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The purpose and method of exposure of Marian doctrine

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 3 January 1996 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. Following the, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, which in chapter eight "set forth painstakingly both the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body, and the duties of the redeemed towards the Mother of God", in this catechesis I would like to offer a basic summary of the Church's faith in Mary, while reaffirming with the Council that I do not intend "to give a complete doctrine on Mary", nor "to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified" (Lumen gentium, n. 54).

It is my intention first of all to describe "the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body" (ibid.), by referring to data from Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, and taking into account the doctrinal development that has taken place in the Church up to our day.

Moreover, since Mary's role in the history of salvation is closely linked to the mystery of Christ and the Church, I will not lose sight of these essential reference points which, by offering Marian doctrine the proper context, enable us to discover its vast and inexhaustible riches.

Exploring the mystery of the Lord's Mother is truly vast and has occupied many Pastors and theologians down the centuries. Some, in their endeavour to point out the central aspects of Mariology, have sometimes treated it together with Christology or ecclesiology. However, taking into account her relationship with all the mysteries of faith, Mary deserves a specific treatment which highlights her person and role in the history of salvation, in the light of the Bible and of ecclesiastical tradition.

2. It also seems useful, following the Council's directives, to explain accurately "the duties of the redeemed towards the Mother of God, who is Mother of Christ and Mother of men, and most of all of those who believe" (ibid.).

Indeed, the role assigned to Mary by the divine plan of salvation requires of Christians not only acceptance and attention, but also concrete choices which express in life the Gospel attitudes of her who goes before the Church in faith and holiness. The Mother of the Lord is thus destined to exercise a special influence on believers' way of praying. The Church's liturgy itself recognizes her singular place in the devotion and life of every believer.

It is necessary to emphasize that Marian teaching and devotion are not the fruit of sentimentality. The mystery of Mary is a revealed truth which imposes itself on the intellect of believers and requires of those in the Church who have the task of studying and teaching a method of doctrinal reflection no less rigorous than that used in all theology.

Moreover, Jesus himself had invited his contemporaries not to be led by enthusiasm in considering his Mother, recognizing in Mary especially the one who is blessed because she listens to the word of God and keeps it (cf. Lk 11:28).

Not only affection but particularly the light of the Spirit must guide us in understanding the Mother of Jesus and her contribution to the work of salvation.

3. With regard to the measure and balance to be maintained in both Marian doctrine and devotion, the Council strongly urges theologians and preachers of the divine word "to be careful to refrain ... from all false exaggeration" (Lumen gentium, n. 67).

This exaggeration comes from those who adopt a maximalist attitude, which seeks to extend systematically to Mary the prerogatives of Christ and all the charisms of the Church.

Instead, it is always necessary in Marian doctrine to safeguard the infinite difference existing between the human person of Mary and the divine person of Jesus. To attribute the "maximum" to Mary cannot become a norm of Mariology, which must make constant reference to the testimony of Revelation regarding God's gifts to the Virgin on account of her sublime mission.

Likewise, the Council exhorts theologians and preachers to "refrain ... from too summary an attitude" (ibid.), that is, from the danger of a minimalism that can be manifest in doctrinal positions, in exegetical interpretations and in acts of devotion which tend to reduce and almost deny Mary's importance in the history of salvation, her perpetual virginity and her holiness.

Such extreme positions should always be avoided through a consistent and sincere fidelity to revealed truth as expressed in Scripture and in the Apostolic Tradition.

4. The Council itself offers us a criterion for discerning authentic Marian doctrine: Mary "occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and also closest to us" (Lumen gentium, n. 54).

The highest place: we must discover this lofty position granted to Mary in the mystery of salvation. However, it is a question of a vocation totally in relationship to Christ.

The place closest to us: our life is profoundly influenced by Mary's example and intercession. Nonetheless we must ask ourselves about our effort to be close to her. The entire teaching of salvation history invites us to look to the Virgin. Christian asceticism in every age invites us to think of her as a model of perfect adherence to the Lord's will. The chosen model of holiness, Mary guides the steps of believers on their journey to heaven.

Through her closeness to the events of our daily history, Mary sustains us in trials; she encourages us in difficulty, always pointing out to us the goal of eternal salvation. Thus her role as Mother is seen ever more clearly: Mother of her Son Jesus, tender and vigilant Mother to each one of us, to whom, from the Cross, the Redeemer entrusted her, that we might welcome her as children in faith."

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

Chers frères et soeurs, Je souhaite la bienvenue aux personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience. Je salue notamment le groupe des pèle rins maronites du Liban. Chers amis, je suis heureux de vous accueillir et je demande à la Vierge Marie de vous aider à grandir dans la foi, dans l'espérance et dans l'amour du Christ et de l'Église. Que Dieu vous bénisse et qu'Il vous garde!

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to welcome the English speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially the group of School Sisters of Notre Dame and the pilgrims from Australia and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings for the New Year.

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder! Mi diesen kurzen Ausführungen grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen zu Hause sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen wünsche ich ein glückliches und friedvolles Neues Jahr und erteile gern den Apostolischen Segen.

Alla squadra nazionale di hockey dei Paesi Bassi

Nu groet ik het Nederlands Nationaal Hockeyteam. Van harte wens ik u toe dat het nieuwe jaar ook in sportief opzicht in het teken mag staan van vrede en verzoening van de volkeren. God zegene u allen!

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos venidos desde América Latina y España. Particularmente a los miembros del Movimiento « Regnum Christi », así como a los componentes de la Asociación de Fieles Franciscanos de María, de Madrid, y a los peregrinos argentinos de San Miguel de Tucumán. Para todos, con mi Bendición Apostólica, los mejores deseos para el año recién iniciado.

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs de língua portuguesa, saúdo cordialmente aqueles que me escutam, desejando-lhes felicidades, com os favores de Deus, e que o ano que está a começar seja realmente, para todos, com a protecção de Maria Santíssima, um Ano bom!

Ai fedeli polacchi

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski. W SZCZEGÓLNOŚCI z miasta Krosna, w zwi zku z kanonizacjá bł. Jana z Dukli, prócz tego pracowników Okręgowego Szpitala Kolejowego w Krakowie oraz innych obecnych tutaj Polaków. Nowy rok rozpoczal się od uroczystości macierzyństwa Matki Najświętszej. Polecam temu macierzyństwu Bożej Rodzicielki was, tutaj obecnych, i wszystkich rodaków w Ojczyźnie i na całym świecie. Szczęść Boże!

Ai gruppi provenienti da diverse diocesi italiane

Rivolgo un saluto cordiale al Legionari di Cristo, che oggi hanno voluto essere presenti con tutta la loro Comunità di Roma. Carissimi, il mistero dell'Incarnazione celebrato in questo tempo liturgico vi illumini nel cammino della fedeltà a Cristo. Come Maria, sappiate custodire, meditare e seguire il Verbo che a Betlemme si è fatto carne, per diffonderne con generosità l'universale messaggio salvifico.

Un pensiero speciale va poi ai vari gruppi parrocchiali, in particolare ai fedeli di San Giorgio Martire in Liveri, che affido alla protezione della Madonna, da loro venerata col titolo di santa Maria a Parete, a quelli del Buon Pastore in Sottomarina, per i quali benedico la prima pietra della nuova chiesa, e ai fanciulli del Ventinovesimo « Canarino d'oro » della parrocchia di Santa Maria in Calisese, che esorto a perseverare nella fedele adesione a Gesù e nel generoso sostegno alla diffusione del suo Vangelo.

A tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana presenti a questa prima Udienza generale del 1996 porgo un fervido augurio di pace e di bene per il nuovo anno.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Mi rivolgo infine ai malati, agli sposi novelli ed ai giovani, tra i quali saluto gli studenti appartenenti al movimento di Comunione e Liberazione venuti da Cesena, Busto Arsizio e Gallarate.

A voi, cari giovani, auguro di saper considerare ogni giorno come un dono di Dio, un'occasione provvidenziale per accogliere la sua Parola e metterla in pratica; per voi, cari malati, il nuovo anno porti consolazione nel corpo e nello spirito; e voi, cari sposi novelli, possiate imitare la Santa Famiglia di Nazaret realizzando un'autentica comunità di vita e d'amore.


© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana