"Mary, Pilgrim in Faith, Star of the Third Millennium"
Wednesday General Papal Audience in Paul VI Hall from March 21st
1. The page in Luke, which we just heard, shows us Mary as a pilgrim of love. However, Elizabeth draws attention to her faith and pronounces at their meeting the first beatitude of the Gospel: "Blessed is she who has believed." This expression is "almost a key, which gives us a glimpse of Mary's intimate reality" ("Redemptoris Mater," No. 19). As a crowning to the catecheses of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, we would now like to present the Lord's Mother as a pilgrim in faith. As daughter of Zion, she follows in the footprints of Abraham, who obeyed by faith, "when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go" (Hebrews 11:8).
This sign of pilgrimage in faith illuminates the interior history of Mary, the believer par excellence, as the Second Vatican Council points out: "The Blessed Virgin advanced in the pilgrimage of faith and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross" ("Lumen Gentium," 58). The Annunciation "is the starting point of Mary's journey toward God" ("Redemptoris Mater," 14): a journey of faith that knows the presage of the sword that pierces the soul (see Luke 2:35), passes through the torturous roads of exile in Egypt and of interior darkness, when Mary "does not understand" the 12-year-old Jesus' attitude in the temple and yet "kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51).
2. The hidden life of Jesus also unfolds in the shadows, during which Mary must make Elizabeth's beatitude resound within herself through real and earnest "labor of the heart" ("Redemptoris Mater," 17).
Certainly in Mary's life flashes of light were not lacking, as at the wedding of Cana, where -- although with apparent detachment -- Christ accepts the Mother's prayer and fulfills the first sign of revelation, giving rise to faith in His disciples (see John 2:1-12).
In the same interplay of light and shadow, of revelation and mystery, are placed the two beatitudes that Luke refers to: the one directed to the Mother of Christ by a woman of the crowd, and the other directed by Jesus "to those who hear the Word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:28).
The end of this earthly pilgrimage in faith is Golgotha, where Mary lives intimately the paschal mystery of the Son: In a certain sense she dies as mother in the death of the Son and opens to the "resurrection" with a new maternity in the life of the Church (see John 19:25-27). There, on Calvary, Mary experienced the night of faith, similar to Abraham's on Mount Moriah, and after the illumination of Pentecost, she continues to be a pilgrim in faith until the Assumption when the Son welcomes her into eternal blessedness.
3. "The Blessed Virgin Mary continues to "go before" the People of God. Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, for individuals and for communities, for peoples and nations and, in a certain sense, for all humanity" ("Redemptoris Mater," 6). She is the star of the third millennium, as she was at the beginning of the Christian era the dawn that preceded Jesus on the horizon of history. In fact, Mary was born chronologically before Christ and generated and inserted Him in our human affairs.
We turn to her, so that she will continue to guide us toward Christ and the Father, also in the dark night of evil, in moments of doubt, crisis, silence and suffering. To her we raise the hymn that the Eastern Church loves more than any other, the Akathistos hymn that, in strophe 24, lyrically exalts her figure. In the fifth strophe dedicated to the visit to Elizabeth, it exclaims:
"Rejoice, imperishable shoot of the vine. Rejoice, possessor of integral fruit. Rejoice, you who cultivate the cultivator friend of men. Rejoice, Mother of the Creator of our life. Rejoice, soil that germinates fertile in compassion. Rejoice, table that is set with plentiful mercy. Rejoice, because your make a meadow of delight bloom. Rejoice, as a haven that prepares souls. Rejoice, pleasing incense of supplications. Rejoice, forgiveness of the whole world. Rejoice, God's benevolence toward mortals. Rejoice, courageous word of mortals toward God. Rejoice, Virgin Spouse!"
4. The visit to Elizabeth is sealed by the canticle of the Magnificat, a hymn that comes down through all the Christian centuries like a perennial melody: a hymn that unites the spirits of the disciples of Christ beyond historical divisions, which we are determined to surmount in view of full communion. In this ecumenical climate it is beautiful to recall that in 1521 Martin Luther dedicated to this "holy canticle of the Blessed Mother of God" -- as he expressed it -- a famous commentary. In it he affirms that the hymn "should be well studied and remembered by all," because "in the Magnificat Mary teaches us how we must love and praise God. She wishes to be the greatest example of God's grace, so as to encourage all to confidence and praise of divine grace" (M. Luther, Religious Writings, edited by V. Vinay, Turin 1967, pp. 431-512).
Mary celebrates the primacy of God and His grace, Who chooses the last and the neglected, the "poor of the Lord," of which the Old Testament speaks; overturns their fortune and introduces them as protagonists in the history of salvation.
5. From the moment God looked upon her with love, Mary became the sign of hope for the mass of poor, of the last of the earth who become the first in the Kingdom of God. She faithfully copies the choice of Christ, her Son, Who repeats to all the afflicted throughout history: "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). The Church follows Mary and the Lord Jesus walking on the torturous roads of history, to raise, promote and appreciate the immense procession of women and men, poor and hungry, humiliated and offended (see Luke 1:52-53). As St. Ambrose points out, the humble Virgin of Nazareth, is not "the God of the temple, but the temple of God" ("De Spiritu Sancto III, 11, 80). As such, she guides all those who take recourse to her toward the meeting with the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
[Translation by ZENIT]
For past Papal Pronouncements, see THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS Archives
March 25, 2001
volume 12, no. 84
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS