“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Trinitarian Perspective

On January 10, 1996, Pope St. John Paul II focused on, as part of his Marian Catechesis during the years of 1995 to 1997, Mary in the Trinitarian Perspective. Beginning with the 8th chapter of the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium, the Polish saint lays out the importance Mary plays in regards to the Most Holy Trinity. As the greatest creature of all creatures, she has a distinct relationship with each of the persons of the Holy Trinity. Quoting paragraph #53 from the aforementioned document, John Paul II says,

“Mary’s threefold relationship with the divine Persons is confirmed in precise words and with a description of the characteristic relationship which links the Mother of the Lord to the Church: “She is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Coronation of the Virgin – Diego Velázquez

He further explains in the same catechesis how Mary is the Mother of the Son of God, beloved daughter of the Father, and temple of the Holy Spirit. He says,

“Mary’s fundamental dignity is that of being “Mother of the Son”, which is expressed in Christian doctrine and devotion with the title “Mother of God”.

This is a surprising term, which shows the humility of God’s only-begotten Son in his Incarnation and, in connection with it, the most high privilege granted a creature who was called to give him birth in the flesh.

Mother of the Son, Mary is the “beloved daughter of the Father” in a unique way. She has been granted an utterly special likeness between her motherhood and the divine fatherhood.

And again: every Christian is a “temple of the Holy Spirit”, according to the Apostle Paul’s expression (1 Cor 6:19). But this assertion takes on an extraordinary meaning in Mary: in her the relationship with the Holy Spirit is enriched with a spousal dimension. I recalled this in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater: “The Holy Spirit had already come down upon her, and she became his faithful spouse at the Annunciation, welcoming the Word of the true God…” (n. 26).”

Pope St. John Paul II concludes his short catechesis on Mary’s role with the Trinity with these words,

 “…the authentic meaning of Mary’s privileges and of her extraordinary relationship with the Trinity: their purpose is to enable her to co-operate in the salvation of the human race. The immeasurable greatness of the Lord’s Mother therefore remains a gift of God’s love for all men.”

To read the full catechesis from January 10, 1996, click HERE.

I have also written on Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium in the past, to read the paragraphs spoken from this catechesis, please click HERE. If you have never read the Second Vatican Council document, I would highly encourage you to do so.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Church in God’s Plan

Now that Pope Francis is in the United States and the mainstream media is “reporting” on his travels and speeches here, I have decided to focus all my blog posts this week focusing on what is the Catholic Church through the QLC series. I am doing this for two reasons – 1. Is to teach my followers and readers to understand these paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and 2. To assist the mainstream media in understanding what the Catholic Church teaches about herself and what she says to the world.

Most of us realize that the mainstream media does not do its homework properly when researching the teachings of the Catholic Church. In some media circles, it’s a lack of proper education in good research, and in other circles, it’s a deliberate misinterpretation of the teachings of Mother Church. In recent years, we have seen this with the words of Pope Francis. Here is a hypothetical circumstance on how the mainstream media could potentially report the news that Pope Francis miraculously walked on water – the headlines would read: Why Can’t the Pope Swim?

So with this being said, let’s focus first on The Church in God’s Plan. In the Second Vatican Council Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, it states,

“Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament – sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men – she here proposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission” (#1).

This opening statement is the mission of the entire document. Since the Church is the sacrament of salvation, she is both a sign and instrument of God’s salvation for humanity. The Church is God’s instrument to bring men into communion (Greek – koinonia, Latin – communio) with God and with each other through the grace of the Sacraments. When one says that they are “in Communion” with the Church it means that they adhere to all the teachings of the Church. The Church has its foundation in the Old Testament foreshadowed by the Patriarchs and the Israelites assembling (Hebrew – qahal) together.

Jesus Christ gave his authority to Peter (Mt. 16:18-19) and the other Apostles to establish the Catholic Church, which is both visible and invisible. The Holy Spirit has led and guided the Church from Pentecost Sunday to today always protecting and safeguarding the Deposit of Faith (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition) in accordance with the official teaching of the Church – the Magisterium (Pope and Bishops).

It is the mission of the Church to propose, not impose; the Church never imposes, she always proposes the Truth of Jesus Christ to the world and to the faithful of the Church. If there is one thing to remember it’s this – The Catholic Church isn’t just on a mission; the Catholic Church is a mission. The mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to save souls.

Now that we understand this, let’s read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states –

The word “Church” means “convocation.” It designates the assembly of those whom God’s Word “convokes,” i.e., gathers together to form the People of God, and who themselves, nourished with the Body of Christ, become the Body of Christ. [#777]

The Church is both the means and the goal of God’s plan: prefigured in creation, prepared for in the Old Covenant, founded by the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fulfilled by his redeeming cross and his Resurrection, the Church has been manifested as the mystery of salvation by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She will be perfected in the glory of heaven as the assembly of all the redeemed of the earth (cf. Rev 14:4). [#778]

The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept. [#779]

The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men. [#780]

To understand these teachings completely, I would also suggest reading paragraphs 748-776 in the Catechism. Along the same topic of the Church, I would suggest you read one of my first QLC’s titled, The Ecclesial Ministry and the Pope.

This week, let us pray for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Trip to the United States and that the hearts that are closed to hearing the Church’s message will be opened with charity, compassion, and Truth. Let us also pray for the safety of Pope Francis and his intentions for this month. Today, let us ask for the intercession of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).

Do me a favor and share this with your family and friends on your social media sites. If you know journalists in the media, send this to them as well. Thank you.

The 50th Anniversary of Lumen Gentium

Today, November 21, 2014, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Along with this major constitution, we also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches) and Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism).

This document like all the documents from the Second Vatican Council, take their name from the first words of the document itself. The first two words – Lumen Gentium – the light of the nations is in reference to Jesus Christ who is the light to the nations. In the world, it is the Church that reflects the light of the Christ. Lumen Gentium is Christ and that is whom the Church must proclaim to all nations.

Like the document that accompanied Lumen Gentium (De Ecclesia – name during the council), Gaudium et Spes, or Schema 13 (name during the council) is a document with a more weighted subject matter – the permanent position of the Church. Where Gaudium et Spes provides the outward understanding of the Church – the Church is a mission, Lumen Gentium focuses on Holy Mother Church and the question, what does she say about herself? The role of Lumen Gentium is to answer the question by listening to the Holy Spirit in our times. This document focuses on the internal understanding of the Church. As a divine institution instituted by Jesus Christ himself, and given to St. Peter, the Church calls out to the world.

The document is composed of eight chapters: 1. The Mystery of the Church; 2. The People of God; 3. The Church is Hierarchical; 4. The Laity; 5. The Call to Holiness; 6. Religious; 7. The Pilgrim Church, and 8. Our Lady.

To conclude today’s blog post, I give you eight quotes for the eight chapters from the document. There are many great gems of theological insight in Lumen Gentium, but these are the ones that have recently stood out for me –

1. “Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk. 16:15)…Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men – she here proposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission” (#1).

2. “The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element” (#8).

Lumen Gentium

3. “Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ he effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation and active charity” (#10).

4. “From the marriage of Christians there comes the family in which new citizens of human society are born and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, those are made children of God so that the People of God may be perpetuated throughout the centuries. In what might be regarded as the domestic Church [italics mine], the parents, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They must foster the vocation which is proper to each child, and this with special care if it be to religion” (#11).

5. “The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff…It is clear, however, that the office of binding and loosing which was given to St. Peter (Mt. 16:19), was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head (Mt. 18:18; 28:16-20)” (#22).

6. “They [the laity] live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that, being led by the spirit to the Gospel, they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as fro within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties” (#31).

7. “But if charity is to grow and fructify in the soul like a good seed, each of the faithful must willingly hear the word of God and carry out his will with deeds, with the help of his grace; he must frequently partake of the sacraments, chiefly the Eucharist, and take part in the liturgy; he must constantly apply himself to prayer, self-denial, active brotherly service and the practice of all virtues…the true disciple of Christ is marked by both love of God and of his neighbor” (#42).

8. “Christ lifted up from the earth, has drawn all men to himself (cf. Jn. 12:32). Rising from the dead (cf. Rom. 6:9) he sent his life-giving Spirit upon his disciples and through him set up his Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the right hand of the Father he is continually active in the world in order to lead men to the Church and, through it, join them more closely to himself; and by nourishing them with his own Body and Blood, make them partakers of his glorious life” (#48).

For an explanation of Chapter 8 – Our Lady, please read “Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lumen Gentium, Part I, Part II, and Part III).

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lumen Gentium, Part II

Today we pick up right we where left off in Part I and continue to discuss the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chapter 8 of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. For today’s post, we will focus our attention on paragraphs 58-64.

#58: Although the term, Co-Redemptrix or Co-Redemption are not used in this document, it does mean that the Council Fathers do not teach it – they do. However, because of the ecumenical nature of the Council, the Council Fathers chose not to use the term, but when you read this paragraph carefully, you clearly see Mary’s role as Co-Redemptrix is here.

Within this paragraph, we see three elements of Calvary. First, the Council Father’s say that Mary endured with her only begotten son the intensity of his suffering. She endured the pain of the crucifixion. Second, Mary associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart – one sacrifice from two hearts. Finally, lovingly she consented of the annulation, destruction of the victim being offered, of this victim born of her. She not only tolerated the crucifixion, but also consented to it – “enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.”

It was this paragraph that became the foundation for Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church, Redemptoris Mater. John Paul II says that Mary’s consent to this sacrifice is not only a “spiritual crucifixion” for her, but it’s also her second “fiat” – the second sorrowful fiat of Mary. As she consented at the Annunciation to the Mother of the Redeemer, so too here she consents during his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

#59: Drawing from Pope Pius IX’s Papal Bull, Ineffabilis, and Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissiumus Deus, and his Encyclical, Ad coeli Reginam, the Council Father’s state,

“Finally the Immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords, (cf. Apoc 19:16) and conquer of sin and death.”

Queen Mother

This paragraph speaks of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a clear sign that she was Immaculately Conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. In the Kingdom of God, Mary’s role would then be the Queen Mother. She is Queen over all things – here on Earth and in Heaven.

#60: Drawing from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, the Council Father’s explain a point that is often brought up against Mary as being a mediator – “for there is but one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all (2:5-6).

So how does Mary’s mediation work in relation to St. Paul’s words? First, Mary’s mediation does not compete or obscure the mediation of Jesus Christ. Second, our Lady’s mediation is not an inner necessity. God does not have to use a woman, but He does since it is His will (Gen 3:15). Third, the mediation of Mary is dependent on the one mediation of Christ and fosters union with Christ and the faithful.

#61: Here we see the combination of Our Lady as Co-Redemption, which in turn leads to Mediation. This role is a supernatural role. She is a mother to us in the order of grace – she is Co-Redemptrix and then Mediatrix. It does not make any sense that she would distribute grace, unless she herself first acquired it. In her Immaculate Conception, she receives grace. In her role as Mediator, the term that is often used, and it’s the most ancient title for Mary is Advocate. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the first to use this term.

#62: This paragraph continues to focus on the role of mediator. Mary’s saving office on earth is always subordinate to that of Christ. This saving office in Heaven, where she intercedes for the gifts of eternal life, is still given to her. Through her intercession, we receive protection and sanctification. Although some disagree that these titles should have been added to this paragraph, we see the titles of: Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. In the original schema (the working document), the only term was Mediatrix of all Grace. Some at the Council objected to this term, however, the Council Fathers insisted that this term was included.

#63 & 64: These paragraphs are transitional paragraphs where we see the Blessed Virgin and Mother as the “type” of the Church. It was St. Ambrose of Milan who first defined Mary as a “type” of the Church. Everything that is true of Mary will apply to the Church in its own degree. The terms, virgin and mother, are two examples of the Church. As a mother, The Church gives birth to the sacraments. As a virgin, the Church is entirety and pure – she is pledged to her spouse, Jesus Christ. The Church is both Mother and Bride – “The Church indeed contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother” (#64).

Next week, we will conclude with Part III and examine paragraphs 65-69.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lumen Gentium, Part I

I have been waiting 2 ½ years to write these next three blog posts featured in the “Mondays with Mary” series. Why have I been waiting three years? Well it’s because the next three “Mondays with Mary” will focus on Chapter VIII of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, which will celebrate it’s 50th Anniversary on November 21.

Chapter 8 is composed of five sections – a. Introduction (#52-54); b. The Function of the Blessed Virgin in the Plan of Salvation (#55-59); c. The Blessed Virgin and the Church (#60-65); d. The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church (#66-67); e. Mary, Sign of True Hope and Comfort for the Pilgrim People of God (#68-69). For Part I, we will examine paragraphs 52-57.

#52: Drawing upon the richness found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (4:4), this paragraph first focuses on how God sent his Son to adopt sons under the law. As the subordinate, the Blessed Virgin serves the adopted in this central role of salvation. It is in Galatians 4:4-6 that we see the summary of salvation. Second, the Father sends the Son, however it’s the Father who is the initiator of human redemption. Next, the Son is the Redeemer. The keystone and recapitulation of salvation lies with Him. Fourth, God send his son born of a woman. Mary is identified as the secondary mediator. As Mediatrix, she mediates the Mediator to the world. Fifth, the fruit of this mission are adopted sons, the entire human race. Lastly, the indication that we are adopted sons, in the presence of the Spirit, He calls us the to call out to Him – Abba, Father!

Furthermore, central to the Son’s mission is the woman, the “glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” This first paragraph is defending the highest conceivable devotion of any creature.

#53: “Redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God…” In this paragraph the Council Fathers make reference to Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, celebrated by the universal Church on December 8. The Immaculate Conception is the highest form of redemption. Through the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, we know that Mary was conceived in an immaculate way. It is here she becomes the Mother of God and soon the Mother of All Humanity.

#54: “It does not, however, intend to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified.” Overall, it seems that this statement (paragraph 54 in its entirety) drew battle lines among the Council Fathers. At the time of the Council, the primary discussions focused on the roles and titles of Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. Some argued that the term, mediatrix, was not clear enough. Although these terms never appear in the document, the Council Fathers understand Mary to fulfill these roles. It was thought an ecumenical disaster would appear if Mediatrix of All Graces was contained in the documents since there were Protestant observers present.

Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Graces

#55: Focusing on the references of Mary as a type in the Old Testament, the Council Fathers concentrate on three primary statements: first, that the woman in Genesis 3:15 (the Protoevangelium – first Gospel) is Mary. Second, the Virgin Birth of Emmanuel in Isaiah 7:14 also points to Mary. Finally, the woman in travail who gives birth and brings forth the child in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2-3 is again Mary. In all three references, there is no mention of a husband. They are virgin women.

The Council Fathers discuss the image of “Daughter Zion” in regards to Mary. This daughter is a faithful servant of Israel and faithful to the covenant even onto to death. “The exalted Daughter of Sion and the new plan of salvation is established, when the Son of God has taken human nature from her, that he might in the mysteries of his flesh free man from sin.” This quote also points to the understanding that Jesus’ DNA comes from Mary.

#56: As the previous paragraph focuses on the Old Testament, here we see the Council focusing on Mary in the New Testament. Drawing from the primary scripture verse, Luke 1:28, where the Angel Gabriel says, “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace’, the Lord is with you!” the Council Fathers declare that it states Mary’s role in Salvation History. This event points to the past in her Immaculate Conception and points to the future where she will dispense graces as Mediatrix.

The Council Fathers draw upon Patristic Commentary and turn to St. Irenaeus and St. Jerome. This is the antithetical parallelism – “Death through Eve, life through Mary” (St. Jerome). Mary is the cause of salvation “for herself and the whole human race.” (St. Irenaeus). The whole mystery of the Immaculate Conception is the cause herself. Mary’s fiat, her “yes” allows for Jesus’ death, her first fruit is done in the Immaculate Conception, outside of time, and then the New Adam and New Eve work together to save humanity. She is the first to receive salvation.

#57: An important paragraph since it focuses on the bonding nature between Jesus and Mary. Here we see that the Son and Mother are united for the goal of Redemption. Referencing the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, this paragraph also points to the traditions in the Church such as the Stations of the Cross. Because of her Immaculate Conception, Mary has infused knowledge that is supernatural, but still has tests of faith (three days Jesus is lost).

For Part II, next week’s blog post, we will examine paragraphs 58-64.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Ecclesial Ministry and the Pope

With the Canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, I found it fitting to discuss quickly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the ecclesial ministry and the head of that ministry, the Pope. Tomorrow will be a glorious day in the life of the Catholic Church when two of its recent princes will be officially elevated to Sainthood.

Let us give Praise and Thanksgiving to Our Lord Jesus Christ for his abundant mercy and for sending us these two great priests, bishops, and Popes to serve the Church in the latter years of the 20th century. Let us also offer our gratitude to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints and the Angels in the Heavenly Kingdom that watch and intercede for the entire Church. Come Holy Spirit Fill the Hearts of Your Faithful!

CCC 935: To proclaim the faith and to plant his reign, Christ sends his apostles and their successors. He gives them a share in his own mission. From him they receive the power to act in his person.

CCC 936: The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is “head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth” (Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 331).

CCC 937: The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, “supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls” (Christus Dominus, 2).

CCC 938:  The Bishops, established by the Holy Spirit, succeed the apostles. They are “the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches” (Lumen Gentium 23).

CCC 939: Helped by the priests, their co-workers, and by the deacons, the bishops have the duty of authentically teaching the faith, celebrating divine worship, above all the Eucharist, and guiding their Churches as true pastors. Their responsibility also includes concern for all the Churches, with and under the Pope.

For a more extensive teaching on the above paragraphs, please read CCC 874-896 of Chapter 3, Article 9, Paragraph 4, Section I.