Blessed Pope John Paul II had a deep and life-long devotion to the Blessed Mother of Jesus, perhaps because he lost his own earthly mother at such a young age. Mary appeared often in his speeches, writings and prayers, as he sought to deepen the faithful's devotion to Jesus through Mary.
Today, in honor of his deep love for the Queen of Heaven and Earth, we offer you an excerpt from his 1987 encyclical, Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) given in Rome on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.
18. … On that wood of the Cross her Son hangs in agony as one condemned. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows…he was despised, and we esteemed him not”: as one destroyed (cf. Is. 53:3- 5). How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s “unsearchable judgments”! How completely she “abandons herself to God” without reserve, offering the full assent of the intellect and the will” to him whose “ways are inscrutable” (cf. Rom. 11:33)! And how powerful too is the action of grace in her soul, how all-pervading is the influence of the Holy Spirit and of his light and power!
Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self- emptying. For “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”: precisely on Golgotha “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). At the foot of the Cross, Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self- emptying. This is perhaps the deepest “kenosis” of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the “sign of contradiction” foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”
19. Yes, truly “blessed is she who believed”! These words, spoken by Elizabeth after the Annunciation, here at the foot of the Cross seem to re-echo with supreme eloquence, and the power contained within them becomes something penetrating. From the Cross, that is to say from the very heart of the mystery of Redemption, there radiates and spreads out the prospect of that blessing of faith It goes right hack to “the beginning.” and as a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ-the new Adam-it becomes in a certain sense the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents. Thus teach the Fathers of the Church and especially St. Irenaeus, quoted by the Constitution Lumen Gentium: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.” In the light of this comparison with Eve, the Fathers of the Church-as the Council also says-call Mary the “mother of the living” and often speak of “death through Eve, life through Mary.”
In the expression “Blessed is she who believed,” we can therefore rightly find a kind of “key” which unlocks for us the innermost reality of Mary, whom the angel hailed as “full of grace.” If as “full of grace” she has been eternally present in the mystery of Christ, through faith she became a sharer in that mystery in every extension of her earthly journey. She “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith” and at the same time, in a discreet yet direct and effective way, she made present to humanity the mystery of Christ. And she still continues to do so. Through the mystery of Christ, she too is present within mankind. Thus through the mystery of the Son the mystery of the Mother is also made clear.
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Copyright Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Reprinted with permission.
Editor’s Note: During the month of November, as we celebrate the final days of the Year of Faith, we’d like to feature stories from YOU about the blessings and fruits you’ve experienced during this year. How did you celebrate? What did you do to grow in faith? How did your relationship with Christ and His Church deepen?
Send us your stories and reflections to email@example.com along with your contact information, and your reflection could be featured here on the blog in November!
Submissions should be under 500 words; deadline for submissions is October 31st.