Of Mary and her month of May

Every year in May I ask myself what can be done to celebrate this month better than the previous year. Is it meditative rosary, a pilgrimage, reading a Marian book? All valid, of course, and spiritually fruitful also. This year I am considering three important documents of the Church that show us the true devotion to Mary. The first is Chapter 8 of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium. The title of this chapter sheds significant light: THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF GOD IN THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH . The second document is the exhortation of Paul VI Marialis Cultus and finally an encyclical of Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater.

These three documents can be seen as a triptych. True devotion to Mary is praying with and above all like Mary. Mary, Lumen Gentium 66 tells us, was involved in the mysteries of Christ. What does this mean? It means that through active participation, mostly in silence, Mary followed and shared and contemplated the mysteries of her Son. Contemplation is done with the eye of faith and the purified mind and heart. We too are called by the Church for active participation in the celebration of Christ’s Mysteries which we experience in the Sacred Liturgy. Like Mary we need to follow Christ, mostly silently but fervently, using the eye of faith and a heart and mind that are constantly being purified, i.e. following the universal call to holiness. Lumen Gentium, in paragraph 67, goes on to say that the greatness of Mary always refers and is subordinate to Christ. The true devotion to Mary proceeds from true faith which leads us towards a filial love towards her: truly a school of virtue. With Mary and like her we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus alone.

Paul VI in his Marialis Cultus offers us the right doctrinal and pastoral way in which to unite ourselves with Mary. For an authentic Marian devotion, it needs to be based on Scriptures, grounded in liturgy, be ecumenical and anthropological. Mary is indeed exalted above all creatures, Mary is indeed Immaculate, but she is both of these because she was a human being. God is glorified and magnified in the humanity of Mary; grace does not destroy nature but fulfils it. Our bodies are the only instruments we have through which we can glorify and magnify God. Our bodies are the instruments of choice, chosen and formed by God, to make up the symphony of creation, which we can glimpse so well in Mary. God was magnified and glorified in Mary, in her human body, in her human condition shaped by all the cultural backgrounds available in her place and at her time. Under her and with her and like her it is now to us to magnify and glorify God in our body, in the environment in which we are living.

Redemptoris Mater  of Blessed John Paul II was published in connection with the Marian Year he proclaimed. The Marian Year was, “to promote a new and more careful reading of what the Council said about the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and of the Church … not only of the doctrine of faith but also of the life of faith, and thus of authentic ‘Marian spirituality,’ seen in the light of Tradition, and especially the spirituality to which the Council exhorts us.” (para 49)

Sacred Scripture is the first source of knowledge about the Mother of the Redeemer. Life lived out of faith based on Scripture, according to the document, is the source of true Marian spirituality. The three major areas of the document are: 1. Mary in the Mystery of Christ, 2. The Mother of God at the Centre of the Pilgrim Church, and 3. Maternal Mediation.  Reflecting on Mary  Blessed John Paul II focuses and celebrates on the love of the Father, the mission of the Son, the gift of the Spirit, the role of the woman from whom the Redeemer was born, and our own divine filiation, in the mystery of the ‘fullness of time.'” (para 1) For John Paul II, Mary “bears within herself the radical ‘newness’ of faith: the beginning of the New Covenant. (para 17) But, this faith also experiences the dark night: “Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying … At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self- emptying. This is perhaps the deepest ‘kenosis’ of faith in human history.” (para 18) The key to Mary’s religious experience, and her blessedness, is her faith. Redemptoris Mater continues, “All those who from generation to generation accept the apostolic witness of the Church share in that mysterious inheritance, and in a sense share in Mary’s faith.” (para 27) Redemptoris Mater lists a variety of ways in which Mary is present in the Church in the faith and spirituality of believers and through various traditions of families, parishes, religious institutes, dioceses, nations, and great shrines. (para28) The document explains that Mary “is present in the Church’s mission, “present in the Church’s work of introducing into the world the Kingdom of her Son.”  (para 28) Finally, Redemptoris Mater explains that Marian devotion leads us to  “energetically and constantly bring all humanity … back to Christ its Head in the unity of his Spirit.” (para 28)

What a triptych indeed: 1. Immersed in the mysteries of Christ, 2. our humanity becomes a vehicle of grace,  3. That brings other into the fellowship of Divine life.

Where are your beads?

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