The Mother of God in the Mission of Salvation

Author: Pope Paul VI


Pope Paul VI

As usual since the first year of his Pontificate, Pope Paul VI celebrated Holy Mass in the Parish Church of Castel Gandolfo for the people of the city where His Holiness resides during the summer months. After the Gospel the Holy Father took as the theme for his homily, the glory and virtue of the Mother of God, her teaching and example for the Church and for souls.

Very dear Sons and Daughters:

By now everyone knows about our getting together here each year on the feast of Mary's Assumption. This is the sixth time We have had the good fortune of greeting the parishioners on this day, made so solemn because of Mary's glorious Assumption.

The paternal cordiality of the meeting

The prayers offered in these circumstances are so good, so devout that they deserve to be expressed around the altar of God; thus they become like a conversation taking place in the presence of God and under His inspiration and benediction. They are prayers lifted on high to invoke the assistance of the Lord; and at the same time, they implore the graces we need to be perfect, faithful, exemplary Christians—men of our time, striving to understand what today especially claims our thoughtful attention, namely HEAVEN.

In just so sublime a splendour we contemplate Mary assumed into Heaven, Mary at the height of her glory. And, as a person who is elevated can be clearly observed, so we can observe Her in every detail of her being. On the other hand, when a person is down in the midst of a crowd, it is difficult to catch even a glimpse. So Mary, up there near Jesus, next to the throne of God, can easily be seen in all her splendour and charm.

What do we celebrate today?

We celebrate today the incomparable glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary—her Assumption. During the course of the year we recalled the events of her sojourn on earth—the mysteries that make her extraordinary life shine forth in such. wonder and sweetness. For this reason prayer, thanksgiving and praise are easy; but today's feast is a compendium of all her feasts, and We should like to gaze on her and contemplate her in comforting, exhilarating admiration.

The Holy Father's cordial greetings

It gives Us great joy to extend our greetings to you in our Lady's glorious presence. The Pope rejoices, therefore, with all who are listening to him. He is glad to come and to feel so much at home in your parochial family.

He expresses his sincere appreciation of the religious life here at Castello which is making such real progress. He sincerely addresses words of commendation to your zealous pastor and to those assisting him. And We have a special greeting to the Lord Mayor; to His Excellency, the Bishop of Albano, who in his kindness is joining in this celebration; to the townspeople and to the Director of the Pontifical Residence.

A question and an answer

What is the reason for this devout gathering? We should like to answer that question in this way: to raise our thoughts to Heaven by thinking of Mary gloriously assumed into Heaven. A relevant thought comes to mind, the same one, in fact, noted by the Council in the splendid chapter in the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church". There, in the closing tract of the document, the Blessed Virgin is placed at the summit of all the doctrine on the Church. "Mary," says the Council, "is the type, that is, the ideal, the exemplar, the model of the Church." In Chapter III (n. 65) we read: "Devotedly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church with reverence enters more intimately into the supreme mystery of the Incarnation and becomes ever increasingly like her spouse."

The same truth was declared shortly before the Annunciation: "Through the gift and role of divine maternity, Mary is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and offices. By these, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught: "The Mother of God is a model of the Church in the matter of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ" (as above, n. 3).

What gifts should we ask of Her?

Our Lady, then, represents the ideal towards whom our thoughts, our devotion, and our will likewise must be directed, in order to receive the gifts of mercy from her.

For what do we ask Our Lady? The grace to make us understand her sublime sanctity, the privileges which God has conferred on her, her experiences in the Gospel story, and that we may be able to imitate and absorb even a part of such great riches. In a word, we desire that this same light may be reflected in us that we may become, like her, an example in the Church.

Two important considerations

All this can be realized if we consider two things—first of all, the Blessed Virgin is the exemplar in the Church, because all that flourishes in the Church is summed up in Mary. In her we find the plenitude of grace and perfection. Secondly, Our Lady contains in herself all sanctity, all beauty, all the acts of Divine Providence that we will find by studying the Church. To our amazement we can trace in the history of the Church the chain of events Our Lord has willed so that her work as redemptrix might continue. What is called the Mystery, the design of God, the plan which the Lord had in our salvation is found in its highest degree in Mary, the Holy Virgin.

What, in fact, does the Church accomplish through the example of Our Lady? What has Our Lady done? She has given birth to Christ; she has given Christ to the world. And what must the Church do? It must bring forth new Christians, and make men sons and brothers of Christ. What the Church does in every Man, Our Lady has done in her Son. Thus we call her Mother of the Church, because she gives birth to us in the supernatural order in the same way in which she brought forth Christ the Lord into being. The saints have asserted this with compelling force.

The Union of Mary and the Church with Christ

The Madonna was both Mother and Virgin. The Church is also a Mother who brings forth all of us—not by human power, but by the exalted gift of the Holy Spirit; we might say, by a virginity of service.

Again we might consider in what way the Church is united to Christ. It is united in Him. It must be just as Our Lady was united to Christ. She, the all-holy Virgin, had but one ideal, one love, one plan: during her whole life she was interested only in offering her homage to God; she was absorbed in consecrating herself immeasurably to Jesus, the Church, likewise, has no other purpose, no other end than, that of bringing Christ to the world.

The comparison might go on, but it is all very clear when we remember that the Holy Virgin from her place in heaven, near the heart of the Saviour pours out on us the light of her example.

This epitomizes our Christian life and compels us to think as much of her as Mother as of her glorious Queenship. The mysteries of Our Lady's life become the mysteries of our life when we participate in that of the Church. If we are truly faithful to the Church, we shall obtain something of the beauty and of the mission of the Most Holy Virgin.

"Blessed is she who believed"

Because of another verse in Holy Scripture, Mary is our TYPE, our model. Her virtues, her earthly experiences, as told us in the Gospels, give her to us as our Exemplar. It is enough to look at but a few of the events which the Gospels record of the Mother of Jesus; and for this We do not need a magnifying glass—only the exacting lens of Christian piety.

What the lens reveals

In Mary we see every perfection. There is, first of all, her humility which senses the immense, impassable distance between God and man. "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour... Because He has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaid, the Lord has done many great things for me."

What is necessary for presenting ourselves to God, is pointed out to us by Mary. She teaches us simply, in a masterly way and exceedingly well how to use material things and. our daily experiences.

In Our Blessed Mother we see a purity without an equal. What exquisite whiteness! The world has lost the concept of an immaculate conception because men bear within the imbalance, the weakness, the inertia and disharmony of original sin.

Mary, the perfect creature

And on the contrary, what a stupendous reality for a creature to preserve the original beauty given by God to man when He created him to His own image and likeness. What harmony what purity in Mary! In her, spirit and nature, instinct and powers meet to form a perfect creature—a clear reflection of God.

Virtues of the blessed Virgin

Every time we behold Our Lady, whether in action or in silence, she displays innumerable virtues. We try with great pains to acquire and practice them, but in Her they show forth in a perfect degree. Poverty, obedience, sweetness, meekness, and above all, love: all these are present, and yet there is another singular gift, one which was particularly emphasized by the Council. That is faith. Mary believed. "Blessed is she who believed," Elizabeth cried out when greeting her. O blessed one who believed, who accepted the will of the Omnipotent God. Your Soul assented to His proposal, and you accepted the reality of Our Lord coming into the world. You were faithful. This is the never-ending lesson taught us by the Mother of God.

Therefore, while we are celebrating Her glory, let us strive to approach. this perfect model given to us for our own everyday living. Even those who assume a worldly attitude often feel a longing for an ideal beauty; this happens especially when the idols we took for masterpieces turn out to be miserable phantasms. Newspapers, books, literature, the theater are full of them. It is then that we must lift up our eyes, as Christians have always done, and look for the Madonna to draw from her the lessons we need.

The most holy Mary is our Mother and our teacher. If in all the events of life, we look at once to Mary, we can hear the inspiration: Be good. be patient and charitable, act in this manner, suffer cheerfully and present your pains to the Lord as I also have done. Always hope; always love; give to your life the real meaning of dedication to Christ—and thus you will receive salvation.

Mary helps, inspires. guides and protects

These are elementary lessons, yet no one can choose to ignore them. Everyone can learn them provided he cultivate even a little but sincere devotion to the Immaculate Virgin.

And today, when we are contemplating her so high, so far away from us, we feel, nevertheless, that this divine light which she diffuses, helps us to approach her. The Madonna is not only our Mother and Queen; she is a sister, a companion. Once she was a citizen of this world; she passed along the same paths and, more than anyone else, knows the burdens of life, the seriousness of existence in the vast human family struck by so much illness. But it is destined to do penance, to suffer sanctifying pain, to learn detachment from exterior things, to hope until those higher things come to be loved.

Concluding sentiments

The Holy Father wishes all those who are listening to him to have a true devotion to Our Lady. Always think of her with an earnest attention: what would Mary do? what does she teach me? plan for me? We shall see an illimitable light of goodness, faith and joy guiding our steps.

Try to say the "Salve Regina" with such sentiments. Stop a bit at the prayer which makes this trustful appeal: "...our life, our sweetness, and our hope, Hail!". O Mary, our life, our sweetness, and our hope, we salute you!

Have these sentiments in your heart; you will find your life elevated, purified, made Christian. We salute you paternally, we shall celebrate Mass for you, and confirm our prayers with the Apostolic Benediction.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
29 August 1968, page 2

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