Mary Is Model of Persevering Silence

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

The Blessed Virgin invites the church to meditate constantly on the mystery of Christ and she witnesses to the significance of quiet humility and loving obedience

"Our Lady's motherly smile, reproduced in so much Marian iconography, expresses a fullness of grace and peace that seeks to be shared. This expression of her serenity of spirit effectively contributes to giving the Church a joyful face", the Holy Father said at the General Audience on Wednesday, 22 November, as he continued his reflections on the Virgin Mary, The Pope's catechesis on Mary's influence on the Church's life was the sixth in the series on the Blessed Mother and was given in Italian.

1. After reflecting on the Marian dimension of ecclesial life, we are now going to cast light on the immense spiritual wealth Mary communicates to the Church by her example and her intercession.

We would first like to pause and briefly reflect on some significant aspects of Mary's personality, which offer all believers valuable guidance in accepting and fulfilling their own vocation.

Mary has gone before us on the way of faith: believing the angel's message, she was the first to welcome the mystery of the Incarnation and did so perfectly (cf. Redemptoris Mater,n. 13). Her journey as a believer began even earlier than her divine motherhood and developed more deeply throughout her earthly experience. Hers was a daring faith. At the Annunciation she believed in what was humanly impossible, and at Cana she urged Jesus to work his first miracle, pressing him to manifest his messianic powers (cf. Jn 2:1-5).

Mary teaches Christians to live their faith as a demanding and engaging journey, which, in every age and situation of life, requires courage and constant perseverance.

Mary's was a humble and hidden life

2. Mary's docility to the divine will was linked to her faith. Believing in God's word, she could accept it fully in her life and, showing herself receptive to God's sovereign plan, she accepted all that was asked of her from on high.

Our Lady's presence in the Church thus encourages Christians to listen to the word of the Lord every day, to understand his loving plan in various daily events, and to co-operate faithfully in bringing it about.

3. This is how Mary teaches the community of believers to look to the future with total abandonment to God. In the Virgin's personal experience, hope isenriched with ever new reasons. Since the Annunciation, Mary concentrates the expectations of ancient Israel on the Son of God, incarnate in her virginal womb. Her hope was strengthened during the successive stages of Jesus' hidden life in Nazareth and his public ministry. Her great faith in the word of Christ, who had announced his Resurrection on the third day, prevented her from wavering, even when faced with the drama of the Cross. She retained her hope in the fulfilment of the messianic work and steadfastly, after the darkness of Good Friday, awaited the morning of the Resurrection.

Ontheir difficult path through history, between the "already" of salvation received and the "not yet" of its fulfilment, the community of believers know they can count on the help of the "Mother of Hope". After experiencing Christ's victory over the powers of death, she communicates to them an ever new capacity to await God's future and to abandon themselves to the Lord's promises.

4. Mary's example enables the Church better to appreciate the value of silence. Mary's silence is not only moderation in speech, but it is especially a wise capacity for remembering and embracing in a single gaze of faith the mystery of the Word made man and the events of his earthly life.

It is this silence as acceptance of the Word, this ability to meditate on the mystery of Christ, that Mary passes on to believers. In a noisey world filled with messages of all kinds, her witness enables us to appreciate a spiritually rich silence and fosters a contemplative spirit.

Mary witnesses to the value of a humble and hidden life. Everyone usually demands, and sometimes almost claims, to be able to realize fully his own person and qualities. Everyone is sensitive to esteem and honour. The Gospels frequently mention that the Apostles were ambitious for the most important places in the kingdom and they argued among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. In this matter Jesus had to teach them the need for humility and service (cf. Mt 18:1-5; 20:20-28; Mk 9:33-37; 10:35-45; Lk 9:46-48; 22:24-27). Mary, on the contrary, never sought honour or the advantages of a privileged position; she always tried to fulfil God's will, leading a life according to the Father's plan of salvation.

To all those who often feel the burden of a seemingly insignificant life, Mary reveals how valuable life can be if it is lived for love of Christ and one's brothers and sisters.

5. Mary, moreover, witnesses to the value of a life that is pure and full of tenderness for all men. The beauty of her soul, totally offered to the Lord, is an object of admiration for the Christian people. In Mary, the Christian community has always seen the ideal woman, full of love and tenderness because she lived in purity of mind and body.

Faced with the cynicism of a certain contemporary culture, which too often seems not to recognize the value of chastity and degrades sexuality by separating it from personal dignity and God's plan, the Virgin Mary holds up the witness of a purity that illumines the conscience and leads to a greater love for creatures and for the Lord.

6. Furthermore, Mary appears to Christians of all times as the one who feels deep compassion for the sufferings of humanity. This compassion does not consist only in an emotional sympathy, but is expressed in effective and concrete help when confronted with humanity's material and moral misery.

In following Mary, the Church is called to take on the same attitude towards all the earth's poor and suffering. The maternal attention of the Lord's Mother to the tears, sorrows and hardships of the men and women of all ages must spur Christians, particularly at the dawn of the new millennium, to increase the concrete and visible signs of a love that will enable today's humble and suffering people to share in the promises and hopes of the new world which is born from Easter.

7. Human affection for and devotion to the Mother of Jesus surpasses the Church's visible boundaries and fosters sentiments of reconciliation. As a mother, Mary desires the union of all her children. Her presence in the Church is an invitation to preserve the unanimity of heart which reigned in the first community (cf. Acts 1:14) and, consequently, to seek ways of unity and peace among all men and women of goodwill.

In interceding with her Son, Mary asks the grace of unity for all humanity, in view of building a civilization of love, overcoming tendencies to division, temptations to revenge and hatred, and the perverse fascination of violence.

Mary is the cause of our joy

8. Our Lady's motherly smile, reproduced in so much Marian iconography, expresses a fullness of grace and peace that seeks to be shared. This expression of her serenity of spirit effectively contributes to giving the Church a joyful face.

Welcoming, in the Annunciation, the angel's invitation to "rejoice" (khaire =rejoice: Lk 1:28), Mary was the first to share in the messianic joy foretold by the Prophets for the "daughter of Sion" (cf. Is 12:6; Zep 3:14-15; Zec 9:9), and she passes it on to humanity in every age.

Invoking her as "causa nostrae laetitiae", the Christian people find in her the capacity to communicate the joy that is born of hope, even in the midst of life's trials, and to guide those who commend themselves to her to the joy that knows no end.  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
29 November 1995, page 11

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