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The Church grew in understanding Mary’s role

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 8 November 1995 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. In our preceding catecheses we saw how the doctrine of Mary's motherhood passed from its first formula, "Mother of Jesus", to the more complete and explicit, "Mother of God", even to the affirmation of her maternal involvement in the redemption of humanity.

For other aspects of Marian doctrine as well, many centuries were necessary to arrive at the explicit definition of the revealed truths concerning Mary. Typical examples of this faith journey towards the ever deeper discovery of Mary's role in the history of salvation are the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, proclaimed, as we know by two of my venerable predecessors, respectively, the Servant of God Pius IX in 1854, and the Servant of God Pius XII during the Jubilee Year of 1950.

Mariology is a particular field of theological research: in it the Christian people's love for Mary intuited, frequently in anticipation, certain aspects of the mystery of the Blessed Virgin, calling the attention of theologians and pastors to them.

2. We must recognize that, at first sight, the Gospels offer scant information on the person and life of Mary. We would certainly like to have had fuller information about her, which would have enabled us to know the Mother of God better.

This expectation remains unsatisfied, even in the other New Testament writings where an explicit doctrinal development regarding Mary is lacking. Even St Paul's letters, which offer us a rich reflection on Christ and his work, limit themselves to stating, in a very significant passage, that God sent his Son "born of woman" (Gal 4:4).

Very little is said about Mary's family. If we exclude the infancy narratives, in the Synoptic Gospels we find only two statements which shed some light on Mary: one concerning the attempt by his "brethren" or relatives to take Jesus back to Nazareth (cf. Mk 3:2 1; Mt 12:48); the other, in response to a woman's exclamation about the blessedness of Jesus' Mother (Lk 11:27).

Nevertheless, Luke, in the infancy Gospel, in the episodes of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the birth of Jesus, the presentation of the Child in the temple and his finding among the teachers at the age of 12, not only provides us with some important facts, but presents a sort of "proto-Mariology" of fundamental interest. His information is indirectly completed by Matthew in the account of the annunciation to Joseph (Mt 1:18-25), but only with regard to the virginal conception of Jesus.

Moreover, John's Gospel deepens our knowledge of the value for salvation history of the role played by the Mother of Jesus, when it records her presence at the beginning and end of his public fife. Particularly significant is Mary's presence at the Cross, when she received from her dying Son the charge to be mother to the beloved disciple and, in him, to all Christians (cf. Jn 2:1-12; Jn 19:25-27). Lastly, the Acts of the Apostles expressly numbers the Mother of Jesus among the women of the first community awaiting Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14).

However, in the absence of further New Testament evidence and reliable historical sources, we know nothing of Mary's life after the Pentecost event nor of the date and circumstances of her death. We can only suppose that she continued to live with the Apostle John and that she was very closely involved in the development of the first Christian community.

3. The sparse information on Mary's earthly life is compensated by its quality and theological richness, which contemporary exegesis has carefully brought to light.

Moreover, we must remember that the Evangelists' viewpoint is totally Christological and is concerned with the Mother only in relation to the joyful proclamation of the Son. As St Ambrose observed, the Evangelist, in expounding the mystery of the Incarnation, "believed it was better not to seek further testimonies about Mary's virginity, in order not to seem the defender of the Virgin rather than the preacher of the mystery" (Exp. in Lucam, 2, 6: PL 15, 1555).

We can recognize in this fact a special intention of the Holy Spirit, who desired to awaken in the Church an effort of research which, preserving the centrality of the mystery of Christ, might not be caught up in details about Mary's life, but aim above all at discovering her role in the work of salvation, her personal holiness and her maternal mission in Christian life.

4. The Holy Spirit guides the Church's effort, committing her to take on Mary's own attitudes. In the account of Jesus' birth, Luke noted how his mother kept all these things, "pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2:19), striving, that is, to "put together" (symballousa), in a deeper vision, all the events of which she was the privileged witness.

Similarly, the people of God are also urged by the same Spirit to understand deeply all that has been said about Mary, in order to progress in the knowledge of her mission, intimately linked to the mystery of Christ.

As Mariology develops, the particular role of the Christian people emerges. They co-operate, by the affirmation and witness of their faith, in the progress of Marian doctrine, which normally is not only the work of theologians, even if their task is indispensable to deepening and clearly explaining the datum of faith and the Christian experience itself.

The faith of the simple is admired and praised by Jesus, who recognized in it a marvellous expression of the Father's benevolence (cf. Mt 11:25; Lk 10:21). Down the centuries it continues to proclaim the marvels of the history of salvation, hidden from the wise. This faith, in harmony with the Virgin's simplicity, has led to progress in the recognition of her personal holiness and the transcendent value of her motherhood.

The mystery of Mary commits every Christian, in communion with the Church, "to pondering in his heart" what the Gospel revelation affirms about the Mother of Christ. In the logic of the Magnificat, after the example of Mary, each one will personally experience God's love and will discover a sign of God's tenderness for man in the marvels wrought by the Blessed Trinity in the woman "full of grace"."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Nach dieser Betrachtung grüe ich Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern, ganz herzlich. Unter Euch begrüe ich insbesondere die Pilgergruppe der Marianischen Männerkongregation am Bürgersaal zu München, die anlälich des 50. Jahrestages des Todes von Pater Rupert Mayer nach Rom gekommen ist, und die Professoren der Katholischen Universität Eichstätt. Euch, Euren Angehörigen und allen, die mit uns über Radio oder Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Serdecznie witam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski, a w szczególny sposób ks. bpa Piotra Bednarczyka z Tarnowa oraz ks. bpa Stefanka ze Szczecina. Jeżeli chodzi o poszczególne grupy, to lista została już odczytana. W szczególny sposób pragnę powitać pielgrzymów z Lipnicy Małej na Orawie, grupę ze Spytkowic – parafię Niepokalanego Poczęcia, z Gdańska – Służbę Zdrowia, z Dortmundu w Niemczech –Polską Misję Katolicką i Chór “Kamerton”. Witam także grupy z Nowej Soli, Nowego Sącza, Łosiowa, Sandomierza, Katowic, Warszawy, Opola i Ziemi Leszczyńskiej.

Katecheza dzisiejsza mówi o Matce Bożej, w szczególny sposób o tych wydarzeniach Jej życia, które znajdujemy w Ewangelii św. Łukasza – począwszy od zwiastowania aż do ofiarowania w świątyni – i u św. Mateusza. Znamy na pamięć życie Matki Boskiej i zawsze uczymy się tego życia na nowo, bo w nim znajdujemy jak gdyby otwartą bramę na przyjście Mesjasza, na przyjście Syna Bożego. Przez Nią stał się nam bliski Bóg, Syn Przedwieczny, Współistotny Ojcu, który przyszedł na świat jako człowiek za Jej sprawą. I dlatego jest nam tak droga Matka Boża i dajemy temu wyraz na wszelkie sposoby: w waszych parafiach, w waszych rodzinach, w całej naszej Ojczyźnie. Ten kult maryjny stał się też wielką siłą naszego narodu. “Tyś wielką chlubą naszego narodu” śpiewamy, ale także i wielką siłą. Trzeba, żeby ta siła okazała się większa od wszelkich słabości, które niestety także dają o sobie znać. Tego życzę pielgrzymom tu zgromadzonym i wszystkim moim rodakom.

Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je salue très cordialement les pèlerins de langue française et j’adresse en particulier mes souhaits de bienvenue aux prêtres et aux religieux qui participent au premier Congrès mondial des Aumôniers nationaux de Scouts. Chers amis, je suis heureux de vous voir et je demande au Seigneur de bénir votre ministère auprès des jeunes. L’Eglise suit avec intérêt le travail d’éducation et d’évangélisation que vous accomplissez avec dévouement et compétence.

Que Dieu vous bénisse et qu’Il vous garde dans la fidélité à son Nom!

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to greet the new seminarians and student priests of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. As you take up your studies, may you learn to model your lives ever more closely upon Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the flock.

My cordial greeting goes also to the priests of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, visiting Rome and Assisi on a programme of spiritual renewal. I welcome the members of the South African Rugby team and, remembering my recent visit to your country, I pray that all South Africans will persevere with wisdom in building a society based on justice and mutual respect. Upon all the English–speaking pilgrims and visitors, including those from England, Bermuda and the United States, I gladly invoke God’s gifts of joy and peace.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Doy ahora la bienvenida a los peregrinos de lengua española; de modo particular a las Hermanas de la Compañía de Santa Teresa de Jesús y a la Asociación de Misioneros y Misioneras Identes. Deseo saludar también al grupo de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Buenos Aires y a la Delegación argentina que peregrina a Tierra Santa. Saludo igualmente a los jóvenes paraguayos, así como a los peregrinos españoles, mexicanos y de Estados Unidos. Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí, os imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di espressione linguistica portoghese

Amadíssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa aqui presentes. Faço votos de feliz estada na Cidade Eterna, rogando para todos que a paz de Cristo reine nos vossos corações! Agradeço a vossa participação nesta prece comum, e de modo especial à Delegação aqui presente de índios Makuxi, do Estado de Roraima no Brasil, acompanhados pelo Senhor Cardeal Ersilio Tonini: o Papa deseja assegurar–vos Suas preces para que sejais sempre firmes na fé, sabendo conviver em paz e harmonia, na caridade de Cristo, com todos os povos da vossa terra. Que Nossa Senhora Aparecida seja portadora das mais abundantes graças do Todo–Poderoso, para vós e para as vossas famílias. A todos abençoo de coração!

Ai visitatori giapponesi

Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Cari pellegrini del Giappone, benvenuti a Roma.

Auspico che questo pellegrinaggio sia per voi una buona occasione per ricevere in abbondanza le grazie e la benedizione del Signore.

Rendiamo grazie a Dio.

Ai gruppi italiani

Rivolgo il mio cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, cominciando dai Fratelli della Comunità “Iesus Caritas”: porgo i miei auguri a quanti in questi giorni emettono la professione perpetua, come pure al loro Priore Generale per il 25o di sacerdozio.

Saluto poi i fedeli di San Martino I in Roma, che festeggiano i trent’anni di fondazione della parrocchia; i componenti dell’Associazione Missionaria “Croce Coperta”, di Imola; il folto gruppo di cantori dei Cori Liturgici della diocesi di Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello; la rappresentanza del Comando per le informazioni e la difesa elettronica dell’Esercito, con sede in Anzio; i numerosi cuochi, soci dell’Unione Regionale della Campania; e i lavoratori delle Ceramiche Cisa e Cerdisa di Sassuolo.

Ad alunni ed insegnanti albanesi

Sono lieto inoltre di accogliere alunni e insegnanti della scuola artistica “Prenkë Jakova” di Scutari (Albania), venuti in Italia per tenere alcuni concerti in memoria di Giorgio La Pira ed in segno di riconoscenza verso l’Opera “Madonnina del Grappa”.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Desidero, infine, rivolgermi, come di consueto, ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli. Domani celebreremo la festa liturgica della Dedicazione della Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, cattedrale di Roma. Questa ricorrenza invita voi, cari giovani, a diventare pietre vive e preziose, impiegate per la costruzione della Casa del Signore. Essa incoraggia voi, cari ammalati, ad offrire a Dio il vostro quotidiano sacrificio per il bene di tutta la comunità cristiana; e spinge voi, cari sposi novelli, a rendere le vostre famiglie piccole chiese domestiche.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.


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