In this extraordinary homily given at the Marian shrine in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Pope John Paul II not only uses the Marian title, “Co-redemptrix,” but also provides a larger theological context which makes unquestionably clear the doctrinal legitimacy of both the title and coredemptive role of the Woman who was, in the words of the Holy Father, “crucified spiritually with her crucified Son.” -Ed.

Most Reverend Archbishop, Brother Bishops, Authorities, Beloved Brothers and Sisters:

1…You have chosen for this sanctuary the significant title of Our Lady of Alborada, which with symbolic beauty speaks to us of the first light that announces the day. Mary is, in fact, the light that announces the nearness of the Sun about to rise, who is Christ. Where Mary is, Jesus will soon appear. With her luminous and resplendent presence, the Most Holy Virgin shines brightly with the light that awakens faith, prepares hope, and enkindles charity. For her part, she is only and nothing more than a reflection of Christ, “the rising Sun, splendor of eternal light and sun of justice” (Liturgy of the Hours, Magnificat Antiphon, 21 December): like the dawn which, without the sun, would not be what it is.

Pope Paul VI teaches us, dear brothers and sisters, that “in the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon him” (Marialis Cultus, 25). Mary is the first creature enlightened; enlightened even before the visible appearance of the sun, for Mary proceeds from the sun of sanctity: “Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun?” (Song of Songs 6:10). It is none other than the great sign that appeared in the sky: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1).

2. At the dawn of our hope there was already a glimpse of the figure of Mary Most Holy: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head” (Gen 3:15). These words already manifest the divine intention of choosing the woman as an ally in the struggle against sin and its consequences. In fact, according to that prophecy, a designated woman was destined to be God’s most special instrument in struggling against the demon. She would be the mother of the one who would strike at the head of the enemy. But the woman’s descendant who will fulfill this prophecy is not a mere man: he is fully man, indeed, thanks to the mother whose son he is, but he is also at the same time true God. “Knowing not man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit” (Lumen Gentium, 63), Mary gave human nature to the eternal Son of the Father, who thus becomes our brother.

The whole history of the Old Covenant advances toward her. She is the perfect fulfillment of the “holy remnant of Israel”: those “poor ones of Yahweh” who are the heirs of the messianic promises and the bearers of the hope of the People of God. The “poor one of Yahweh” is he who clings to the Lord with his whole heart, obeying his law. But Mary “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently await and receive salvation from him. With her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and after a long expectation of the promises, the times were at length fulfilled” (Lumen Gentium, 55). In Mary is sublimated the life of the just ones of the Old Testament.

3. Brother bishops and all the faithful, Mary is the creature who in an original way receives the rays of the redemptive light: “In fact, Mary’s preservation from original sin from the first moment of her existence represents the first and radical effect of Christ’s redemptive work, and links the Virgin, with a tight and indissoluble bond, to the Incarnation of the Son, who, before being born of her, redeems her in the most sublime way” (Angelus Message, 8 December 1983).

Her Immaculate Conception makes Mary the sign foreshadowing humanity redeemed by Christ, in her being preserved from original sin, which affects all people from their very first moment of existence and which leaves in the heart the tendency to rebel against God. Mary’s Immaculate Conception therefore means that she is the first one redeemed, the dawn of Redemption, and that for the rest of men redemption will be the liberation from sin.

Mary’s Absolute Readiness for God’s Plan

4. But, my beloved brothers and sisters, Mary is not the dawn of our redemption in the manner of an inert, passive instrument. At the dawn of our salvation there resounds her free response, her Fiat, her unconditional yes to the cooperation that God expected of her, just as he expects of us.

The initiative of salvation certainly belongs to the Most Holy Trinity. Mary’s perpetual virginity—which found a faithful response in St Joseph, her virginal spouse—expresses that priority of God: Christ, as man, will be conceived without the intervention of a man. But that same virginity, which will be preserved during and after birth, is also an expression of Mary’s absolute readiness for God’s plans.

Her response marked a decisive moment in the history of mankind. For this reason Christians are pleased to repeat it in the daily prayer of the Angelus and try to have the same disposition of soul that inspired those words: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38).

Mary’s joyful “fiat” attests to her interior liberty, her trust and her serenity. She did not know how God’s plans would be concretely carried out. But far from being afraid and distressed, she appears supremely free and willing. Her “yes” at the Annunciation meant not only the acceptance of the motherhood that was offered her, but also her commitment in the mystery of Redemption. This was the work of her Son, but Mary’s participation was real and effective. In giving her consent to the message of the Angel, Mary agreed to collaborate in the entire work of mankind’s reconciliation with God. She acts knowingly and without placing conditions. She shows herself disposed to the service that God asks of her.

Beloved brothers and sisters: we have in Mary the model and guide for our path….I encourage you to maintain, like Mary, an attitude of total openness to God. Like her, keep your gaze fixed on the holy God who is always mysteriously close to you. Contemplate this God who is close to you, Christ who passes near you so many times. Learn to say: “Let it be done to me as you say.” And learn to say it fully, like Mary: without reservations, without fear of the definitive and irrevocable commitments, with that same attitude of Christian readiness—even if it is demanding…

Mary is the Dawn of Redemption

5. Mary goes before us and accompanies us. The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the “yes” of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment. There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her Son, Mary is the dawn of Redemption; and there her Son entrusts her to us as our Mother: “The Mother looked with eyes of pity on the wounds of her Son, from whom she knew the redemption of the world had to come” (St Ambrose, De Institutione Virginis, 49). Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (cf. Gal 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (Lumen Gentium, 58). She fulfills the will of the Father on our behalf and accepts all of us as her children, in virtue of the testament of Christ: “Woman, there is your son” (Jn 19:26).

“There is your mother,” Jesus said to St John, “and from that hour onward, the disciple took her into his care” (Jn 19:27). The beloved disciple accepted the Virgin Mother as his light, his treasure, his good, as the most desired gift inherited from the Lord at the moment of his death. The gift of his Mother was the last gift he gave to mankind before consummating his sacrifice, the gift given to us.

But Mary’s motherhood is not only individual. It has a collective value that is manifested in the title Mother of the Church. In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity. For this reason, the Council affirms that “Taught by the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved Mother” (Lumen Gentium, 53). Mother of the Church! Mother of us all!

6. The Gospels do not tell us of an appearance of the risen Christ to Mary. Nevertheless, as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son.

Pentecost speaks to us of Mary’s presence in the infant Church: a prayerful presence in the apostolic Church and in the Church of all ages. Being the first—the dawn—among the faithful, because she is the Mother, she sustains our common prayer.

As the Fathers of the Church already noted, this presence of the Virgin is significant: “The Church therefore cannot be referred to as such unless it includes Mary the Mother of our Lord, together with his brethren” (cf. Cromazio di Aquileia, Sermo XXX, 7; S. Ch. 164, p. 134; Marialis Cultus, 28).

For this reason, as I recalled almost two years ago on this very continent, “from the dawn of faith and at every stage in the preaching of the Gospel, in the birth of every particular Church, the Virgin occupies the place which belongs to her as mother of the imitators of Jesus who make up the Church” (Homily in the Sanctuary of Suyapa, 8 March 1983). Yes, Mary is present on our journey.

7. Mary continues to be our dawn, our first-fruit, our hope. During her earthly life she was a sign and pledge of future goods; now, glorified together with Christ the Lord, she is an image and fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. She calls us to it, awaits us in it.

She was the first to follow Christ “the first-born of many brothers” (cf. Col 1:18). Raised body and soul to heaven, she is the first in fully inheriting glory. And this glorification of Mary is the confirmation of the hopes of each member of the Church: “Both with and in Christ Jesus he raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens” (Eph 2:6). Mary’s Assumption into heaven discloses the definitive future that Christ has prepared for us, the redeemed.

8. On the other hand, dear brothers and sisters, Mary glorious in heaven continues fulfilling her maternal mission. She continues being the Mother of Christ and our Mother, Mother of the whole Church which has in Mary the prototype of its motherhood.

Mary and the Church are living temples, sanctuaries, and instruments by means of which the Holy Spirit is manifested. They virginally give birth to the same Savior: Mary virginally gives life in her womb and gives birth to it; the Church gives life in the water of Baptism, in the sacraments and in the proclamation of the faith, giving birth to it in the heart of the faithful.

The Church believes that the Most Holy Virgin, assumed into heaven, is near Christ, forever living to make intercession for us (cf. Heb 7:25), and that to her Son’s Divine mediation there is joined the incessant supplication of his Mother on behalf of men, her sons and daughters.

Mary is the dawn, and the dawn unfailingly announces the arrival of the sun. Therefore I recommend to all of you,… that you honor with profound love and have recourse to the Mother of Christ and the Church, the “all-powerful suppliant” (omnipotentia supplex), that she will bring us ever closer to Christ, her Son and our Mediator….

May the maternal presence of Mary, the Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, be for everyone the dawning of God. Amen.

Pope John Paul II, Homily given at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Alborada in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Thursday, 31 January, 1985, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, March 11, 1985, p. 6-7.