Our Lady - Maria Sanctissima
Mary in her 'fiat', her 'yes' to God, became the mother of our Saviour, the ark of the New Covenant. Jesus, from the Cross, gave his mother to his beloved disciple, saying 'This is your mother'. From that moment on, the Apostle John took Mary into his home and into his heart, as have the saints down through the last 20 centuries. Our Lady is known by many titles, but at the heart of all others is her role as our mother, ever compassionate, tender and loving (as witnessed to in the 1000+ responses to Something about Mary).
Mary has also been greatly loved by our Holy Fathers - Papa Francisco began by visiting La Madonna first thing on his first morning after election, and asked for his papacy to be consecrated to Our Lady in Fatima on 13th May. Papa Benedict XVI ended all his homilies and encyclicals with reference to Our Lady, and his last pilgrimage was to her shrine in Loreto. Blessed John Paul II gave everything to Jesus through Mary, as his motto Totus Tuus highlighted (his last pilgrimage was also to Loreto).
Our Lady has appeared to her children throughout the ages (eg in Walsingham, England, in 1061; in Mexico City in 1531, in Lourdes, France, in 1858), but never so frequently as during this last century, eg in Fatima, Rwanda, Egypt, & most recently Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Hercegovina (as the apparitions are still continuing, no final decision has been reached by the Vatican on their veracity).
Pope Francis's words about Our Mother Mary
in the Basilica of St Mary Major, 4 May 2013 - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish
" .. I thank you, brothers and sisters, who have come here today to pray to Our Lady, the Mother, the Salus Populi Romani [Health of the Roman people]. For tonight we are here before Mary. We have prayed under her motherly leadership that she guide us to be ever more united to her Son Jesus. We have brought her our joys and our suffering, our hopes and our struggles; we have invoked her by the beautiful title of Salus Populi Romani imploring her for us all, for Rome, for the world that she grant us health. Yes, because Mary gives us health, she is our health.
Jesus Christ, by his Passion, Death and Resurrection, has brought us salvation, granting us the grace and the joy of being children of God, of calling Him in truth with the name of Father. Mary is the mother, and a mother worries above all about the health of her children, she knows how to care for them always with great and tender love. Our Lady guards our health. What does this mean: Our Lady guards our health? I think above all of three things: she helps us grow, to confront life, to be free.
1. A mother helps her children grow up and wants them to grow strong; that is why she teaches them not to be lazy — which also derives from a certain wellbeing — not to sink into a comfortable life-style, contenting oneself with possessions. The mother takes care that her children develop better, that they grow strong, capable of accepting responsibilities, of engaging in life, of striving for great ideals. The Gospel of St Luke tells us that, in the family of Nazareth, Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him” (Lk 2:40). Our Lady does just this for us, she helps us to grow humanly and in the faith, to be strong and not to fall into the temptation of being men and Christians in a superficial way, but to live responsibly, to strive always higher.
2. A mother then thinks of the health of her children, teaching them also to face the difficulties of life. One does not teach, one does not take care of health by avoiding problems, as if life were a motorway with no obstacles. The mother helps her children to look with realism at the problems of life and to not get lost in them, but to face them with courage, to not be weak, and to know how to overcome them, in a healthy balance that a mother “senses” between the areas of security and the zones of risk. And a mother can do this! She does not always take the child along the road of safety, because in this way the child cannot grow, but neither does she leave the child only on the road of risk, because that is dangerous. A mother knows how to balance things. A life without challenges does not exist and a boy or a girl who cannot face or tackle them is a boy or girl with no backbone! Let us remember the parable of the good Samaritan: Jesus does not propose the behaviour of the priest and the Levite, who avoid rescuing the man who was attacked by robbers, but the Samaritan who sees the situation of this man and confronts it in a concrete way, even with the risks. Mary saw many moments that were not easy in her life, from the birth of Jesus, when “there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7), to Calvary (cf Jn 19:25). And like a good mother she is close to us, so that we may never lose courage in the face of the adversities of life, in the face of our weakness, in the face of our sins: she gives us strength, she shows us the pathway of her Son. From the Cross Jesus says to Mary, pointing to John: “Woman, behold your son!” and to John: “Here is your mother!” (cf Jn 19:26-27). In this disciple we are all represented: the Lord entrusts us to the loving and tender hands of the Mother, so that we might feel her support in facing and overcoming the difficulties of our human and Christian pathway; to not be afraid of the difficulties, to face it with the help of the mother.
3. A final aspect: a good mother not only accompanies her children in their growth, by not avoiding the problems, the challenges of life; a good mother also helps them to make definitive decisions with freedom. This is not easy, but a mother knows how to do it. But what does freedom mean? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, allowing yourself to be dominated by the passions, to pass from one experience to another without discernment, to follow the fashions of the day; freedom does not mean, so to speak, throwing everything that you don’t like out the window. No, that is not freedom! Freedom is given to us so that we know how to make good decisions in life! Mary as a good mother teaches us to be, like her, capable of making definitive decisions; definitive choices, in this moment in which, so to speak, a philosophy of the provisional reigns. It is so difficult to engage in life definitively. And she helps us to make definitive decisions with this full freedom with which she answered “yes” to the plan of God for her life (c. Lk 1:38).
Dear brothers and sisters, how hard it is, in our time, to make definitive decisions! In everything we are seduced by the provisional. We are victims of a trend that pushes us to temporariness... as though we wanted to remain adolescents. There is little charm in remaining adolescents, and this for the whole of life! Let us not be afraid of definitive commitments, commitments that involve and concern our whole life! In this way life will be fruitful! And this is freedom: to have the courage to make these decisions with greatness.
Mary’s whole existence is a hymn to life, a hymn of love to life: she generated Jesus in the flesh and accompanied the birth of the Church on Calvary and in the Upper Room. The Salus Populi Romani is the mother who gives us health in growth, gives us health in facing and overcoming problems, gives us the health to make us free to make definitive choices; the mother who teaches us to be fruitful, to be open to life and to be always fruitful in the good, fruitful in joy, fruitful in hope, to never lose hope, to give life to others, physical and spiritual life.
This we ask tonight, O Mary, Salus Populi Romani, for the people of Rome, for all of us: give us the health that you alone can give us, to be ever a sign and instrument of life. Amen."
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Upon leaving the Basilica, the Holy Father spoke the following words from the steps to the people gathered in the Square:
"Dear brothers and sisters, good evening! Thank you very much for your presence in the house of the Mother of Rome, of our Mother. Long live the Salus Populi Romani. Long live Our Lady. She is our Mother. Let us entrust ourselves to her, because she cares for us like a buona mamma [good mum]. I pray for you, but I ask you to pray for me, because I need it. Three Hail Mary’s for me. I wish you a good Sunday tomorrow. Goodbye. Now I give you my Blessing — to you and to your whole family. May God Almighty bless you. Have a good Sunday."
"Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. In the Gospel of Luke we find her engaged in a service of charity to her cousin Elizabeth .. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” In these words she expresses her whole programme of life: not setting herself at the centre, but leaving space for God, who is encountered both in prayer and in service of neighbour — only then does goodness enter the world. Mary's greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord. She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God's initiatives.
Mary is a woman of hope: only because she believes in God's promises and awaits the salvation of Israel, can the angel visit her and call her to the decisive service of these promises. Mary is a woman of faith: “Blessed are you who believed”, Elizabeth says to her. The Magnificat — a portrait, so to speak, of her soul — is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves. How could it be otherwise? As a believer who in faith thinks with God's thoughts and wills with God's will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves. We sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus' public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother's hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus' true hour. When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross; later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit.
.. The words addressed by the crucified Lord to his disciple — to John and through him to all disciples of Jesus: “Behold, your mother!” — are fulfilled anew in every generation. Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers. Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavours. They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart. The testimonials of gratitude, offered to her from every continent and culture, are a recognition of that pure love which is not self-seeking but simply benevolent. At the same time, the devotion of the faithful shows an infallible intuition of how such love is possible: it becomes so as a result of the most intimate union with God, through which the soul is totally pervaded by him — a condition which enables those who have drunk from the fountain of God's love to become in their turn a fountain from which “flow rivers of living water”. Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of love:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely to God's call
and thus became a wellspring of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him, so that we too can become capable of true love
and be fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world." ♦
John Paul II's Address to the Pontifical Academies
It is to the Virgin Mary that today’s solemn session is dedicated: Mary, Icon and Model of humanity redeemed by Christ.
The attention given to her is also fostered by the theological contributions offered by the distinguished speakers on various aspects of her role in salvation history. In fact, the reflection on man developed over the centuries in various cultures has experienced extraordinary growth from contact with the mystery of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh in Mary’s womb. The eminent role of the Virgin Mother of God stands out against the new horizon of knowledge disclosed by Revelation.
In his Letter to the Galatians, St Paul writes: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). The Apostle’s words take us to the very heart of history: “when the time had fully come”, the Son of God was born of a woman, Mary of Nazareth, who uniquely shared in the mystery of the Word by giving birth in time to the Son begotten by the Father from all eternity.
Mary is a daughter of the chosen people, and for this very reason she is a daughter of their culture, enriched by its millenary contact with the Word of God: she the Woman who actively shared in Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, when he manifested his glory (cf Jn 2:1-12), and was present on Golgotha to be designated as the Mother of the beloved disciple and our Mother.
The Gospels and Christian tradition teach us to see her as the “place” where the Incarnation occurred in history. For 2,000 years, the life of Jesus and the preaching of the Good News of salvation have had a distinctively Marian dimension. The Virgin Mother is close to human hearts in every age and culture, as demonstrated by the masterpieces of human genius that have flourished in every period of history.
The Blessed Virgin is presented by the New Testament as an extraordinary woman in her simplicity of life. The Fathers of the Church, masters of spirituality, expressed the faith of the believing community by emphasizing the truths regarding Mary’s remarkable distinction. She is the Theotokos, the Deipara, the Mother of God, whom the Church honours with a “special cult”.
On the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I am pleased to recall the immense wealth of love, devotion and art shown for 2,000 years by the Churches of the East. They honour Blessed Mary, the Theotokos, with other splendid titles such as Panagia, the All-Holy; Hyperagionorma, Holy beyond all bounds; Platytera, Wider than the heavens; Hodegetria, She who shows the way; Eleousa, She who is full of merciful tenderness. The Eastern Marian tradition contemplates, venerates and sings the praises of the Blessed Virgin, whose icons remind everyone that the Mother of God is the chosen image of humanity redeemed by Christ. The Churches of the East thus offer us, in the wealth of their Marian patrimony, not only an ecumenical path but also a model of Christian humanism.
As for the West, in order to honour the Mother of God and to emphasize her universal spiritual motherhood, theology, spirituality and art draw on the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnate Word. Her union with Christ is the archetype of the union of the Church and of individual believers with the Redeemer. In reflecting on her, the Lord’s disciples very quickly understood that Blessed Mary was the first to be redeemed, the perfect image of Redemption. Bl John Duns Scotus, poet of the Immaculate Conception, wrote in this regard: “If Christ, then, has reconciled us most perfectly with God, he merited that this most grievous punishment be withheld from someone. This could only be in favour of his Mother”...
Following the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus of my revered predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, I wished to stress in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater the essential link between Mary and the Church by emphasizing her mission within the community of believers. In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, I later recalled how Mary enlightens and enriches the Christian humanism inspired by the Gospel, because, in addition to the various aspects of the 'new humanity' which is realized in her, she brings out the dignity and 'genius' of woman. Chosen by God to fulfil his plan of salvation, Mary helps us understand the mission of woman in the Church’s life and in the preaching of the Gospel.
St Cyril of Alexandria's homily preached at the Council of Ephesus:
Bright the company I see of the holy ones, all zealously come together, called by holy Mary, Mother of God, ever-virgin. When I was plunged in sadness the arrival of the holy Fathers changed me to joy. Now was fulfilled for us what David the psalmist wrote: 'How good, how delightful it is when brothers live in harmony!' So we hail the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, which has called all this our company together to this church of Mary, the Mother of God. Hail Mary, Mother of God, august treasury of the whole world, unquenchable torch, crown of virginity, sceptre of orthodoxy, temple indestructible, and place of the uncontainable, mother and virgin. Through you is named blessed in the holy gospel he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hail Mary! You contained the uncontainable in your holy virginal womb. Through you the Trinity is glorified; through you is the cross named precious, and adored throughout the whole world; through you heaven exults; through you angels and archangels rejoice; through you dmons are put to flight; through you the devil, the tempter, fell from heaven; through you the fallen creature is taken up to heaven; through you the whole created world, gripped in teh madness of idolatry, came to a recognition of the truth; through you comes about holy baptism for believers; through you the oil of gladness; through you churches have been founded through the whole world; through you nations are led to repentance.
What need is there to speak at length? Through you the only Son of God shone his light for those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death; through you prophets foretold what was to come; through you apostles preach salvation to the nations; through you the dead are raised to life; through you kings reign, through the Holy Trinity.
What man can sing adequately the praise of Mary? She is both virgin and mother! The wonder astounds me. Shall the builder be forbidden to inhabit the temple he has built? Shall he be despised who chose his handmaid for his mother?
See then, all things rejoice. May it be ours to fear and bow before the unity of the Trinity, to worship and tremble in awe before the indivisible Trinity, as we sing praises of the ever-virgin Mary, that is the holy Church, and of her Son and immaculate spouse; for to him is glory for ever and ever. Amen.