The presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the documents of the
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965) has generated much
interest. Scores of publications have provided analysis of the
Marian references found in the conciliar texts.
Over forty years after the solemn opening of the Council on 11
October 1962, then the Feast of the Maternity of Mary, we
consider the explicit mention of Our Lady in eleven of the
sixteen official documents.
1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: 103.
2. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: 15, 46, 50, 52-69.
3. Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches: 30.
4. Decree on Ecumenism: 14-15, 20.
5. Decree on the Up-To-Date Renewal of Religious Life: 25.
6. Decree on the Training of Priests: 8.
7. Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian
8. Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People: 4.
9. Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity: 4, 42.
10. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: 18.
11. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: 22.
In summarizing what the Council asserted about Our Blessed Lady,
we adapt four of the five headings employed in Chapter Eight of
1. Mary’s function in Jesus’ salvific work. Both Sacred
Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition illustrate the part
Mary—the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son and the
Temple of the Holy Spirit—played in salvation. She, foreshadowed
in the promise of victory given by the Lord after the Fall, was
the Virgin whose Son would be called Emmanuel. Mary, the
Daughter of Sion and the Mother of the Redeemer, is one of the
Lord’s poor and humble ones.
Free from all sin and full of grace, Mary, who is closest to
Jesus and closest to us, gave her consent (fiat) to the Father’s
plan of Redemption. As a woman (Eve) brought about death, a
woman (Mary) helped usher in life. This daughter of Adam became,
in the fullness of time, the Mother of Jesus. Her faith and
obedience she employed for our everlasting benefit.
From Christ’s conception until His Death, Mary was inseparably
linked with Jesus in His salvific work, especially in the
Visitation, the Nativity, the Arrival of the Shepherds and the
Magi, the Presentation and Finding in the Temple, the Wedding
Feast of Cana, Christ’s Preaching of the Kingdom and the
Crucifixion. While on earth, Mary’s life was like any other,
filled with the labors and cares of the home.
Even after Jesus’ Resurrection, Mary did her part. She
prayerfully assisted the early Church as she, the Apostles, the
holy women and Jesus’ brethren actively awaited the Holy Spirit
on Pentecost Sunday. After her Assumption, Our Lady was crowned
by the Lord as Queen of the Universe, signifying that Mary is
more fully conformed to her Divine Son.
2. The Madonna’s relationship with the Church. Jesus, Who is the
one Mediator between God and men, has associated Mary to
Himself. The influence of the Mother of men cannot compete with
that of her Son. All she does draws from Christ’s merits as she
leads her children to Him.
When God decided that the Son would become the Word made flesh,
He chose Mary to be His Mother. Our Lady is not only the Mother
of the Redeemer but also the Lord’s associate and handmaiden. As
Mother, she conceived, bore and nourished Christ, as well as
presented Him in the Temple and stood near His Cross. By her
obedience, faith, hope and charity, she helped to restore God’s
life to us. She is Our Mother "in the order of grace."
Mary’s Motherhood proceeds unceasingly from the Annunciation
until her sons and daughters enter Paradise. From Heaven she
assists her beleaguered children on earth. No wonder she is
saluted as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix—titles
that do not disturb the truth of Christ’s unique office as
Mediator. The role of Mary, who aids the Faithful in following
Christ, is secondary to that of Jesus, Who freely invited Mary
to cooperate with Him.
Mary is intimately united to Christ’s Church, thanks to Jesus
for all He has given to her. She is a pattern (type) of the
Church in faith, charity and perfect union with Jesus. Both Mary
and the Church are virgin and mother. In her faith and
obedience, Mary was empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear the
Father’s Son, Who is the first among the Faithful. Our Mother
participates in the generation and formation of the Faithful.
In contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and
by doing the Father’s will, the Church becomes a mother. The
Church—a virgin who keeps the faith she pledged to Jesus—brings
forth children by preaching and baptism. By emulating Mary and
through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is steadfast in
faith, hope and charity.
In Mary the Church has already reached perfection. The Faithful
realize their sinfulness and turn to Mary—the model of virtues.
By meditating on her, the Church as the Spouse of Christ becomes
more herself. Mary encapsulates the Church’s doctrines and takes
her children to Jesus, particularly when she is the subject of
preaching and devotion. The apostolic work of the Church, which
strives to imitate Mary’s virtues, is enriched by pondering the
Woman who bore Christ. Those who labor in the Church’s mission
should be enlivened with Our Lady’s motherly love. Priests, who
should always devotedly venerate and love Mary as the Mother of
the High Priest, Queen of the Apostles and Protectress of their
ministry, find a stirring example of docility in her who, under
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, dedicated herself to the
redemption of men. Through the gentle and poor Virgin’s prayers,
the number of religious increases and their apostolate
3. The Ever-Virgin is lovingly—and rightly—venerated by the
Faithful. Due to divine grace, Mary has been lifted higher than
angels and men to a place second only to that of Jesus. From
very early, the Faithful have honored in the first place Mary,
using the title Mother of God, and have sought her protection.
After the Council of Ephesus, there was astonishing growth in
veneration, love, invocation and imitation of the Virgin. The
cult towards the glorious Ever-Virgin is diverse from that
adoration offered to each Person of the Most Blessed Trinity.
The Church has approved forms of piety towards Our Lady ensuring
that Jesus is known, love and glorified, and His commandments
kept. Seminarians should reverence the Woman whom was given by
the dying Christ to His disciples. And the Laity should venerate
and entrust their lives to the care of Mary—the perfect model of
the apostolic spiritual life.
The Council Fathers, who with the Sovereign Pontiff prayed that
through the Virgin the nations might soon be led to the Truth,
urged that veneration of Mary, especially the liturgical cult,
be fostered, that devotion be cherished and that the Church’s
traditional practice regarding images of Jesus, Mary and the
Saints be followed. In the annual liturgical cycle of Christ’s
mysteries, the Church honors Mary with a special love. Both
exaggeration and understatement concerning Mary are to be
avoided by theologians and preachers who, based on their study
of Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, the Doctors and the Sacred
Liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church’s
Magisterium, are to explain Mary’s duties and privileges as they
relate to Christ—the Source of truth, holiness and devotion.
Theologians and preachers must be careful not to lead baptized
non-Catholics into error about the Church’s authentic teaching.
The Faithful recall that true devotion to Mary is not mere
affection or belief based on the slightest evidence but is
rooted in faith by which we acknowledge Our Mother’s excellence
and strive to imitate her virtues. In Mary the Church admires
and exalts the most excellent fruit of redemption.
4. The Mother of Jesus gives hope and solace to her wayfaring
sons. To contemplate Mary, who is in Heaven body and soul, is to
see the faultless image and beginning of the Church as the
Church desires, hopes and truly will be. The influence on earth
of Our Lady, who is a sign of hope and comfort to the People of
God as they progress along the way to Everlasting Life, will
continue until the Second Coming of her Divine Son.
Among those separated from the Catholic Church, the Council
Fathers noted, are those who honor Mary, especially the Orthodox
and the members of the Eastern Christian Churches. Eastern
Christians use beautiful hymns to honor Mary, whom the Council
of Ephesus proclaimed as Mother of God. True, differences exist
between some Christians and the Catholic Church concerning
Mary’s role in the work of salvation, but all Christians of the
East and West are to pray daily that through Mary’s assistance
all may be one. Muslims honor Mary and at times devoutly invoke
her. Christians pray to the Mother of God and Mother of men who
by her prayers helped the Church at her beginning and is now
exalted above the Angels and Saints. In union with the Saints
Mary intercedes with her Son until all peoples—Christians and
non-Christians—may be gathered in peace and harmony into the one
People of God for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided
Forty years after the Council’s festive beginning, we must
rediscover and appreciate more the Marian teaching of the
Council so that it will be better known and applied. May Our
Lady, now in Heaven but closer than ever to her beloved
children, quickly bring this about.
Mary Mother of God, pray for us!