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Mary the Mother of God in the Documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965): Another Look Four Decades Later


by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

The figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has induced countless publications to offer analysis of the Marian references located in the conciliar texts.

Almost forty-two years after the solemn opening of the Council on the Feast of the Maternity of Mary (October 11, 1962), we readily look again at the explicit mention of Our Lady in eleven of the sixteen official documents.

1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: 103.
2. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: 15, 46, 50, 52-69.
3. Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches: 30.
4. Decree on Ecumenism: 14-15, 20.
5. Decree on the Up-To-Date Renewal of Religious Life: 25.
6. Decree on the Training of Priests: 8.
7. Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: 3-4.
8. Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People: 4.
9. Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity: 4, 42.
10. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: 18.
11. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: 22.

We now use four of the five headings employed in Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium to identify what the Council said about Mary.

1. Mary’s function in Jesus’ salvific work. Both Sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition illustrate the part Mary—the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son and the Temple of the Holy Spirit—played in salvation. She, foreshadowed in the promise of victory given by the Lord after the Fall, was the Virgin whose Son would be called Emmanuel. Mary, the Daughter of Sion and the Mother of the Redeemer, is one of the Lord’s poor and humble ones.

Free from all sin and full of grace, Mary, who is closest to Jesus and closest to us, gave her consent (fiat) to the Father’s plan of Redemption. As a woman (Eve) brought about death, a woman (Mary) helped usher in life. This daughter of Adam became, in the fullness of time, the Mother of Jesus. Her faith and obedience she employed for our everlasting benefit.

From Christ’s conception until His Death, Mary was inseparably linked with Jesus in His salvific work, especially in the Visitation, the Nativity, the Arrival of the Shepherds and the Magi, the Presentation and Finding in the Temple, the Wedding Feast of Cana, Christ’s Preaching of the Kingdom and the Crucifixion. While on earth, Mary’s life was like any other, filled with the labors and cares of the home.

Even after Jesus’ Resurrection, Mary did her part. She prayerfully assisted the early Church as she, the Apostles, the holy women and Jesus’ brethren actively awaited the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. After her Assumption, Our Lady was crowned by the Lord as Queen of the Universe, signifying that Mary is more fully conformed to her Divine Son.

2. The Madonna’s relationship with the Church. Jesus, Who is the one Mediator between God and men, has associated Mary to Himself. The influence of the Mother of men cannot compete with that of her Son. All she does draws from Christ’s merits as she leads her children to Him.

When God decided that the Son would become the Word made flesh, He chose Mary to be His Mother. Our Lady is not only the Mother of the Redeemer but also the Lord’s associate and handmaiden. As Mother, she conceived, bore and nourished Christ, as well as presented Him in the Temple and stood near His Cross. By her obedience, faith, hope and charity, she helped to restore God’s life to us. She is Our Mother “in the order of grace.”

Mary’s Motherhood proceeds unceasingly from the Annunciation until her sons and daughters enter Paradise. From Heaven she assists her beleaguered children on earth. No wonder she is saluted as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix—titles that do not disturb the truth of Christ’s unique office as Mediator. The role of Mary, who aids the Faithful in following Christ, is secondary to that of Jesus, Who freely invited Mary to cooperate with Him.

Mary is intimately united to Christ’s Church, thanks to Jesus for all He has given to her. She is a pattern (type) of the Church in faith, charity and perfect union with Jesus. Both Mary and the Church are virgin and mother. In her faith and obedience, Mary was empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear the Father’s Son, Who is the first among the Faithful. Our Mother participates in the generation and formation of the Faithful.

In contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and by doing the Father’s will, the Church becomes a mother. The Church—a virgin who keeps the faith she pledged to Jesus—brings forth ...

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