Wednesday, 21 May 1997 - Mary was witness to whole paschal mystery

1. After Jesus had been laid in the tomb, Mary “alone remains to keep alive the flame of faith, preparing to receive the joyful and astonishing announcement of the Resurrection” (Address at the General Audience, 3 April 1996; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 April 1996, p. 7). The expectation felt on Holy Saturday is one of the loftiest moments of faith for the Mother of the Lord: in the darkness that envelops the world, she entrusts herself fully to the God of life, and thinking back to the words of her Son, she hopes in the fulfilment of the divine promises.

The Gospels mention various appearances of the risen Christ, but not a meeting between Jesus and his Mother. This silence must not lead to the conclusion that after the Resurrection Christ did not appear to Mary; rather it invites us to seek the reasons why the Evangelists made such a choice.

On the supposition of an “omission”, this silence could be attributed to the fact that what is necessary for our saving knowledge was entrusted to the word of those “chosen by God as witnesses” (
Ac 10,41), that is, the Apostles, who gave their testimony of the Lord Jesus’ Resurrection “with great power” (cf. Ac 4,33). Before appearing to them, the Risen One had appeared to several faithful women because of their ecclesial function: “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28,10).

If the authors of the New Testament do not speak of the Mother’s encounter with her risen Son, this can perhaps be attributed to the fact that such a witness would have been considered too biased by those who denied the Lord’s Resurrection, and therefore not worthy of belief.

2. Furthermore, the Gospels report a small number of appearances by the risen Jesus and certainly not a complete summary of all that happened during the 40 days after Easter. St Paul recalls that he appeared “to more than 500 brethren at one time” (1Co 15,6). How do we explain the fact that an exceptional event known to so many is not mentioned by the Evangelists? It is an obvious sign that other appearances of the Risen One were not recorded, although they were among the well-known events that occurred.

How could the Blessed Virgin, present in the first community of disciples (cf. Ac 1,14), be excluded from those who met her divine Son after he had risen from the dead?

3. Indeed, it is legitimate to think that the Mother was probably the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared. Could not Mary’s absence from the group of women who went to the tomb at dawn (cf. Mc 16,1 Mt 28,1) indicate that she had already met Jesus? This inference would also be confirmed by the fact that the first witnesses of the Resurrection, by Jesus’ will, were the women who had remained faithful at the foot of the Cross and therefore were more steadfast in faith.

Indeed, the Risen One entrusts to one of them, Mary Magdalene, the message to be passed on to the Apostles (cf. Jn 20,17-18). Perhaps this fact too allows us to think that Jesus showed himself first to his Mother, who had been the most faithful and had kept her faith intact when put to the test.

Lastly, the unique and special character of the Blessed Virgin’s presence at Calvary and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the Cross seem to postulate a very particular sharing on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection.

A fifth-century author, Sedulius, maintains that in the splendour of his risen life Christ first showed himself to his mother. In fact, she, who at the Annunciation was the way he entered the world, was called to spread the marvellous news of the Resurrection in order to become the herald of his glorious coming. Thus bathed in the glory of the Risen One, she anticipates the Church’s splendour cf. Sedulius, Paschale carmen, 5, 357-364, CSEL 10, 140f).

4. It seems reasonable to think that Mary, as the image and model of the Church which waits for the Risen One and meets him in the group of disciples during his Easter appearances, had had a personal contact with her risen Son, so that she too could delight in the fullness of paschal joy.

Present at Calvary on Good Friday (cf. Jn 19,25) and in the Upper Room on Pentecost (cf. Ac 1,14), the Blessed Virgin too was probably a privileged witness of Christ’s Resurrection, completing in this way her participation in all the essential moments of the paschal mystery. Welcoming the risen Jesus, Mary is also a sign and an anticipation of humanity, which hopes to achieve its fulfilment through the resurrection of the dead.

In the Easter season, the Christian community addresses the Mother of the Lord and invites her to rejoice: “Regina Caeli, laetare. Alleluia!”. “Queen of heaven, rejoice. Alleluia!”. Thus it recalls Mary's joy at Jesus' Resurrection, prolonging in time the “rejoice” that the Angel addressed to her at the Annunciation, so that she might become a cause of “great joy” for all people.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I thank the young men and women of “Up with People” for their presence and for their generosity in donating the proceeds of their performances in Rome to the construction of a hospital in Albania for children suffering from heart disease. I also welcome the participants in the course sponsored by the NATO Defense College, and I encourage them in their efforts to promote international security and peace. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including the pilgrims from England, India, Indonesia, Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 28 May 1997 - Mary prays for outpouring of the Spirit

1. Retracing the course of the Virgin Mary’s life, the Second Vatican Council recalls her presence in the community waiting for Pentecost. “But since it had pleased God not to manifest solemnly the mystery of the salvation of the human race before he would pour forth the Spirit promised by Christ, we see the Apostles before the day of Pentecost ‘persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren’ (
Ac 1,14), and we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation” (Lumen gentium LG 59).

The first community is the prelude to the birth of the Church; the Blessed Virgin’s presence helps to sketch her definitive features, a fruit of the gift of Pentecost.

2. In the atmosphere of expectation that prevailed in the Upper Room after the Ascension, what was Mary’s position in relation to the descent of the Holy Spirit?

The Council expressly underscores her prayerful presence while waiting for the outpouring of the Paraclete: she prays, “imploring the gift of the Spirit”. This observation is particularly significant since at the Annunciation the Holy Spirit had descended upon her, “overshadowing” her and bringing about the Incarnation of the Word.

Having already had a unique experience of the effectiveness of such a gift, the Blessed Virgin was in a condition to appreciate it more than anyone; indeed, she owed her motherhood to the mysterious intervention of the Spirit, who had made her the way by which the Saviour came into the world.

Unlike those in the Upper Room who were waiting in fearful expectation, she, fully aware of the importance of her Son’s promise to the disciples (cf. Jn 14,16), helped the community to be well disposed to the coming of the “Paraclete”.

34 Thus, while her unique experience made her ardently long for the Spirit’s coming, it also involved her in preparing the minds and hearts of those around her.

3. During that prayer in the Upper Room, in an attitude of deep communion with the Apostles, with some women and with Jesus’ “brethren”, the Mother of the Lord prays for the gift of the Spirit for herself and for the community.

It was appropriate that the first outpouring of the Spirit upon her, which had happened in view of her divine motherhood, should be repeated and reinforced. Indeed, at the foot of the Cross Mary was entrusted with a new motherhood, which concerned Jesus’ disciples. It was precisely this mission that demanded a renewed gift of the Spirit. The Blessed Virgin therefore wanted it for the fruitfulness of her spiritual motherhood.

While at the moment of the Incarnation the Holy Spirit had descended upon her as a person called to take part worthily in the great mystery, everything is now accomplished for the sake of the Church, whose image, model and mother Mary is called to be.

In the Church and for the Church, mindful of Jesus’ promise, she waits for Pentecost and implores a multiplicity of gifts for everyone, in accordance with each one's personality and mission.

4. Mary’s prayer has particular significance in the Christian community: it fosters the coming of the Spirit, imploring his action in the hearts of the disciples and in the world. Just as in the Incarnation the Spirit had formed the physical body of Christ in her virginal womb, now in the Upper Room the same Spirit comes down to give life to the Mystical Body.

Thus Pentecost is also a fruit of the Blessed Virgin’s incessant prayer, which is accepted by the Paraclete with special favour because it is an expression of her motherly love for the Lord’s disciples.

In contemplating Mary’s powerful intercession as she waits for the Holy Spirit, Christians of every age have frequently had recourse to her intercession on the long and tiring journey to salvation, in order to receive the gifts of the Paraclete in greater abundance.

5. Responding to the prayer of the Blessed Virgin and the community gathered in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bestows the fullness of his gifts on the Blessed Virgin and those present, working a deep transformation in them for the sake of spreading the Good News. The Mother of Christ and his disciples are granted new strength and new apostolic energy for the Church’s growth. In particular, the outpouring of the Spirit leads Mary to exercise her spiritual motherhood in an exceptional way, through her presence imbued with charity and her witness of faith.

In the nascent Church she passes on to the disciples her memories of the Incarnation, the infancy, the hidden life and the mission of her divine Son as a priceless treasure, thus helping to make him known and to strengthen the faith of believers.

We have no information about Mary’s activity in the early Church, but we may suppose that after Pentecost her life would have continued to be hidden and discreet, watchful and effective. Since she was enlightened and guided by the Spirit, she exercised a deep influence on the community of the Lord’s disciples.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, the Holy Father said:

I cordially greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially the groups from England, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, the Philippines, Japan and the United States. Upon all of you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

                                                                                   June 1997

Wednesday, 18 June 1997 - Historic celebrations marked Polish visit

1. I would like to begin today’s meeting by telling you about the recent pilgrimage to Poland which divine Providence gave me the opportunity to make. There were three principal reasons for this Pastoral Visit: the International Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw, the 1,000th anniversary of St Adalbert’s martyrdom and the 600th anniversary of the foundation of the Jagiellonian University of Kraków. These events were the nucleus of the whole itinerary, which from 31 May to 10 June included Wroclaw, Legnica, Gorzów, Wielkopolski, Gniezno, Poznań, Kalisz, Częstochowa, Zakopane, Ludźmierz, Kraków, Dukla and Krosno, concentrating on three great cities: Wroclaw, the site of the 46th International Eucharistic Congress, Gniezno, a city linked with the death of St Adalbert, and Kraków, where the Jagiellonian University was founded.

2. The 46th International Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw began on Trinity Sunday, 25 May, with the Eucharistic celebration presided at by my Legate, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State. A rich spiritual and liturgical programme filled the entire week, centring on the main theme: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (
Ga 5,1). The Lord enabled me to take part in the conclusion of the work and so, on the last day of May, I was able to venerate Christ in the Eucharist, adoring him in the cathedral of Wroclaw together with people who had come from all over the world. That same day I took part in an ecumenical prayer service with representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities. The next day, Sunday, 1 June, the Congress ended with a solemn Mass — statio orbis.

An extraordinary ecclesial experience, the International Eucharistic Congress brought together many theologians, priests, religious and lay people. It was certainly a time of deep reflection on the mystery of the Eucharist and gave Christians from Poland, Europe and other parts of the world an opportunity to spend much time in prayer, prayers which were led at times by the Cardinals and Bishops of different nations who had been invited for the occasion. The Congress held in Wroclaw was the 46th since the first, held in Lille, France, in 1881. In recent years the International Eucharistic Congresses have normally been held every four years, in the following order: Lourdes, France, 1981; Nairobi, Kenya, 1985; Seoul, Korea, 1989; Seville, Spain, 1993. The next one will be held in Rome, to mark the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

3. The millennium of St Adalbert, martyred in the year 997, was the second reason for my visit. He came from Bohemia and belonged to the princely Slavník family. Born in Libice in the territory of the present day Diocese of Hradec Králové, he became Bishop of Prague at a young age. At the end of last April, we solemnly celebrated Adalbert’s millennium in the Czech Republic, with the participation of many Bishops from countries linked with this saint’s life and work. St Adalbert came to Poland towards the end of his life, invited by King Boleslaw the Brave. He accepted the invitation to evangelize the pagan peoples who lived in the regions of the Baltic Sea. There he met his death, and after martyrdom his body was ransomed by King Boleslaw the Brave and taken to Gniezno which then became the centre of devotion to St Adalbert. An important meeting, not only religious but also political, took place near the relics of the holy martyr in the year 1000. Emperor Otto III and the Papal Legate both went to Gniezno for the occasion. Their meeting with King Boleslaw the Brave is known as the Gniezno Meeting, and it was precisely then, in Gniezno, that the first metropolitan see was established in what was then Poland. From the political standpoint, the Gniezno Meeting was an important event because it marked Poland's entry, under the Piasts, into a united Europe. At the recent commemoration of the millennium of St Adalbert’s death, we were once again linked with that historic event and with its particular importance for our continent. The Presidents of the countries connected with the tradition of St Adalbert came to Gniezno to remember him: from the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary. Once again I thank the Lord and all those who worked hard to arrange this important event.

36 4. The foundation of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków was the third reason for my visit. This first university in Poland was founded by King Casimir the Great in 1364. It was a Studium Generale, but not yet a full university since it lacked a faculty of theology. In 1397 Queen Hedwig and her husband Wladyslaw Jagiello did all that was required to establish the Theology Faculty. Thanks to the initiative taken by the founders of the Jagiellonian dynasty, a university with full rights came into being in Kraków, which very soon became an important centre of study, famous not only in Poland but throughout the Europe of that time.

For the city of Kraków and the university community 8 June was a great celebration: Queen Hedwig was canonized at last, after 600 years. On that occasion there was a meeting with representatives of the Polish universities, who not only took part in the solemn Eucharistic celebration but also in the academic convocation held at the tomb of St John of Kęty, in the Academy's Church of St Anne. For all those linked with the Alma Mater of Kraków, it was an unusually solemn moment.

On my last day in Poland another canonization took place, that of John of Dukla, a 15th-century Franciscan who was also connected with academic life at the University of Kraków. Although he was born in Dukla, he lived his life and served as a Franciscan in Lviv. I thank the Lord for allowing me to honour his memory at his birthplace, although his canonization took place in Krosno, in the Archdiocese of Przemyoel.

In addition to the two canonizations during my pilgrimage, I had the joy of proclaiming two blesseds on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 6 June, in Zakopane: Maria Bernardina Jablońska, co-foundress of the Congregation of the Albertine Sisters, and Maria Karlowska, foundress of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd Sisters.

5. Dear brothers and sisters, as I address my grateful thoughts to the Lord, I would once again like to express my deep gratitude to everyone who in various ways contributed to preparing and conducting this pilgrimage to my homeland. I am grateful to the State and Church authorities, to the organizations that did all they could to make my journey peaceful and successful, as well as to every other institution involved in organizing it. I also thank the management and employees of radio and television, who enabled Poland and the whole world to share the excitement of those who were able to attend the events in person.

I express my deep joy at having been able, during my elevenday pilgrimage to my country, to join so many of my compatriots in singing the Te Deum to thank the Lord for the many blessings granted to Poland and the whole world over the last 1,000 years.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I am pleased to greet the distinguished members of the World Psychiatric Association meeting in Rome. May your important work of healing always be inspired by an integral vision of the human person and respect for the inviolable dignity and transcendent vocation of every individual. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Malta, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 25 June 1997 - Mary and the human drama of death

1. Concerning the end of Mary’s earthly life, the Council uses the terms of the Bull defining the dogma of the Assumption and states: “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” (Lumen gentium
LG 59). With this formula, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, following my Venerable Predecessor Pius XII, made no pronouncement on the question of Mary’s death. Nevertheless, Pius XII did not intend to deny the fact of her death, but merely did not judge it opportune to affirm solemnly the death of the Mother of God as a truth to be accepted by all believers.

Some theologians have in fact maintained that the Blessed Virgin did not die and and was immediately raised from earthly life to heavenly glory. However, this opinion was unknown until the 17th century, whereas a common tradition actually exists which sees Mary's death as her entry into heavenly glory.

2. Could Mary of Nazareth have experienced the drama of death in her own flesh? Reflecting on Mary’s destiny and her relationship with her divine Son, it seems legitimate to answer in the affirmative: since Christ died, it would be difficult to maintain the contrary for his Mother.

The Fathers of the Church, who had no doubts in this regard, reasoned along these lines. One need only quote St Jacob of Sarug (†521), who wrote that when the time came for Mary “to walk on the way of all generations”, the way, that is, of death, “the group of the Twelve Apostles” gathered to bury “the virginal body of the Blessed One” (Discourse on the burial of the Holy Mother of God, 87-99 in C. Vona, Lateranum 19 [1953], 188). St Modestus of Jerusalem (†634), after a lengthy discussion of “the most blessed dormition of the most glorious Mother of God”, ends his eulogy by exalting the miraculous intervention of Christ who “raised her from the tomb”, to take her up with him in glory (Enc. in dormitionem Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae, nn. 7 and 14: PG 86bis, 3293; 3311). St John Damascene (†704) for his part asks: “Why is it that she who in giving birth surpassed all the limits of nature should now bend to its laws, and her immaculate body be subjected to death?”. And he answers: “To be clothed in immortality, it is of course necessary that the mortal part be shed, since even the master of nature did not refuse the experience of death. Indeed, he died according to the flesh and by dying destroyed death; on corruption he bestowed incorruption and made death the source of resurrection” (Panegyric on the Dormition of the Mother of God, n. 10: SC 80,107).

3. It is true that in Revelation death is presented as a punishment for sin. However, the fact that the Church proclaims Mary free from original sin by a unique divine privilege does not lead to the conclusion that she also received physical immortality. The Mother is not superior to the Son who underwent death, giving it a new meaning and changing it into a means of salvation.

Involved in Christ’s redemptive work and associated in his saving sacrifice, Mary was able to share in his suffering and death for the sake of humanity’s Redemption. What Severus of Antioch says about Christ also applies to her: “Without a preliminary death, how could the Resurrection have taken place?” (Antijulianistica, Beirut 1931, 194f.). To share in Christ’s Resurrection, Mary had first to share in his death.

4. The New Testament provides no information on the circumstances of Mary’s death. This silence leads one to suppose that it happened naturally, with no detail particularly worthy of mention. If this were not the case, how could the information about it have remained hidden from her contemporaries and not have been passed down to us in some way?

As to the cause of Mary’s death, the opinions that wish to exclude her from death by natural causes seem groundless. It is more important to look for the Blessed Virgin’s spiritual attitude at the moment of her departure from this world. In this regard, St Francis de Sales maintains that Mary’s death was due to a transport of love. He speaks of a dying “in love, from love and through love”, going so far as to say that the Mother of God died of love for her Son Jesus (Treatise on the Love of God, bk. 7, ch. XIII-XIV).

Whatever from the physical point of view was the organic, biological cause of the end of her bodily life, it can be said that for Mary the passage from this life to the next was the full development of grace in glory, so that no death can ever be so fittingly described as a “dormition” as hers.

5. In some of the writings of the Church Fathers we find Jesus himself described as coming to take his Mother at the time of her death to bring her into heavenly glory. In this way they present the death of Mary as an event of love which conducted her to her divine Son to share his immortal life. At the end of her earthly life, she must have experienced, like Paul and more strongly, the desire to be freed from her body in order to be with Christ for ever (cf. Ph 1,23).

The experience of death personally enriched the Blessed Virgin: by undergoing mankind’s common destiny, she can more effectively exercise her spiritual motherhood towards those approaching the last moment of their life.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, the Holy Father said:

I am pleased to welcome the professors and students of the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church in America. I also thank the choirs for the praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrims from Scotland, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

                                                                                  July 1997

Wednesday, 2 July 1997 - Church believes in Mary’s Assumption

1. Following the Bull Munificentissimus Deus of my venerable Predecessor Pius XII, the Second Vatican Council affirms that the Immaculate Virgin "was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over" (Lumen gentium
LG 59).

The Council Fathers wished to stress that Mary, unlike Christians who die in God’s grace, was taken up into the glory of heaven with her body. This age-old old belief is expressed in a long iconographical tradition which shows Mary "entering" heaven with her body.

The dogma of the Assumption affirms that Mary's body was glorified after her death. In fact, while for other human beings the resurrection of the body will take place at the end of the world, for Mary the glorification of her body was anticipated by a special privilege.

2. On 1 November 1950, in defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII avoided using the term "resurrection" and did not take a position on the question of the Blessed Virgin’s death as a truth of faith. The Bull Munificentissimus Deus limits itself to affirming the elevation of Mary’s body to heavenly glory, declaring this truth a "divinely revealed dogma".

How can we not see that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin has always been part of the faith of the Christian people who, by affirming Mary’s entrance into heavenly glory, have meant to proclaim the glorification of her body?

The first trace of belief in the Virgin's Assumption can be found in the apocryphal accounts entitled Transitus Mariae, whose origin dates to the second and third centuries. These are popular and sometimes romanticized depictions, which in this case, however, pick up an intuition of faith on the part of God's People.

Later, there was a long period of growing reflection on Mary’s destiny in the next world. This gradually led the faithful to believe in the glorious raising of the Mother of Jesus, in body and soul, and to the institution in the East of the liturgical feasts of the Dormition and Assumption of Mary.

Belief in the glorious destiny of the body and soul of the Lord's Mother after her death spread very rapidly from East to West, and has been widespread since the 14th century. In our century, on the eve of the definition of the dogma it was a truth almost universally accepted and professed by the Christian community in every corner of the world.

39 3. Therefore in May 1946, with the Encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae, Pius XII called for a broad consultation, inquiring among the Bishops and, through them, among the clergy and the People of God as to the possibility and opportuneness of defining the bodily assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith. The result was extremely positive: only six answers out of 1,181 showed any reservations about the revealed character of this truth.

Citing this fact, the Bull Munificentissimus Deus states: "From the universal agreement of the Church's ordinary Magisterium we have a certain and firm proof demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven ... is a truth revealed by God and therefore should be firmly and faithfully believed by all the children of the Church" (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus: AAS 42 [1950], 757).

The definition of the dogma, in conformity with the universal faith of the People of God, definitively excludes every doubt and calls for the express assent of all Christians.

After stressing the Church’s actual belief in the Assumption, the Bull recalls the scriptural basis for this truth.

Although the New Testament does not explictly affirm Mary’s Assumption, it offers a basis for it because it strongly emphasized the Blessed Virgin's perfect union with Jesus’ destiny. This union, which is manifested, from the time of the Saviour's miraculous conception, in the Mother’s participation in her Son’s mission and especially in her association with his redemptive sacrifice, cannot fail to require a continuation after death. Perfectly united with the life and savingwork of Jesus, Mary shares his heavenly destiny in body and soul.

4. The Bull Munificentissimus Deus cited above refers to the participation of the woman of the Proto-gospel in the struggle against the serpent, recognizing Mary as the New Eve, and presents the Assumption as a consequence of Mary’s union with Christ’s saving work. In this regard it says: "Consequently, just as the glorious Resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body" (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus: AAS 42 [1950], 768).

The Assumption is therefore the culmination of the struggle which involved Mary’s generous love in the redemption of humanity and is the fruit of her unique sharing in the victory of the Cross.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I extend a warm welcome to the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Melbourne in Australia and from the Archdiocese of Nairobi in Kenya who have accompanied their new Archbishops for the reception of the pallium. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song, especially the Choir of Lincoln College, Oxford, and the Cathedral Choir of Saint Louis, Missouri. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrims from Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Indonesia, Japan and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 9 July 1997 - Mary is first creature to enjoy eternal life

1. The Church’s constant and unanimous Tradition shows how Mary’s Assumption is part of the divine plan and is rooted in her unique sharing in the mission of her Son. In the first millennium sacred authors had already spoken in this way.

Testimonies, not yet fully developed, can be found in St Ambrose, St Epiphanius and Timothy of Jerusalem. St Germanus I of Constantinople (†730) puts these words on Jesus’ lips as he prepares to take his Mother to heaven: “You must be where I am, Mother inseparable from your Son...” (Hom. 3 in Dormitionem , PG 98,360).

In addition, the same ecclesial Tradition sees the fundamental reason for the Assumption in the divine motherhood.

We find an interesting trace of this conviction in a fifth-century apocryphal account attributed to Pseudo-Melito. The author imagines Christ questioning Peter and the Apostles on the destiny Mary deserved, and this is the reply he ?received: “Lord, you chose this handmaid of yours to become an immaculate dwelling place for you.... Thus it seemed right to us, your servants, that just as you reign in glory after conquering death, so you should raise your Mother’s body and take her rejoicing with you to heaven” (Transitus Mariae, 16, PG 5,1238). It can therefore be said that the divine motherhood, which made Mary’s body the immaculate dwelling place of the Lord, was the basis of her glorious destiny.

2. St Germanus maintains in a richly poetic text that it is Jesus’ affection for his Mother which requires Mary to be united with her divine Son in heaven: “Just as a child seeks and desires its mother’s presence and a mother delights in her child’s company, it was fitting that you, whose motherly love for your Son and God leaves no room for doubt, should return to him. And was it not right, in any case, that this God who had a truly filial love for you, should take you into his company?” (Hom. 1 in Dormitionem , PG 98,347). In another text, the venerable author combines the private aspect of the relationship between Christ and Mary with the saving dimension of her motherhood, maintaining that “the mother of Life should share the dwelling place of Life” (ibid. , PG 98,348).

3. According to some of the Church Fathers, another argument for the privilege of the Assumption is taken from Mary’s sharing in the work of Redemption. St John Damascene underscores the relationship between her participation in the Passion and her glorious destiny: “It was right that she who had seen her Son on the Cross and received the sword of sorrow in the depths of her heart ... should behold this Son seated at the right hand of the Father” ? (Hom. 2, PG 96, 741). In the light of the paschal mystery, it appears particularly clear that the Mother should also be glorified with her Son after death.

The Second Vatican Council, recalling the mystery of the Assumption in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, draws attention to the privilege of the Immaculate Conception: precisely because she was “preserved free from all stain of original sin” (Lumen gentium
LG 59), Mary could not remain like other human beings in the state of death until the end of the world. The absence of original sin and her perfect holiness from the very first moment of her existence required the full glorification of the body and soul of the Mother of God. ?

41 4. Looking at the mystery of the Blessed Virgin’s Assumption, we can understand the plan of divine Providence plan for humanity: after Christ, the Incarnate Word, Mary is the first human being to achieve the eschatological ideal, anticipating the fullness of happiness promised to the elect through the resurrection of the body.

In the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin we can also see the divine will to advance woman.

In a way analogous to what happened at the beginning of the human race and of salvation history, in God’s plan the eschatological ideal was not to be revealed in an individual, but in a couple. Thus in heavenly glory, beside the risen Christ there is a woman who has been raised up, Mary: the new Adam and the new Eve, the first-fruits of the general resurrection of the bodies of all humanity.

The eschatological conditions of Christ and Mary should not, of course, be put on the same level. Mary, the new Eve, received from Christ, the new Adam, the fullness of grace and heavenly glory, having been raised through the Holy Spirit by the sovereign power of the Son.

5. Despite their brevity, these notes enable us to show clearly that Mary’s Assumption reveals the nobility and dignity of the human body.

In the face of the profanation and debasement to which modern society frequently subjects the female body, the mystery of the Assumption proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body, called by the Lord to become an instrument of holiness and to share in his glory.

Mary entered into glory because she welcomed the Son of God in her virginal womb and in her heart. By looking at her, the Christian learns to discover the value of his own body and to guard it as a temple of God, in expectation of the resurrection.

The Assumption, a privilege granted to the Mother of God, thus has immense value for the life and destiny of humanity.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Pope said:

I extend a cordial welcome to the Venerable Dada Vaswani and the group of Hindu visitors from Bombay, India. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Indonesia, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of Jesus Christ our Saviour.