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Mary, Mother and Model of the Church

The following article is an excerpt from the Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book is available from Queenship Publications. To obtain a copy, visit Visit and search on “Mariology: A Guide” to view the book in its entirety, or simply click here.

Asst. Ed.

Two titles, two parts: Mary, mother and model, are two titles and two distinct concepts, although related to each other. One characteristic of a mother, even in the natural order, is to be a model and example for her children. Because these two concepts are formally distinct, I have divided this study into two parts:

I. Mary, Mother of the Church—Mary’s Spiritual Maternity.

II. Mary as Model of the Church—Her Exemplarity vis-a-vis the Church.

The relationship between these two titles or concepts is radically based in nature itself. The essential character of a mother makes her ever an example, and for her own children potentially the most perfect example. If she has given them their very being, it is only normal her example should exert a profound influence on everything which pertains to their perfection. If filii matrizant—as the old maxim goes (children resemble their mothers)—it is only logical that their mother be their example and model, obviously in the physical order, but especially in the moral order.

This observation is perfectly applicable to spiritual and supernatural realities. Mary as Mother of Grace, is also model and paradigm for all the children of God as they strive for the highest levels of perfection. Hence, it is quite reasonable to hold that in the supernatural order there exists a positive, dynamic influence of this Mother over her children, and in them an attraction towards their Mother. In a rightly ordered world, this is the natural, mutual relationship which should be found among those who participate in the same life, the same nature. All the more so should this be the case in the realm of grace and supernatural life.

Part One: Mary, Mother of the Church


Mary, Mother of the Church

Mary is essentially a Mother. She was predestined from all eternity, included in the very decree of the Incarnation, to be the Mother of the Son of God made man. In that predestination is included not only her physical or biological maternity in relation to her Son, but also her spiritual maternity in regard to all the redeemed children of God, the disciples of her Son. We shall return to this point further on.

All of God’s children, redeemed by Jesus’ blood, death and Resurrection, constitute the family of God which is the Church. Mary is thus, at the same time, Mother of the Church, of the people of God, of the pastors and the faithful.

This title, Mary, Mother of the Church, was solemnly proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, at the closing ceremony of the third session of Vatican II.

For the glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our own consolation, we declare most Holy Mary Mother of the Church, that is of the whole Christian people, both faithful and pastors, who call her a most loving Mother; and we decree that henceforth the whole Christian people should, by this most sweet name, give still greater honor to the Mother of God and address prayers to her (1).

With this proclamation Paul VI did not create out of nothing the fact of Mary’s maternity in relation to the Church. This title sums up and synthesizes a well-known doctrine, acknowledged by the Church since the Middle Ages, and for many centuries expressly taught by the living Magisterium (2).

Paul VI, by the authority of his ordinary, supreme Magisterium, solemnly proclaimed a truth universally known and accepted in the Church. Although this proclamation was carried out within a conciliar context, it was not the equivalent of a dogmatic definition as such. Nevertheless, it retains the full doctrinal value of a solemn action of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church. Pope Paul implicitly recognized and accepted a teaching transmitted to us by the Tradition of the Church. Further, he interpreted and, as it were, complemented a document of Vatican II: the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, and by his papal authority reaffirmed a conciliar act binding on all, even though not a solemn dogmatic definition (3).

Spiritual Maternity

The title, Mary, Mother of the Church, is itself a solemn recognition of Mary’s spiritual maternity, as such and in its universality, viz., as Mother of all those redeemed through her Son’s love and obedience in fulfilling the will of his Father by his Passion and Resurrection. She is the Mother of God’s people, Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, including all generations. The Council’s reticence regarding the use of this title does not as such in the least affect its doctrinal contents. That reticence rather was motivated by other factors, only incidentally related to this mystery.

Nor could it be otherwise, since the doctrine of Mary’s spiritual maternity is something very old in the Tradition of the Church and most intimate to her life.

“Nothing,” José Antonio de Aldama says, “is more ancient in Catholic doctrine than addressing the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of men” (4).

From the time of St. Irenaeus, and even before, precisely within the context of the doctrine about Mary as co-worker with her Son in the redemption, and thereafter in perfect harmony with the progressive elaboration of ecclesiology, Mary has been called Mother of the Church. Before the 1950s, this custom never created any difficulties of a doctrinal kind. After the mid-twentieth century, however, the relations between Mary and the Church were explained by way of a parallelism between the two, one involving both maternity and exemplarity on a par.

Eventually it was realized that spiritual maternity did not fully fit this approach, or did not fully correspond to the canons of a strict parallelism between Mary and the Church. Mary’s spiritual maternity far surpasses, and in Mary evidently indicates, a certain superiority which in some way or under some aspect is beyond question. Thus, as ecumenism gathered momentum, especially during the time of Vatican II (1962-1965), some participants in that Council, in favor of an ecclesio-typical approach in Mariology, objected to introducing the title Mary, Mother of the Church, into the documents of the Council. They claimed that title would constitute an obstacle or be a source of difficulties for the Council in achieving one of its primary goals, the promotion of ecumenism. Monsignor Philips, Professor at Louvain University, with a bit of graphic overkill, describes the advent of ecclesio-typology in the Mariological world as “being hit by a comet’s tail” (5).

Leaving aside considerations bearing on many other aspects and questions touching the relationship of Mary and the Church, we now turn our attention to the theological-Mariological analysis of Mary’s spiritual maternity as expressed in the title Mother of the Church.

Methodology and Execution

Spiritual maternity is not to be conceived as a substantive reality like sanctifying grace. It is rather a quality, a role, a responsibility, in Latin munus, that Mary, Mother of God, fulfilled according to the designs of God—and still fulfills—in the history of salvation in relation to men. It is in itself a general function enveloping and including other activities with a more specialized and restricted significance. Yet, because Mary’s presence in the Church is primarily a maternal presence, as Pope John Paul II declared (6), all of these subordinate roles possess a basic maternal tint or character.

Just as the divine motherhood is an essential factor determining what moves the Virgin Mary to act always and in all matters as Mother of God, so her spiritual maternity also moves her to act always and in all matters as Mother of the redeemed because she is Mother of the Church. Her presence in the mystery of Christ and of the Church is at every moment a maternal presence.

Now, this spiritual maternity, when exercised and in its concrete realization, takes on diverse modalities. Considered as maternal collaboration with her Son in the redemption of the human race, it appears as coredemptive maternity. Considered as “salvific influence over men” in the Church, as did Pope John Paul II, it appears as mediatory maternity or maternal mediation (7). Finally, considered in reference to the graces granted, the exercise of her maternity is equivalent to intercession for and distribution of graces.

Mariologists and authors of Mariological manuals employ various methodologies in the treatment of this theme. Some authors study it in a relative form. If they consider this relation as a union with, or connection to other mysteries, they treat the question in terms of these fundamental themes: coredemption, mediation, distribution of graces, etc. This is how, after a preliminary explanation, José Antonio de Aldama approaches the theme (8).

Spiritual maternity can also be considered directly as such, by treating it as a particular question with theological meaning and content in its own right, one embracing and including the aforementioned aspects as relative to itself. It is to spiritual maternity as a theological question in its own right that Vatican II refers when it states:

This motherhood of Mary in the economy of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent in faith, which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the Cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect (9).

To what kind of spiritual maternity was the Council referring in this passage? Was it not to spiritual maternity as a specific, singular quality unfolding from the Annunciation unto Calvary, one still continuing in the Church until the end of time? Certainly, spiritual maternity here is that maternity as such, even if from a didactic and conceptual point of view we may consider it in relation to different stages in the history of salvation with which the various aspects of that maternity correspond. As I understand this text, these aspects correspond to specific, concrete exercises of spiritual maternity, which at this stage of the history of salvation Vatican II equates with the multiple intercession of Mary whereby we obtain the gifts of eternal salvation (10).

Fr. Domenico Bertetto, S.D.B., in his book Mary, Handmaid of the Lord, takes a more personal approach. He frames the broad and complex mystery of spiritual maternity within the general theme of Mary in the mystery of the Church. He explains Mary’s spiritual maternity in terms of a relationship to four points of reference: 1) efficacy; 2) relevance; 3) exemplarity; 4) finality (11). Each of these terms corresponds to one of the fundamental aspects of Mary’s spiritual maternity (12).

But before any further consideration is undertaken, it seems to me that a preliminary, general question concerning methodology in the study of Mary’s spiritual maternity as a theological question in its own right must be raised. Prior to any of the foregoing remarks, we must take as central to this methodology the analogy between spiritual and divine maternity, and the role which spiritual maternity plays in the general outline of Mariology. Just as the divine maternity is the starting point for considering Mary in relation to Christ, so spiritual maternity in itself is the starting point for considering Mary in relation to Christ and to the Church.

My Approach

From a theological and methodological viewpoint the spiritual maternity should be considered as a quality, prerogative or permanent condition of the Virgin Mary as a person, as a supernatural gift, a grace bestowed by the Father of mercies so that Mary might become Mother of all the redeemed. Thus, Mary as spiritual Mother of all her Son’s disciples, frames every other aspect of this grace: its origin, important moments, forms and aspects. This maternity is a permanent, well-determined modality of her existence, and confers on her a singular dignity and special role within the life of the Church: to be Mother of the Church.

This prerogative finds its basis in several events of salvation history, historia salutis. First, by her participation in the mystery of the Incarnation as Mother of the Redeemer and the redeemed; and second, by her effective collaboration with her Son in the redemption of the human race from his birth until his death on the Cross. Nor should we overlook what Vatican II teaches in this regard:

The Blessed Virgin … in the designs of divine providence was the gracious Mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the Temple, shared her Son’s sufferings as he died on the Cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a Mother to us in the order of grace (13).

This prerogative or permanent quality of Mary, her spiritual maternity, serves as a point of reference for all other questions which might be raised. It is a general reality, whether understood functionally or as a mission to accomplish. It is the point of departure and a general presupposition for all specific aspects and questions to be proposed. This spiritual maternity is the maternity Jesus proclaimed from the Cross: “Woman, behold, your son” (cf. Jn 19:25-27). It is a maternity, on which converge, and from which are to be contemplated, all other aspects and particular questions: forms and modalities of spiritual maternity, mother of the Church, mother and mediator, mother who intercedes, spiritual maternity as a “maternal presence” in the Church, in the terminology of John Paul II (14).

Elsewhere (15) I have expounded in considerable detail these general aspects just summarized, which for the rest have been the subject of countless studies over the past half-century (16).

The specific objective of this study is an analysis of three very important and singular moments in the exercise and unfolding of Mary’s spiritual maternity. These are: 1) the mystery of the Incarnation; 2) Calvary, 3) the wedding feast of Cana.

These three moments constitute the principal foundation for the title, Mary, Mother of the Church, when the Mother is not only acting as the potior pars (preeminent part) of the Church—after Christ, Head of the Mystical Body—but is the most perfect and eminent personalization and representation of the Church. She is the New Eve who represents with her Son, the New Adam, the entire human family reborn, the Church of God.

Mary, Mother of the Church: Theological-Spiritual Development

General Consideration

The title, Mary, Mother of the Church, so gladly accepted by the people of God, does not appear as a positive recognition of the spiritual maternity of the Mother of God, of the Mother of Jesus the Redeemer, in the documents of Vatican II: this notwithstanding Pope Paul’s manifest concern that the Council expressly accept and solemnly approve that title to the glory of the Blessed Mother and for the good of the Church. Still more, on December 4, 1963, the Pope made public his desire and hope, pleading as it were, that in its next session, the Council would expressly acknowledge the unique place occupied by the Mother of the Redeemer in the history of salvation and in the life of the Church: “The highest after that of Christ, and at the same time the closest to us, so that we might honor her with the title of ‘Mother of the Church.’ This would honor her and contribute to our consolation” (17).

The hope of Paul VI was frustrated by the negative attitude of a large number of Council Fathers. Paul VI at this time did not receive his hoped-for consolation. But surely from heaven the Virgin Mother would not deny him this, considering how strenuously he had labored to make known her dignity, her greatness, her sanctity, her spiritual beauty, and her divine and spiritual maternity.

On this occasion, the Council’s negative attitude did not reflect doctrinal considerations. Quite the contrary. The Council itself, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chapter 8, and in other related documents, very clearly teaches Mary’s spiritual maternity in harmony with the content and meaning of the title, Mother of God (18).

Despite the reticence of so many Council Fathers and the fact that the title, Mary, Mother of the Church, was not officially recognized in documents of the Council, its solemn proclamation by Pope Paul VI in St. Mary Major on November 21, 1964, at the conclusion of the third session of Vatican II, was roundly applauded:

For the glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our own consolation, we declare most Holy Mary Mother of the Church, that is of the whole Christian people, both faithful and pastors, who call her a most loving Mother; and we decree that henceforth the whole Christian people should, by this most sweet name, give still greater honor to the Mother of God and address prayers to her (19).

In its formulation the title is in part new, but in regard to its content and significance it is neither new nor unknown. Paul VI himself stated this. The title expresses an old doctrine of the Church based on Divine Revelation: in texts, allusions and references of the New and Old Testaments, especially when the New Testament refers to the exercise of a spiritual maternity by the Mother of the Redeemer, as we shall see below, and in chapter 12 of the book of Revelation.

The mysteries of the life of the Virgin Mary, after Jesus proclaimed her spiritual maternity on Calvary, and after the death and Resurrection of her Son, are an unveiling of her presence and maternal role at the dawn of the Church, and of the protection and care which she bestows on her children. This is the spirit of her presence at Pentecost, of her glorious Assumption into heaven and of the maternal protection she exercises over the Church (20).

The life and Tradition of the Church are an inexhaustible treasury of documentation and testimony, recognizing and proclaiming the Blessed Virgin Mary “Mother of the Church.” During recent centuries this unbroken Tradition has been confirmed by the living Magisterium. The popes, from Blessed Pius IX (1854) to John Paul II, have entrusted the life and activities of the Church to the Virgin Mary as her Mother, pleading for and asking as well her protection and help in the most difficult and adverse circumstances of the Church’s history. Mary as a diligent and powerful Mother has always protected the Church and Christians, sometimes in extraordinary ways (21).

As facts of our time, we can recall actions of Pope Paul VI, who solemnly proclaimed the title Mary, Mother of the Church during the closing of the third session of Vatican II and who previously had entrusted this cause and other problems of the Church to the Blessed Virgin. After the solemn and touching proclamation of the title, the Pope stated:

This is the reason why we … ardently raise our eyes to her with the confidence and love of children. She who gave us Jesus, font of supernatural grace, will not fail to offer the Church her maternal love, especially at this time when the Bride of Christ is ceaselessly working to fulfill her saving mission (22).

More Important Moments of Mary, Mother of the Church


Some authors ask when and how the Blessed Virgin became our Mother in the order of grace; when and how she began and continues to exercise her spiritual maternity over her children to this very day. The greater number of authors treating the spiritual maternity in general had no intention of determining such details. But in explaining the more important aspects of Mary’s spiritual maternity, affirmations and insinuations are met in the majority of cases touching its origins and the various ways and aspects involved in communicating, or in collaborating with, the communication of supernatural grace to souls. With this in mind, the proposed theme can in part be illustrated.

In some important documents dealing with Mary’s spiritual maternity, recent popes occasionally make more or less direct reference to those matters. Neither circumstances of time, nor external modalities of this spiritual maternity, are anywhere near so important as the doctrinal explanations which these popes offer for its theological content, specifically in relation to moments and mysteries in the life of Jesus where the Virgin Mary collaborated as Mother of grace and associate of her Son in the salvation of the human race.

In general, most authors insist on Vatican II’s affirmation that the life of the Virgin Mary, the life Pope Paul VI describes as that “of the humble handmaid of the Lord, who from the moment she was greeted by the angel until her Assumption into heaven’s glory, body and soul, lived as a life of love and service” (23), was a life spent in the exercise of her spiritual maternity, in the exercise of maternal solicitude.

Pope John Paul—in a document to be quoted more than once—states firmly that:

“Mary’s spiritual maternity regarding the spirit (quoad spiritum) rightly began with her physical maternity regarding the body (quoad corpus).” And referring to the mystery of the Annunciation and the conversation between Mary and the angel, he concludes: “At the very moment her physical maternity (quoad corpus) began, so also did her spiritual maternity (quoad spiritum)” (24).

According to the living Magisterium of the Church, spiritual maternity began at the time of the Annunciation, as John Paul states, with the Virgin Mary’s consent (consensus) to the angel’s request. In virtue of this “consent,” the Word of God was made flesh in Mary’s virginal womb as universal Redeemer and Savior. Thus, her biological maternity was at the same time her spiritual maternity of salvation. The Mother of the Redeemer was at the same moment also Mother of all redeemed. For this reason, according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, she began her maternity “freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience” (25).

During the progress and unfolding of the history of salvation, Mary’s spiritual maternity enjoyed some singular, characteristic moments during which various details and aspects defining the nature and intensity of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption become clear.

Here attention will be focused only on the most important of these in the life of Mary. The principles and norms of interpretation followed here are equally applicable to other mysteries in her life. These moments are:

1. Mary’s spiritual maternity and the mystery of the Incarnation.

2. Mary’s maternal presence at Calvary (26).

3. Ecclesial maternity at the wedding feast of Cana.

Mary, Mother of the Church, in the Mystery of the Incarnation

The Blessed Virgin Mary is properly and formally Mother of the Church by her collaboration in or consent to the mystery of the Incarnation.

1. Explanation

Here spiritual maternity is understood in its most proper sense: as a spiritual action by which the Mother, the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Son of God, at the same time collaborates efficaciously in the communication of grace and supernatural life to souls and to the world. The term mother is not a metaphor or a mere symbol; rather it connotes a reality of the supernatural order: the world’s restoration from sin by the coming of the Son of God, the Savior, and rebirth of souls by supernatural grace gushing forth from Christ, the fountain of salvation.

This rebirth by divine disposition is realized in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, Redeemer and universal Savior. In this rebirth the Virgin Mary collaborated spiritually and formally in two ways: 1) by her loving, faithful and obedient consent (27) to the will of the Father: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word (Lk 1:38); and 2) through the work of the Holy Spirit providing of her own nature the matter to be assumed by the Word of God, the God made man so as to become the Redeemer of the human race by means of the mysteries of his flesh (28).

As Vatican II states, echoing the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, it is certain that Mary was not “merely passively engaged by God”: “Rightly therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience” (29).

Mariologists and commentators on the mystery of the Annunciation underscore the importance and significance of Mary’s consensus. No doubt it has a definitive importance. Mary’s yes to the will of the Father was an act of love, faith and obedience; an act that manifested her collaboration in the redemption of the human race. It was an act of her spiritual maternity (30) because as a mother, she consecrated herself to the person and work of her Son, with him and under him serving the mystery of redemption.

2. Ecclesial Testimony

All of the above is explicitly taught, in a kind of Marian synthesis by Vatican II in such wise as to affirm the real meaning and significance of this question. It has also been taught by the Church’s Magisterium, whose authority here is decisive, precisely because a truth pertaining to the deposit of faith is under consideration.

Vatican II expresses itself as follows:

The Virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as “full of grace” (cf. Lk 1:28); and to the heavenly messenger she replies: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word (Lk 1:38). Thus, the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly and impeded by no sin to God’s salvific will, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving diligently the mystery of redemption (31).

Pope Paul VI, in his interpretation of the doctrine of the Council, adds other aspects in the gloss which he made in his Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum:

Mary, as soon as she was reassured by the voice of the Angel Gabriel that God had chosen her as the unblemished Mother of his only-begotten Son, unhesitatingly gave her consent to a work which would have engaged all the energies of her fragile nature and declared: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). From that moment, she consecrated all of herself to the service not only of the heavenly Father and of the Word incarnate, who had become her Son, but also to all mankind, having clearly understood that Jesus, in addition to saving his people from the slavery of sin, would become the King of a messianic Kingdom, universal and eternal (cf. Mt. 1:21; Lk. 1:33) (32).

Paul VI’s thought regarding Mary’s spiritual maternity in the Incarnation of the Son of God could not be clearer. Becoming Mother of the Word of God, she devoted herself totally to his service as a mother to the service of her Son, and also to the service of the whole human race. Why? Because she was to become spiritual Mother of all redeemed.

On this point Pope John Paul II’s teaching is equally important. In his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater(Mother of the Redeemer), he refers several times to the relation between Mary’s divine motherhood and her spiritual maternity. Aside from other testimonies, special note should be taken of the text of his allocution, January 10, 1979, where he directly reflects on this theme. The strength of his thought culminates in this affirmation in the form of a conclusion to his reasoning, and which I have previously quoted: “At the very moment her physical maternity (quoad corpus) began, so also did her spiritual maternity in regard to the spirit (quoad spiritum).”

Note should be taken that this teaching of the present Magisterium of the Church regarding Mary’s spiritual maternity and its mutual relationship with the mystery of the Incarnation has remained uniform throughout the centuries. The text of St. Leo the Great expressing the convictions of the Church in his day remains a classic:

“Christ’s generation is the origin of the Christian people; and Christ’s birth as Head is also the birth of his (Mystical) Body” (33).

St. Leo the Great’s belief is clearly evident in this text. If Christ’s birth is our own, then this great Doctor is implicitly affirming that Christ’s Mother is also ours in the economy of salvation. Therefore, in the mystery of the Incarnation Mary is Mother of Christ the Savior and Redeemer, Head of the Church, and Mother of its redeemed members. This is the concept which the living Magisterium has always upheld.

Later there proceeds Pope St. Pius X’s exposition of this same doctrine in his important Encyclical Ad diem illum (Feb. 2, 1904). There he says:

For is not Mary the Mother of Christ? Then she is our Mother also. And we must in truth hold that Christ, the Word made Flesh, is also the Savior of mankind. … Now the Blessed Virgin did not conceive the eternal Son of God merely in order that he might be made man taking his human nature from her, but also in order that by means of the nature assumed from her he might be the Redeemer of men. … Hence Mary, carrying the Savior within her, may be said to have also carried all those whose life was contained in the life of the Savior. Therefore all we who are united to Christ, and as the apostle says are members of his Body. … Hence, though in a spiritual and mystical fashion, we are all children of Mary, and she is Mother of us all (34).

Other texts of the Magisterium of the Church similar to those already quoted could be cited, but this is hardly necessary. The high point of the Magisterium on this theme came at Vatican II and in the teachings of two recent popes: Paul VI, authorized interpreter of the Council, and John Paul II.

And the link with popes of former times is Pope Pius XII, who in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis (June 29, 1943) concludes his reflection on Mary thus:

Within her virginal womb Christ our Lord already bore the exalted title of Head of the Church; in a marvelous birth (Mary) brought him forth as the source of all supernatural life. … Thus she who, according to the flesh, was the Mother of our Head … became … the Mother of all his members (35).

3. Theological Tradition

The ancient Tradition of the Fathers of the Church and of the theologians down through the Middle Ages was not oblivious of the doctrine of Mary’s spiritual maternity, although direct expositions of its meaning and explanations of its content and key moments in the history of salvation may be wanting. This notwithstanding, some Fathers and ecclesiastical writers do affirm the factual truth of this mystery, either directly or as a deduction from other theological premises, from an antithetical comparison Eve-Mary, an argumentation already current in the days of St. Irenaeus, or from considerations bearing on Mary’s mission in the history of salvation.

In particular, Mary’s spiritual maternity in the New Testament also possesses a bridal meaning. In the account of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38), in the mystery at Calvary (Jn 19:25-27) and in Mary’s presence at wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2:1-11), exegetes, not restricting themselves to the merely proper, historical and literal sense of the text, also discover in the New Covenant phenomena and events of salvation history which reveal the Son of God to have been betrothed with human nature in Mary’s virginal womb.

By careful analysis of reciprocal concepts and through the study of events endowed with a wide-ranging symbolism, Mary is shown to be acting as spiritual Mother and Bride. Thus, in the mystery of the Annunciation Mary pronounces her fiat (Lk 1:38) as mystical bride of the Word, giving birth to the Church as distinct from Christ. Of this Church Christ becomes Head, after assuming in personal union the human nature he intended to redeem (36). It is helpful to keep this blending of types in mind, so as to recognize the various interrelated titles under which the Tradition of the Church has proclaimed Mary’s spiritual maternity.

We can outline the teaching of Tradition, as some writers have done, via a series of general formulations, as it were capita maiora (major headings), each of which is equivalently an affirmation of the spiritual maternity of Mary, Mother of the redeemed, viz., of the disciples of Jesus.

a) The spiritual maternity of Mary is affirmed in propounding and explaining the antithetical parallelism Eve-Mary as grounded in Sacred Scripture. So true is this that Vatican II summarized this argument, saying that “not a few of the early Fathers, comparing Mary with Eve, call her Mother of the living” (37); and frequently claim: “death through Eve, life through Mary” (38).

b) The doctrine of the Mystical Body is another reason for claiming that Mary’s spiritual maternity was recognized during the patristic era. St. Augustine, in building on this insight, stated that if Mary is Mother of Christ, Head of the Church, then she is also Mother of its members.

A similar application is possible by taking Christ’s conception and birth as universal Redeemer and Savior point of reference. Reflections along such lines are developed especially by St. Leo the Great (39).

c) Another similar argument can be formulated, this one converging on Mary’s presence on Calvary and on Jesus’ proclamation of her maternity by extending it to include John, the beloved disciple, when he said to his Mother: “‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” (Jn 19:26-27).

The proof for this argument supposes that John, Jesus’ disciple, represented either the Church or mankind. According to the Church’s Tradition, and in view of the content and significance of the scene on Calvary, St. John acted here not as a merely private person, but in accord with the divine counsels as representative of the human race. But in what sense?

Some commentators think that this can be affirmed only in an improper sense, or by way of a biblical accommodation. But in view of the nature and significance of the mystery taking place on Calvary, understanding John here as representative of all mankind has unquestionable validity, as both the historical and symbolic sense of this passage. So, indeed, has the Tradition of the Church understood and proclaimed the meaning of this passage from earliest times.

Above all, the Church’s Magisterium itself seems to interpret Tradition in this sense. The mind of Tradition here is not that of a mere accommodation, but of a genuine, inspired sense. This understanding Pope Benedict XIV states “the Church received under the promptings and teaching of the Holy Spirit” (40). Likewise, Pope Leo XIII affirms that the Church “has always understood that in the person of John, Jesus Christ designated the entire human race” (41).

Mary, Mother of the Church, on Calvary


The most important moment of Mary’s spiritual maternity is her presence on Calvary during her Son’s crucifixion and death. Because of the importance of biblical texts, of their content and of the significance of this redemptive mystery, and because of the attention the Church has given to this supernatural event, we are face to face with the mystery that most awakens a sensitive interest in scholars to explore and elucidate all its hidden truths.

Hence, this is the most studied event of Christ’s life and it is the one that has produced the most stimulating and extensive literature. Its content and significance has been plumbed by exegesis and theology, spirituality and anthropology, and it has been profusely depicted, in a variety of styles, by the arts, iconography and literature alike. Sculptured calvaries have sought to lend its presence a certain nearness, so as to make its contemplation by the faithful easier. The renaissance opened a golden era for the mystery of Calvary. Books of theology and devotion, like the anonymous Passio duorum (The Passion of two…) in Spanish at the turn of fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, create just this kind of style in contemplating and living the mystery (42).

The mystery on Calvary is naturally incomprehensible, not only because of its nature and supernatural significance, but even from a merely human standpoint, because that mystery unfolds and without explanation reaches, humanly speaking, a tragic finale. It is useless to rationalize it by adducing ancient custom or past events lost in the mists of history. Nor is it enough, in order to find a satisfactory explanation, to cite legal norms or spin hypotheses revolving about the hate for Jesus and intrigues against him indulged in by members of Jerusalem’s high-ranking elite. Some other reason, beyond reason itself, has to be discovered. The mystery is contained in the heart of the Father: God will reign from a tree (Regnabit a ligno Deus). The triumph of the Cross explains the life of the Church to be established on the law of love.

That is why the mystery of Calvary will always awaken interest and a desire to penetrate its shadowy light; a yearning to discover the reasons for suffering so as to be healed; for dying in order to live.

From the Cross, setting his hope on God and on his merciful power alone, Jesus, a few moments before dying, uttered most tender and consoling words to his Mother and disciple. Son and Mother; the world and the Church were here represented. The Mother, a widow for some years, and a beloved disciple, virgin of love. When Jesus saw his Mother, he said to her: “‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’”

Proclamation of Mary’s Spiritual Maternity

“But 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).

A) In regard to Mary’s spiritual maternity, the scene at Calvary possesses a double content. Jesus’ life on earth, in relation to the redemption of mankind, is to be considered the constitutional period of that redemption. From the first moment of the Incarnation until his death on the Cross, Jesus carried out and consummated his mission as Savior and Redeemer of the human race, accumulating an infinity of merit with the works accomplished in the mysteries of his flesh. Viewed from this angle, the redemption finds its culmination on the Cross, there sealed by his glorious death and victorious Resurrection.

By way of analogy, we can say the same of Mary’s coredemptive collaboration with her Son and of her spiritual maternity. From the mystery of the Incarnation until her Son’s death, she was continually exercising her spiritual maternity in a series of acts which, via the mysteries of her life, manifest precisely her coredemptive collaboration. Vatican II, once again, partially describes this series of events in the exercise of coredemptive collaboration:

She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the Temple, shared her Son’s sufferings as he died on the Cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated … in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a Mother to us in the order of grace (43).

According to the Council, on Calvary Mary carried out and exercised her role of Co-redemptrix by way of her spiritual composure during those confusing moments of sorrow. By her compassion for her Son, by her union with him by virtue of the most intimate possible bond of maternal love; through her faith in and obedience to the Father’s saving will; by her unshakeable hope and ardent charity, she cooperated, as the Council itself recalls, in a wholly singular, objective, immediate and supernatural way in the redemption of the human race.

This thesis is basic to assessing spiritually and supernaturally the Virgin Mother’s life as Mother of the Son of God and associate in the work of redemption. Throughout her life, as the Council states, she lived spiritually and supernaturally in union with “the Son in the work of salvation … from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death” (44). Her entire life was an exercise in spiritual maternity, an efficacious cooperation in the work of redemption.

That coredemptive collaboration, the equivalent of her spiritual maternity, found its high point on Calvary. There, the spiritual strength and living expression of her love for God and for her Son attained their summum (summit), because there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for others. At this point, Mary accepted her Son’s death in dying with him spiritually and affectively. Mariologists during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries strove to clarify this union of Christ and Mary on Calvary in relation to their pain, suffering and sacrificial oblation, all that is meant and expressed by the term compassio.

Mary’s coredemptive collaboration with her Son was consummated on Calvary. Her spiritual maternity had attained its highest efficacy and expression. What remained to be done? The subsequent, final moment of this spiritual maternity on Calvary, its proclamation from the Cross, represents the culmination of what it means.

B) The concepts: The terms and concepts of the text just cited are sufficiently known; so also the meaning of the noun woman, and why Jesus used it at this moment instead of the proper name, Mary, or the familiar term, mother.

A comparison of the scene on Calvary with the Annunciation readily makes plain some notable differences in the circumstances of each event. But certain, more basic resemblances also come to light. These have their root in the presence of an identical goal in the unfolding and realization of salvation history. Although Calvary and the Annunciation are two distinct events, they are in fact one by virtue of an identical cause. Both events entail a basic nucleus in view of the fulfillment of a single objective. The content of two terms, consensus = consent, and compassio = compassion, explains the link which makes both events radically one before they are considered separately.

What Mary’s consensus (her fiat) was to the mystery of Incarnation, her compassio was by analogy to the mystery of redemption on Calvary. This parallel is the central point of reference on which any explanation of these two salvific events turns.

The consensus was, as it were, the door giving the Word of God access to the world of redemptive salvation: Janua coeli (Gate of heaven). In virtue of her divine motherhood Mary was the door through which the Word of the Father made himself present in the world to renew and restore it by means of the mysteries of his flesh and by means of the sacrifice of himself offered in an infinite act of love.

The compassion was the Mother’s contribution to the sacrifice of her beloved Son, a collaboration representing also that of redeemed mankind so as to recover the beauty and loveliness of spirit disfigured by original sin and by all the sins of the world. The scene on Calvary replicates the scene in the first paradise where the woman Eve appears as active collaborator of the sin of Adam. As the New Adam, Jesus during the final episode of his life on earth, so laden with symbolism, associates the New Eve, his immaculate Mother, with his work, with his supreme act of love and obedience to the Father, and with his redemptive sacrifice, thus purifying the Church by his blood and by surrendering himself to corporal death for her (45).

The compassio includes and synthesizes Mary’s total collaboration in the mystery of Calvary as spiritual Mother of the new mankind; a collaboration with many facets, but above all as spiritual association and participation in her Son’s pains and sufferings, in his death and in his act of acceptance: His fiat (cf. Mt 26:39; Lk 22:42; Heb 10:7). In this Mary conforms herself to his will perfectly united to the Father’s; spiritually she becomes herself a sacrificial victim acceptable to God, in spirit nailed to the Cross with her Son (46).

Compassio-compatiens is the terminology commonly used since the Middle Ages to describe Mary’s interior composure on Calvary, her participation in her Son’s sacrifice and the exercise of her spiritual maternity. It may well be also the best terminology for our times. Significantly, it was used by the Second Vatican Council (47). This terminology holds great importance for the interpretation of Mariological teaching between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries on the coredemptive participation of the Virgin Mary in the work of her Son’s redemption (48).

Doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium

The witness of the Church’s Magisterium to Mary’s spiritual maternity reflected in her presence and actions on Calvary is very abundant, and is distinguished by a broad and profound theological-spiritual content. By means of this doctrine we come to know the various aspects and the value of Mary’s cooperation in the work of salvation, ever dependant in its every phase on the efficacious mediation and redemptive action of the Son of God.

It is not necessary to cite here all the testimonies or to make particular comments on each. The texts of themselves make clear their distinctive features and the doctrinal-spiritual value of their content.

On March 16, 1748, Pope Benedict XIV published his “Bulla aurea” entitled Gloriosae Dominae—quoted already above—in which he assesses Church’s devotion to the Virgin of Calvary:

The Catholic Church, prompted by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, has sought the utmost to honor her (the Virgin Mary) with countless gifts as the Mother of its Lord and Redeemer and as the Queen of heaven and earth. With great care and attention the Church strives to love her with filial piety. From the lips of her divine Bridegroom, as he was dying, the Church received her (Mary) as her very own most beloved Mother” (49).

Pope Pius VIII (1829-1830), during his short pontificate, wished to strengthen among the faithful trust in the Virgin Mary’s protection: “because she is our Mother, Mother of piety and grace, Mother of mercy, to whom Christ, as he was dying on the Cross, entrusted us, so that she might intercede for us before her Son” (50).

Pope Leo XIII makes this crystal-clear affirmation in his Encyclical Quamquam pluries (1889): “From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the Mother of Jesus Christ is she the Mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the redemption” (51). The Pope explains this same doctrine in many other testimonies, one which is particularly expressive I quote here:

Moreover, it was before the eyes of Mary that was to be finished the divine sacrifice for which she had borne and brought up the Victim. As we contemplate him in the last and most piteous of those mysteries, there stood by the Cross of Jesus his Mother, who, in a miracle of charity, so that she might receive us as her sons, offered generously to divine justice her own Son, and died in her heart with him, stabbed with the sword of sorrow (52).

From the many testimonies bequeathed us by Pope Pius XI (1922-1939), I quote only two very important ones. During the first years of his pontificate he customarily instructed the Church about the Virgin Mary thus:

The sorrowful Virgin took part with Jesus Christ in the work of the redemption. She was constituted Mother of men, who were confided to her as a testimony of divine love. She took them to herself as sons and she lovingly protects them (53).

In a letter to the Order of Servants of Mary (Servites) on the celebration of the seventh centenary of their foundation, the Pope included a clear statement about Mary’s spiritual maternity:

Shortly, the seventh centenary of the Order’s foundation will be observed, while we are celebrating the Jubilee Year of the redemption of mankind and the constitution of Virgin Mary at the foot of her Son’s Cross as Mother of all men (54).

The countless, profound testimonies regarding Mary, our spiritual Mother on Calvary, to be found in the living Magisterium of the Church, inspired later popes to publish numerous documents in which they recognize and explain that very mystery. D. Bertetto has thoroughly analyzed the important contribution of Pope Pius XII. His luminous documentation above all witnesses to the fact of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, relating it especially to persons and to families (55), and linking this title with that of Mary, Mediatrix and Distributrix of graces (56).

Pius XII explains the general doctrine of spiritual maternity and its relation to other aspects of the mystery of Mary. Realistically, it finds its source in the divine maternity (57), but when proclaiming it from the Cross Jesus linked the spiritual maternity to a new title, Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption. These are the essential constitutive elements of spiritual maternity.

To be added to this is the permanent, actual exercise of the spiritual maternity by the Virgin Mary from her heavenly throne, an activity commonly related to the universal distribution of graces. In his great encyclicals Mystici Corporis and Mediator Dei, Pius XII explains the reasons for Mary’s spiritual maternity, and sketches other suggestive considerations which manifest both the love of Jesus Christ for mankind and the solicitude and grandeur of the Mother who collaborated in the work of redemption (58).

Pius XII repeatedly refers to the scene on Calvary in order to highlight the figure of the Virgin Mother; her love for her crucified Son and for her adopted children whom she loves far more than all earthly mothers; her strength of soul in bearing the atrocities and torments of the Passion; her exemplarity both for all her devotees and for the Church. His is a rich and highly documented Magisterium, which efficaciously contributed to the increase of Marian devotion, and in a very remarkable way to the development and progress of Mariology (59).

The Marian Magisterium of Pius XII found its culmination during Vatican II, as can be verified from those particular texts where the Council affirms and describes Mary’s spiritual motherhood, and while doing so cites precisely texts from this pontiff’s teaching (60). On this point, Vatican II represents both a point of arrival and a point of departure. For the Council assumed, reaffirmed and propounded in its Marian text (Lumen Gentium, ch. 8) the fundamental theses, up to the time of the Council sponsored by a Christo-typologically orientated Mariology, regarding the immediate, objective and singular collaboration of Mary in the work of redemption, viz., Marian coredemption (even if the term was not incorporated into the text), and those regarding Mary’s mediation, spiritual maternity, intercession and distribution of graces. At the Council, Marian coredemption, as far as its content and theological significance are concerned (leaving the question of terminology aside for the time being), were both supported and guaranteed because the common teaching on coredemption passed to the level of Church doctrine—even though many prefer to ignore the fact.

In the section of this chapter where I treat the fact and nature of Mary’s spiritual maternity, I quoted these texts from the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium: 56-58, and 60-64, and from Apostolicam actuositatem: 4. The importance, significance and ecclesial dimension of these texts can be verified via the commentaries on, and references made to them subsequently, by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. Many are the testimonies of these two popes which can be cited in support of this theme, so relevant to contemporary Mariology. But for our purposes here, it is enough to cite a few texts and references illustrating the unity of thought of these popes with the entire living Magisterium of the Church.

Paul VI’s Magisterium is not as abundant in testimonies to Mary’s spiritual maternity at the foot of the Cross on Calvary, as his references to the Immaculate Mother of God, to the Assumption of the Virgin into heaven and to her relations with the Church. But there are some documents and references which enable us to learn about that aspect of Mary’s life involving her active association with her Son on Calvary (61).

Probably the most important one is that of the Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum (1967) which we have already quoted more than once:

The first truth is this: Mary is the Mother of the Church not only because she is the Mother of Christ and his most intimate associate in “the new economy when the Son of God took a human nature from her, that he might in the mysteries of his flesh free man from sin,” but also because “she shines forth to the whole community of the elect as a model of the virtues” … the Blessed Virgin Mary, after participating in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son, and in such an intimate way as to deserve to be proclaimed by him the Mother not only of his disciple John but—may we be allowed to affirm it—of mankind which he in some way represents (62).

Pope John Paul II’s Magisterium is far richer, abounding in texts regarding the sorrowful Mother and her spiritual maternity on Calvary. He classes the Mother’s pain associated with that of her Son, as efficacious collaboration with him in the work of redemption, a model and example for the Church.

Jesus’ apostolic work and preaching of the Gospel culminated in the events on Calvary and on the Cross. There, as it were, “spiritual” maternity was provided a key to its significance. “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn 19:26). Thus, under a new form, Jesus has joined his own Mother to mankind; the same mankind to whom he had proclaimed the Good News (63).

In his Encyclical Mother of the Redeemer (1987), he makes many theological-spiritual, ecclesial and salvific observations regarding the scene on Calvary. The Pope understands this as a confirmation of 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” (64). Mary’s participation in the redemptivelove of her Son, the universal significance of the scene with John’s representation of the entire human family, and the ecclesial focus of Jesus’ words as his testament for the economy of salvation, are set in relief.

After citing the text of St. John the Holy Father proposes a number of reflections premised on the Son’s evident attention to his Mother:

And yet the “testament of Christ’s Cross” says more. 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 (65).

Next, the Holy Father sets in relief and explains how Mary’s universal motherhood is coredemptive collaboration in her Son’s redemptive work:

Indeed she is “clearly the mother of the members of Christ … since she cooperated out of love so that there might be born in the Church the faithful” (66).

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 (67).

Finally, leaving aside other important considerations—and all of John Paul II’s considerations in these pages are important—I want to underscore the persuasive force of the Pope’s reflections on Mary’s maternity over the Church: Mary, Mother of the Church.

On Calvary, by the Cross of her dying Son, Mary lives and experiences in her Mother’s heart a new love: it is the “love of coredemptive pain” which she shares with her Son. Of this novel love the “new spiritual motherhood” is born, one which continues in the Church and through the Church. John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, symbolizes the Church. Mary, the Mother, with John constitutes the Church (68).

In another important document, John Paul II reiterates ideas found in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, in particular her participation in her Son’s salvific pain. It was precisely on Calvary where she shared his suffering, that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world (69).

In what does this fruitfulness consist? In the fact that united with her Son, Redeemer of the universe, she was Co-redemptrix on Calvary. The Pope explains the meaning of the scene on Calvary accenting her “unique contribution” via her compassion in the redemptive death of her Son (n. 25). All of these with aforementioned details are assembled in this important text:

As a witness to her Son’s Passion by her presence, and as a sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of Suffering, by embodying in anticipation the expression of Saint Paul, which was quoted at the beginning. She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she “completes in her flesh”—as already in her heart—”what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (70).

We may say by way of summary of the Church’s teaching concerning Mary’s maternity on Calvary, that all the essential and fundamental elements have been assembled in it. Mary’s maternity is a spiritual and supernatural motherhood pertaining to the salvific economy of grace. On Calvary, that motherhood is clearly established. It is a universal motherhood; at the same time it is a participation in the redemptive death of Christ and a coredemptive collaboration: efficacious, objective and immediate in the work of Christ, universal Redeemer. It is also a motherly presence and mediation.

Theological Assessment

Many authors abstain from theologically assessing propositions relative to the Virgin Mary’s spiritual motherhood. In the elaboration of this problem some theologians adopt procedures, which from a methodological and expositive point of view, hardly correspond with the formulation of these propositions in documents of the Magisterium of the Church.

In these pages I have cited many documents of the Church’s living Magisterium regarding spiritual maternity, its content and various facets. The Magisterium of the Church is the norm according to which a theological and dogmatic assessment of a doctrine or a proposition is made.

Mary’s spiritual maternity, founded on the mystery of the Incarnation and of Calvary, is a true maternity in the order of grace: this is a proposition de fide divina et catholica (object of divine and catholic faith) in virtue of the teaching of the Word of God and the unanimous Magisterium of the Church.

Mary’s spiritual motherhood specifically entails an efficacious collaboration in every aspect of the redemption: this is a proposition de fide divina et catholica, with its basis in Scripture and because it is taught by the Church’s Magisterium (Pius XII, Second Vatican Council, John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater).

The proposition, that in this maternal collaboration Mary immediately acted as Co-redemptrix in objective redemption, is according to some theologians a proposition more in harmony with the ecclesial Magisterium (José Antonio de Aldama, S.J.).

I, however, think that in light of Vatican II’s clear teaching synthesizing that of Pius XII, and in the light of that of Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater, and that because it is inspired by and explained in Scripture, this third proposition can now be qualified as de fide catholica.

Mary’s Ecclesial Motherhood at the Wedding Feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:1-12)

State of the Question

Some authors of contemporary Mariology and Johannine exegesis claim that Mary’s presence and intervention at the wedding feast of Cana—as St. John describes it—is in the symbolic sense a description of a maternal action on her part in the spiritual order. This description of Mary at Cana is similar to that of her presence on Calvary. The author of both accounts is the same evangelist. Crucial here to a correct interpretation, whether establishing the claim or not, is the reference linking Mary to Jesus as symbolic point of convergence. The fact that Jesus, in speaking to his Mother on both occasions, addressed her with the substantive, woman, constitutes a strong point of reference.

Since the Middle Ages many authors have interpreted the scene described by John in a mystical-ecclesiological sense, one opening on many perspectives. Jesus worked his first sign there and the apostles believed. The account describes faith contextualized as the foundation of the first community or primitive Church: Jesus, Mary the Mother, and the apostles, a foundation brought to pass precisely the intervention of the Mother.

Living, symbolic exegesis, capable of far more than simple philology, has discovered other aspects and shades of meaning in the content and historical editing of John’s narrative. These accent and set in relief the central importance of Mary’s presence as spiritual Mother of the beginning of the Church, a presence linked to the apostles’ faith (71). St. Thomas Aquinas contemplates the heart of this scene, explaining it in an ecclesial sense, because there the union of Christ with the fledgling Church is revealed (72).

Analysis and Explanations

Contemporary Mariologists and biblical scholars discover other dimensions in the mystery of the wedding at Cana, which as mystery entails a profound theological symbolism yet to be fully understood.

Fr. Ignatius de la Potterie, S.J., is one of the best commentators on this subject. He has made a long philological analysis of this pericope, critiqued ideas and claims, hypothetical reconstructions and inductions, and given careful attention to grammatical rhythms in the phraseology and to the meaning of the term woman in John’s account, one, according to J.P. Charlier, exactly parallel with that in the scene on Calvary. De la Potterie concludes as follows:

In their actions and conversation the Virgin Mary and Christ far transcend the human and material context of that “marriage” feast at Cana; they supplant the newlyweds as the spiritual Groom and Bride of the messianic banquet (73).

Basis of this interpretation is the symbolic sense of messianic nuptials, and within that messianic context the interpretation raises the wedding at Cana to a soteriological level where the Virgin Mary—as on Calvary—is revealed in her dignity as Co-redemptrix and spiritual Mother of the redeemed. Along these same lines, those emphasized by J.P. Charlier, the symbolic Bride at the wedding “collaborates” with Christ, the Groom, in preparing the “new wine,” and as Bride, Mary is Christ’s prime collaborator who truly becomes a helpmate similar to him (cf. Gn 2:19). And at the hour when the first sign is wrought, John presents us to the Virgin-Bride fully and profoundly integrated within the redemptive plan (74), therefore Co-redemptrix.

At this first study level of the nuptials we discover Mary as “collaborator” with her Son in the redemptive plan of God. Continuing the study at a second level of reflection we discover a “new theme,” as de la Potterie calls it:

In the account of Cana there is a discreet suggestion of Mary’s “spiritual motherhood” in relation to the new people of God. In biblical tradition “Daughter Zion” is frequently represented in a maternal role, one very nicely articulated in Psalm 86 (87) verse 5—”And of Zion it shall be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her’” (75).

De la Potterie broadens his reflection to include still other, complementary themes. We might conclude this very suggestive approach briefly setting the wedding scene, as does our author, in relation to that of Calvary:

In adopting such comportment and also in inviting the “servants,” viz., the disciples, to a perfect obedience, Mary is the first to induce others to become the new people of God. This idea, implicit in Jn 2:1-12, only came to be recognized expressly later on … then (cf. Jn 19:25-27) Mary’s spiritual maternity would be explicitly proclaimed for Jesus’ disciples (76).

From a theological and more spiritual point of view, Hugo Rahner adopts a nuptial symbolism for his interpretation of the scene at Cana. This symbolism includes an ecclesial meaning and significance, relevant to many moments in the establishment of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. This is because the “interpretation of the Wedding at Cana envisions the entire course of salvation history, from the first moment of the Incarnation to the glorious return of the Lord at the end of time” (77), symbolized by the victorious conversion of water into wine. One moves here in a mystical-symbolic context where in the Covenant Mary is “the Mother of all those sanctified by their faith in Jesus Christ” (78).

Rahner thinks that at Cana, when referring to the arrival of his hour, Jesus was alluding to the scene on Calvary, to the central point in the work of redemption, that is, to his Passion and death. Christ’s blood poured out was the “new wine” of the New and eternal Covenant. His Mother, the Virgin Mary, the grand woman of world history, whom her Son would proclaim “Mother“ of the faithful and model of Mother Church, is present at both moments (79).

Here Rahner reaches the high point of his theological-biblical reflection linking the meaning of the wedding to the central moment in the work of redemption: his “hour.”

From that summit he contemplates the Lord’s death on the Cross and the blood prepared by Mary and poured out for the salvation of all men. In that decisive moment, Jesus proclaims Mary, his Mother, the Mother of all peoples, of all those who will believe in him, because she is Mother, figure and model of the Church (80).

Other authors propose quite similar interpretations to the one I have just explained. Bertetto, after critiquing several theories and interpretations, favors the thesis of Mary’s spiritual-ecclesial motherhood at the “wedding of Cana,” set in relation to the mystique of Calvary and the arrival of Jesus’ hour. He acknowledges that St. Thomas and other medieval authors, in the footsteps of the holy fathers, have offered considerable data, of great help to modern theologians and biblical scholars in penetrating more deeply Mary’s maternal role at the wedding feast of Cana.

A further reflection of this author is quite important. John, beloved disciple of Jesus, and author of the Cana narrative, is not simply acting as an ordinary writer, who merely contributes one or another piece of information to the history of Jesus. It seems far more likely that at this point John is acting as a “divinely inspired author,” who claims to explain a mystery of salvation in relating the first miracle of Jesus.

Clearly, in this teaching the Virgin Mary reveals how great a power of intercession she wields before her Son. Thus does she appear when Jesus converts water into wine, his first miracle, and so affirms and increases the faith of his disciples. As a result of that faith, they are more spiritually united to him and vitally engrafted as branches into the vine: into Jesus Christ, Head of the Mystical Body, as first members of the Church, the family of the faithful (81).

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who was personally invited to the wedding at which her Son and his disciples also assisted, is already acting here as the Mother of that spiritual family which is the Church in the course of being born.

Mary’s Spiritual Maternity and Patristic Doctrine

The doctrine we have explained concerning Mary’s spiritual maternity, particularly stressing the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium, accords with and is largely inspired by patristic tradition. On many occasions the popes in their documents have quoted from and referred to the teachings of the Fathers. Vatican II expressly cites the authority of the Fathers when referring to Mary’s spiritual maternity (82).

Mariologists and authors of handbooks on Mariology do the same but far more extensively. Textual documentation is particularly abundant in the treatment of certain aspects of spiritual maternity, e.g.: spiritual maternity as mediation, coredemption and distribution of graces. On the other hand, particular aspects of spiritual maternity have also been studied in the context of the writings of the Fathers. The bibliography on such studies over the past forty years has been meticulously prepared in perfect form by Fr. Giuseppe M. Besutti in his Bibliografia Mariana (83).

Mary’s Spiritual Maternity in Ecumenical Dialogue

Various authors have referred to this theme of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption—spiritual motherhood in particular—apart from general studies. Generally speaking, however, we can say that this theme has seen little progress within the ecumenical movement. There have been no significant advances and, on occasions, there is met only silence and utter indifference to this theme.

Lutheran Churches, in contrast with the Catholic Church, have very different theories of redemption, grace and church. In general, Lutherans do not discuss the spiritual maternity of Mary. Hans Asmussen, one of their theologians closest to Catholic Mariology, states that Mary enjoys a certain relation to salvation, that we could not think of Christ without thinking of Mary, and that we have a new birth of the Virgin. But he offers no doctrinal elaboration of these points (84).

Among authors coming from a Calvinist background, Max Thurian, a Reformed Church theologian, stands out as an exception when he talks in a soteriological sense about Mary’s presence on Calvary, of her participating in her Son’s sufferings, of being closely united to the mission of the Church and to the redemptive work of Christ, the only Savior. This type of affirmation is very generic, and is a commonplace of Catholic Mariology. But what specific role does the Virgin Mary play in redemption? Thurian gives no systematic form to his generic comments, nor does he offer a comprehensive explanation of this theme. That notwithstanding, he does affirm that Mary is indispensable to the work of salvation. In what sense? Probably because she is the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Savior (85).

Closer to the Catholic position is that of the Anglican Church. Generally speaking, Anglicanism includes in its liturgical calendar the celebration of five Marian feasts. And at the level of doctrine, it admits the fundamental truths professed by the Church before Anglicans separated from Rome (1534), i.e., divine motherhood, virginity, etc. Some contemporary Anglican bishops and theologians admit a kind of Marian mediation and even intercession in the Communion of Saints.

But within Anglicanism there exists unity neither of thought nor of Marian doctrine. There does not really exist any “Anglican” Mariology as such, and the theme of Mary’s spiritual maternity plays no role in Anglican theology (86). Nonetheless, there are some Anglican theologians today who acknowledge a maternal role for Mary on Calvary vis-a-vis the Church. It would seem that Pope John Paul II refers to such theologians in his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, in the section entitled “The Path of the Church and the Unity of All Christians.” He says it augurs well that some non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities in the West agree with the Catholic Church on fundamental questions of faith and doctrine, especially one in reference to the Virgin Mary whom they recognize as Mother of God and whom they see at the foot of the Cross accepting the beloved disciple as her own son, who in turn accepts her as his Mother (87).

This is a true recognition of Mary’s spiritual maternity. Some authors even go so far as to support Marian mediation and intercession on behalf of mankind in the “Communio Sanctorum.” Anglican representatives participating in international Mariological and Marian congresses have favored just such a thesis (88).

Part Two: Mary, Model of the Church


1) This theme, “Mary, model of the Church” together with that of “spiritual motherhood,” certainly forms a unit properly covered by the title: Mary, Mother of the Church. They constitute two broad questions or themes mutually complementing each other.

We may also affirm, in my opinion, that it is impossible to attain a perfect, complete and adequate theological understanding of spiritual maternity, or of Mary, model of the Church in the history of salvation, as we are now considering her, if we do not include in that motherhood, or in the title Mary, Mother of the Church, some reference to the prerogative of her exemplarity, to the consideration of Mary as model and paradigm of the Church and souls.

Mother and model are two different concepts, although they enjoy an affinity and certain similarity from the maternal point of view. The reason is because the action of the model bears on the creation or design of a new being, or the reproduction of a copy more or less perfect. Does this not resemble a maternal action?

An exemplar transmits being and life to its copy analogically. In the configuration of the copy or reproduction, being and life are fully unique, yet also profoundly similar to the original. Thus, the being and life of the child are truly unique, truly the child’s being and life, yet the child resembles its mother, with due allowances for the different modes of reproduction in the examples.

It is not possible to deny that a model exercises a truly positive influence on production or configuration of a new being, which for this reason is similar to the model. Exemplary causality, considered analogically, bears a certain likeness with maternal action, one which is particularly stressed in the field of spiritual and supernatural realities, of which we know relatively little.

This reflection may be applied analogically, therefore, in the order of spiritual realities and within the history of salvation. It may be said that in this order perfection of being and resemblance is greater than in the natural order, where at times persons and individuals lack experience of the influence and meaning of exemplarity (89).

This general consideration applies perfectly to the context of Mary’s spiritual maternity, and to that of the life of the Church and to the exercises of the spiritual life in souls. Being a model and example are concepts certainly different from those of mother and maternity, yet even though different—as is education—they fall within the comprehensive and more perfect role of being a mother.

It is obvious that maternal action does not consist only in the act of bearing or bringing a new life into the world. Maternal duty also consists in, even if merely as a consequence, nursing and educating the child, developing its powers, and fostering the child’s potential for life, as well as perfecting all its good qualities by their exercise.

These reflections are based on important statements of Pope Paul VI regarding Mary as model of the Church, which in fact serve to formulate the problematic correctly and adequately. We proceed from the human and natural toward the supernatural and spiritual, the more perfect. Echoing Vatican II the Pope says:

Indeed, just as no human mother can limit her task to the generation of a new man but must extend it to the function of nourishing and educating her offspring, thus the Blessed Virgin Mary, after participating in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son … now continues to fulfill from heaven her maternal function as the cooperator in the birth and development of divine life in the individual souls of redeemed men. This is a most consoling truth which, by the free consent of God the All-Wise, is an integrating part of the mystery of human salvation; therefore it must be held as faith by all Christians (90).

Pope Paul VI was keenly aware of the approach to and explanation of these problems in the wake of a Mariology enriched by the concepts and perspectives opened by Vatican II on the spiritual maternity both of Mary and of the Church. Here he has provided a very significant text which can serve as a theme of reflection and as starting point for our considerations on this part of our theme.

2) Recognition and veneration of Mary’s exemplarity: Her characteristic prerogative as model of the Church and of souls, is the foundation for, and form of veneration by which, Mary is honored by the Church, one also known as imitation of Mary. This veneration has been recognized officially, and practiced by the Church in many different ways from the earliest times. It has its basis in the Bible, e.g., where Elizabeth praised Mary’s faith and filled with the Holy Spirit spoke out with a loud voice saying: Blessed are you … and blessed is she that believed … (cf. Lk 1:41-45). St. Ambrose fostered this veneration in a singular form and highly recommended it to his disciples, as Pope Paul VI reminds us (91).

The imitation of Mary and her role of model, a genuine dignity, is grounded in her perfection and her singularly eminent sanctity, recognized as such by the Church. But Mary becomes truly and effectively model when, by her influence and exemplarity, she actively forms her spiritual image in souls. This influence is considered a form of causality, or the positive action of a cause, which produces in souls the effect of holiness. According to some modern Mariologists, this causality is implicitly contained in the salvific designs of God who from all eternity chose Mary to be mother and collaborator with her Son, the Redeemer, in the work of redemption. This reflection seems very plausible since the concept of spiritual maternity includes spiritual action in favor of souls. From this perspective, imitation of Mary is dignified in the highest degree, because apart from other considerations, Mary becomes the ineffable personification of the Church (92).

From this we can infer the important value this theme has for Mariology in general, and in particular for contemporary Mariology. A profound study of Mary’s relations as model of the Church leads us to a broader and profounder knowledge of the mystery of her predestination in the history of salvation.

It would be possible to clarify still further the intimate relation between Mary’s exemplarity, her role as model of the Church, and her spiritual maternity. Such a clarification would constitute a positive contribution to Mariology and a solid advance in knowledge of the Church. This very consoling truth, as Pope Paul VI describes it, must not be lacking in outlines of Mariology, as so often is the case today. Few manuals of Mariology give any attention to this eminently theological and spiritual question.

Some Mariologists provide a brief explanation of this theme, tucked away in a final chapter, expounded in a vague and imprecise manner as one among secondary questions touching popular piety, Marian spirituality, etc. But this is not to give it the importance such a mystery deserves. On this point, the treatise on Mariology by Fr. Bertetto, whom I have quoted several times, is an honorable exception. He devotes an ample part of the chapter entitled, Mary in the Mystery of the Church, to the study of Mary, Model and Example of the Church (93). Methodologically, this is an exceptionally good exposition.

3) The theme Mary, model of the Church is divided in two sections, because it can be considered from two different points of reference. The first one is the Virgin Mary herself, the Mother of God, who efficaciously collaborates with her Son in the work of redemption. Under this aspect, we consider and contemplate the image of Mary adorned and enriched with all the graces, virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the particular charisms which constitute the basic features of her exemplarity. These features are a radiation of that perfection which the faithful must imitate.

On the other hand we can contemplate Mary as model, i.e., as the sum total of her supernatural gifts and perfections, as object or final goal of the spiritual, supernatural activity of those souls who exercise or practice imitation of Mary. The objects of this imitation are concrete realities: the Virgin Mary’s virtues or interior composure. This imitation is, as it were, the echo of the exemplarity and perfection of the model casting rays of light into the heart of souls and moving them to imitate her; that echo is the soul’s response to that influence or to the powerful attraction exerted by the model’s spiritual radiation on the soul.

At first glance these two aspects might seem different, but in truth they are complementary to each other. The model’s function is to influence those who contemplate it and by its radiation make them feel the strength of its perfections, so as to arouse in them actual imitation. What is the point of a model which does not influence those who know it? It can only serve as a museum piece.

We can say the same about imitation, or the person who must practice it. Without a model to imitate, it is not easy to realize a work of perfect form in a purely spontaneous manner. This holds special truth and relevance in the spiritual and supernatural order, in the perfecting of souls. It is a truism that by following an interior inspiration a person can achieve great, wonderful and very perfect works, but with a major proviso: such a person must be a genius and a highly, very highly gifted individual. The vast majority of persons, above all in the spiritual life, enjoy no such status, and have need of the guidance and the inspiration of a model: Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the saints.

In this chapter we are speaking of Mary, model of the Church, whereas her imitation is to be treated as part of another chapter. Thus, I will now discuss only questions regarding the Virgin Mary as singular model and exemplar for the Church and her members, over whom she exercises a beneficial and permanent maternal influence.

Mary, Model and Example of the Church—The Fact

Is Mary truly model and example of the Church? Is this exemplarity to be understood in the proper, objective sense of the term, or is it to be taken merely as a simple metaphor? The Virgin Mary is a real, individual person who, gloriously assumed into heaven body and soul, participates in eternal bliss. The Church, on the other hand, is a supernatural entity, a juridically constituted community with very singular characteristics. Everything relative to spiritual maternity and exemplarity, on the basis of a common denominator, may be applied both to Mary and the Church, provided their specific differences and particular characteristics are respected (94).

This does not represent an obstacle to the reality of Mary’s true spiritual exemplarity for the Church, an exemplarity Mary exerts over and realizes in the members of the Church. The questions we have formulated include two problems. First, the existence or the fact in itself of Mary’s exemplarity; and second—supposing the answer to that question is affirmative and to mention just a few concrete points bearing on this—what would be the nature, the forms, the extension, the universality and the applications of such exemplarity?

Mary is Exemplar, Model and Figure or Icon of the Church

1) State of the question: The goal of this section is to offer theological proofs, arguments and reasons which guarantee the existence of this prerogative of the Virgin Mother of God: model of the Church. After acknowledging this fact, we proceed to give a theological explanation of its main significance. To attain an objective and reasoned understanding of this question, we must examine it as it is found in the supernatural order and within the history of salvation.

Mary’s exemplarity for the Church, or her being the perfect model of the Church, stands in intimate relation with divine and spiritual motherhood, and depends on both by disposition of divine will. In his eternal design of salvation, God determined the reasons for the Virgin Mary’s exemplarity in relation to the Church.

On this supposition, our effort to establish the existence or fact of this prerogative of Mary, model of the Church, should not be limited to purely human considerations. This fact is intimately linked, as mentioned above, with the spiritual motherhood and so pertains to the order of salvation, wisely and harmoniously established by God. In regard to Mary’s exemplary role, I quote again an especially important passage from Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum, referring to the spiritual maternity, but for the Pope also including her exemplarity. The Holy Father says that: “This is a most consoling truth which, by the free consent of God the All-Wise, is an integrating part of the mystery of human salvation” (95).

From this perspective, in order to know the reasons for Mary’s exemplarity, we must consult Divine Revelation and the teachings of Church’s living Magisterium, which on so many occasions when recommending and inviting the faithful to imitate the Virgin Mary’s spiritual perfections, propose her as universal model and example. In all of these cases the Magisterium acknowledges Mary’s exemplarity and her sublime perfection as a singular model for the Church.

2) Mary is model and example of the Church because she is spiritual Mother. Pope Paul VI expounded this idea, stating that it was Christ himself who related the exemplarity and dignity of model to the spiritual maternity and to a point included these in it. Thus reads a very significant document:

What must stimulate the faithful even more to follow the examples of the most holy Virgin is the fact that Jesus himself, by giving her to us as our Mother, has tacitly indicated her as the model to be followed. It is, in fact, a natural thing that the children should have the same sentiments of their mothers and should reflect their merits and virtues. Therefore, as each one of us can repeat with St. Paul: “The Son of God loved me and gave himself up for me” (cf. Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2), so in all trust he can believe that the divine Savior has left to him also, in spiritual heritage, his Mother, with all the treasures of grace and virtues with which he had endowed her, that she may pour them over us through the influence of her powerful intercession and our willing imitation (96).

We could also add Vatican II’s testimony, which affirms and sets in relief Mary’s exemplarity for the Church as a matter of fact, and determining in some instances the object of this exemplarity.

3) Mary, model of the Church, by reason of her perfection: Among the reasons for Mary’s exemplarity for the Church, this is one of the more important. A model must integrate in itself all the perfections which are possible to those who must imitate it.

The popes chiefly comment on and set in relief the importance of the Virgin Mary’s moral and spiritual perfection when they exhort the faithful to imitate her. Further, one of the necessary conditions required by the category of “model” is highest perfection.

Religious literature is very abundant on this topic. I would like to quote the very significant text of Pope Paul VI for the proclamation of the title, Mary, Mother of the Church, and for this reason, example and model. Speaking at the closing ceremony of the third session of Vatican II, he stated, in a passage immediately following the proclamation of this title in honor of the Blessed Virgin as its justification:

During her mortal life (Mary) achieved the perfect figure of a disciple of Christ, was a mirror of all the virtues and plainly lived the beatitudes preached by Christ. This is why the Church, in the conduct of the various features of her life and activities, takes the example of the Virgin Mother of God as the absolute norm for perfect imitation of Christ (97).

A few paragraphs beyond he insists on the Virgin Mary’s perfection as model of the Church. He recommends that among the Christian people the Council Fathers raise the level of piety and devotion toward the Mother of God, proposing her as an example to follow because of her fidelity, her prompt obedience to every inspiration of heavenly grace, and finally because of a life completely shaped according to Christ’s precepts and nourished on love, in such wise that the faithful united among themselves by the common name of the Mother, might grow ever stronger in the confession of their faith (98).

4) Mary, model of the Church: concrete aspects: These have been specified by Vatican II, implicitly teaching Mary’s exemplarity as model of the Church, as mother and as virgin, and in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ (99).

Here the Council takes as its basis the authority and testimony of patristic tradition, particularly that of St. Ambrose, one of the most important authors on this theme:

By reason of the gift and role of her divine motherhood, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with her unique graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united to the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith. … For in the mystery of the Church, which is also rightly called Mother and Virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of Virgin and of Mother (100).

This text has two parts corresponding to two important ideas. The first belongs to the Council’s formal statement: Mary is type–exemplar of the Church. This affirmation includes the exact points of reference by which her exemplarity is verified: Mother and Virgin. In this affirmation Mary’s maternal, exemplarity for the Church is likewise clearly indicated to be in relation to her maternity, at the beginning of the text mentioned as divine maternity, although including spiritual or soteriological maternity implicitly.

The second part of this text clarifies Mary’s maternal influence on the Church by way of faith and obedience. The Council underlines—as one of the basics of its teaching—the communion of the faithful with Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father and elder brother in God’s family. The maternal influence on the Church is exercised through the cooperation of the Mother in the begetting and education of adopted children through her love (101).

At this point we can certainly speak of a parallelism between Mary and the Church, although not perfect. The Church has a certain dependency on Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body and also on Mary, a true spiritual mother. According to St. Ambrose’s thought, this parallelism is verified in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ. I believe a certain excellence in Mary in relation to the Church must also be admitted here, for she is spiritual Mother of the faithful who make up the Church. This can also be understood of the multifaceted intercession by which from heaven the Virgin, there assumed, guides with maternal love her Son’s brethren (102).

5) Mary, model of the Church, in holiness: The Marian document of Vatican II draws special attention to the sanctity of Mary and of the Church. The role of the Mother consists in radiating and increasing holiness in the Church. The Church on her part joyfully contemplates the sanctity of the Mother of grace, and imitates her charity (103). She contemplates it in the light of the Word of God made flesh, because the Virgin Mother is her example and model (104).

From this perspective, once we have placed ourselves at the heart of this subject, we can say something more still. Mary is not only a model of sanctity of the Church and for the Church. In contemplating the Virgin gloriously assumed into heaven, represented by the Woman of the Apocalypse (12:1-14), victorious over the seven-headed dragon and wearing a crown of twelve stars, we can state further that Mary is the personification of the Church’s sanctity; she is much more than a simple model, as perfect as this might be.

Vatican II recognizes and teaches this singularity of the Immaculate Virgin, all beautiful, beauty itself, as being not merely aesthetical, but essential and ontological, as Paul VI has defined her (105), the very personification of the Church in her holiness. Such is the meaning of this very important Council text:

But while the Church in the Most Holy Virgin has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph 5:27), the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. … And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth as model for the whole community of the elect as model of virtues (106).

Mary has already attained full sanctity. She is the personification of the highest, most perfect, radiant and luminous sanctity, the Immaculate. She is the icon of holiness, and as a singular, most unique person, she is the most faithful, representative expression of the sanctity of the infinite God in his perfections. The Church, as she exists in her other members, is still walking the path of progress and growth in holiness.

For the greater part this progress is realized by the faithful in the practice of the

virtues and the life of contemplative prayer. On this journey the faithful come to resemble the Redeemer more and more each day. And by their exercise of faith, hope and ardent charity, and by their obedience to the word and to the will of the Father of mercies, they come to unite themselves more intimately, and to configure themselves as perfectly as possible to, the image of the Risen Christ (107).

6) Mary, model of the Church: other aspects: The considerations I have made up to this point do not exhaust the subject of Mary’s exemplarity for the Church. There are many other facets of this exemplarity which derive from very important characteristics of Mary, from applications of papal teachings, and from the examination of significant moments in the life of the Church and of souls.

Those radiant features of the very imitable figure of Mary, reflected in the Marian document of Vatican II, are, as it were, concepts and ideas contributing to a more objective and deeper understanding of Mary’s image. Today, such knowledge is all the more necessary, if the teaching of Vatican II regarding true Marian devotion is to be put into practice. This consists in knowledge of and filial love for our Mother, the Mother of God, and in the imitation of her virtues (108).

Among those other features of Mary’s exemplarity we can propose the following as among the more important:

● Mary, model of the Church in devotion consisting of making one’s own life a sacrifice to God (109).

● Mary, model of the Church in the exercise of liturgical worship (110).

● Mary, model of the Church in the basic attitudes of Christian life (111).

● Mary, model of the Church in apostolic love (112).

● Mary, model of the Church, as the most perfect person after Christ.

● Mary, model of the Church in its universality.

Mary, Model of the Church, Taken in the Proper and Objective Sense

The elements making up this section are realities with a proper and objective sense. They are neither metaphors nor mere symbols. Of course, we are dealing here with the meaning and significance of spiritual and supernatural realities, having far greater power and value than natural ones.

Mary, as the Church’s personification, contains in herself the total perfection and sanctity of the Church. That is why after Christ, in her own personal reality, she is the most perfect model of the mystery of the Church and of all her members. Nor may it be said that Mary is a mere symbol, or that this title is to be taken as pure metaphor. The meaning is real and objective, with the same objectivity that the Most Blessed Virgin Mother of God, the mystery of the Church, and grace and sanctity have.

We may not always know very well or with much precision the mechanics of that spiritual influence which the Virgin Mary, as spiritual Mother, exercises over her children. She is endowed with all perfections and in some way unites in her person and re-echoes the most important doctrines of the faith (113), and radiates over souls the most sublime gifts of salvation, drawing them to Christ with the strength of her personal influence as Mediatrix between God and man.

None of this can be interpreted away as mere metaphor. The Virgin Mary is the eminent model of the Church. By her maternal influence, Mary models the Church according to her image and likeness and perfectly shapes it according to Jesus’ image, absolute model of all the elect in the history of salvation. All must reflect his face to be part of the Heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Eph 1:3-12).

In this way, within the Church, her members can be configured according to the image of the Virgin Mother, model of sanctity, and thus by the shortest and most direct route, be conformed to the glorious and radiant image of the Son of God unto his praise and glory (cf. Eph 1:6).


(1) Paul VI, discourse at closing ceremony of the third session of Vatican II, Nov. 21, 1964: Acta SynodaliaSacrosancti Concilii Vaticani II, vol. III, pars VIII, p. 916.

(2) I refer here to the antiquity and origin of the title: Mother of the Church, and not to the antiquity of the doctrine, as old as the Church itself. Cf. the research of: Domenico Bertetto, Maria, Mater Ecclesiae, in Salesianum, 27 (1965), 3-64; Idem, Maria, Madre della Chiesa, Catania 1965; D. Fernández, Orígeneshistóricos de la expresión “Mater Ecclesiae,” in Ephemerides Mariologicae, 32 (1982), 189-200.

(3) Here we must take into account and distinguish the formulation of the title as such, Mary, Mother of the Church, and its contents. Although the Council did not in fact include the formulation of this title in its documents, it does teach the doctrine as a universal teaching of the Church. The posture adopted by the Council in this instance does not seem entirely logical or consistent; hence, it does not seem permissible to deduce from this a degree of hesitation in the Council about affirming the doctrine. The doctrinal aspect should not be confused with a posture which may be the fruit of external prudence. See D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva del Signore. Trattato di Mariologia, Naples 1988, pp. 552-553.

(4) “Nihil antiquius est in doctrina catholica, quam B(eatam) Mariam Virginem appellare Matrem hominum.” (J.A. de Aldama, Mariología, seu de Matre Redemptoris, in Sacrae Theologiae Summa, Madrid 1961, vol. III, p. 409, n. 132). This affirmation is to be understood in the sense according to which supernatural spiritual life is communicated through grace to souls by an action called maternal. At root, his is the action of Mary, associated with her son in the work of redemption, where she acted as mother Co-redemptrix.

(5) Msgr. G. Philips, who lived the movements, atmosphere and controversies of those years and who also together with the Franciscan, Fr. Carlo Balic, President of the International Pontifical Marian Academy of Rome, redacted the text of Lumen Gentium, ch. 8, gave his opinion about Mary, Mother of the Churchbefore Vatican II: “The issue of a parallelism between Mary and the Church arose in contemporary theology before 1964 like an unexpected lightning bolt. Al. Müller has compared its appearance in the world of Mariology to a comet” (G. Philips, Marie et l’Eglise, in H. de Manoir, Maria. Etudes sur la Sainte Vierge, t. VII, Paris 1964, p. 365).

(6) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, March 25, 1987. The Pope entitles the third part Marian Mediation, but in other important writings he calls it maternal presence. Thus, in his homily for the inauguration of the Marian Year at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pentecost, June 6, 1987, he says: “The Bishop of Rome joins the rest of his brothers in the episcopate, in order to deepen in the whole Church, within the perspective of the Marian Year, awareness of the maternal presence of the Mother of God” (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X/2, Vatican City 1988, pp. 2005-06, n. 6). Cf. my study: Enrique Llamas, La “mediación materna” de María enla Encíclica “Redemptoris Mater,” in Estudios Marianos, 61 (1995), pp. 149-180.

(7) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, third part, nos. 38 ff.

(8) “Cum hac spirituali maternitate intime connectuntur, uno vel alio modo, corredemptio, dispensatio gratiarum, et universalis mediatio. Disputatur vero inter theologos quo ordine haec munera logice inter se connectuntur.”: J.A. de Aldama, Mariología…, cit., p. 408, n. 131. He goes on to explain various theories regarding the relative priority of these privileges: coredemption, mediation, etc.

(9) Lumen Gentium, 62 (hereafter abbreviated: LG).

(10) LG 62: “(Mary) taken up into heaven, did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” “Saving office” in this text is termed “motherhood of Mary” earlier in LG.

(11) D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva …, cit., pp. 471 ff.

(12) Authoritative theologians do not agree about the logical arrangement or determination of priorities among these various privileges. In my opinion, priority belongs to the collaboration of Mary with her son in the work of redemption, viz., coredemptive maternity; it seems to me to be the basis of all the rest. I think that Vatican II favors this opinion in saying that Mary during different stages of her life “in a wholly singular way cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and ardent charity in the work of the Savior to restore supernatural life in souls. For this reason she is our Mother in the order of grace” (LG 61).

(13) LG 61.

(14) Cf. my study: E. Llamas, La mediación mariana de María en la Encíclica “Redemptoris Mater,” cit., pp. 149-180.

(15) Cf. ibid.

(16) Bibliography on this subject during the past 50 years is very abundant. Because of its singular interest, I cite only the study of Jean Marie Salgado, La Maternité Spirituelle de la trés Sainte Vierge Marie, Vatican City 1990. The author has published many other historical and doctrinal studies.

(17) Paul VI, allocution during the second session of Vatican II, Dec. 4, 1963: AAS., 56 (1964), p. 37.

(18) In those years some authors, using the terminology father, mother, etc., as basis for an explanation of personal relations among Christians, but without making due allowance for differences in meaning when such terms are transferred to indicate realities of the supernatural, spiritual order, drew absurd conclusions, at times irreverent, such as claiming the Virgin would be “grandmother” of Christians, if the Church were their mother and Mary the mother of the Church. This was a great error in terms of an even minimally correct understanding of spiritual maternity, an error assigning unilateral importance to biological maternity and other like factors on that level. Cf. D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva…, cit., pp. 553-554.

(19) Acta Synodalia…Concilli Vaticani II., vol. III, part VIII, p. 916.

(20) Cf. LG 62.

(21) A very striking and significant instance was the situation of the Church at the time of Bl. Pius IX, who defined the Immaculate Conception as dogma (1854), imploring Mary’s maternal help. And he received it!

(22) Paul VI, discourse at the closing ceremony of the third session of Vatican II, Nov. 21, 1964: Acta Synodalia…, vol. III, pars VIII, p. 916. The Council itself referred to the Virgin Mary’s help and maternal protection over the Church, that it is something which the Church “constantly experiences and recommends to the heartfelt attention of the faithful” (LG 62).

(23) The idea is expounded in LG 57, a text on which I have already commented.

(24) John Paul II, allocution, Jan. 10, 1979.

(25) LG 56.

(26) Cf. A. Luis Iglesias, CSSR., Dos Momentos culminantes de la maternidad espiritual: la anunciación yel calvario, in Estudios Marianos, 20 (1959), 109-156.

(27) Vatican II stresses the importance of this consensus: consent of the Mother, expressly willed and decreed by the Father of mercies before the Incarnation took place, so as to make clear that just as a woman had a share in bringing about death, so also a woman should contribute to life: cf. LG 56.

(28) Cf. Heb 10:1-10. LG 55 translates “mysteries of his flesh,” rather than “mysteries of his humanity.”

(29) LG 56.

(30) Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 13-14; Paul VI, Signum Magnum, May 13, 1967, Part II, n. 5; J.M. Bover, Deiparae Virginis consensus corredentionis ac Mediationis fundamentum, Madrid 1942; José A. de Aldama, S.J., “Mariología…” cit., n. 133, p. 410.

(31) LG 56. In this text the Council expressly associates the spiritual maternity of Mary with her intervention as Co-redemptrix with her son: under him and with him serving the mystery of redemption …and cooperating in the work of man’s salvation… It is important to keep this key intuition in mind since it offers us an authentic concept of spiritual maternity as coredemptive collaboration.

(32) Paul VI, Signum Magnum, Part I, par. 5.

(33) St. Leo the Great, Sermon 6 on the Nativity of the Lord, PL 54, 213.

(34) St. Pius X, Enc. Ad diem Illum (Feb. 2, 1904), 10; AAS., 36, 452-53.

(35) Pius XII, Enc. Mystici Corporis (June 29, 1943), 110: AAS., 35 (1943) 247.

(36) Cf. D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva…, cit., p. 496. Likewise in the scene on Calvary, Mary as the New Eve, mystically betrothed to the New Adam, communicates the fruits of redemption to mankind.

(37) LG 56.

(38) Cf. LG 56. The Council text refers to and comments on several texts from the Tradition of the Church.

(39) Cf. José Antonio de Aldama, Mariología…cit., n. 139, p. 415, quoting the more outstanding sources or authors on these subjects.

(40) Benedict XIV, Bull Gloriosae Dominae (Sept. 27, 1748): Bullarium, 2, 428. This pope states that Mary on Calvary is “in the proper sense Mother of the Church, a gift to the Church received from the lips of her dying Bridegroom.”

(41) Leo XIII, Enc. Adiutricem populi (Sept. 5, 1895): AAS 28, 130: “In Joanne autem, quod perpetuo sensit Ecclesia, designavit Christus personam humani generis.”

(42) “Passio duorum“; Tractado de devotísimas y muy íntimas contemplaciones de la Pasión del Hijo de Dios, y compasión de la Virgen su Madre, por esta razón llamado Passio duorum, Valladolid, 1526. This work had several editions. Regarding this work, cf. J. Meseguer, “Passio Duorum.” Autores, ediciones, laobra, in Archivio Ibero–Americano, Barcelona, 29 (1929) 73 ff. J. Antonio de Aldama, S.J., La piedadmariana en el tratado “Passio duorum,” in Estudios Marianos, 44 (1979), 53-72; E. Llamas, El dolorsalvífico de María: La “compassio Mariae” en los mariólogos españoles de los siglos XVI-XVII, in Estudios Marianos, LXXII (2006), pp. 156-57 (with bibliographical note).

(43) LG 61.

(44) LG 57.

(45) Cf. the texts of Acts 20:28 and Eph 5:25-32. St. Paul refers to the great mystery of the Church freed from sin by the death of Christ and purified in his blood.

(46) The relation existing between the scene on Calvary and that in paradise appears to be affirmed and explained in modern Mariology and in authorized documents of Church’s Magisterium. Vatican II itself, in two important texts substantially refers to these events: LG 56 on the Virgin Mary’s consensus to the Incarnation: “so that just as a woman had a share in bringing about death, so also a woman should contribute to life“; and again in LG 56: “and comparing Mary with Eve, the ‘Holy Fathers’ call her ‘Mother of the living’ and frequently claim: ‘death through Eve, life through Mary.’”

(47) LG 61: “…Filioque suo in cruce morienti compatiens.”

(48) Cf. J. Luis Bastero, La compassion mariana hasta el siglo XIII, and Enrique Llamas, OCD, “El dolorsalvífico de María. La “compassio Mariae” en los mariólogos españoles de los siglos XVI–XVII, in Estudios Marianos, 72 (2006), pp. 109-132; and 145-173.

(49) Benedict XIV, Bull Gloriosae Dominae: Bullarium, 2, 428.

(50) Pope Pius VIII, Praesentissimus (March 30, 1830): Bullarium Romanum, 9, 106.

(51) Pope Leo XIII, Quamquam pluries (Aug. 15, 1889), 3: ASS 22, 67.

(52) Pope Leo XIII, Iucunda semper (Sept. 8, 1894): ASS 27, 178.

(53) Pope Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Explorata res est (Feb. 2, 1923): AAS 15 (1923), 104.

(54) Pope Pius XI, Letter Septimo abeunte (July 16, 1933): AAS 25 (1933) p. 435.

(55) Pius XII, allocution, May 3, 1939, and July 10, 1945. See Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, I, 92; and II, 76.

(56) Pius XII, radio message, Dec. 8, 1953; See Tondini, Le Encicliche mariane, Rome 1954, 776.

(57) Pius XII, radio message, June 19, 1947, in AAS, 39 (1947), pp. 271-72.

(58) Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, (June 29, 1943), AAS 35 (1943), 247; Mediator Dei (Nov. 20, 1947), AAS 39 (1947), 582.

(59) For additional data on the spiritual maternity of Mary, see D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva… cit., pp. 535-539.

(60) LG 58. In this text the Council explains Mary’s presence at Calvary associated with her son as he died on the Cross. It concludes thus: “…and finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the Cross as a Mother to his disciple, with these words: ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ (cf. Jn 19:26-27).” And in the note reference is made to Pius XII, Enc. Mystici Corporis, June 29, 1943: AAS 35 (1943) 247-248.

(61) Cf. D. Bertetto, La Madonna nella parola di Paolo VI, Rome 1980, passim.

(62) Paul VI, Signum Magnum, Part I, par. 1.

(63) John Paul II, allocution, Jan. 10, 1979.

(64) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 23.

(65) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 23.

(66) These expressions are taken from LG 54, cited in note.

(67) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 23.

(68) John Paul II, ibid., 24. Basing himself here on the harmony and consistency with one another of dogmas, the Pope has recourse to Apocalypse 12:1, to the symbolic meaning of the wedding feast of Cana, already explained in the encyclical, and to patristic tradition (St. Leo the Great), which relates the Incarnation to the birth of the Church, where Mary continuously supplies “a maternal presence.”

(69) John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, (Feb. 2, 1984), 25.

(70) John Paul II, ibid.

(71) Cf. D. Bertetto, María, la Serva…, cit., p. 557.

(72) St. Thomas Aquinas, In Joannem, II, lectio 1.

(73) I. de la Potterie, S.J., “María en el misterio de la alianza,” Madrid 1993, p. 248 (English translation: Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, New York 1992). Cf. J.P. Charlier, Le signe de Caná. Essai deThéologie Johannique (Brussels 1959), ch. 6, p. 77.

(74) J.P. Charlier, Le Signe…, cit., p. 80.

(75) De la Potterie, María en …, cit., p. 249. A. Serra takes the same approach in commenting on the words Mary said to the servants during the wedding feast: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). He thinks that they constitute a kind of testament similar to that on Calvary, indicating an obligation to be docile to Jesus’ words: to believe, to exercise the obedience of faith, and to do his will. Therefore, citing Serra in support, de la Potterie concludes that at the wedding feast of Cana Mary’s spiritual maternity is being implicitly indicated. Cf. A. Serra, Maria a Cana e sotto la Croce: saggio di Mariologia Giovannea (Gv 2: 1-12 e Gv 19: 25-27), Rome 1991, p. 30.

(76) De la Potterie, María en …, cit., pp. 249-250.

(77) Hugo Rahner, María y la Iglesia, Madrid 2002, p. 81. (English translation: Our Lady and the Church, New York 1960, reprinted by Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2005. Page numbers here refer to the Spanish edition of the original German.)

(78) Rahner, ibid., p. 82.

(79) Rahner, ibid., pp. 83-84.

(80) Cf. Rahner, ibid., pp. 83-84.

(81) Cf. D. Bertetto, Maria la Serva…, cit., p. 500.

(82) LG 56: “Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert…”

(83) For reference works on the doctrine of the Fathers, I list some authors by way of example: A. Rivera, CMF, María, Madre de los miembros del Cuerpo Místico en la tradición Patrística, in Estudios Marianos, 18 (1959) 42-73; Francesco Spedalieri, S.J., La Maternitá spirituale di Maria. La credenza comume dellaChiesa alla fine del s. IV, and La Maternitá spirituale di María dal Conc. di Efeso alla fine dell’etápatrística, in Maria nella Scrittura e nella Tradizione della Chiesa, Roma, 1965, pp. 52-118, 227-288; J.A. de Aldama, S.J., Mariología …, cit., pp. 408-454; Bertetto, Domenico, Maria, la Serva …, cit., pp. 81-110: Mariologia Patrística; Miguel Ponce Cuellar, María, Madre del Redentor y Madre de la Iglesia, Barcelona 2001, pp. 201-284, Segunda Parte: Desarrollo en los Padres; Carlos Ignacio González, María, evangelizada y evangelizadora, Bogotá 1989; pp. 181-286, II Parte: María en la Tradición de la Iglesia; Jean Galot, S.J., Maria, la Donna nell’Opera della salvezza, Rome, 1991, pp. 239-378; G.M. Besutti, O.S.M., Bibliografía Mariana, Rome, Marianum, 1950…: nine volumes have appeared to date.

(84) Cf. Hans Asmussen, Maria die Mutter Gottes, Stuttgart 1951, pp. 110-121. This book enjoyed a discrete popularity for nearly a quarter century, going through four editions between 1950 and 1973, the second edition being cited here.

(85) Cf. Max Thurian, Marie, Mère du Seigneur, Figure de l’Eglise, Taizé 1962, pp. 142 ff. (English translation: Mary, Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church, London 1963).

(86) Cf. Doctrine in the Church of England: The Report of the Commission on Christian Doctrine, … (1922), London, 1938, pp. 214-215. Cf. my work: Enrique Llamas Martínez, O.C.D., El Anglicanismo, Origen–Historia–Mensaje, Salamanca, Universidad Pontificia … Centro de Estudios Orientales y Ecuménicos, 2003, p. 271: La Virgen María (with bibliography).

(87) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 30: “It is good omen that these ‘Western Christian’ churches and ecclesial communities agree with the Catholic Church on a number of fundamental points in Christian doctrine, including points relating to the Virgin Mary. Effectively, they recognize her as Mother of the Lord and consider this title a part of our faith in Christ. … They look to Mary who, at the foot of the Cross, receives Christ’s beloved disciple as her own son, who in turn receives Mary as his Mother.”

(88) See my studies: E. Llamas, Declaración ecuménica del Congreso Mariológico de Malta, in PastoralEcuménica (1984), pp. 76-77; Idem, Declaraciones mariológicas ecuménicas (1979–1987), in RenovaciónEcuménica, n. 94 (1988), pp. 7-10.

(89) Pope Paul VI stresses the meaning of influence which a model exercises for the creation of a new image, in responding to those who insist on minimizing the positive influence of the example. He does this by referring to the Virgin as Mary, model of the Church. He discusses the “influence” of her powerful intercession and of still another influence exercised over men: that of example, a very real and very important influence (Paul VI, Signum Magnum Part II, n. 5, and Part I, par. 3). See LG 65.

(90) Paul VI, Signum Magnum, Part I, par. 1.

(91) Paul VI, Marialis Cultus (Feb. 2, 1974), 21. From St. Ambrose comes this classic phrase referring to the life of Mary: Vita eius omnium est disciplina (“Her life is the model of virtue for everyone” ) (Expositioin Lucam, II, 26; CSEL, 32, IV p. 45). As regards St. Ambrose on this point, cf. Martino Bertagna, O.F.M., Elementa cultus mariani apud S. Ambrosium Mediolanensem, in De primordiis cultus mariani. Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani in Lusitania anno 1967 celebrati, vol. III, Rome, 1979, pp. 1-16; D. Bertetto, S.D.B., De cultu imitationis B.M. Virginis apud Patres latinos, in De primordiis cultus…, cit., pp. 99-118 (on St. Ambrose, pp. 101-110).

(92) About these and other introductory questions, cf. D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva…, cit., pp. 268-270.

(93) D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva …, cit. In this section, taking into account the teachings of Vatican II, he studies a series of important questions: “Most Holy Mary, example and model of the Church, as Mother and Virgin” (pp. 571-579); “Most Holy Mary, model and example of the Church in sanctity and virtue” (pp. 579-584); “Most Holy Mary, model and example of the Church in the spousal association with Christ” (pp. 484-586); “Mary, model of youth” (pp. 588-593); “Conclusions” (pp. 594-595). He also makes reference to Mary and priesthood in the Church (pp. 586-588).

(94) See my study: Enrique del Sdo. Corazón (Llamas), O.C.D., Comparación entre la maternidadespiritual de la Virgen María y la maternidad de la Iglesia, in Estudios Marianos, 20 (1959), pp. 207-262. See also: M.M. Philipon, O.P., Maternité spirituelle de Marie et de l’Eglise, en Etudes Mariales (1952) pp. 64 ff.; Sixto González, O.P., Maternidad de María y Maternidad de la Iglesia, in Estudios Marianos, 18 (1957), pp. 301-349.

(95) Paul VI, Signum Magnum, Part I, par. 1.

(96) Paul VI, ibid., Part II, n. 5.

(97) Paul VI, discourse at closing ceremony, third session of Vatican II; cit., pp. 916-17.

(98) Paul VI, ibid.

(99) LG 63.

(100) LG 63.

(101) LG 63: “Through her faith and obedience she gave birth to the Son of the Father, not through knowledge of man, but by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, in the manner of a New Eve who placed her faith … in God’s messenger without wavering in doubt. … The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the firstborn among many brethren (cf. Rom 8:29), that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she cooperates with a mother’s love.” In LG 64 the Council explains the spiritual-virginal maternity of the Church contemplating (Mary’s) sublime sanctity so as to imitate her charity. The Church is virgin, because by the grace of the Holy Spirit and imitation of the Mother of the Lord “she herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse … she keeps intact faith, firm hope and sincere charity.” Pope Paul VI directly treats this theme in Signum Magnum with the same terminology.

(102) Cf. D. Bertetto, Maria, la Serva…, cit., pp. 571-572.

(103) LG 64.

(104) LG 65.

(105) Cf. Paul VI, allocution, Sept. 9, 1973 (L’Osservatore Romano, Oct. 9, 1973). Cf. my study: E. Llamas, O.C.D., Pablo VI, Promotor y Animador de la devoción mariana, in Revista de Espiritualidad, n. 143 (1977) 328.

(106) LG 65.

(107) Cf. LG 65.

(108) Cf. LG 67.

(109) Cf. Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, nn. 21-22.

(110) Cf. Paul VI, ibid., 34-36.

(111) Cf. Paul VI, ibid., 34-36.

(112) Cf. LG 65.

(113) LG 65.

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