Wednesday, 5 March 1997 - Mary is active in her Son’s mission

1. Describing Mary’s presence in Jesus’ public life, the Second Vatican Council recalls her involvement at Cana on the occasion of the first miracle: “At the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of miracles of Jesus the Messiah (cf.
Jn 2,1-11)” (Lumen gentium LG 58).

Following the Evangelist John, the Council points out the Mother's discreet and effective role, when by her words she persuades her Son to perform his “first sign”. Although her influence is discreet and maternal, her presence proves decisive.

The Blessed Virgin’s initiative is all the more surprising if one considers the inferior status of women in Jewish society. At Cana, in fact, Jesus does not only recognize the dignity and role of the feminine genius, but by welcoming his Mother’s intervention, he gives her the opportunity to participate in his messianic work. The epithet “Woman”, with which Jesus addresses Mary (cf. Jn 2,4), is not in contrast with his intention. Indeed it has no negative connotations, and Jesus will use it again when he addresses his Mother at the foot of the Cross (cf. Jn 19,26). According to some interpretations, this title “Woman” presents Mary as the New Eve, the mother in faith of all believers.

In the text cited, the Council uses the expression “moved with pity”, letting it be understood that Mary was prompted by her merciful heart. Having sensed the eventual disappointment of the newly married couple and guests because of the lack of wine, the Blessed Virgin compassionately suggests to Jesus that he intervene with his messianic power.

To some, Mary’s request may appear excessive, since it subordinates the beginning of the Messiah’s miracles to an act of filial devotion. Jesus himself dealt with this difficulty when, by assenting to his mother’s request, he shows the Lord's superabundance in responding to human expectations, manifesting also what a mother’s love can do.

2. The expression “the beginning of his miracles”, which the Council has taken from John’s text, attracts our attention. The Greek term arche, translated as “beginning”, is used by John in the Prologue of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1,1). This significant coincidence suggests a parallel between the very origins of Christ’s glory in eternity and the first manifestation of this same glory in his earthly mission.

By emphasizing Mary’s initiative in the first miracle and then recalling her presence on Calvary at the foot of the Cross, the Evangelist helps us understand how Mary’s co-operation is extended to the whole of Christ’s work. The Blessed Virgin’s request is placed within the divine plan of salvation.

14 In the first “sign” performed by Jesus, the Fathers of the Church glimpsed an important symbolic dimension, seeing the transformation of the water into wine as the announcement of the passage from the Old to the New Covenant. At Cana it is precisely the water in the jars, destined for the purification of the Jews and the fulfilment of the legal prescriptions (cf. Mc 7,1-15), which becomes the new wine of the wedding feast, a symbol of the definitive union between God and humanity.

3. The context of a wedding banquet, chosen by Jesus for his first miracle, refers to the marriage symbolism used frequently in the Old Testament to indicate the Covenant between God and his People (cf. Os 2,21 Jr 2,1-8 Ps 44 etc.), and in the New Testament to signify Christ’s union with the Church (cf. Jn 3,28-30 Ep 5,25-32 Ap 21,1-2, etc.).

Jesus’ presence at Cana is also a sign of God’s saving plan for marriage. In this perspective, the lack of wine can be interpreted as an allusion to the lack of love that unfortunately often threatens marital unions. Mary asks Jesus to intervene on behalf of all married couples, who can only be freed from the dangers of infidelity, misunderstanding and division by a love which is based on God. The grace of the sacrament offers the couple this superior strength of love, which can reinforce their commitment to fidelity even in difficult circumstances.

According to the interpretation of Christian authors, the miracle at Cana also has a deep Eucharistic meaning. Performing this miracle near the time of the Jewish feast Passover (cf. Jn 2,13), Jesus, as he did in multiplying the loaves (cf. Jn 6,4), shows his intention to prepare the true paschal banquet, the Eucharist. His desire at the wedding in Cana seems to be emphasized further by the presence of wine, which alludes to the blood of the New Covenant, and by the context of a banquet.

In this way, after being the reason for Jesus’ presence at the celebration, Mary obtains the miracle of the new wine which prefigures the Eucharist, the supreme sign of the presence of her risen Son among the disciples.

4. At the end of the account of Jesus’ first miracle, made possible by the firm faith of the Lord’s Mother in her divine Son, the Evangelist John concludes: “and his disciples believed in him” (Jn 2,11). At Cana, Mary begins the Church’s journey of faith, preceding the disciples and directing the servants’ attention to Christ.

Her persevering intercession likewise encourages those who at times face the experience of “God’s silence”. They are asked to hope beyond all hope, always trusting in the Lord’s goodness.

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

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrim groups from the United States of America. My special greeting goes to the students from the Bologna Center of Johns Hopkins University. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 12 March 1997 - Mary had role in Jesus’ public ministry

1. After recalling Mary’s intervention at the wedding feast of Cana, the Second Vatican Council emphasizes her participation in the public life of Jesus: “In the course of her Son’s preaching she received the words whereby, in extolling a kingdom beyond the concerns and ties of flesh and blood, he declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf.
Mc 3,35 par.; Lc 11,27-28) as she was faithfully doing (cf. Lc 2,19 Lc 2,51)” (Lumen gentium LG 58).

The beginning of Jesus’ mission also meant separation from his Mother, who did not always follow her son in his travels on the roads of Palestine. Jesus deliberately chose separation from his Mother and from family affection, as can be inferred from the conditions he gave his disciples for following him and for dedicating themselves to proclaiming God’s kingdom.

Nevertheless, Mary sometimes heard her Son’s preaching. We can assume that she was present in the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus, after reading Isaiah’s prophecy, commented on the text and applied it to himself (cf. Lc 4,18-30). How much she must have suffered on that occasion, after sharing the general amazement at “the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Lc 4,22), as she observed the harsh hostility of her fellow citizens who drove Jesus from the synagogue and even tried to kill him! The drama of that moment is evident in the words of the Evangelist Luke: “They rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away” (Lc 4,29-30).

Realizing after this event that there would be other trials, Mary confirmed and deepened her total obedience to the Father’s will, offering him her suffering as a mother and her loneliness.

2. According to the Gospels, Mary had the opportunity to hear her Son on other occasions as well. First at Capernaum, where Jesus went after the wedding feast of Cana, “with his mother and his brethren and his disciples” (Jn 2,12). For the Passover, moreover, she was probably able to follow him to the temple in Jerusalem, which Jesus called his Father's house and for which he was consumed with zeal (cf. Jn 2,16-17). Finding herself later among the crowd and not being able to approach Jesus, she hears him replying to those who had told him that she and their relatives had arrived: “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lc 8,21).

With these words, Christ, although relativizing family ties, is addressing great praise to his Mother by affirming a far loftier bond with her. Indeed, in listening to her Son, Mary accepts all his words and faithfully puts them into practice.

We can imagine that, although she did not follow Jesus on his missionary journey, she was informed of her Son’s apostolic activities, lovingly and anxiously receiving news of his preaching from the lips of those who had met him.

Separation did not mean distance of heart, nor did it prevent the Mother from spiritually following her Son, from keeping and meditating on his teaching as she had done during Jesus’ hidden life in Nazareth. Her faith in fact enabled her to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words before and better than his disciples, who often did not understand his teaching, especially the references to his future Passion (cf. Mt 16,21-23 Mc 9,32 Lc 9,45).

3. Following the events in her Son’s life, Mary shared in his drama of experiencing rejection from some of the chosen people. This rejection first appeared during his visit to Nazareth and became more and more obvious in the words and attitudes of the leaders of the people.

In this way the Blessed Virgin would often have come to know the criticism, insults and threats directed at Jesus. In Nazareth too she would have frequently been troubled by the disbelief of relatives and acquaintances who would try to use Jesus (cf. Jn 7,2-5) or to stop his mission (Mc 3,21).

Through this suffering borne with great dignity and hiddenness, Mary shares the journey of her Son “to Jerusalem” (Lc 9,51) and, more and more closely united with him in faith, hope and love, she co-operates in salvation.

4. The Blessed Virgin thus becomes a model for those who accept Christ’s words. Believing in the divine message since the Annunciation and fully supporting the Person of the Son, she teaches us to listen to the Saviour with trust, to discover in him the divine Word who transforms and renews our life. Her experience also encourages us to accept the trials and suffering that come from fidelity to Christ, keeping our gaze fixed on the happiness Jesus promised those who listen to him and keep his word.

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

I wish to greet the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrim groups from Ireland, Sri Lanka, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

The Holy Father also greeted the Ecumenical Commission of the Diocese of Stockholm, Sweden:

I warmly welcome the Ecumenical Commission of the Diocese of Stockholm. With fond memories of my visit to Sweden, I encourage you to persevere in your work for the unity of all Christians in your country.

Feast of St Joseph: Wednesday, 19 March 1997 - Work is for man, not man for work

1. Today’s solemnity invites us to contemplate St Joseph's particular experience of faith beside Mary and Jesus.

The Church holds Joseph up for the veneration of the faithful as the believer who was completely docile to the divine will, the man capable of a chaste and sublime love for his wife, Mary, and the teacher ready to serve God’s mysterious plan in the Child Jesus.

Tradition, in particular, has seen him as the worker. “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (
Mt 13,55), the inhabitants of Nazareth exclaim when they see the miracles worked by Jesus. For them he is first and foremost the village carpenter, who expresses himself in work, fulfilling himself in God's sight by serving his brothers and sisters. The Christian community has also considered the life of St Joseph as exemplary for all who are involved in the vast and complex world of work. Precisely for this reason the Church wishes to entrust workers to his heavenly protection and has proclaimed him their patron.

2. The Church turns to the world of work, contemplating the carpenter's shop in Nazareth sanctified by the presence of Jesus and Joseph. She wishes to promote man’s dignity in view of the questions and problems, the fears and hopes connected with work, a fundamental dimension of human life. She considers it her task “always to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and to help to guide the above-mentioned changes so as to ensure authentic progress by man and society” (Laborem exercens LE 1).

With regard to the dangers present in certain expressions of our contemporary culture and economy, the Church does not cease to proclaim the greatness of man, the image of God, and his primacy in creation. She carries out this mission principally through her social teaching, which “is itself a valid instrument of evangelization”; indeed this teaching “proclaims God and his mystery of salvation in Christ to every human being, and for that very reason reveals man to himself. In this light, and only in this light, does it concern itself with everything else: the human rights of the individual” (Centesimus annus CA 54).

The Church reminds all who attempt to assert the predominance of technology, thereby reducing man to a “product” or a means of production, that “man is the subject of work”, since in the divine plan “work is ‘for man’ and not man ‘for work’” (Laborem exercens LE 5-6).

For the same reason, she also opposes the claims of capitalism, proclaiming “the principle of the priority of labour over capital”, since human labour “is always a primary efficient cause, while capital, the whole collection of means of production, remains a mere instrument or instrumental cause” (ibid., LE 12) of the process of production.

17 3. While these principles emphasize the condemnation of any form of alienation in human activity, they are particularly timely with regard to the serious problem of unemployment, which today affects millions of people. They reveal in the right to work the modern guarantee of man's dignity; without suitable work he is deprived of the sufficient conditions for the adequate development of his personal and social dimension. In fact, unemployment creates in its victims a grave situation of marginalization and a painful state of humiliation.

The right to work must therefore be combined with that of the freedom to choose one’s own activity.These prerogatives however must not be understood in an individualistic sense, but in relation to the vocation to service and co-operation with others. Freedom is not exercised morally without considering its relationship and reciprocity with other freedoms. These should be understood not so much as restrictions, but as conditions for the development of individual freedom, and as an exercise of the duty to contribute to the growth of society as a whole.

Thus work is primarily a right because it is a duty arising from man’s social relations. It expresses man’s vocation to service and solidarity.

4. The figure of St Joseph recalls the urgent need to give a soul to the world of work. His life, marked by listening to God and by familiarity with Christ, appears as a harmonious synthesis of faith and life, of personal fulfilment and love for one's brothers and sisters, of daily commitment and of trust in the future.

May his witness remind those who work that, only by accepting the primacy of God and the light that comes from Christ's Cross and Resurrection, can they fulfil the conditions of a labour worthy of man and find in daily toil “a glimmer of new life, of the new good, as if it were an announcement of ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ in which man and the world participate precisely through the toil that goes with work” (Laborem exercens
LE 27).

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

I wish to greet the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrim groups from Korea, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. I thank the Catholic Central Concert Choir from Canada for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

HOLY WEEK - Wednesday, 26 March 1997 - We relive saving events of Redemption

1. “Vexilla Regis prodeunt / fulget Crucis mysterium...”.

We are in Holy Week, days in which we venerate the mystery of the Cross. With deep emotion, the Church proclaims the ancient liturgical hymn, passed on from generation to generation and repeated by believers down the centuries. “Holy Week”, the centre of the liturgical year, enables us to relive the fundamental events of the Redemption linked with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. These are poignant, moving days filled with a special atmosphere which touches all Christians, days of inner silence, intense prayer and deep meditation on the extraordinary events that have changed the history of humanity and give true value to our lives.

Today, on the eve of the Sacred Triduum, I would like to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with you, in my mind and in my heart. The liturgy of the next few days will guide us: it will bring us to the Upper Room, it will take us to Calvary and finally, to the new tomb dug out of the rock.

2. On Holy Thursday we will find bread and wine in the Upper Room of Jerusalem. That day brings us to the institution of the Eucharist, the supreme gift of God’s love in his plan of redemption. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians in the years 53-56, confirmed the first Christians in the truth of the “Eucharistic mystery”, telling them what he himself had learned: “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (
1Co 11,23-26).

These words clearly show Christ’s intention: under the appearances of bread and wine he becomes present with his body “given” and his blood “shed” as the sacrifice of the New Covenant. At the same time, he appoints the Apostles and their successors ministers of this sacrament which he gives his Church as the supreme proof of his love.

This is the essential content of Holy Thursday. May the Son of God enable us to live this day according to the words of the lovely Byzantine prayer: “O Son of God, make me share today in your mystical Supper: I will not reveal the Mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you the kiss of Judas, but like the good thief I will confess to you: Remember me, O Lord, when you are in your Kingdom!” (Liturgy of St Basil for Holy Thursday, Communion Hymn).

3. On Good Friday we will contemplate the Cross on Calvary. “Ecce lignum Crucis”: “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung Christ the Saviour of the world”. We will relive the “sorrowful mysteries” of Jesus’ Passion and Death. Before the Crucified One, the words he uttered during the Last Supper acquire dramatic importance. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Mc 14,24 Mt 26,28 Lc 22,20). Jesus wanted to offer his life in sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity, choosing for this end the cruelest and most humiliating death, crucifixion.

Just as with the Eucharist, so with the Passion and Death of Jesus on the Cross the mystery is unfathomable to human reasoning. The climb to Calvary was indescribable suffering, resulting in the terrible torment of crucifixion. What a mystery! God, made man, suffers to save man, taking the tragedy of humanity upon himself.

Good Friday reminds us of the constant succession of trials in history, among which we cannot forget the tragedies of our own day. In this regard, how can we forget the tragic events which are still staining some of the world’s nations with blood? The Lord's Passion is continued in the suffering of humanity. It particularly continues in the martyrdom of priests, religious and lay people serving in the front lines of proclaiming the Gospel. Precisely the day before yesterday, we celebrated the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs: the Christian community is invited to meditate on this heroic witness and to remember in their prayers these brothers and sisters who paid the price of their fidelity to Christ with their lives.

The Christian must learn to carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment to God’s will, finding in Christ’s Cross support and comfort amid life’s troubles. May the Father grant that at every difficult moment we will be able to pray: “Adoramus Te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi” “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world”.

4. And after the expectation of Holy Saturday, we will experience the joy of Holy Easter. The Sacred Triduum ends in the radiant “glorious mystery” of Christ’s Resurrection. He had foretold: “On the third day I will rise again”! It is the definitive victory of life over death.

The most solemn and greatest of Christian celebrations, the Easter Vigil, will take place at night. A night of expectation ... rich in light: the night of the blessed fire, the night of the baptismal water, the night of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. Easter night, a night of passage: Christ’s passage from death to life; our passage from the slavery of sin to the freedom of the children of God. May the Holy Spirit grant us the exultation of the women disciples of the Lord, who — as the Byzantine liturgy emphasizes — said to the Apostles: “Death is overcome; Christ our God has risen, bestowing his great mercy on the world!” (Byzantine liturgy, Troparion for Holy Saturday, tone IV).

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

I am pleased to greet the Englishspeaking visitors, especially the pilgrim groups from England, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan and the United States. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

                                                                                  April 1997

Wednesday, 2 April 1997 - Mary united herself to Jesus’ offering

1. Regina caeli laetare, alleluia!

So the Church sings in this Easter season, inviting the faithful to join in the spiritual joy of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. The Blessed Virgin’s gladness at Christ’s Resurrection is even greater if one considers her intimate participation in Jesus’ entire life.

In accepting with complete availability the words of the Angel Gabriel, who announced to her that she would become the Mother of the Messiah, Mary began her participation in the drama of Redemption. Her involvement in her Son’s sacrifice, revealed by Simeon during the presentation in the Temple, continues not only in the episode of the losing and finding of the 12-year-old Jesus, but also throughout his public life.

However, the Blessed Virgin’s association with Christ’s mission reaches its culmination in Jerusalem, at the time of the Redeemer’s Passion and Death. As the Fourth Gospel testifies, she was in the Holy City at the time, probably for the celebration of the Jewish feast of Passover.

2. The Council stresses the profound dimension of the Blessed Virgin’s presence on Calvary, recalling that she “faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross” (Lumen gentium
LG 58), and points out that this union “in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death” (ibid., LG 57).

With our gaze illumined by the radiance of the Resurrection, we pause to reflect on the Mother’s involvement in her Son’s redeeming Passion, which was completed by her sharing in his suffering. Let us return again, but now in the perspective of the Resurrection, to the foot of the Cross where the Mother endured “with her only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her” (ibid., LG 58).

With these words, the Council reminds us of “Mary’s compassion”; in her heart reverberates all that Jesus suffers in body and soul, emphasizing her willingness to share in her Son’s redeeming sacrifice and to join her own maternal suffering to his priestly offering.

The Council text also stresses that her consent to Jesus’ immolation is not passive acceptance but a genuine act of love, by which she offers her Son as a “victim” of expiation for the sins of all humanity.

Lastly, Lumen gentium relates the Blessed Virgin to Christ, who has the lead role in Redemption, making it clear that in associating herself “with his sacrifice” she remains subordinate to her divine Son.

20 3. In the Fourth Gospel, St John says that “standing by the Cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (Jn 19,25). By using the verb “to stand”, which literally means “to be on one’s feet”, “to stand erect”, perhaps the Evangelist intends to present the dignity and strength shown in their sorrow by Mary and the other women.

The Blessed Virgin’s “standing erect” at the foot of the Cross recalls her unfailing constancy and extraordinary courage in facing suffering. In the tragic events of Calvary, Mary is sustained by faith, strengthened during the events of her life and especially during Jesus’ public life. The Council recalls that “the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross” (Lumen gentium LG 58).

Sharing his deepest feelings, she counters the arrogant insults addressed to the crucified Messiah with forbearance and pardon, associating herself with his prayer to the Father: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lc 23,34). By sharing in the feeling of abandonment to the Father’s will expressed in Jesus’ last words on the Cross: “Father into your hands I commend my spirit!” (ibid., Lc 23,46), she thus offers, as the Council notes, loving consent “to the immolation of this victim which was born of her” (Lumen gentium LG 58).

4. Mary’s supreme “yes” is radiant with trusting hope in the mysterious future, begun with the death of her crucified Son. The words in which Jesus taught the disciples on his way to Jerusalem “that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” re-echo in her heart at the dramatic hour of Calvary, awakening expectation of and yearning for the Resurrection.

Mary’s hope at the foot of the Cross contains a light stronger than the darkness that reigns in many hearts: in the presence of the redeeming Sacrifice, the hope of the Church and of humanity is born in Mary.

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

I offer greetings and prayerful good wishes to the Bishops, priests and laity taking part in the International Theological Symposium on the Alliance of the Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary. My cordial greeting goes also to the ecumenical delegation led by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, USA. I likewise welcome the representatives of the Korean Broadcasting System preparing a television programme on the Vatican. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrim groups from England, Ireland, Australia, Norway, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Christ our risen Saviour.

Wednesday, 9 April 1997 - Mary’s co-operation is totally unique


1. Down the centuries the Church has reflected on Mary’s co-operation in the work of salvation, deepening the analysis of her association with Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. St Augustine already gave the Blessed Virgin the title “co-operator” in the Redemption (cf. De Sancta Virginitate, 6; PL 40, 399), a title which emphasizes Mary’s joint but subordinate action with Christ the Redeemer.

Reflection has developed along these lines, particularly since the 15th century. Some feared there might be a desire to put Mary on the same level as Christ. Actually the Church’s teaching makes a clear distinction between the Mother and the Son in the work of salvation, explaining the Blessed Virgin’s subordination, as co-operator, to the one Redeemer.

Moreover, when the Apostle Paul says: “For we are God’s fellow workers” (
1Co 3,9), he maintains the real possibility for man to co-operate with God. The collaboration of believers, which obviously excludes any equality with him, is expressed in the proclamation of the Gospel and in their personal contribution to its taking root in human hearts.

2. However, applied to Mary, the term “co-operator” acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavour to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity.

The Blessed Virgin’s role as co-operator has its source in her divine motherhood. By giving birth to the One who was destined to achieve man's redemption, by nourishing him, presenting him in the temple and suffering with him as he died on the Cross, “in a wholly singular way she co-operated ... in the work of the Saviour” (Lumen gentium LG 61). Although God’s call to co-operate in the work of salvation concerns every human being, the participation of the Saviour's Mother in humanity’s Redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact.

Despite the uniqueness of her condition, Mary is also the recipient of salvation. She is the first to be saved, redeemed by Christ “in the most sublime way” in her Immaculate Conception (cf. Bull Ineffabilis Deus, in Pius IX, Acta, 1, 605) and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

22 3. This assertion now leads to the question: what is the meaning of Mary’s unique co-operation in the plan of salvation? It should be sought in God’s particular intention for the Mother of the Redemeer, whom on two solemn occasions, that is, at Cana and beneath the Cross, Jesus addresses as “Woman” (cf. Jn 2,4 Jn 19,26). Mary is associated as a woman in the work of salvation. Having created man “male and female” (cf. Gn 1,27), the Lord also wants to place the New Eve beside the New Adam in the Redemption. Our first parents had chosen the way of sin as a couple; a new pair, the Son of God with his Mother’s co-operation, would re-establish the human race in its original dignity.

Mary, the New Eve, thus becomes a perfect icon of the Church. In the divine plan, at the foot of the Cross, she represents redeemed humanity which, in need of salvation, is enabled to make a contribution to the unfolding of the saving work.

4. The Council had this doctrine in mind and made it its own, stressing the Blessed Virgin's contribution not only to the Redeemer's birth, but also to the life of his Mystical Body down the ages until the “eschaton”: in the Church Mary “has co-operated” (cf. Lumen gentium LG 63) and “co-operates” (cf. ibid., LG 53) in the work of salvation. In describing the mystery of the Annunciation, the Council states that the Virgin of Nazareth, “committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s saving will, devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of Redemption by the grace of Almighty God” (ibid., LG 56).

The Second Vatican Council morever presents Mary not only as “Mother of the divine Redeemer”, but also “in a singular way [as] the generous associate”, who “co-operated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour”. The Council also recalls that the sublime fruit of this cooperation is her universal motherhood: “For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace” (ibid., LG 61).

We can therefore turn to the Blessed Virgin, trustfully imploring her aid in the awareness of the singular role entrusted to her by God, the role of co-operator in the Redemption, which she exercised throughout her life and in a special way at the foot of the Cross.

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

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Canada and the United States. My special greeting goes to the international group of novice masters of the Society of the Divine Word. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the risen Christ.