, offer the heavenly victim pleasing to God" (Serm. 3 in Purif., 2: PL 183, 370).

A disciple and friend of St Bernard, Arnold of Chartres, shed light particularly on Mary's offering in the sacrifice of Calvary. He distinguished in the Cross "two altars: one in Mary's heart, the other in Christ's body. Christ sacrificed his flesh, Mary her soul". Mary sacrificed herself spiritually in deep communion with Christ, and implored the world's salvation: "What the mother asks, the Son approves and the Father grants" (cf. De septem verbis Domini in cruce, 3: PL 189, 1694).

From this age on other authors explain the doctrine of Mary's special cooperation in the redemptive sacrifice.

4. At the same time, in Christian worship and piety contemplative reflection on Mary's "compassion" developed, poignantly depicted in images of the Pietà. Mary's sharing in the drama of the Cross makes this event more deeply human and helps the faithful to enter into the mystery: the Mother's compassion more clearly reveals the Passion of the Son.

With the participation in the redemptive work of Christ, the spiritual and universal motherhood of Mary is also recognized. In the East, John the Geometer told Mary: "You are our mother". Giving Mary thanks "for the sorrow and suffering she bore for us", he sheds light on her maternal affection and motherly regard for all those who receive salvation (cf. Farewell Discourse on the Dormition of Our Most Glorious Lady, Mother of God, in A. Wenger, L'Assomption de la Très Sainte Vierge dans la tradition byzantine, p. 407).

In the West too, the doctrine of the spiritual motherhood developed with St Anselm, who asserted: "You are the mother ... of reconciliation and the reconciled, the mother of salvation and the saved" (cf. Oratio 52, 8: PL 158, 957 A).

Mary does not cease to be venerated as the Mother of God, but the fact that she is our Mother gives her divine motherhood a new aspect that opens within us the way to a more intimate communion with her.

5. Mary's motherhood in our regard does not only consist of an affective bond: because of her merits and her intercession she contributes effectively to our spiritual birth and to the development of the life of grace within us. This is why Mary is called "Mother of grace" and "Mother of life".

The title "Mother of life", already employed by St Gregory of Nyssa, was explained as follows by Bl. Guerric of Igny, who died in 1157: "She is the Mother of the Life from whom all men take life: in giving birth to this life herself, she has somehow given rebirth to all those who have lived it. Only one was begotten, but we have all been reborn" (In Assumpt. I, 2: PL 185, 188).

A 13th-century text, the Mariale, used a vivid image in attributing this rebirth to the "painful travail" of Cavalry, by which "she became the spiritual mother of the whole human race". Indeed, "in her chaste womb she conceived by compassion the children of the Church" (Q. 29, par. 3).

6. The Second Vatican Council, after stating that Mary "in a wholly singular way co-operated in the work of the Saviour", concludes: "for this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace" (Lumen gentium, n. 61), thus confirming the Church's perception that Mary is at the side of her Son as the spiritual Mother of all humanity.

Mary is our Mother: this consoling truth, offered to us ever more clearly and profoundly by the love and faith of the Church, has sustained and sustains the spiritual life of us all, and encourages us, even in suffering, to have faith and hope."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’ai le plaisir d’accueillir les membres du Chapitre général des Religieuses de Jésus–Marie. Vous avez choisi de méditer sur la communion avec le Christ et dans l’Eglise. Que l’intercession de sainte Claudine Thévenet et de la bienheureuse Dina Bélanger vous obtienne de progresser dans cette communion et d’accomplir toujours mieux vos missions!

Je salue aussi les membres de la Congrégation des Religieux de Saint–Vincent–de–Paul qui célèbrent le cent cinquantième anniversaire de leur fondation. Que le grand saint dont ils invoquent le patronage les soutienne dans leur ministère et dans leurs services fraternels de charité!

A vous tous, jeunes et aînés, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to greet the priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who are in Rome to follow a programme of spiritual renewal. To the "Pueri Cantores" of the Church of St Margaret’s, Westminster, to the Chamber Choir "Canzonetta" from the Lutheran Church in Joensuu, Finland, and to the Executive Band from the Philippines, I express my gratitude for their praise of God in music and song. Upon all the English–speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Japan and the United States of America, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of Christ our Saviour.

Ai fedeli tedeschi

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen Überlegungen richte ich meinen herzlichen Willkommensgru an Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern. Mein besonderer Gru gilt den Mitgliedern der Industrie – und Handelskammer Augsburg und Schwaben, den Aussiedlern aus Nordrhein–Westfalen, den zahlreichen Jugend –, Ministranten – und Schülergruppen sowie den anwesenden evangelischen Mitchristen. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen zu Hause sowie all jenen, die uns über Radio und Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española. En particular a los miembros de la Acción Católica Argentina y de la Escuela Superior de la Gendarmería Nacional de Buenos Aires, y a los Agregados Militares y de Policía de Colombia. Así como a la Hospitalidad de Lourdes de Coria–Cáceres y a los demás peregrinos de España, Perú, México, Paraguay, Colombia y Argentina. Que al meditar sobre María, penetremos más íntimamente en el misterio supremo de la Encarnación, identificándonos con Cristo.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Caríssimos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, especialmente os visitantes anunciados de Portugal e do Brasil, e também o grupo de ítalo–brasileiros do Estado de Espírito Santo: este mês do Rosário incita–nos a perseverar na reza diária do terço, incluindo nela a contemplação dos mistérios da Redenção. Que as vossas famílias se reúnam assim quotidianamente com a Virgem Mãe, para d’Ela aprenderem a cooperar plenamente com os desígnios de salvação que Deus tem sobre vós. Como encorajamento e penhor de graças, douvos a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Witam serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski. W szczególności Księdza Kardynała Metropolitę Krakowskiego, który zechciał mnie tu w tych dniach odwiedzić. Prócz tego witam przyjaciół Fundacji Jana Pawła II z Europy i ze Stanów Zjednoczonych; witam Komisję Krajową “Solidarności” z przewodniczącym dr. Marianem Krzaklewskim, z okazji 15. rocznicy założenia. Witam również przedstawicieli rolników zrzeszonych, z okazji 100. rocznicy ruchu ludowego. Pozdrawiam poszczególne parafie: z archidiecezji krakowskiej pielgrzymów z Nowego Bierzanowa, Alwernii, Gronkowa, Zębu k. Zakopanego – młodzież i nauczycieli, z Warszawy – służbę zdrowia ze szpitala św. Zofii. Prócz tego grupy: z Mińska Mazowieckiego, Białegostoku – Liceum Ogólnokształcące, z archidiecezji lubelskiej i poznanskiej, z Nowej Soli, Zabrza, Rzeszowa, Gorlic, Kartuz, Opola, Katowic i Kraśnika.

Dzisiejsza katecheza to dalszy ciąg katechez na temat Matki Bożej. Ukazuje w sposób szczególny to zadanie, jakie wiąże się z Bożym macierzyństwem Maryi. Będąc Matką Boga–Człowieka, była Matką Odkupiciela i jako Matka Odkupiciela uczestniczyła w naszym odkupieniu. Taka jest wiara Kościoła od samego początku, a zwłaszcza w drugim tysiącleciu.

Nasze chrześcijaństwo na ziemi polskiej jest związane z drugim tysiącleciem i dlatego też znaki, świadectwa tego uczestnictwa Maryi w odkupieniu człowieka, w odkupieniu nas, ludzi mieszkających na tej ziemi, w naszej Ojczyźnie, są bardzo mocne. Trudno zliczyć wszystkie ślady tego świadectwa, tej wiary i tego życia maryjnego, choćby z samego Krakowa, ale nie tylko, z całej Polski.

Bardzo serdecznie witam dzisiaj, podczas tej audiencji, przedstawicieli Krajowego Zarządu “Solidarności”. Tym bardziej, że w tym roku mija 15 lat od powstania “Solidarności”. Wydarzenie ważne i historyczne. Ważne dla nas, ważne dla Europy, ważne dla świata. Pamiętajcie, panowie, że nosicie to wielkie dziedzictwo “Solidarności” w swojej wspólnocie, “Solidarności”, która nie tylko powstała, ale także trwa. Trwa i nigdy nie dała się usunąć z polskiej sceny społeczno–politycznej. Życzę wam, ażeby wasza obecność była również i na przyszłość trwała i znacząca, i owocna.

Analogiczne życzenia kieruję także do Zrzeszenia Polskich Rolników, które liczy już 100 lat i które ma swój wielki wkład w dzieje tego 100–lecia. Wystarczy przypomnieć I wojnę światową, wojnę 20. roku i wszystko, co potem nastąpiło, i drugą niepodległość, II wojnę światową i to, co potem z kolei nastąpiło, aż do dzisiaj.

Szczęść Boże wszystkim naszym braciom rolnikom, którzy żywią i bronią. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai gruppi di fedeli italiani

Rivolgo un caloroso benvenuto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare al gruppo della parrocchia dei santi Damiano e Cosma in Terracina, che celebra il 25° di fondazione. Carissimi, so che tra un mese sarà dedicata la vostra chiesa parrocchiale, di cui ho benedetto la prima pietra. Siate voi stessi pietre vive della Chiesa di Dio!

Saluto poi il gruppo della Scuola del Corpo Forestale dello Stato di Sabaudia, con l’augurio di un proficuo corso di aggiornamento. Saluto anche i bambini bielorussi, ospiti di famiglie delle parrocchie romane di san Giovanni Battista de Rossi e dello Spirito Santo: cari ragazzi, spero che queste belle giornate di ottobre giovino alla vostra salute.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgendo infine un pensiero ai giovani, agli sposi novelli ed ai numerosi malati presenti a questa Udienza di fine ottobre, desidero raccomandare in modo speciale la recita del santo Rosario.

Questa semplice e suggestiva preghiera mariana indichi a voi giovani la strada per seguire Cristo con coraggio e generosità; essa diventi per voi sposi novelli un momento privilegiato di intimità spirituale nella vostra nuova famiglia.

Ma oggi soprattutto mi rivolgo a voi, cari ammalati, che vedo qui particolarmente numerosi. I malati sono tra coloro che maggiormente amano la preghiera del Rosario, che reca consolazione alla mente ed al cuore. Vi ringrazio perché spesso nel recitarla tenete presenti le intenzioni della Chiesa e del Papa. Vi assicuro che anche il Papa nel Rosario prega per voi, specialmente meditando i “misteri dolorosi”: sentiamoci uniti in questa preghiera, uniti per la salvezza delle anime, per il conforto degli abbandonati e per la pace e la giustizia tra gli uomini ed i popoli.

A tutti imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione.


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