Monday, October 11, 2010

The Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Image of Our Lady of Good Counsel, taken from
Transalpine Redemptorists

[The following is excerpted from Pope Pius XI's 1931 encyclical Lux Veritatis.]

"...[I]f the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary is God, assuredly she who bore him is rightly and deservedly to be called the Mother of God. If there is only one person in Christ, and this is Divine, without any doubt Mary ought to be called, by all, not the mother of Christ the man only, but Theotokos, or God-bearer. Let us all, therefore, venerate the tender Mother of God, whom her cousin Elizabeth saluted as "the Mother of my Lord" (Luke i. 43), who, in the words of Ignatius Martyr, brought forth God (Ad Ephes. vii. 18-20); and from whom, as Tertullian professes, God was born; whom the Eternal Godhead has gifted with the fullness of grace and endowed with such great dignity."

"Nor can anyone reject this truth, handed down from the first age of the Church, on the pretext that the Blessed Virgin Mary did, indeed, supply the body of Jesus Christ, but did not produce the Word of the Heavenly Father; since, as Cyril already rightly and lucidly answered in his time, even as those in whose womb our earthly nature, not our soul is procreated, are rightly and truly called our mothers; so did she, from the unity of her Son's person, attain to divine maternity."

"Wherefore, the impious opinion of Nestorius, which the Roman Pontiff, led by the Holy Spirit, had condemned in the preceding year, was deservedly and solemnly condemned again by the Synod of Ephesus. And the populace of Ephesus were drawn to the Virgin Mother of God with such great piety, and burning with such ardent love, that when they understood the judgment passed by the Fathers of the Council, they hailed them with overflowing gladness of heart, and gathering round them in a body, bearing lighted torches in their hands, accompanied them home. And assuredly, the same great Mother of God looked down from heaven on this spectacle, and smiling sweetly on these her children of Ephesus, and on all the faithful Christians throughout the Catholic world, who had been disturbed by the snares of the Nestorian heresy, embraced them with her most present aid and her motherly affection."

"From this dogma of the divine maternity, as from the outpouring of a hidden spring, flow forth the singular grace of Mary and her dignity, which is the highest after God. Nay more, as Aquinas says admirably: 'The Blessed Virgin, from this that she is the Mother of God, has a certain infinite dignity, from the infinite good which is God.' (Summ. Theo., III. a.6.) Cornelius a Lapide unfolds this and explains it more fully, in these words: 'The Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God; therefore she is far more excellent than all the Angels, even the Seraphim and Cherubim. She is the Mother of God; therefore she is most pure and most holy, so that under God no greater purity can be imagined. She is the Mother of God; therefore whatever privilege (in the order of sanctifying grace) has been granted to any one of the Saints, she obtains it more than all' (In Matt. i. 6)."

"Why, therefore, do the Reformers (Novatores) and not a few non-Catholics bitterly condemn our piety towards the Virgin Mother of God, as though we were withdrawing the worship due to God alone? Do they not know, or do they not attentively consider that nothing can be more pleasing to Jesus Christ, who certainly has an ardent love for his own Mother, than that we should venerate her as she deserves, that we should return her love, and that imitating her most holy example we should seek to gain her powerful patronage?"

"Here, however, We would not omit to mention a matter which has given Us no little consolation, namely that in the present time, even among the Reformers, some understand the dignity of the Virgin Mother of God better, and are led and moved to reverence her duly, and hold her in honour. This, when it comes from the inward and sincere conscience, and is not as sometimes happens effected to conciliate the minds of Catholics, bids Us hope that by the prayers and efforts of all the good, and by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, who cherishes a mother's love for her erring children, they may at length be brought back to the one true flock of Jesus Christ, and therefore to Us who, though unworthily, hold His place and His authority on earth."

"But there is another matter, Venerable Brethren, which We think We should recall in regard to Mary's office of Maternity, something which is sweeter and more pleasing; namely that she, because she brought forth the Redeemer of mankind, is also in a manner the most tender mother of us all, whom Christ our Lord deigned to have as His brothers (Romans viii. 29). As Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, says: 'Such a one God has given as one to whom by the very fact that He chose her as the Mother of His only begotten Son, He clearly gave the feelings of a mother, breathing nothing but love and pardon—such did Jesus Christ show her to be, by His own action, when He spontaneously chose to be under her, and submit to her as a son to a mother; such did He declare her to be, when, from the Cross, He committed all mankind, in the person of His disciple John, to her care and protection; and as such, lastly, she gave herself, when embracing with a great heart, this heritage of immense labour from her dying Son, she began at once to fulfil all a mother's duties to us all.' (Encyclical Letter Octobri mense adveniente. September 21, 1892.) From this it comes that we are all drawn to her by a powerful attraction, that we may confidently entrust to her all things that are ours—namely our joys, if we are gladdened; our troubles, if we are in anguish; our hopes, if we are striving to reach at length to better things. From this it comes that if more difficult times fall upon the Church; if faith fail, if charity have grown cold, if private and public morals take a turn for the worse; if any danger be hanging over the Catholic name and civil society, we all take refuge with her, imploring heavenly aid. From this it comes lastly that in the supreme crisis of death, when no other hope is given, no other help, we lift up to her our tearful eyes and our trembling hands, praying through her for pardon from her Son, and for eternal happiness in heaven...."

"But in a more special manner it is fitting that those mothers of this our age, who being weary, whether of offspring or of the marriage bond, have the office they have undertaken degraded and neglected, may look up to Mary and meditate intently on her who has raised this grave duty of motherhood to such high nobility. For in this way there is hope that they may be led, by the help of grace of the heavenly Queen, to feel shame for the dishonour done to the great sacrament of matrimony, and may happily be stirred up to follow after the wondrous praise of her virtues, by every effort in their power...."

"We will not close this Encyclical Letter, Venerable Brethren, without mentioning a matter which will surely be pleasing to you all. Desiring that there may be a liturgical monument of this commemoration, which may help to nourish the piety of clergy and people towards the great Mother of God, We have commanded Our supreme council presiding over Sacred Rites to publish an Office and Mass of the Divine Maternity, which is to be celebrated by the universal Church...."

Pope Pius XI

"Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, 25 December the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the year 1931, the tenth of Our Pontificate."


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