The Vatican Council on Our Blessed Mother

Author: Pope Paul VI


Pope Paul VI

In the final General Audience of the month, May 29th, the Holy Father Paul VI devoted his discourse to an inspiring commentary on the Council teaching as to the place of Our Lady in the Redemption and in the Church.

Beloved Sons and Daughters,

Our thoughts turn today to Mary most holy whom the popular devotion of the Church honours in a special way during the month of May and We must not let this period end, a time when nature's Spring is linked with the religious Spring which should flower in our souls when we contemplate and venerate the most beautiful flower of human nature redeemed by Christ, without reviving our devotion to Our Lady, Virgin Mother of Christ and our spiritual Mother too.

This we must do in accordance with the spirit of the Council, from which these weekly talks of Ours usually draw their inspiration and guiding lines. As we all know, the Council dedicated to Our Lady the whole of the eighth chapter of the great Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, thus placing at the summit, as it were, of this stupendous doctrinal edifice the sweet and luminous figure of Mary; and this is enough to make us all feel bound, by very reason of the Council's authority for this renewal, to reanimate our concept of the Blessed Virgin and our devotion towards her. The Council had no wish to expound new doctrines concerning her, just as it did not aim to say everything possible about her; but it did present Mary most holy in such a way and with such rules that everyone who is faithful to the Council teachings must not only feel strengthened in professing that Marian devotion which has always been held in such great honour and with such great intensity in the Catholic Church, but must also feel drawn to model his devotion in accordance with the broad, authentic, enchanting visions which the magnificent and meaningful conciliar pages offer for the meditation and devotion of the thus well-provided Catholic.

Mother of God; Temple of the Holy Spirit

What are these visions? We find it hard to answer this so immense, so profound is the heavenly sphere in which Mary appears in the whole sweep of the Council's teaching. For Our more ready and more thoughtful listeners We have nothing better to suggest than that they re-read and meditate on that eighth chapter already referred to. It is a casket of treasures, each one of which would merit a special exposition, both doctrinal and spiritual. But in order not to omit proposing some basic summary notion to which our renewed veneration of Mary must conform, We will point out before all else that Our Lady is presented to us by the Council not as a solitary figure, standing alone in an empty heavenly sphere, but as a creature most singular and most blessed and most holy precisely by reason of the divine and mysterious relationships which encompass her, which define her unique being, and which fill her with light such as is not given to us elsewhere toadmirein any other creature, in any other sister of our own human kind. We find ourselves, each one of us, in the order of creation and of grace, in definite relationships with the divine; in Mary, however, those relationships rose to their fullest level which we cannot describe. The words in which they are enunciated bear so weighty a meaning as to plunge them in mystery. We know these words, but let us listen to them again as they are uttered by the Council. Mary "is so endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God (made man) on which account she is the beloved daughter of the Father and temple of the Holy Spirit. By reason of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth" (Lumen Gentium n. 53). One cannot contemplate Our Lady without seeing and adoring the divine trinitarian setting in which she is placed; the divine transcendence shines before our eyes which rejoice to be able in some degree to contemplate her, this daughter of "the race of Adam" (ibid.) which is our own. It is this ability to approach her that explains, perhaps, the priority in practice which devotion to Mary often assumes in the religious life of many devout souls for whom it is an instinctive comfort to stay there where Mary is, rather than to fly on, that being a place which belongs to our own history and one which fits in better with the range of our human and religious experience. But it is Mary herself who then draws us along with her in her transcendent flight towards God: remember the Magnificat.

Mary belongs whollyto Christ

Then Our Lady—Who does not know this? —belongs wholly to Christ: in Him, through Him, with Him. We cannot, even for an instant, forget this other relationship which defines Mary, Mother of Jesus, animated and living byhis Word and the companion of his Passion. It is this relationship that gives reason for her every prerogative, for her every grandeur, for her every title to our unbounded veneration, to our love, to our trust. The Council multiplies its teaching precisely in respect of Mary's privileged position and unique function relative to the mystery of Christ. Just as we cannot form an idea of Christ without reference to the supreme truths of the Gospel regarding his Incarnation and his Redemption, so we cannot leave out of consideration the presence of Mary and the ministrations which she was called upon to fulfil in the actual realization of these same truths. No human creature has come nearer to Christ, none have been more his and more filled with grace than she; no-one has been so closely united to Christ as his Mother, and no-one has been so loved by Christ as she who gave Him virginal birth by the power of the Holy Spirit, she who heard his Wood with a "fiat" which marked Our Lady's whole life, she who was the willing participant in every mystery of Christ's salvific mission (cf. Lumen Gent. n. 61). No-one has had sogreat a faith in Christ (You remember?—"blessed art thou that hast believed" (Lk 1, 45 etc.). No-one has had so great a trust as she in the beneficent goodness of Christ (cf. Jn 2,5). No-one, if is easy to believe, had so great a love for Christ as had his Mother, not only because of the ever incomparable love-relation that a mother has with the fruit of her womb, but also because of the Charity of the Holy Spirit which was in her a vivifying and loving principle of her divine maternity, which associated her with the Passion of her Son, and which, at Pentecost, overflowed in her heart and so dilated it as to make her the spiritual mother of the new-born Church, and indeed of the Church throughout the centuries; and we who belong to this Church rejoice in being able to address her with that title which she prophesied would be hers: "All generations shall call me blessed" (Lk. 1. 48). Yea; blessed art thou, Mary, to whom we now have the unmerited good fortune to give a title which the christian centuries always recognised as thine, not in the sacramental order as a cause of grace, but in that of the widespread communion of charity and grace, proper to the Mystical Body (cf. LumenGent, nn. 56, 61, 63)—namely, the title of "Mother of the Church".

Thus does our devotion to Mary most holy spread out from its centre in Christ throughout the Church. Recalling one of the highest and most characteristic praises bestowed on her by the Fathers—amongst whom We gladly remember St. Ambrose (on Lk. 11, 7; P.L. 15, 1555), the Council sees in Mary the figure of the Church and the exemplar of the basic christian virtues, of faith especially and of obedience to the divine will (cf. Lumen Gent. n. 63), the first to cooperate "with maternal love in the birth and education" (ibid.)of the brethren of Christ, "a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth, until the day of the Lord shelf come" (ibid.n. 68).

Help of Christians

Dearest children! Let our souls experience the unspeakable happiness of this sweet and strengthening vision. It will not take away from as that other sad and oppressive one of present world conditions, but it will give us light to see again, with the dangers, the defence against them, to see again, with the evils, the remedy for them in that love and trust in Christ which has made brethren of men and has brought to them, even though they be wayward ward and unwilling, an always possible and victorious salvation. May Our Blessing obtain for all the sweet and powerful Blessing of Our Lady.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
6 June 1968, page 4

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