The Advancement of Mariology Advancement Under Pope John Paul II

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The late Pope John Paul II did not only adhere to the traditional dogma of Mariology, he spearheaded its advancement and adoration within the Roman Catholic Church. Mariology is the religious veneration of Mary, the Biblical mother of Jesus Christ. Mariology stands on tenets such as the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, the mediation of Mary for mankind and her divinity . Pope John Paul II through his encyclicals, public speeches and actions supported the theological belief of mariology as an essential and core belief of Catholicism. Since the early times of the Roman Catholic Church, church fathers have endorsed Mary’s elevated status as mother of God. Standing as a paragon of womanhood and motherhood, Mary represents purity, compassion, female perfection and even salvation. The Catholic movement also forwards scripture for its Marian adoration.

The Catholic Church has endowed on Mary supreme regard, remaining a fundamental and distinctive doctrine. With titles such as Madonna, Mother of God, Mediatrix, co-Redemprix, Lady of Guadalupe, Virgin of Virgins, Queen of Heaven, Queen of Sorrows, Star of the Sea, Blessed Virgin, Blessed Mother, Holy Virgin, Saint Mary, Immaculata, Our Lady and the Seat of Wisdom, Mary is distinguished as a deified woman . These references all explain dimensions of Mary’s personality and her function. Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of God as a virgin and remained untainted and holy throughout her life. Her sinless existence entitles her to heaven where she stands as Mediatrix, the way to God for man. Through Mary, the devotee has access to all the graces of God, just as the maternal love expressed towards her children grants them great benefits. She is not only conceives Christ, but she ministers along with Christ in the plan of redemption, thus she is accoladed as co-Redemptrix.

From the onset of his pontificate, on 17 October, 1978, Pope John Paul II makes clear his unswerving allegiance to his Marian faith. In his inaugural Urbi et Orbi message at the Sistine Chapel, he sermonizes on the necessity to “turn our mind with filial devotion to the Virgin Mary who always lives and acts as a Mother in the mystery of Christ and repeat the words ‘Totus tuus’ (all thine) which we inscribed in our heart .” This papal exhortation is derived from a deep sense of Mariological fervor in which he desires congregants to abide and always pay faithful and sincere homage to Mary. Two weeks later on Oct. 29, 1978 Pope John Paul II conducts his very first pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Mentorella where he proclaims, “I wanted to come here, among these mountains, to sing the Magnificat in Mary’s footsteps .”She remains Pope John Paul II‘s paragon of blessed and divine motherhood, exemplifying her pilgrim fidelity. Pope John Paul II shows deep and reverential sincerity in his devotion to Mary, even naming her “the second Eve” in anther of his pilgrimages.

Heading the documentary evidence of Pope John Paul’s espousal of Mariology as key in Catholic doctrine is his encyclical named, Redemptoris Mater of the Supreme Pontiff on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church (1988). In no uncertain terms, Pope John Paul II outlines over 50 points enumerating the reasons for and benefits of Mariology. Divided into three sections: Mary in the mystery of Christ, the Mother of God at the Center of the Pilgrim Church and Maternal Mediation, Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, expounds using scriptural evidence, drawing on the authority of the Vatican Council, church fathers such as Saint Augustine, Saint Origen, Saint Ambrose, Saint John Chrysostom and the constitution of the Church to uphold Mariology as in effect. Topics such as the Blessedness of Mary, the divine, mystical union of Mother and Son, the union of Mother and the Holy Spirit and Mary’s Advocacy for Mankind are key. The encyclical commences with the poignant words: “the Mother of the Redeemer has a precise place in the plan of salvation ”

As reflected in Redemptoris Mater of the Supreme Pontiff on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church (1988), “even more than his other encyclicals, Redemptoris Mater is a sustained reflection on Scripture…a biblical meditation .” Pope John Paul II has advanced scriptural support for Mariology in his document. Genesis 3:15, the Catholic Vulgate version of the Holy Bible, alludes to the woman who crushes the serpent as Mary herself who destroys evil. Ezekiel 44:2 points to the closed and sanctified womb of Mary through which Christ was birthed, a shut gate which “shall not be opened…because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it.” This text also refers to the eternal virginity of Mary. The prophecy on the virgin birth of Jesus in Isaiah 7:14 also buttresses Mary’s unique calling as the Bearer of the Christ even while a virgin, defining the Immaculate Conception dogma. Luke 1:38 and Luke 1:48 are documentations of her faith and status as the mother of God and a highly favored and virgin blessed above all others. John 19:25, 26 is interpreted as the vicarious suffering of Mary for humanity as she stands in front of the cross of Jesus, bemoaning his death and as a metaphor of her mediation, as one needs to access her to get to God. Mary’s glorification and deification are further referenced in Revelation 12:1,2 as a Queen-Mother of Heaven crowned and arrayed in the splendor of the planets .

Pope John Paul II considers the “Mother of Christ… at the very center of this mystery — a mystery which embraces each individual and all humanity — is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind .” This mystery is the mystery of salvation which embraces the universe. As the Mother Redeemer, Mary shares “in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself” her function as co-Redemptrix “flows from her divine motherhood and can be understood and lived in faith only on the basis of the full truth of this motherhood.” As a mother loves, sustains and succors her son and other offspring, so does Mary aid her Son. Her motherhood is not limited to Christ, but also the whole world. She helps her earthly children acquire salvation, interceding for them before God. Pope John Paul II further centralizes Mary as indispensable actor in man’s redemption.

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It is impossible for Mary to intercede on man’s behalf if she were not eternal and in heaven, therefore predicated on Mary’s assumption to heaven, Mary carries out the function as Mediatrix. Pope John Paul II posits that due to “the mystery of the Assumption into heaven there were definitively accomplished in Mary all the effects of the one mediation of Christ the Redeemer of the world and Risen Lord .” Pope Pius XII in accordance with the Vatican Council proclaimed Mary sinless, without fallibility and as such she has been immortalized into heaven. Because of the inextricable union between Mother and Son, Christ’s own ascension into heaven signifies the position of Mary in heaven partaking in the intercessory ministry of her Son.

According to Pope John Paul II, Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the standard which dignifies her as a superior among women. In the Redemptoris Mater he salutes Mary as “the Church’s own beginning, for in the event of the Immaculate Conception the Church sees projected, and anticipated in her most noble member, the saving grace of Easter .” The epitome of purity, a woman who kept her virginity and integrity intact, Mary is the icon who herself was conceived sinless and so facilitated Christ’s Immaculate Conception. Mary’s perfect faith and merger with the Holy Ghost favor her as a person “indissolubly joined” to the Godhead: One with the Holy Spirit and One with her Son.

Pope John Paul also emphasizes Mary’s unity with the Christ and His Mission as a token bearing witness to her unity with the Church and the execution of its mission. As Mary works in league with Christ in fulfilling his Messianic mission, she becomes unified with him both as mother and spouse. Since the Annunciation, Mary believes first in Jesus as he resides in her womb, hence, she “became the first disciple of her Son .” Mary’s early faithful dedication to her Son is reflected in her self-sacrificing as she surrenders her body to be united with God’s to produce the Christ Child. The Redemptoris Mater encyclical affirms Mary as one who “prefigures the Church’s condition as spouse and mother .” Pointing to Mary’s quintessential example, Mary is faithful spouse to God and the Church is spouse to Christ. In Mary, the Church realizes its goal as “Mary’s faith, according to the Church’s apostolic witness… continues to become the faith of the pilgrim People of God .” Mary stands not only as an exemplary model to the Roman Church, she also collaborates in the conception and growth of sons and daughters within the Church. Pope John Paul II amplifies on Mary’s active mothering role in the Church giving birth to and nurturing her children in the faith, participating in the “Church’s motherhood…not only according to the model and figure of the Mother of God but also with her ‘cooperation’ .”

In another encyclical entitled, Rosarium Virginis Mariae of the Supreme Pontiff, Pope John Paul II which issued from the Vatican on October 2002, Pope John Paul II re-affirms the position of mariology as dominant in the Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II testifies to the “many graces I have received in these years from the Blessed Virgin through the Rosary .” In this document, he affirms that the rosary is a channel through which one gains access to the blessings of Mary by prayer. The rosary is indispensable in the cult of Mary. The Rosarium Virginis Mariae expatiates on the rosary’s role as incorporated in Mariology. Pope John Paul II explores Mary’s role as man’s and the Church’s benefactress and admonishes his followers that “the Rosary clearly belongs to the kind of veneration of the Mother of God described by the Council: a devotion directed to the Christological centre of the Christian faith, in such a way that “when the Mother is honored, the Son … is duly known, loved and glorified .” The Catholic faith is based on the merits of Mary, as in the merits of Christ. Faithfully praying the rosary is one of the ways by which the pilgrims enjoy Marian devotion. He continues to urge that the repeating of the rosary ensures that one’s thoughts are uplifted in meditation on Mary and her virtues through Christ. The rosary exercises confirm and root the believer in his faith in Mary and ultimately, will redound in immeasurable blessings.

Following in the custom of his antecedents who “often have a Marian conclusion to their major documents seeing in Mary a model or inspiration for the matter treated” . Pope John Paul II always reaffirms his mariology. In the final section of his would-be last encyclical in 2003, Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church and the Eucharist) honors Mary with the title ‘Woman of the Eucharist.’ He declares that “if we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary…Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament .” The incorporation of Mary in the very essence of the Church’s sacraments is nothing new. Mary is intimately connected with every liturgical and sacramental aspect of the Church .

In sum, Pope John Paul II ‘s mariology are all evidenced in his life and ministry where he has affirmed it wherever he went. By virtue of these stellar leadership qualities, he maintained solid footing for the pontificate. Not only should mariology be instilled in the heart and mind of the Catholics, but also every person who seeks a closer walk with God since Mary s the model of virtue that she is called to be. The factor which spoke volumes of Pope John Paul II ‘s commitment to these espoused virtues was his last pilgrimage on August 14-15, 2003 to Lourdes, France for the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although the sincerity of an individual cannot be truly measured – one can gauge it by equating a man’s actions and his words and Pope John Paul II has proved himself as one who has followed through what he has determined in his heart to do. Pope John Paul II believed in his sacred calling to Mary and to help mankind. Clinging to the feminine and godly virtues, Pope John Paul II resolved to not only exhort devotion to Mary, but also to do it, uncompromisingly holding fast to his mariological faith.

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