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Excerpts from Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II’s letter to the Church on Mary, the “Mother of the Redeemer,” which was released March 25, 1987.

Mary on the Journey with Us

Strengthened by the presence of Christ (cf. Mt. 28:20), the Church journeys through time towards the consummation of the ages and goes to meet the Lord who comes. But on this journey…she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary, who “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 58) (Redemptoris Mater 2).

…I wish to consider primarily that “pilgrimage of faith” in which “the Blessed Virgin advanced,” faithfully preserving her union with Christ (Lumen Gentium 58)…Nor is it just a question of the Virgin Mother’s life-story, of her personal journey of faith and “the better part” which is hers in the mystery of salvation; it is also a question of the history of the whole People of God, of all those who take part in the same “pilgrimage of faith.” The Council expresses this when it states in another passage that Mary “has gone before,” becoming “a model of the Church in the matter of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ”(Lumen Gentium 63) (RM 5).

Mary’s Special Place in God’s Plan of Salvation

The divine plan of salvation -- which was fully revealed to us with the coming of Christ -- is eternal. And according to the teaching [of the Church] it is also eternally linked to Christ. It includes everyone, but it reserves a special place for the “woman” who is the Mother of him to whom the Father has entrusted the work of salvation (7).

When we read that the messenger addresses Mary as “full of grace,” the Gospel context, which mingles revelations and ancient promises, enables us to understand that among all the “spiritual blessings in Christ” this is a special “blessing.” In the mystery of Christ she is present even “before the creation of the world,” as the one whom the Father “has chosen” as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation…In an entirely special and exceptional way Mary is united to Christ, and similarly she is eternally loved in this “beloved Son,” this Son who is of one being with the Father, in whom is concentrated all the “glory of grace” (8).

Mary’s Total “Yes” to God

Indeed, at the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely…manifesting “the obedience of faith” to him who spoke to her through his messenger. She responded, therefore, with all her human and feminine “I,” and this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with “the grace of God that precedes and assists” and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, who “constantly brings faith to completion by his gifts” (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum 5) …The mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished when Mary uttered her fiat: “Let it be to me according to your word,” which made possible, as far as it depended upon her in the divine plan, the granting of her Son’s desire. Mary uttered this fiat in faith. In faith she entrusted herself to God without reserve (13).

The Strength of Mary’s Faith in God at the Cross

At [the Annunciation Mary] had also heard the words: “He will be great...and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:32-33). And now, standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary is the witness, humanly speaking, of the complete negation of these words. On that wood of the Cross her Son hangs in agony as one condemned…How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s “unsearchable judgments”! (18).

Mary, the Mother of the Human Race

[John’s] Gospel confirms [Mary’s] motherhood in the salvific economy of grace at its crowning moment, namely when Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, his Paschal Mystery, is accomplished. John’s description is concise: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother: ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn. 19:25-27)…Jesus highlights a new relationship between Mother and Son, the whole truth and reality of which he solemnly confirms. One can say that if Mary’s motherhood of the human race had already been outlined, now it is clearly stated and established. It emerges from the definitive accomplishment of the Redeemer’s Paschal Mystery…And so this “new motherhood of Mary,” generated by faith, is the fruit of the “new” love which came to definitive maturity in her at the foot of the Cross, through her sharing in the redemptive love of her Son(23).

Marian Shrines

The presence of Mary finds many different expressions in our day, just as it did throughout the Church’s history. It also has a wide field of action. Through the faith and piety of individual believers; through the traditions of Christian families or “domestic churches,” of parish and missionary communities, religious institutes and dioceses; through the radiance and attraction of the great shrines where not only individuals or local groups, but sometimes whole nations and societies…seek to meet the Mother of the Lord, the one who is blessed because she believed is the first among believers and therefore became the Mother of Emmanuel. This is the message of the Land of Palestine, the spiritual homeland of all Christians because it was the homeland of the Savior of the world and of his Mother. This is the message of the many churches in Rome and throughout the world which have been raised up in the course of the centuries by the faith of Christians. This is the message of centers like Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima and the others situated in the various countries. Among them how could I fail to mention the one in my own native land, Jasna Gora? One could perhaps speak of a specific “geography” of faith and Marian devotion, which includes all these special places of pilgrimage where the People of God seek to meet the Mother of God in order to find, within the radius of the maternal presence of her “who believed,” a strengthening of their own faith (28).

Mary Intercedes for Us

In John's [Gospel] the description of the Cana event outlines what is actually manifested as a new kind of motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to the flesh, that is to say Mary's solicitude for human beings, her coming to them in the wide variety of their wants and needs. At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance ("They have no wine"). But it has a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ's messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself "in the middle," that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother (21).

Mary’s mediation is intimately linked with her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures who in various and always subordinate ways share in the one mediation of Christ, although her own mediation is also a shared mediation…The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself” (38).

Mary and the Eucharist

[Mary’s] motherhood is particularly noted and experienced by the Christian people at the Sacred Banquet -- the liturgical celebration of the mystery of the Redemption -- at which Christ, his true body born of the Virgin Mary, becomes present…The piety of the Christian people has always very rightly sensed a profound link between devotion to the Blessed Virgin and worship of the Eucharist: this is a fact that can be seen in the liturgy of both the West and the East, in the traditions of the Religious Families, in the modern movements of spirituality, including those for youth, and in the pastoral practice of the Marian Shrines. Mary guides the faithful to the Eucharist (44).