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Pope Benedict XVI Homily on the Solemnity of Mary: Peace, A Divine Gift to Be Constantly Implored

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are beginning a new year and Christian hope takes us by the hand; let us begin it by invoking divine Blessings upon it and imploring, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, the gift of peace: for our families, for our cities, for the whole world. With this hope, I greet all of you present here, starting with the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who have gathered at this celebration on the occasion of the World Day of Peace. I greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and all members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am particularly grateful to them for their commitment to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace whose theme this year is: “The human family, a community of peace”.

Peace. In the First Reading from the Book of Numbers we heard the invocation: “The Lord… give you peace” (6:26); may the Lord grant peace to each one of you, to your families and to the whole world. We all aspire to live in peace but true peace, the peace proclaimed by the Angels on Christmas night, is not merely a human triumph or the fruit of political agreements; it is first and foremost a divine gift to be ceaselessly implored, and at the same time a commitment to be carried forward patiently, always remaining docile to the Lord’s commands. This year, in my Message for today’s World Day of Peace, I wanted to highlight the close relationship that exists between the family and building peace in the world. The natural family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, is “a “cradle of life and love'” and “the first and indispensable teacher of peace”. For this very reason the family is “the primary “agency’ of peace”, and “the denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace” (cf. nn. 1-5). Since humanity is a “great family”, if it wants to live in peace it cannot fail to draw inspiration from those values on which the family community is based and stands. The providential coincidence of various recurrences spur us this year to make an even greater effort to achieve peace in the world. Sixty years ago, in 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations published the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”; 40 years ago my venerable Predecessor Paul VI celebrated the first World Day of Peace; this year, in addition, we will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Holy See’s adoption of the “Charter of the Rights of the Family“. “In the light of these significant anniversaries” – I am repeating here what I wrote precisely at the end of the Message – “I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace” [n. 15].

Our thoughts now turn spontaneously to Our Lady, whom we invoke today as the Mother of God. It was Pope Paul VI who moved to 1 January the Feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, which was formerly celebrated on 11 October. Indeed, even before the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council, the memorial of the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth – as a sign of submission to the law, his official insertion in the Chosen People – used to be celebrated on the first day of the year and the Feast of the Name of Jesus was celebrated the following Sunday. We perceive a few traces of these celebrations in the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed, in which St Luke says that eight days after his birth the Child was circumcised and was given the name “Jesus”, “the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in [his Mother’s]… womb” (Lk 2:21). Today’s feast, therefore, as well as being a particularly significant Marian feast, also preserves a strongly Christological content because, we might say, before the Mother, it concerns the Son, Jesus, true God and true Man.

The Apostle Paul refers to the mystery of the divine motherhood of Mary,the Theotokos, in his Letter to the Galatians. “When the time had fully come”, he writes, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (4:4). We find the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word and the Divine Motherhood of Mary summed up in a few words: the Virgin’s great privilege is precisely to be Mother of the Son who is God. The most logical and proper place for this Marian feast is therefore eight days after Christmas. Indeed, in the night of Bethlehem, when “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7), the prophesies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son”, Isaiah had foretold (7:14); “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son”, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary (Lk 1:31); and again, an Angel of the Lord, the Evangelist Matthew recounts, appeared to Joseph in a dream to reassure him and said: “Do not fear to take Mary for your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son” (Mt 1:20-21).

The title “Mother of God”, together with the title “Blessed Virgin”, is the oldest on which all the other titles with which Our Lady was venerated are based, and it continues to be invoked from generation to generation in the East and in the West. A multitude of hymns and a wealth of prayers of the Christian tradition refer to the mystery of her divine motherhood, such as, for example, a Marian antiphon of the Christmas season, Alma Redemptoris mater, with which we pray in these words: “Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem, Virgo prius ac posterius – You, in the wonder of all creation, have brought forth your Creator, Mother ever virgin”. Dear brothers and sisters, let us today contemplate Mary, ever-virgin Mother of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father; let us learn from her to welcome the Child who was born for us in Bethlehem. If we recognize in the Child born of her the Eternal Son of God and accept him as our one Saviour, we can be called and we really are children of God: sons in the Son. The Apostle writes: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4).

The Evangelist Luke repeats several times that Our Lady meditated silently on these extraordinary events in which God had involved her. We also heard this in the short Gospel passage that the Liturgy presents to us today. “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).

The Greek verb used, sumbállousa, literally means “piecing together” and makes us think of a great mystery to be discovered little by little. Although the Child lying in a manger looks like all children in the world, at the same time he is totally different: he is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true man. This mystery – the Incarnation of the Word and the divine Motherhood of Mary – is great and certainly far from easy to understand with the human mind alone.

Yet, by learning from Mary, we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and minds do not manage to perceive or contain on their own. Indeed, this is such a great gift that only through faith are we granted to accept it, while not entirely understanding it. And it is precisely on this journey of faith that Mary comes to meet us as our support and guide. She is mother because she brought forth Jesus in the flesh; she is mother because she adhered totally to the Father’s will. St Augustine wrote: “The divine motherhood would have been of no value to her had Christ not borne her in his heart, with a destiny more fortunate than the moment when she conceived him in the flesh” (De Sancta Virginitate,3, 3). And in her heart Mary continued to treasure, to “piece together” the subsequent events of which she was to be a witness and protagonist, even to the death on the Cross and the Resurrection of her Son Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren. May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray, as we heard in the First Reading, that the Lord may “make his face to shine” upon us, “and be gracious” to us (cf. Nm 6:24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!

© Copyright 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The Universal Spiritual Motherhood of Mary: Mary has universal spiritual motherhood by Pope John Paul II, General Audience 9.24.97

Mary has universal spiritual motherhood

1. Mary is mother of humanity in the order of grace. The Second Vatican Council highlightspentecost-duccio.jpg this role of Mary, linking it to her co-operation in Christ’s Redemption. “In the designs of divine Providence, she was the gracious mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord” (Lumen gentium, n. 61).

With these statements, the Constituion Lumen gentium wishes to give proper emphasis to the fact that the Blessed Virgin was intimately associated with Christ’s redemptive work, becoming the Saviour’s “generous associate”, “in a singular way”.

With the actions of any mother, from the most ordinary to the most demanding, Mary freely co-operated in the work of humanity’s salvation in profound and constant harmony with her divine Son.

2. The Council also points out that Mary’s co-operation was inspired by the Gospel virtues of obedience, faith, hope and charity, and was accomplished under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It also recalls that the gift of her universal spiritual motherhood stems precisely from this co-operation: associated with Christ in the work of Redemption, which includes the spiritual regeneration of humanity, she becomes mother of those reborn to new life.

In saying that Mary is “a mother to us in the order of grace” (cf. ibid.), the Council stresses that her spiritual motherhood is not limited to the disciples alone, as though the words spoken by Jesus on Calvary: “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26), required a restrictive interpretation. Indeed, with these words the Crucified One established an intimate relationship between Mary and his beloved disciple, a typological figure of universal scope, intending to offer his Mother as Mother to all mankind.

On the other hand, the universal efficacy of the redeeming sacrifice and Mary’s conscious co-operation with Christ’s sacrificial offering does not allow any limitation of her motherly love.

Mary’s universal mission is exercised in the context of her unique relationship with the Church. With her concern for every Christian, and indeed for every human creature, she guides the faith of the Church towards an ever deeper acceptance of God’s Word, sustains her hope, enlivens her charity and fraternal communion and encourages her apostolic dynamism.

3. During her earthly life, Mary showed her spiritual motherhood to the Church for a very short time. Nonetheless, the full value of her role appeared after the Assumption and is destined to extend down the centuries to the end of the world. The Council expressly states: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the Cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect” (Lumen gentium, n. 62).

Having entered the Father’s eternal kingdom, closer to her divine Son and thus closer to us all, she can more effectively exercise in the Spirit the role of maternal intercession entrusted to her by divine Providence.

4. The heavenly Father wanted to place Mary close to Christ and in communion with him who can “save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25): he wanted to unite to the Redeemer’s intercession as a priest that of the Blessed Virgin as a mother. It is a role she carries out for the sake of those who are in danger and who need temporal favours and, especially, eternal salvation: “By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix” (Lumen gentium, n. 62).

These titles, suggested by the faith of the Christian people, help us better to understand the nature of the Mother of the Lord’s intervention in the life of the Church and of the individual believer.

5. The title “Advocate” goes back to St Irenaeus. With regard to Eve’s disobedience and Mary’s obedience, he says that at the moment of the Annunciation “the Virgin Mary became the Advocate” of Eve (Haer. 5, 19, 1; PG 7, 1175-1176). In fact, with her “yes” she defended our first mother and freed her from the consequences of her disobedience, becoming the cause of salvation for her and the whole human race.

Mary exercises her role as “Advocate” by co-operating both with the Spirit the Paraclete and with the One who interceded on the Cross for his persecutors (cf. Lk 23:34), whom John calls our “advocate with the Father” (1 Jn 2:1). As a mother, she defends her children and protects them from the harm caused by their own sins.

Christians call upon Mary as “Helper”, recognizing her motherly love which sees her children’s needs and is ready to come to their aid, especially when their eternal salvation is at stake.

The conviction that Mary is close to those who are suffering or in situations of serious danger has prompted the faithful to invoke her as “Benefactress”. The same trusting certainty is expressed in the most ancient Marian prayer with the words: “We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin” (from the Roman Breviary).

As maternal Mediatrix, Mary presents our desires and petitions to Christ, and transmits the divine gifts to us, interceding continually on our behalf.


To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I greet the new students of the Venerable English College and pray that the Lord will bless them abundantly as they begin their studies.

I extend a cordial welcome to the various ecumenical groups present, especially to the Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council. Thankful to God for the progress made so far in our official dialogue, I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the Joint Commission in its current work. I send a special greeting to the General Secretary Dr Hale, who could not be here due to his wife’s recent accident, and I pray for her prompt recovery.

I am so pleased to welcome the Delegation of the Disciples of Christ on the 20th anniversary of the dialogue between us. May the International Commission’s continuing work on the theme of the Church’s mission lead us steadily along the path towards ever greater unity.

I warmly greet the representatives of the Center of Christian-Jewish Understanding. I hope that your visit will further strengthen our mutual understanding and co-operation in the face of so many shared concerns.

Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from England, Wales, Ireland, Nigeria, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and the United States, I invoke an abundance of divine grace and peace.