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To All Bishops in Peace andCommunion with the Apostolic See
Venerable Brothers: Health and the Apostolic Blessing:
From the moment when we were called to the See of Peter, we have constantly striven toenhance devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only with the intention of interpretingthe sentiments of the Church and our own personal inclination but also because, as is wellknown, this devotion forms a very noble part of the whole sphere of that sacred worship inwhich there intermingle the highest expressions of wisdom and of religion and which istherefore the primary task of the People of God.
Precisely with a view to this task, we have always favored and encouraged the greatwork of liturgical reform promoted by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council; and it hascertainly come about not without a particular design of divine Providence that the firstconciliar document which together with the venerable Fathers we approved and signed inSpiritu Sancto was the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium. The purpose of this documentwas precisely to restore and enhance the liturgy and to make more fruitful theparticipation of the faithful in the sacred mysteries. From that time onwards, manyacts of our pontificate have been directed towards the improvement of divine worship, asis demonstrated by the fact that we have promulgated in these recent years numerous booksof the Roman Rite, restored according to the principles and norms of the same Council. Forthis we profoundly thank the Lord, the giver of all good things, and we are grateful tothe episcopal conferences and individual bishops who in various ways have collaboratedwith us in the preparation of these books.
We contemplate with joy and gratitude the work so far accomplished and the firstpositive results of the liturgical renewal, destined as they are to increase as thisrenewal comes to be understood in its basic purposes and correctly applied. At the sametime we do not cease with vigilant solicitude to concern ourself with whatever can giveorderly fulfillment to the renewal of the worship with which the Church in spirit andtruth (cf. Jn. 4:24) adores the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, "venerateswith special love Mary the most holy Mother of God" and honors with religiousdevotion the memory of the martyrs and the other saints.
The development, desired by us, of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is an indicationof the Church's genuine piety. This devotion fitsas we have indicatedaboveinto the only worship that is rightly called "Christian," because ittakes its origin and effectiveness from Christ, finds its complete expression in Christ,and leads through Christ in the Spirit to the Father. In the sphere of worship thisdevotion necessarily reflects God's redemptive plan, in which a special form of venerationis appropriate to the singular place which Mary occupies in that plan.
Indeed every authentic development of Christian worship is necessarily followed by afitting increase of veneration for the Mother of the Lord. Moreover, the history of pietyshows how "the various forms of devotion towards the Mother of God that the Churchhas approved within the limits of wholesome and orthodox doctrine" have developedin harmonious subordination to the worship of Christ, and have gravitated towards thisworship as to their natural and necessary point of reference. The same is happening in ourown time. The Church's reflection today on the mystery of Christ and on her own nature hasled her to find at the root of the former and as a culmination of the latter the samefigure of a woman: the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Church. Andthe increased knowledge of Mary's mission has become joyful veneration of her and adoringrespect for the wise plan of God, who has placed within His family (the Church), as inevery home, the figure of a Woman, who in a hidden manner and in a spirit of servicewatches over that family "and carefully looks after it until the glorious day of theLord."
In our time, the changes that have occurred in social behavior, people's sensibilities,manners of expression in art and letters and in the forms of social communication havealso influenced the manifestations of religious sentiment. Certain practices of piety thatnot long ago seemed suitable for expressing the religious sentiment of individuals and ofChristian communities seem today inadequate or unsuitable because they are linked withsocial and cultural patterns of the past. On the other hand, in many places people areseeking new ways of expressing the unchangeable relationship of creatures with theirCreator, of children with their Father. In some people this may cause temporary confusion.But anyone who with trust in God reflects upon these phenomena discovers that manytendencies of modern piety (for example, the interiorization of religious sentiment) aremeant to play their part in the development of Christian piety in general and devotion tothe Blessed Virgin in particular. Thus our own time, faithfully attentive to tradition andto the progress of theology and the sciences, will make its contribution of praise to herwhom, according to her own prophetical words, all generations will call blessed (cf. Lk.1:48).
We therefore judge it in keeping with our apostolic service, venerable Brothers, todeal, in a sort of dialogue, with a number of themes connected with the place that theBlessed Virgin occupies in the Church's worship. These themes have already been partlytouched upon by the Second Vatican Council and also by ourself, but it is useful toreturn to them in order to remove doubts and, especially, to help the development of thatdevotion to the Blessed Virgin which in the Church is motivated by the Word of God andpracticed in the Spirit of Christ.
We therefore wish to dwell upon a number of questions concerning the relationshipbetween the sacred liturgy and devotion to the Blessed Virgin (I), to offer considerationsand directives suitable for favoring the development of that devotion (II) and finally toput forward a number of reflections intended to encourage the restoration, in a dynamicand more informed manner, of the recitation of the Rosary, the practice of which was sostrongly recommended by our predecessors and is so widely diffused among the Christianpeople (III).
1. As we prepare to discuss the place which the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies inChristian worship, we must first turn our attention to the sacred liturgy. In addition toits rich doctrinal content, the liturgy has an incomparable pastoral effectiveness and arecognized exemplary value for the other forms of worship. We would have liked to takeinto consideration the various liturgies of the East and the West, but for the purpose ofthis document we shall dwell almost exclusively on the books of the Roman Rite. In fact,in accordance with the practical norms issued by the Second Vatican Council, it is thisRite alone which has been the object of profound renewal. This is true also in regard toexpressions of veneration for Mary. This Rite therefore deserves to be carefullyconsidered and evaluated.
2. The reform of the Roman liturgy presupposed a careful restoration of its GeneralCalendar. This Calendar is arranged in such a way as to give fitting prominence to thecelebration on appropriate days of the work of salvation. It distributes throughout theyear the whole mystery of Christ, from the Incarnation to the expectation of His return inglory, and thus makes it possible in a more organic and closely-knit fashion toinclude the commemoration of Christ's Mother in the annual cycle of the mysteries of herSon.
3. For example, during Advent there are many liturgical references to Mary besides theSolemnity of December 8, which is a joint celebration of the Immaculate Conception ofMary, of the basic preparation (cf. Is. 11:1, 10) for the coming of the Savior and of thehappy beginning of the Church without spot or wrinkle. Such liturgical references arefound especially on the days from December 17 to 24, and more particularly on the Sundaybefore Christmas, which recalls the ancient prophecies concerning the Virgin Mother andthe Messiah and includes readings from the Gospel concerning the imminent birth ofChrist and His precursor.
4. In this way the faithful, living in the liturgy the spirit of Advent, by thinkingabout the inexpressible love with which the Virgin Mother awaited her Son, are invitedto take her as a model and to prepare themselves to meet the Savior who is to come. Theymust be "vigilant in prayer and joyful in...praise." We would also remarkthat the Advent liturgy, by linking the awaiting of the Messiah and the awaiting of theglorious return of Christ with the admirable commemoration of His Mother, presents a happybalance in worship. This balance can be taken as a norm for preventing any tendency (ashas happened at times in certain forms of popular piety) to separate devotion to theBlessed Virgin from its necessary point of referenceChrist. It also ensures thatthis season, as liturgy experts have noted, should be considered as a time particularlysuited to devotion to the Mother of the Lord. This is an orientation that we confirm andwhich we hope to see accepted and followed everywhere.
5. The Christmas season is a prolonged commemoration of the divine, virginal andsalvific motherhood of her whose "inviolate virginity brought the Savior into theworld." In fact, on the Solemnity of the Birth of Christ the Church both adoresthe Savior and venerates His glorious Mother. On the Epiphany, when she celebrates theuniversal call to salvation, the Church contemplates the Blessed Virgin, the true Seat ofWisdom and true Mother of the King, who presents to the Wise Men, for their adoration, theRedeemer of all peoples (cf. Mt. 2:11). On the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary andJoseph (the Sunday within the octave of Christmas) the Church meditates with profoundreverence upon the holy life led in the house at Nazareth by Jesus, the Son of God and Sonof Man, Mary His Mother, and Joseph the just man (cf. Mt. 1:19).
In the revised ordering of the Christmas period it seems to us that the attention ofall should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God. Thiscelebration, placed on January 1 in conformity with the ancient indication of the liturgyof the City of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery ofsalvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the"holy Mother...through whom we were found worthy to receive the Author oflife." It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the newbornPrince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels (cf. Lk. 2:14),and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace. It isfor this reason that, in the happy concurrence of the Octave of Christmas and the firstday of the year, we have instituted the World Day of Peace, an occasion that is gainingincreasing support and already bringing forth fruits of peace in the hearts of many.
6. To the two solemnities already mentioned (the Immaculate Conception and the DivineMotherhood) should be added the ancient and venerable celebrations of March 25 and August15.
For the Solemnity of the Incarnation of the Word, in the Roman Calendar the ancienttitlethe Annunciation of the Lordhas been deliberately restored, but the feastwas and is a joint one of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin: of the Word, who becomes"Son of Mary" (Mk. 6:3), and of the Virgin, who becomes Mother of God. Withregard to Christ, the East and the West, in the inexhaustible riches of their liturgies,celebrate this solemnity as the commemoration of the salvific "fiat" of theIncarnate Word, who, entering the world, said: "God, here I am! I am coming to obeyYour will" (cf. Heb. 10:7; Ps. 39:8-9). They commemorate it as the beginning of theredemption and of the indissoluble and wedded union of the divine nature with human naturein the one Person of the Word. With regard to Mary, these liturgies celebrate it as afeast of the new Eve, the obedient and faithful virgin, who with her generous"fiat" (cf. Lk. 1:38) became through the working of the Spirit the Mother ofGod, but also the true Mother of the living, and, by receiving into her womb the oneMediator (cf: 1 Tm. 2:5), became the true Ark of the Covenant and true Temple of God.These liturgies celebrate it as a culminating moment in the salvific dialogue between Godand man, and as a commemoration of the Blessed Virgin's free consent and cooperation inthe plan of redemption.
The solemnity of August 15 celebrates the glorious Assumption of Mary into heaven. Itis a feast of her destiny of fullness and blessedness, of the glorification of herimmaculate soul and of her virginal body, of her perfect configuration to the RisenChrist, a feast that sets before the eyes of the Church and of all mankind the image andthe consoling proof of the fulfillment of their final hope, namely, that this fullglorification is the destiny of all those whom Christ has made His brothers, having"flesh and blood in common with them" (Heb. 2:14; cf. Gal. 4:4). The Solemnityof the Assumption is prolonged in the celebration of the Queenship of the Blessed VirginMary, which occurs seven days later. On this occasion we contemplate her who, seatedbeside the King of ages, shines forth as Queen and intercedes as Mother.
These four solemnities, therefore, mark with the highest liturgical rank the maindogmatic truths concerning the handmaid of the Lord.
7. After the solemnities just mentioned, particular consideration must be given tothose celebrations that commemorate salvific events in which the Blessed Virgin wasclosely associated with her Son. Such are the feasts of the Nativity of Our Lady(September 8), "the hope of the entire world and the dawn of salvation"; andthe Visitation (May 31), in which the liturgy recalls the "Blessed Virgin Marycarrying her Son within her," and visiting Elizabeth to offer charitableassistance and to proclaim the mercy of God the Savior. Then there is thecommemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15), a fitting occasion for reliving adecisive moment in the history of salvation and for venerating, together with the Son"lifted up on the cross, His suffering Mother."
The feast of February 2, which has been given back its ancient name, the Presentationof the Lord, should also be considered as a joint commemoration of the Son and of theMother, if we are fully to appreciate its rich content. It is the celebration of a mysteryof salvation accomplished by Christ, a mystery with which the Blessed Virgin wasintimately associated as the Mother of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, as the one whoperforms a mission belonging to ancient Israel, and as the model for the new People ofGod, which is ever being tested in its faith and hope by suffering and persecution (cf.Lk. 2:21-35).
8. The restored Roman Calendar gives particular prominence to the celebrations listedabove, but it also includes other kinds of commemorations connected with local devotionsand which have acquired a wider popularity and interest (e.g., February 11, Our Lady ofLourdes; August 5, the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major). Then there areothers, originally celebrated by particular religious families but which today, by reasonof the popularity they have gained, can truly be considered ecclesial (e.g., July 16, OurLady of Mount Carmel; October 7, Our Lady of the Rosary). There are still others which,apart from their apocryphal content, present lofty and exemplary values and carry onvenerable traditions having their origin especially in the East (e.g., the ImmaculateHeart of the Blessed Virgin, celebrated on the Saturday following the second Sunday afterPentecost).9. Nor must one forget that the General Roman Calendar does not include allcelebrations in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Rather, it is for individual Calendars toinclude, with fidelity to liturgical norms but with sincere endorsement, the Marian feastsproper to the different local Churches. Lastly, it should be noted that frequentcommemorations of the Blessed Virgin are possible through the use of the Saturday Massesof our Lady. This is an ancient and simple commemoration and one that is made veryadaptable and varied by the flexibility of the modern Calendar and the number of formulasprovided by the Missal.
10. In this Apostolic Exhortation we do not intend to examine the whole content of thenew Roman Missal. But by reason of the work of evaluation that we have undertakento carry out in regard to the revised books of the Roman Rite, we would like tomention some of the aspects and themes of the Missal. In the first place, we are pleasedto note how the Eucharistic Prayers of the Missal, in admirable harmony with the Easternliturgies, contain a significant commemoration of the Blessed Virgin. For example, theancient Roman Canon, which commemorates the Mother of the Lord in terms full of doctrineand devotional inspiration: "In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, theever-virgin Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God." In a similar way the recentEucharistic Prayer III expresses with intense supplication the desire of those praying toshare with the Mother the inheritance of sons: "May he make us an everlasting gift toyou [the Father] and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints, with Mary, theVirgin Mother of God." This daily commemoration, by reason of its place at the heartof the divine Sacrifice, should be considered a particularly expressive form of theveneration that the Church pays to the "Blessed of the Most High" (cf. Lk.1:28).
11. As we examine the texts of the revised Missal we see how the great Marian themes ofthe Roman prayerbook have been accepted in perfect doctrinal continuity with the past.Thus, for example, we have the themes of Mary's Immaculate Conception and fullness ofgrace, the divine motherhood, the unblemished and fruitful virginity, the Temple of theHoly Spirit, Mary's cooperation in the work of her Son, her exemplary sanctity, mercifulintercession, Assumption into heaven, maternal Queenship and many other themes. We alsosee how other themes, in a certain sense new ones, have been introduced in equally perfectharmony with the theological developments of the present day. Thus, for example, we havethe theme of Mary and the Church, which has been inserted into the texts of the Missal ina variety of aspects, a variety that matches the many and varied relations that existbetween the Mother of Christ and the Church. For example, in the celebration of theImmaculate Conception which texts recognize the beginning of the Church, the spotlessBride of Christ. In the Assumption they recognize the beginning that has already beenmade and the image of what, for the whole Church, must still come to pass. In themystery of Mary's motherhood they confess that she is the Mother of the Head and of themembersthe holy Mother of God and therefore the provident Mother of the Church.
When the liturgy turns its gaze either to the primitive Church or to the Church of ourown days it always finds Mary. In the primitive Church she is seen praying with theapostles; in our own day she is actively present, and the Church desires to live themystery of Christ with her: "Grant that your Church which with Mary shared Christ'spassion may be worthy to share also in his resurrection." She is also seenrepresented as a voice of praise in unison with which the Church wishes to give glory toGod: "...with her [Mary] may we always praise you."
And since the liturgy is worship that requires a way of living consistent with it, itasks that devotion to the Blessed Virgin should become a concrete and deeply-felt love forthe Church, as is wonderfully expressed in the prayer after Communion in the Mass ofSeptember 15: "...that as we recall the sufferings shared by the Blessed Virgin Mary,we may with the Church fulfill in ourselves what is lacking in the sufferings ofChrist."
12. The Lectionary is one of the books of the Roman Rite that has greatlybenefited from the post-conciliar reform, by reason both of its added texts and of theintrinsic value of these texts, which contain the ever-living and efficacious word of God(cf. Heb. 4:12). This rich collection of biblical texts has made it possible to arrangethe whole history of salvation in an orderly three-year cycle and to set forth morecompletely the mystery of Christ. The logical consequence has been that the Lectionarycontains a larger number of Old and New Testament readings concerning the Blessed Virgin.This numerical increase has not however been based on random choice: only those readingshave been accepted which in different ways and degrees can be considered Marian, eitherfrom the evidence of their content or from the results of careful exegesis, supported bythe teachings of the magisterium or by solid Tradition. It is also right to observe thatthese readings occur not only on feasts of the Blessed Virgin but are read on many otheroccasions, for example on certain Sundays during the liturgical year, in thecelebration of rites that deeply concern the Christian's sacramental life and the choicesconfronting him, as also in the joyful or sad experiences of his life on earth.
13. The Liturgy of the Hours, the revised book of the Office, also contains outstandingexamples of devotion to the Mother of the Lord. These are to be found in thehymnswhich include several masterpieces of universal literature, such as Dante'ssublime prayer to the Blessed Virginand in the antiphons that complete the dailyOffice. To these lyrical invocations there has been added the well-known prayer Sub tuumpraesidium, venerable for its antiquity and admirable for its content. Other examplesoccur in the prayers of intercession at Lauds and Vespers, prayers which frequentlyexpress trusting recourse to the Mother of mercy. Finally there are selections from thevast treasury of writings on our Lady composed by authors of the first Christiancenturies, of the Middle Ages and of modern times.
14. The commemoration of the Blessed Virgin occurs often in the Missal, the Lectionaryand the Liturgy of the Hoursthe hinges of the liturgical prayer of the Roman Rite.In the other revised liturgical books also expressions of love and suppliant venerationaddressed to the Theotokos are not lacking. Thus the Church invokes her, the Mother ofgrace, before immersing candidates in the saving waters of baptism; the Church invokesher intercession for mothers who, full of gratitude for the gift of motherhood, come tochurch to express their joy; the Church holds her up as a model to those who followChrist by embracing the religious life or who receive the Consecration of Virgins.For these people the Church asks Mary's motherly assistance. The Church praysfervently to Mary on behalf of her children who have come to the hour of their death.The Church asks Mary's intercession for those who have closed their eyes to the light ofthis world and appeared before Christ, the eternal Light; and the Church, throughMary's prayers, invokes comfort upon those who in sorrow mourn with faith the departure oftheir loved ones.
15. The examination of the revised liturgical books leads us to the comfortingobservation that the post-conciliar renewal has, as was previously desired by theliturgical movement, properly considered the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of Christ, and,in harmony with tradition, has recognized the singular place that belongs to her inChristian worship as the holy Mother of God and the worthy Associate of the Redeemer.
It could not have been otherwise. If one studies the history of Christian worship, infact, one notes that both in the East and in the West the highest and purest expressionsof devotion to the Blessed Virgin have sprung from the liturgy or have been incorporatedinto it.
We wish to emphasize the fact that the veneration which the universal Church todayaccords to blessed Mary is a derivation from and an extension and unceasing increase ofthe devotion that the Church of every age has paid to her, with careful attention to truthand with an ever watchful nobility of expression. From perennial Tradition kept alive byreason of the uninterrupted presence of the Spirit and continual attention to the Word,the Church of our time draws motives, arguments and incentives for the veneration that shepays to the Blessed Virgin. And the liturgy, which receives approval and strength from themagisterium, is a most lofty expression and an evident proof of this living Tradition.
16. In accordance with some of the guidelines of the Council's teaching on Mary and theChurch, we now wish to examine more closely a particular aspect of the relationshipbetween Mary and the liturgynamely, Mary as a model of the spiritual attitude withwhich the Church celebrates and lives the divine mysteries. That the Blessed Virgin is anexemplar in this field derives from the fact that she is recognized as a most excellentexemplar of the. Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ,that is, of that interior disposition with which the Church, the beloved spouse, closelyassociated with her Lord, invokes Christ and through Him worships the eternal Father.
17. Mary is the attentive Virgin, who receives the word of God with faith, that faithwhich in her case was the gateway and path to divine motherhood, for, as Saint Augustinerealized, "Blessed Mary by believing conceived Him [Jesus] whom believing she broughtforth." In fact, when she received from the angel the answer to her doubt (cf.Lk. 1:34-37), "full of faith, and conceiving Christ in her mind before conceiving Himin her womb, she said, 'I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done tome' (Lk. 1:38)." It was faith that was for her the cause of blessedness andcertainty in the fulfillment of the promise: "Blessed is she who believed that thepromise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk. 1:45). Similarly, it was faithwith which she, who played a part in the Incarnation and was a unique witness to it,thinking back on the events of the infancy of Christ, meditated upon these events in herheart (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51). The Church also acts in this way, especially in the liturgy,when with faith she listens, accepts, proclaims and venerates the word of God, distributesit to the faithful as the bread of life and in the light of that word examines thesigns of the times and interprets and lives the events of history.
18. Mary is also the Virgin in prayer. She appears as such in the visit to the motherof the precursor, when she pours out her soul in expressions glorifying God, andexpressions of humility, faith and hope. This prayer is the Magnificat (cf. Lk. 1:46-55),Mary's prayer par excellence, the song of the messianic times in which there mingles thejoy of the ancient and the new Israel. As St. Irenaeus seems to suggest, it is in Mary'scanticle that there was heard once more the rejoicing of Abraham who foresaw the Messiah(cf. Jn. 8:56) and there rang out in prophetic anticipation the voice of the Church:"In her exultation Mary prophetically declared in the name of the Church: 'My soulproclaims the glory of the Lord....'" And in fact Mary's hymn has spread far andwide and has become the prayer of the whole Church in all ages.
At Cana, Mary appears once more as the Virgin in prayer: when she tactfully told herSon of a temporal need, she also obtained an effect of grace, namely, that Jesus, inworking the first of His "signs," confirmed His disciples' faith in Him (cf. Jn.2:1-12).
Likewise, the last description of Mary's life presents her as praying. The apostles"joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the motherof Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:14). We have here the prayerful presence ofMary in the early Church and in the Church throughout all ages, for, having been assumedinto heaven, she has not abandoned her mission of intercession and salvation. Thetitle Virgin in prayer also fits the Church, which day by day presents to the Father theneeds of her children, "praises the Lord unceasingly and intercedes for the salvationof the world."
19. Mary is also the Virgin-Mothershe who "believing and obeying...broughtforth on earth the Father's Son. This she did, not knowing man but overshadowed by theHoly Spirit." This was a miraculous motherhood, set up by God as the type andexemplar of the fruitfulness of the Virgin-Church, which "becomes herself amother.... For by her preaching and by baptism she brings forth to a new and immortal lifechildren who are conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of God." Theancient Fathers rightly taught that the Church prolongs in the sacrament of Baptism thevirginal motherhood of Mary. Among such references we like to recall that of ourillustrious predecessor, Saint Leo the Great, who in a Christmas homily says: "Theorigin which [Christ] took in the womb of the Virgin He has given to the baptismal font:He has given to water what He had given to His Motherthe power of the Most High andthe overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk. 1:35), which was responsible for Mary'sbringing forth the Savior, has the same effect, so that water may regenerate thebeliever." If we wished to go to liturgical sources, we could quote the beautifulIllatio of the Mozarabic liturgy: "The former [Mary] carried Life in her womb; thelatter [the Church] bears Life in the waters of baptism. In Mary's members Christ wasformed; in the waters of the Church Christ is put on."
20. Mary is, finally, the Virgin presenting offerings. In the episode of thePresentation of Jesus in the Temple (cf. Lk. 2:22-35), the Church, guided by the Spirit,has detected, over and above the fulfillment of the laws regarding the offering of thefirstborn (cf. Ex. 13:11-16) and the purification of the mother (cf. Lv. 12:6-8), amystery of salvation related to the history of salvation. That is, she has noted thecontinuity of the fundamental offering that the Incarnate Word made to the Father when Heentered the world (cf. Heb. 15:5-7). The Church has seen the universal nature of salvationproclaimed, for Simeon, greeting in the Child the light to enlighten the peoples and theglory of the people Israel (cf. Lk. 2:32), recognized in Him the Messiah, the Savior ofall. The Church has understood the prophetic reference to the Passion of Christ: the factthat Simeon's words, which linked in one prophecy the Son as "the sign ofcontradiction" (Lk. 2:34) and the Mother, whose soul would be pierced by a sword (cf.Lk. 2:35), came true on Calvary. A mystery of salvation, therefore, that in its variousaspects orients the episode of the Presentation in the Temple to the salvific event of thecross. But the Church herself, in particular from the Middle Ages onwards, has detected inthe heart of the Virgin taking her Son to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (cf. Lk.2:22) a desire to make an offering, a desire that exceeds the ordinary meaning of therite. A witness to this intuition is found in the loving prayer of Saint Bernard:"Offer your Son, holy Virgin, and present to the Lord the blessed fruit of your womb.Offer for the reconciliation of us all the holy Victim which is pleasing to God."
This union of the Mother and the Son in the work of redemption reaches its climaxon Calvary, where Christ "offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God" (Heb.9:14) and where Mary stood by the cross (cf. Jn. 19:25), "suffering grievously withher only-begotten Son. There she united herself with a maternal heart to His sacrifice,and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which she herself had broughtforth" and also was offering to the eternal Father. To perpetuate down thecenturies the Sacrifice of the Cross, the divine Savior instituted the EucharisticSacrifice, the memorial of His death and resurrection, and entrusted it to His spouse theChurch, which, especially on Sundays, calls the faithful together to celebrate thePassover of the Lord until He comes again. This the Church does in union with thesaints in heaven and in particular with the Blessed Virgin, whose burning charity andunshakeable faith she imitates.
21. Mary is not only an example for the whole Church in the exercise of divine worshipbut is also, clearly, a teacher of the spiritual life for individual Christians. Thefaithful at a very early date began to look to Mary and to imitate her in making theirlives an act of worship of God and making their worship a commitment of their lives. Asearly as the fourth century, St. Ambrose, speaking to the people, expressed the hope thateach of them would have the spirit of Mary in order to glorify God: "May the heart ofMary be in each Christian to proclaim the greatness of the Lord; may her spirit be ineveryone to exult in God." But Mary is above all the example of that worship thatconsists in making one's life an offering to God. This is an ancient and ever new doctrinethat each individual can hear again by heeding the Church's teaching, but also by heedingthe very voice of the Virgin as she, anticipating in herself the wonderful petition of theLord's Prayer"Your will be done" (Mt. 6:10)replied to God'smessenger: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me"(Lk. 1:38). And Mary's "yes" is for all Christians a lesson and example ofobedience to the will of the Father, which is the way and means of one's ownsanctification.
22. It is also important to note how the Church expresses in various effectiveattitudes of devotion the many relationships that bind her to Mary: in profoundveneration, when she reflects on the singular dignity of the Virgin who, through theaction of the Holy Spirit, has become Mother of the Incarnate Word, in burning love, whenshe considers the spiritual motherhood of Mary towards all members of the Mystical Body;in trusting invocation, when she experiences the intercession of her advocate andhelper; in loving service, when she sees in the humble handmaid of the Lord the queenof mercy and the mother of grace; in zealous imitation, when she contemplates the holinessand virtues of her who is "full of grace" (Lk. 1:28); in profound wonder, whenshe sees in her, "as in a faultless model, that which she herself wholly desires andhopes to be"; in attentive study, when she recognizes in the associate of theRedeemer, who already shares fully in the fruits of the Paschal Mystery, the propheticfulfillment of her own future, until the day on which, when she has been purified of everyspot and wrinkle (cf. Eph. 5:27), she will become like a bride arrayed for the bridegroom,Jesus Christ (cf. Rev. 21:2).
23. Therefore, venerable Brothers, as we consider the piety that the liturgicalTradition of the universal Church and the renewed Roman Rite expresses towards the holyMother of God, and as we remember that the liturgy through its pre-eminent value asworship constitutes the golden norm for Christian piety, and finally as we observe how theChurch when she celebrates the sacred mysteries assumes an attitude of faith and lovesimilar to that of the Virgin, we realize the rightness of the exhortation that the SecondVatican Council addresses to all the children of the Church, namely "that the cult,especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin be generously fostered."This is an exhortation that we would like to see accepted everywhere without reservationand put into zealous practice.
24. The Second Vatican Council also exhorts us to promote other forms of piety side byside with liturgical worship, especially those recommended by the magisterium.However, as is well known, the piety of the faithful and their veneration of the Mother ofGod has taken on many forms according to circumstances of time and place the differentsensibilities of peoples and their different cultural traditions. Hence it is that theforms in which this devotion is expressed, being subject to the ravages of time, show theneed for a renewal that will permit them to substitute elements that are transient, toemphasize the elements that are ever new and to incorporate the doctrinal data obtainedfrom theological reflection and the proposals of the Church's magisterium. This shows theneed for episcopal conferences, local churches, religious families and communities of thefaithful to promote a genuine creative activity and at the same time to proceed to acareful revision of expressions and exercises of piety directed towards the BlessedVirgin. We would like this revision to be respectful of wholesome tradition and open tothe legitimate requests of the people of our time. It seems fitting therefore, venerableBrothers, to put forward some principles for action in this field.
25. In the first place it is supremely fitting that exercises of piety directed towardsthe Virgin Mary should clearly express the Trinitarian and Christological note that isintrinsic and essential to them. Christian worship in fact is of itself worship offered tothe Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, or, as the liturgy puts it, to theFather through Christ in the Spirit. From this point of view worship is rightly extended,though in a substantially different way, first and foremost and in a special manner, tothe Mother of the Lord and then to the saints, in whom the Church proclaims the PaschalMystery, for they have suffered with Christ and have been glorified with Him. In theVirgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him. It was with a view toChrist that God the Father from all eternity chose her to be the all-holy Mother andadorned her with gifts of the Spirit granted to no one else. Certainly genuine Christianpiety has never failed to highlight the indissoluble link and essential relationship ofthe Virgin to the divine Savior.69. Yet it seems to us particularly in conformity with thespiritual orientation of our time, which is dominated and absorbed by the "questionof Christ," that in the expressions of devotion to the Virgin the Christologicalaspect should have particular prominence. It likewise seems to us fitting that theseexpressions of devotion should reflect God's plan, which laid down "with one singledecree the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of the divine Wisdom."
This will without doubt contribute to making piety towards the Mother of Jesus moresolid, and to making it an effective instrument for attaining to full "knowledge ofthe Son of God, until we become the perfect man, fully mature with the fullness of Christhimself" (Eph. 4:13). It will also contribute to increasing the worship due to ChristHimself, since, according to the perennial mind of the Church authoritatively repeated inour own day, "what is given to the handmaid is referred to the Lord; thus what isgiven to the Mother redounds to the Son; ...and thus what is given as humble tribute tothe Queen becomes honor rendered to the King."
26. It seems to us useful to add to this mention of the Christological orientation ofdevotion to the Blessed Virgin a reminder of the fittingness of giving prominence in thisdevotion to one of the essential facts of the Faith: the Person and work of the HolySpirit. Theological reflection and the liturgy have in fact noted how the sanctifyingintervention of the Spirit in the Virgin of Nazareth was a culminating moment of theSpirit's action in the history of salvation. Thus, for example, some Fathers and writersof the Church attributed to the work of the Spirit the original holiness of Mary, who wasas it were "fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and newcreature."
Reflecting on the Gospel texts"The Holy Spirit will come upon you and thepower of the Most High will cover you with his shadow" (Lk. 1:35) and "[Mary]was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.... She has conceived what is in her bythe Holy Spirit" (Mt. 1:18, 20)they saw in the Spirit's intervention an actionthat consecrated and made fruitful Mary's virginity and transformed her into the"Abode of the King" or "Bridal Chamber of the Word," the"Temple" or "Tabernacle of the Lord," the "Ark of theCovenant" or "the Ark of Holiness," titles rich in biblical echoes.Examining more deeply still the mystery of the Incarnation, they saw in the mysteriousrelationship between the Spirit and Mary an aspect redolent of marriage, poeticallyportrayed by Prudentius: "The unwed Virgin espoused the Spirit," and theycalled her the "Temple of the Holy Spirit," an expression that emphasizesthe sacred character of the Virgin, now the permanent dwelling of the Spirit of God.Delving deeply into the doctrine of the Paraclete, they saw that from Him as from a springthere flowed forth the fullness of grace (cf. Lk. 1:28) and the abundance of gifts thatadorned her. Thus they attributed to the Spirit the faith, hope and charity that animatedthe Virgin's heart, the strength that sustained her acceptance of the will of God, and thevigor that upheld her in her suffering at the foot of the cross. In Mary's propheticcanticle (cf. Lk. 1:46-55) they saw a special working of the Spirit who had spoken throughthe mouths of the prophets. Considering, finally, the presence of the Mother of Jesusin the Upper Room, where the Spirit came down upon the infant Church (cf. Acts 1:12-14;2:1-4), they enriched with new developments the ancient theme of Mary and the Church.Above all they had recourse to the Virgin's intercession in order to obtain from theSpirit the capacity for engendering Christ in their own soul, as is attested to by SaintIldephonsus in a prayer of supplication, amazing in its doctrine and prayerful power:"I beg you, holy Virgin, that I may have Jesus from the Holy Spirit, by whom youbrought Jesus forth. May my soul receive Jesus through the Holy Spirit by whom your fleshconceived Jesus.... May I love Jesus in the Holy Spirit in whom you adore Jesus as Lordand gaze upon Him as your Son."
27. It is sometimes said that many spiritual writings today do not sufficiently reflectthe whole doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit. It is the task of specialists to verify andweigh the truth of this assertion, but it is our task to exhort everyone, especially thosein the pastoral ministry and also theologians, to meditate more deeply on the working ofthe Holy Spirit in the history of salvation, and to ensure that Christian spiritualwritings give due prominence to His life-giving action. Such a study will bring out inparticular the hidden relationship between the Spirit of God and the Virgin of Nazareth,and show the influence they exert on the Church. From a more profound meditation on thetruths of the Faith will flow a more vital piety.
28. It is also necessary that exercises of piety with which the faithful honor theMother of the Lord should clearly show the place she occupies in the Church: "thehighest place and the closest to us after Christ." The liturgical buildings ofByzantine rite, both in the architectural structure itself and in the use of images, showclearly Mary's place in the Church. On the central door of the iconostasis there is arepresentation of the Annunciation and in the apse an image of the glorious Theotokos. Inthis way one perceives how through the assent of the humble handmaid of the Lord mankindbegins its return to God and sees in the glory of the all-holy Virgin the goal towardswhich it is journeying. The symbolism by which a church building demonstrates Mary's placein the mystery of the Church is full of significance and gives grounds for hoping that thedifferent forms of devotion to the Blessed Virgin may everywhere be open to ecclesialperspectives.
The faithful will be able to appreciate more easily Mary's mission in the mystery ofthe Church and her preeminent place in the communion of saints if attention is drawn tothe Second Vatican Council's references to the fundamental concepts of the nature of theChurch as the Family of God, the People of God, the Kingdom of God and the Mystical Bodyof Christ. This will also bring the faithful to a deeper realization of thebrotherhood which unites all of them as sons and daughters of the Virgin Mary, "whowith a mother's love has cooperated in their rebirth and spiritual formation,"and as sons and daughters of the Church, since "we are born from the Church's womb weare nurtured by the Church's milk, we are given life by the Church's Spirit."They will also realize that both the Church and Mary collaborate to give birth to theMystical Body of Christ since "both of them are the Mother of Christ, but neitherbrings forth the whole [body] independently of the other."
Similarly the faithful will appreciate more clearly that the action of the Church inthe world can be likened to an extension of Mary's concern. The active love she showed atNazareth, in the house of Elizabeth, at Cana and on Golgothaall salvific episodeshaving vast ecclesial importancefinds its extension in the Church's maternal concernthat all men should come to knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Tm. 2:4), in the Church'sconcern for people in lowly circumstances and for the poor and weak, and in her constantcommitment to peace and social harmony, as well as in her untiring efforts to ensure thatall men will share in the salvation which was merited for them by Christ's death. Thuslove for the Church will become love for Mary, and vice versa, since the one cannot existwithout the other, as St. Chromatius of Aquileia observed with keen discernment: "TheChurch was united... in the Upper Room with Mary the Mother of Jesus and with Hisbrethren. The Church therefore cannot be referred to as such unless it includes Mary theMother of our Lord, together with His brethren." In conclusion, therefore, werepeat that devotion to the Blessed Virgin must explicitly show its intrinsic andecclesiological content: thus it will be enabled to revise its forms and texts in afitting way.
29. The above considerations spring from an examination of the Virgin Mary'srelationship with Godthe Father and the Son and the Holy Spiritand with theChurch. Following the path traced by conciliar teaching, we wish to add some furtherguidelines from Scripture, liturgy, ecumenism and anthropology. These are to be borne inmind in any revision of exercises of piety or in the creation of new ones, in order toemphasize and accentuate the bond which unites us to her who is the Mother of Christ andour Mother in the communion of saints.
30. Today it is recognized as a general need of Christian piety that every form ofworship should have a biblical imprint. The progress made in biblical studies, theincreasing dissemination of the Sacred Scriptures, and above all the example of Traditionand the interior action of the Holy Spirit are tending to cause the modern Christian touse the Bible ever increasingly as the basic prayerbook, and to draw from it genuineinspiration and unsurpassable examples. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin cannot be exemptfrom this general orientation of Christian piety; indeed it should draw inspiration ina special way from this orientation in order to gain new vigor and sure help. In itswonderful presentation of God's plan for man's salvation, the Bible is replete with themystery of the Savior, and from Genesis to the Book of Revelation, also contains clearreferences to her who was the Mother and associate of the Savior. We would not, however,wish this biblical imprint to be merely a diligent use of texts and symbols skillfullyselected from the Sacred Scriptures. More than this is necessary. What is needed is thattexts of prayers and chants should draw their inspiration and their wording from theBible, and above all that devotion to the Virgin should be imbued with the great themes ofthe Christian message. This will ensure that, as they venerate the Seat of Wisdom, thefaithful in their turn will be enlightened by the divine word, and be inspired to livetheir lives in accordance with the precepts of Incarnate Wisdom.
31. We have already spoken of the veneration which the Church gives to the Mother ofGod in the celebration of the sacred liturgy. However, speaking of the other forms ofdevotion and of the criteria on which they should be based we wish to recall the norm laiddown in the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium. This document, while wholeheartedlyapproving of the practices of piety of the Christian people, goes on to say: "...itis necessary however that such devotions with consideration for the liturgical seasonsshould be so arranged as to be in harmony with the sacred liturgy. They should somehowderive their inspiration from it, and because of its pre-eminence they should orient theChristian people towards it." Although this is a wise and clear rule, itsapplication is not an easy matter, especially in regard to Marian devotions, which are sovaried in their formal expressions. What is needed on the part of the leaders of the localcommunities is effort, pastoral sensitivity and perseverance, while the faithful on theirpart must show a willingness to accept guidelines and ideas drawn from the true nature ofChristian worship; this sometimes makes it necessary to change long-standing customswherein the real nature of this Christian worship has become somewhat obscured.
In this context we wish to mention two attitudes which in pastoral practice couldnullify the norm of the Second Vatican Council. In the first place there are certainpersons concerned with the care of souls who scorn, a priori, devotions of piety which, intheir correct forms, have been recommended by the magisterium, who leave them aside and inthis way create a vacuum which they do not fill. They forget that the Council has saidthat devotions of piety should harmonize with the liturgy, not be suppressed. Secondlythere are those who, without wholesome liturgical and pastoral criteria, mix practices ofpiety and liturgical acts in hybrid celebrations. It sometimes happens that novenas orsimilar practices of piety are inserted into the very celebration of the EucharisticSacrifice. This creates the danger that the Lord's Memorial Rite, instead of being theculmination of the meeting of the Christian community, becomes the occasion, as it were,for devotional practices. For those who act in this way we wish to recall the rule laiddown by the Council prescribing that exercises of piety should be harmonized with theliturgy, not merged into it. Wise pastoral action should, on the one hand, point out andemphasize the proper nature of the liturgical acts, while on the other hand it shouldenhance the value of practices of piety in order to adapt them to the needs of individualcommunities in the Church and to make them valuable aids to the liturgy.
32. Because of its ecclesial character, devotion to the Blessed Virgin reflects thepreoccupations of the Church herself. Among these especially in our day is her anxiety forthe re-establishment of Christian unity. In this way devotion to the Mother of the Lord isin accord with the deep desires and aims of the ecumenical movement, that is, it acquiresan ecumenical aspect. This is so for a number of reasons.
In the first place, in venerating with particular love the glorious Theotokos and inacclaiming her as the "Hope of Christians,"
Catholics unite themselves with their brethren of the Orthodox Churches, in whichdevotion to the Blessed Virgin finds its expression in a beautiful lyricism and in soliddoctrine. Catholics are also united with Anglicans, whose classical theologians havealready drawn attention to the sound scriptural basis for devotion to the Mother of ourLord, while those of the present day increasingly underline the importance of Mary's placein the Christian life. Praising God with the very words of the Virgin (cf. Lk. 1:46-55),they are united, too, with their brethren in the Churches of the Reform, where love forthe Sacred Scriptures flourishes.
For Catholics, devotion to the Mother of Christ and Mother of Christians is also anatural and frequent opportunity for seeking her intercession with her Son in order toobtain the union of all the baptized within a single People of God. Yet again, theecumenical aspect of Marian devotion is shown in the Catholic Church's desire that,without in any way detracting from the unique character of this devotion, every careshould be taken to avoid any exaggeration which could mislead other Christian brethrenabout the true doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Similarly, the Church desires that any manifestation of cult which is opposed tocorrect Catholic practice should be eliminated.
Finally, since it is natural that in true devotion to the Blessed Virgin "the Sonshould be duly known, loved and glorified...when the Mother is honored," suchdevotion is an approach to Christ, the source and center of ecclesiastical communion, inwhich all who openly confess that He is God and Lord, Savior and sole Mediator (cf. 1 Tm.2:5) are called to be one, with one another, with Christ and with the Father in the unityof the Holy Spirit.
33. We realize that there exist important differences between the thought of many ofour brethren in other Churches and ecclesial communities and the Catholic doctrine on"Mary's role in the work of salvation." In consequence there are likewisedifferences of opinion on the devotion which should be shown to her. Nevertheless, sinceit is the same power of the Most High which overshadowed the Virgin of Nazareth (cf. Lk.1:35) and which today is at work within the ecumenical movement and making it fruitful, wewish to express our confidence that devotion to the humble handmaid of the Lord, in whomthe Almighty has done great things (cf. Lk. 1:49), will become, even if only slowly, notan obstacle but a path and a rallying point for the union of all who believe in Christ. Weare glad to see that, in fact, a better understanding of Mary's place in the mystery ofChrist and of the Church on the part also of our separated brethren is smoothing the pathto union. Just as at Cana the Blessed Virgin's intervention resulted in Christ'sperforming His first miracle (cf. Jn. 2:1-12), so today her intercession can help to bringto realization the time when the disciples of Christ will again find full communion infaith. This hope of ours is strengthened by a remark of our predecessor Leo XIII, whowrote that the cause of Christian unity "properly pertains to the role of Mary'sspiritual motherhood. For Mary did not and cannot engender those who belong to Christ,except in one faith and one love: for 'Is Christ divided?' (1 Cor. 1:13) We must all livetogether the life of Christ, so that in one and the same body 'we may bear fruit for God'(Rom. 7:4).
34. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin must also pay close attention to certain findings ofthe human sciences. This will help to eliminate one of the causes of the difficultiesexperienced in devotion to the Mother of the Lord, namely, the discrepancy existingbetween some aspects of this devotion and modern anthropological discoveries and theprofound changes which have occurred in the psycho-sociological field in which modern manlives and works. The picture of the Blessed Virgin presented in a certain type ofdevotional literature cannot easily be reconciled with today's life-style, especially theway women live today. In the home, woman's equality and co-responsibility with man in therunning of the family are being justly recognized by laws and the evolution of customs. Inthe sphere of politics women have in many countries gained a position in public life equalto that of men. In the social field women are at work in a whole range of differentemployments, getting further away every day from the restricted surroundings of the home.In the cultural field new possibilities are opening up for women in scientific researchand intellectual activities.
In consequence of these phenomena some people are becoming disenchanted with devotionto the Blessed Virgin and finding it difficult to take as an example Mary of Nazarethbecause the horizons of her life, so they say, seem rather restricted in comparison withthe vast spheres of activity open to mankind today. In this regard we exhort theologians,those responsible for the local Christian communities and the faithful themselves toexamine these difficulties with due care. At the same time we wish to take the opportunityof offering our own contribution to their solution by making a few observations.
35. First, the Virgin Mary has always been proposed to the faithful by the Church as anexample to be imitated, not precisely in the type of life she led, and much less for thesocio-cultural background in which she lived and which today scarcely exists anywhere. Sheis held up as an example to the faithful rather for the way in which, in her ownparticular life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God (cf. Lk. 1:38),because she heard the word of God and acted on it, and because charity and a spirit ofservice were the driving force of her actions. She is worthy of imitation because she wasthe first and the most perfect of Christ's disciples. All of this has a permanent anduniversal exemplary value.
36. Secondly, we would like to point out that the difficulties alluded to above areclosely related to certain aspects of the image of Mary found in popular writings. Theyare not connected with the Gospel image of Mary nor with the doctrinal data which havebeen made explicit through a slow and conscientious process of drawing from Revelation. Itshould be considered quite normal for succeeding generations of Christians in differingsocio-cultural contexts to have expressed their sentiments about the Mother of Jesus in away and manner which reflected their own age. In contemplating Mary and her mission thesedifferent generations of Christians, looking on her as the New Woman and perfectChristian, found in her as a virgin, wife and mother the outstanding type of womanhood andthe pre-eminent exemplar of life lived in accordance with the Gospels and summing up themost characteristic situations in the life of a woman. When the Church considers the longhistory of Marian devotion she rejoices at the continuity of the element of cult which itshows, but she does not bind herself to any particular expression of an individualcultural epoch or to the particular anthropological ideas underlying such expressions. TheChurch understands that certain outward religious expressions, while perfectly valid inthemselves, may be less suitable to men and women of different ages and cultures.
37. Finally, we wish to point out that our own time, no less than former times, iscalled upon to verify its knowledge of reality with the word of God, and, keeping to thematter at present under consideration, to compare its anthropological ideas and theproblems springing therefrom with the figure of the Virgin Mary as presented by theGospel. The reading of the divine Scriptures, carried out under the guidance of the HolySpirit, and with the discoveries of the human sciences and the different situations in theworld today being taken into account, will help us to see how Mary can be considered amirror of the expectations of the men and women of our time. Thus, the modern woman,anxious to participate with decision-making power in the affairs of the community, willcontemplate with intimate joy Mary who, taken into dialogue with God, gives her active andresponsible consent, not to the solution of a contingent problem, but to that"event of world importance," as the Incarnation of the Word has been rightlycalled. The modern woman will appreciate that Mary's choice of the state ofvirginity, which in God's plan prepared her for the mystery of the Incarnation, was not arejection of any of the values of the married state but a courageous choice which she madein order to consecrate herself totally to the love of God. The modern woman will note withpleasant surprise that Mary of Nazareth, while completely devoted to the will of God, wasfar from being a timidly submissive woman or one whose piety was repellent to others; onthe contrary, she was a woman who did not hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates thehumble and the oppressed, and removes the powerful people of this world from theirprivileged positions (cf. Lk. 1:51-53). The modern woman will recognize in Mary, who"stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord," a woman of strength,who experienced poverty and suffering, flight and exile (cf. Mt. 2:13-23). These aresituations that cannot escape the attention of those who wish to support, with the Gospelspirit, the liberating energies of man and of society. And Mary will appear not as aMother exclusively concerned with her own divine Son, but rather as a woman whose actionhelped to strengthen the apostolic community's faith in Christ (cf. Jn. 2:1-12), and whosematernal role was extended and became universal on Calvary. These are but examples,but examples which show clearly that the figure of the Blessed Virgin does not disillusionany of the profound expectations of the men and women of our time but offers them theperfect model of the disciple of the Lord: the disciple who builds up the earthly andtemporal city while being a diligent pilgrim towards the heavenly and eternal city; thedisciple who works for that justice which sets free the oppressed and for that charitywhich assists the needy; but above all, the disciple who is the active witness of thatlove which builds up Christ in people's hearts.
38. Having offered these directives, which are intended to favor the harmoniousdevelopment of devotion to the Mother of the Lord, we consider it opportune to drawattention to certain attitudes of piety which are incorrect. The Second Vatican Councilhas already authoritatively denounced both the exaggeration of content and form which evenfalsifies doctrine and likewise the small-mindedness which obscures the figure and missionof Mary. The Council has also denounced certain devotional deviations, such as vaincredulity, which substitutes reliance on merely external practices for serious commitment.Another deviation is sterile and ephemeral sentimentality, so alien to the spirit of theGospel that demands persevering and practical action. We reaffirm the Council'sreprobation of such attitudes and practices. They are not in harmony with the CatholicFaith and therefore they must have no place in Catholic worship. Careful defense againstthese errors and deviations will render devotion to the Blessed Virgin more vigorous andmore authentic. It will make this devotion solidly based, with the consequence that studyof the sources of Revelation and attention to the documents of the magisterium willprevail over the exaggerated search for novelties or extraordinary phenomena. It willensure that this devotion is objective in its historical setting, and for this reasoneverything that is obviously legendary or false must be eliminated. It will ensure thatthis devotion matches its doctrinal contenthence the necessity of avoiding aone-sided presentation of the figure of Mary, which by overstressing one elementcompromises the overall picture given by the Gospel. It will make this devotion clear inits motivation; hence every unworthy self-interest is to be carefully banned from the areaof what is sacred.
39. Finally, insofar as it may be necessary we would like to repeat that the ultimatepurpose of devotion to the Blessed Virgin is to glorify God and to lead Christians tocommit themselves to a life which is in absolute conformity with His will. When thechildren of the Church unite their voices with the voice of the unknown woman in theGospel and glorify the Mother of Jesus by saying to Him: "Blessed is the womb thatbore you and the breasts that you sucked" (Lk. 11:27), they will be led to ponder theDivine Master's serious reply: "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God andkeep it!" (Lk. 11:28) While it is true that this reply is in itself lively praise ofMary, as various Fathers of the Church interpreted it and the Second Vatican Councilhas confirmed, it is also an admonition to us to live our lives in accordance withGod's commandments. It is also an echo of other words of the Savior: "Not every onewho says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will ofmy Father who is in heaven" (Mt. 7:21); and again: "You are my friends if you dowhat I command you" (Jn. 15:14).
40. We have indicated a number of principles which can help to give fresh vigor todevotion to the Mother of the Lord. It is now up to episcopal conferences, to those incharge of local communities and to the various religious congregations prudently to revisepractices and exercises of piety in honor of the Blessed Virgin, and to encourage thecreative impulse of those who through genuine religious inspiration or pastoralsensitivity wish to establish new forms of piety. For different reasons we neverthelessfeel it is opportune to consider here two practices which are widespread in the West, andwith which this Apostolic See has concerned itself on various occasions: the Angelus andthe Rosary.
41. What we have to say about the Angelus is meant to be only a simple but earnestexhortation to continue its traditional recitation wherever and whenever possible. TheAngelus does not need to be revised, because of its simple structure, its biblicalcharacter, its historical origin which links it to the prayer for peace and safety, andits quasi-liturgical rhythm which sanctifies different moments during the day, and becauseit reminds us of the Paschal Mystery, in which recalling the Incarnation of the Son of Godwe pray that we may be led "through his passion and cross to the glory of hisresurrection." These factors ensure that the Angelus despite the passing ofcenturies retains an unaltered value and an intact freshness. It is true that certaincustoms traditionally linked with the recitation of the Angelus have disappeared or cancontinue only with difficulty in modern life. But these are marginal elements. The valueof contemplation on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, of the greeting to theVirgin, and of recourse to her merciful intercession remains unchanged. And despite thechanged conditions of the times, for the majority of people there remain unaltered thecharacteristic periods of the daymorning, noon and eveningwhich mark theperiods of their activity and constitute an invitation to pause in prayer.
42. We wish now, venerable Brothers, to dwell for a moment on the renewal of the piouspractice which has been called "the compendium of the entire Gospel": theRosary. To this our predecessors have devoted close attention and care. On many occasionsthey have recommended its frequent recitation, encouraged its diffusion, explained itsnature, recognized its suitability for fostering contemplative prayerprayer of bothpraise and petitionand recalled its intrinsic effectiveness for promoting Christianlife and apostolic commitment.
We, too, from the first general audience of our pontificate on July 13, 1963, haveshown our great esteem for the pious practice of the Rosary. Since that time we haveunderlined its value on many different occasions, some ordinary, some grave. Thus, at amoment of anguish and uncertainty, we published the Letter Christi Matri (September 15,1966), in order to obtain prayers to Our Lady of the Rosary and to implore from God thesupreme benefit of peace. We renewed this appeal in our Apostolic ExhortationRecurrens mensis October (October 7, 1969), in which we also commemorated the fourthcentenary of the Apostolic Letter Consueverunt Romani pontifices of our predecessor SaintPius V, who in that document explained and in a certain sense established the traditionalform of the Rosary.
43. Our assiduous and affectionate interest in the Rosary has led us to follow veryattentively the numerous meetings which in recent years have been devoted to the pastoralrole of the Rosary in the modern world, meetings arranged by associations and individualsprofoundly attached to the Rosary and attended by bishops, priests, religious and laypeople of proven experience and recognized ecclesial awareness. Among these people specialmention should be made of the sons of Saint Dominic, by tradition the guardians andpromoters of this very salutary practice. Parallel with such meetings has been theresearch work of historians, work aimed not at defining in a sort of archaeologicalfashion the primitive form of the Rosary but at uncovering the original inspiration anddriving force behind it and its essential structure. The fundamental characteristics ofthe Rosary, its essential elements and their mutual relationship have all emerged moreclearly from these congresses and from the research carried out.
44. Thus, for instance, the Gospel inspiration of the Rosary has appeared more clearly:the Rosary draws from the Gospel the presentation of the mysteries and its main formulas.As it moves from the angel's joyful greeting and the Virgin's pious assent, the Rosarytakes its inspiration from the Gospel to suggest the attitude with which the faithfulshould recite it. In the harmonious succession of Hail Mary's the Rosary puts before usonce more a fundamental mystery of the Gospelthe Incarnation of the Word,contemplated at the decisive moment of the Annunciation to Mary. The Rosary is thus aGospel prayer, as pastors and scholars like to define it, more today perhaps than in thepast.
45. It has also been more easily seen how the orderly and gradual unfolding of theRosary reflects the very way in which the Word of God, mercifully entering into humanaffairs, brought about the Redemption. The Rosary considers in harmonious succession theprincipal salvific events accomplished in Christ, from His virginal conception and themysteries of His childhood to the culminating moments of the Passoverthe blessedpassion and the glorious resurrectionand to the effects of this on the infant Churchon the day of Pentecost, and on the Virgin Mary when at the end of her earthly life shewas assumed body and soul into her heavenly home. It has also been observed that thedivision of the mysteries of the Rosary into three parts not only adheres strictly to thechronological order of the facts but above all reflects the plan of the originalproclamation of the Faith and sets forth once more the mystery of Christ in the very wayin which it is seen by Saint Paul in the celebrated "hymn" of the Letter to thePhilippianskenosis, death and exaltation (cf. 2:6-11).
46. As a Gospel prayer, centered on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, theRosary is therefore a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. Its mostcharacteristic element, in fact, the litany-like succession of Hail Mary's, becomes initself an unceasing praise of Christ, who is the ultimate object both of the angel'sannouncement and of the greeting of the mother of John the Baptist: "Blessed is thefruit of your womb" (Lk. 1:42). We would go further and say that the succession ofHail Mary's constitutes the warp on which is woven the contemplation of the mysteries. TheJesus that each Hail Mary recalls is the same Jesus whom the succession of the mysteriesproposes to usnow as the Son of God, now as the Son of the Virginat His birthin a stable at Bethlehem, at His presentation by His Mother in the Temple, as a youth fullof zeal for His Father's affairs, as the Redeemer in agony in the garden, scourged andcrowned with thorns, carrying the cross and dying on Calvary; risen from the dead andascended to the glory of the Father to send forth the gift of the Spirit. As is wellknown, at one time there was a custom, still preserved in certain places, of adding to thename of Jesus in each Hail Mary a reference to the mystery being contemplated. And thiswas done precisely in order to help contemplation and to make the mind and the voice actin unison.
47. There has also been felt with greater urgency the need to point out once more theimportance of a further essential element in the Rosary, in addition to the value of theelements of praise and petition, namely the element of contemplation. Without this theRosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanicalrepetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ: "And in prayingdo not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heardfor their many words" (Mt. 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls fora quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteriesof the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In thisway the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are unfolded.
48. Finally, as a result of modern reflection the relationships between the liturgy andthe Rosary have been more clearly understood. On the one hand it has been emphasized thatthe Rosary is, as it were, a branch sprung from the ancient trunk of the Christianliturgy, the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin, whereby the humble were associated in theChurch's hymn of praise and universal intercession. On the other hand it has been notedthat this development occurred at a timethe last period of the Middle Ageswhenthe liturgical spirit was in decline and the faithful were turning from the liturgytowards a devotion to Christ's humanity and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a devotionfavoring a certain external sentiment of piety. Not many years ago some people began toexpress the desire to see the Rosary included among the rites of the liturgy, while otherpeople, anxious to avoid repetition of former pastoral mistakes, unjustifiably disregardedthe Rosary. Today the problem can easily be solved in the light of the principles of theConstitution Sacrosanctum concilium. Liturgical celebrations and the pious practice of theRosary must be neither set in opposition to one another nor considered as beingidentical. The more an expression of prayer preserves its own true nature andindividual characteristics the more fruitful it becomes. Once the pre-eminent value ofliturgical rites has been reaffirmed it will not be difficult to appreciate the fact thatthe Rosary is a practice of piety which easily harmonizes with the liturgy. In fact, likethe liturgy, it is of a community nature, draws its inspiration from Sacred Scripture andis oriented towards the mystery of Christ. The commemoration in the liturgy and thecontemplative remembrance proper to the Rosary, although existing on essentially differentplanes of reality, have as their object the same salvific events wrought by Christ. Theformer presents anew, under the veil of signs and operative in a hidden way, the greatmysteries of our Redemption. The latter, by means of devout contemplation, recalls thesesame mysteries to the mind of the person praying and stimulates the will to draw from themthe norms of living. Once this substantial difference has been established, it is notdifficult to understand that the Rosary is an exercise of piety that draws its motivatingforce from the liturgy and leads naturally back to it, if practiced in conformity with itsoriginal inspiration. It does not, however, become part of the liturgy. In fact,meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary, by familiarizing the hearts and minds of thefaithful with the mysteries of Christ, can be an excellent preparation for the celebrationof those same mysteries in the liturgical action and can also become a continuing echothereof. However, it is a mistake to recite the Rosary during the celebration of theliturgy, though unfortunately this practice still persists here and there.
49. The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the tradition accepted by ourpredecessor St. Pius V and authoritatively taught by him, consists of various elementsdisposed in an organic fashion:
a) Contemplation in communion with Mary, of a series of mysteries of salvation, wiselydistributed into three cycles. These mysteries express the joy of the messianic times, thesalvific suffering of Christ and the glory of the Risen Lord which fills the Church. Thiscontemplation by its very nature encourages practical reflection and provides stimulatingnorms for living.
b) The Lord's Prayer, or Our Father, which by reason of its immense value is at thebasis of Christian prayer and ennobles that prayer in its various expressions.
c) The litany-like succession of the Hail Mary, which is made up of the angel'sgreeting to the Virgin (cf. Lk. 1:28), and of Elizabeth's greeting (cf. Lk. 1:42),followed by the ecclesial supplication, Holy Mary. The continued series of Hail Mary's isthe special characteristic of the Rosary, and their number, in the full and typical numberof one hundred and fifty, presents a certain analogy with the Psalter and is an elementthat goes back to the very origin of the exercise of piety. But this number, divided,according to a well-tried custom, into decades attached to the individual mysteries, isdistributed in the three cycles already mentioned, thus giving rise to the Rosary of fiftyHail Mary's as we know it. This latter has entered into use as the normal measure of thepious exercise and as such has been adopted by popular piety and approved by papalauthority, which also enriched it with numerous indulgences .
d) The doxology Glory be to the Father which, in conformity with an orientation commonto Christian piety, concludes the prayer with the glorifying of God who is one and three,from whom, through whom and in whom all things have their being (cf. Rom. 11:36).
50. These are the elements of the Rosary. Each has its own particular character which,wisely understood and appreciated, should be reflected in the recitation in order that theRosary may express all its richness and variety. Thus the recitation will be grave andsuppliant during the Lord's Prayer, Lyrical and full of praise during the tranquilsuccession of Hail Mary's, contemplative in the recollected meditation on the mysteriesand full of adoration during the doxology. This applies to all the ways in which theRosary is usually recited: privately, in intimate recollection with the Lord; incommunity, in the family or in groups of the faithful gathered together to ensure thespecial presence of the Lord (cf. Mt. 18:20); or publicly, in assemblies to which theecclesial community is invited.
51. In recent times certain exercises of piety have been created which take theirinspiration from the Rosary. Among such exercises we wish to draw attention to andrecommend those which insert into the ordinary celebration of the word of God someelements of the Rosary, such as meditation on the mysteries and litany-like repetition ofthe angel's greeting to Mary. In this way these elements gain in importance, since theyare found in the context of Bible readings, illustrated with a homily, accompanied bysilent pauses and emphasized with song. We are happy to know that such practices havehelped to promote a more complete understanding of the spiritual riches of the Rosaryitself and have served to restore esteem for its recitation among youth associations andmovements.
52. We now desire, as a continuation of the thought of our predecessors, to recommendstrongly the recitation of the family Rosary. The Second Vatican Council has pointed outhow the family, the primary and vital cell of society, "shows itself to be thedomestic sanctuary of the Church through the mutual affection of its members and thecommon prayer they offer to God." The Christian family is thus seen to be adomestic Church if its members, each according to his proper place and tasks, alltogether promote justice, practice works of mercy, devote themselves to helping theirbrethren, take part in the apostolate of the wider local community and play their part inits liturgical worship. This will be all the more true if together they offer upprayers to God. If this element of common prayer were missing, the family would lack itsvery character as a domestic Church. Thus there must logically follow a concrete effort toreinstate communal prayer in family life if there is to be a restoration of thetheological concept of the family as the domestic Church.
53. In accordance with the directives of the Council the Institutio Generalis deLiturgia Horarum rightly numbers the family among the groups in which the Divine Officecan suitably be celebrated in community: "It is fitting...that the family, as adomestic sanctuary of the Church, should not only offer prayers to God in common, butalso, according to circumstances, should recite parts of the Liturgy of the Hours, inorder to be more intimately linked with the Church." No avenue should be leftunexplored to ensure that this clear and practical recommendation finds within Christianfamilies growing and joyful acceptance.
54. But there is no doubt that, after the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, thehigh point which family prayer can reach, the Rosary should be considered as one of thebest and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited torecite. We like to think, and sincerely hope, that when the family gathering becomes atime of prayer, the Rosary is a frequent and favored manner of praying. We are well awarethat the changed conditions of life today do not make family gatherings easy, and thateven when such a gathering is possible many circumstances make it difficult to turn itinto an occasion of prayer. There is no doubt of the difficulty. But it is characteristicof the Christian in his manner of life not to give in to circumstances but to overcomethem, not to succumb but to make an effort. Families which want to live in full measurethe vocation and spirituality proper to the Christian family must therefore devote alltheir energies to overcoming the pressures that hinder family gatherings and prayer incommon.
55. In concluding these observations, which give proof of the concern and esteem whichthe Apostolic See has for the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin, we desire at the same time torecommend that this very worthy devotion should not be propagated in a way that is tooone-sided or exclusive. The Rosary is an excellent prayer, but the faithful should feelserenely free in its regard. They should be drawn to its calm recitation by its intrinsicappeal.
56. Venerable Brothers, as we come to the end of this our Apostolic Exhortation we wishto sum up and emphasize the theological value of devotion to the Blessed Virgin and torecall briefly its pastoral effectiveness for renewing the Christian way of life.
The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an intrinsic element of Christianworship. The honor which the Church has always and everywhere shown to the Mother of theLord, from the blessing with which Elizabeth greeted Mary (cf. Lk. 1:42-45) right up tothe expressions of praise and petition used today, is a very strong witness to theChurch's norm of prayer and an invitation to become more deeply conscious of her norm offaith. And the converse is likewise true. The Church's norm of faith requires that hernorm of prayer should everywhere blossom forth with regard to the Mother of Christ. Suchdevotion to the Blessed Virgin is firmly rooted in the revealed word and has soliddogmatic foundations. It is based on the singular dignity of Mary, "Mother of the Sonof God, and therefore beloved daughter of the Father and Temple of the HolySpiritMary, who, because of this extraordinary grace, is far greater than any othercreature on earth or in heaven." This devotion takes into account the part sheplayed at decisive moments in the history of the salvation which her Son accomplished, andher holiness, already full at her Immaculate Conception yet increasing all the time as sheobeyed the will of the Father and accepted the path of suffering (cf. Lk. 2:34-35, 41-52;Jn. 19:25-27), growing constantly in faith, hope and charity. Devotion to Mary recalls tooher mission and the special position she holds within the People of God, of which she isthe preeminent member, a shining example and the loving Mother; it recalls her unceasingand efficacious intercession which, although she is assumed into heaven, draws her closeto those who ask her help, including those who do not realize that they are her children.It recalls Mary's glory which ennobles the whole of mankind, as the outstanding phrase ofDante recalls: "You have so ennobled human nature that its very Creator did notdisdain to share in it." Mary, in fact, is one of our race, a true daughter ofEvethough free of that mother's sinand truly our sister, who as a poor andhumble woman fully shared our lot.
We would add further that devotion to the Blessed Virgin finds its ultimatejustification in the unfathomable and free will of God who, being eternal and divinecharity (cf. 1 Jn. 4:7-8, 16), accomplishes all things according to a loving design. Heloved her and did great things for her (cf. Lk. 1:49). He loved her for His own sake, andHe loved her for our sake, too; He gave her to Himself and He gave her also to us.
57. Christ is the only way to the Father (cf. Jn. 14:4-11), and the ultimate example towhom the disciple must conform his own conduct (cf. Jn. 13:15), to the extent of sharingChrist's sentiments (cf. Phil. 2:5), living His life and possessing His Spirit (cf. Gal.2:20; Rom. 8:10-11). The Church has always taught this and nothing in pastoral activityshould obscure this doctrine. But the Church, taught by the Holy Spirit and benefitingfrom centuries of experience, recognizes that devotion to the Blessed Virgin, subordinatedto worship of the divine Savior and in connection with it, also has a great pastoraleffectiveness and constitutes a force for renewing Christian living. It is easy to see thereason for this effectiveness. Mary's many-sided mission to the People of God is asupernatural reality which operates and bears fruit within the body of the Church. Onefinds cause for joy in considering the different aspects of this mission, and seeing howeach of these aspects with its individual effectiveness is directed towards the same end,namely, producing in the children the spiritual characteristics of the first-born Son. TheVirgin's maternal intercession, her exemplary holiness and the divine grace which is inher become for the human race a reason for divine hope.
The Blessed Virgin's role as Mother leads the People of God to turn with filialconfidence to her who is ever ready to listen with a mother's affection and efficaciousassistance. Thus the People of God have learned to call on her as the Consoler of theafflicted, the Health of the sick, and the Refuge of sinners, that they may find comfortin tribulation, relief in sickness and liberating strength in guilt. For she, who is freefrom sin, leads her children to combat sin with energy and resoluteness. Thisliberation from sin and evil (cf. Mt. 6:13)it must be repeatedis the necessarypremise for any renewal of Christian living.
The Blessed Virgin's exemplary holiness encourages the faithful to "raise theireyes to Mary who shines forth before the whole community of the elect as a model of thevirtues." It is a question of solid, evangelical virtues: faith and the docileacceptance of the Word of God (cf. Lk. 1:26-38, 1:45, 11:27-28, Jn. 2:5); generousobedience (cf. Lk. 1:38); genuine humility (cf. Lk. 1:48); solicitous charity (cf. Lk.1:39-56); profound wisdom (cf. Lk. 1:29, 34; 2:19, 33:51); worship of God manifested inalacrity in the fulfillment of religious duties (cf. Lk. 2:2141), in gratitude for giftsreceived (cf. Lk. 1:46-49), in her offering in the Temple (cf. Lk. 2:22-24) and in herprayer in the midst of the apostolic community (cf. Acts 1:12-14); her fortitude in exile(cf. Mt. 2:13-23) and in suffering (cf. Lk. 2:34-35, 49; Jn. 19:25); her povertyreflecting dignity and trust in God (cf. Lk. 1:48, 2:24); her attentive care for her Son,from His humble birth to the ignominy of the cross (cf. Lk. 2:1-7; Jn. 19:25-27); herdelicate forethought (cf. Jn. 2:1-11); her virginal purity (cf. Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-38);her strong and chaste married love. These virtues of the Mother will also adorn herchildren who steadfastly study her example in order to reflect it in their own lives. Andthis progress in virtue will appear as the consequence and the already mature fruit ofthat pastoral zeal which springs from devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Devotion to the Mother of the Lord becomes for the faithful an opportunity for growingin divine grace, and this is the ultimate aim of all pastoral activity. For it isimpossible to honor her who is "full of grace" (Lk. 1:28) without therebyhonoring in oneself the state of grace, which is friendship with God, communion with Himand the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is this divine grace which takes possession ofthe whole man and conforms him to the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18).The Catholic Church, endowed with centuries of experience, recognizes in devotion to theBlessed Virgin a powerful aid for man as he strives for fulfillment. Mary, the New Woman,stands at the side of Christ, the New Man, within whose mystery the mystery of manalone finds true light; she is given to us as a pledge and guarantee that God's plan inChrist for the salvation of the whole man has already achieved realization in a creature:in her. Contemplated in the episodes of the Gospels and in the reality which she alreadypossesses in the City of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary offers a calm vision and areassuring word to modern man, torn as he often is between anguish and hope, defeated bythe sense of his own limitations and assailed by limitless aspirations, troubled in hismind and divided in his heart, uncertain before the riddle of death, oppressed byloneliness while yearning for fellowship, a prey to boredom and disgust. She shows forththe victory of hope over anguish, of fellowship over solitude, of peace over anxiety, ofjoy and beauty over boredom and disgust, of eternal visions over earthly ones, of lifeover death.
Let the very words that she spoke to the servants at the marriage feast of Cana,"Do whatever he tells you" (Jn. 2:5), be a seal on our Exhortation and a furtherreason in favor of the pastoral value of devotion to the Blessed Virgin as a means ofleading men to Christ. Those words, which at first sight were limited to the desire toremedy an embarrassment at the feast, are seen in the context of Saint John's Gospel tore-echo the words used by the people of Israel to give approval to the Covenant at Sinai(cf. Ex. 19:8, 24:3, 7; Dt. 5:27) and to renew their commitments (cf. Jos. 24:24; Ezr.10:12; Neh. 5:12). And they are words which harmonize wonderfully with those spoken by theFather at the theophany on Mount Tabor: "Listen to him" (Mt. 17:5).
58. Venerable Brothers, we have dealt at length with an integral element of Christianworship: devotion to the Mother of the Lord. This has been called for by the nature of thesubject, one which in these recent years has been the object of study and revision and attimes the cause of some perplexity. We are consoled to think that the work done by thisApostolic See and by yourselves in order to carry out the norms of theCouncilparticularly the liturgical reformis a stepping-stone to an ever morelively and adoring worship of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and to anincrease of the Christian life of the faithful. We are filled with confidence when we notethat the renewed Roman liturgy, also taken as a whole, is a splendid illustration of theChurch's devotion to the Blessed Virgin. We are upheld by the hope that the directivesissued in order to render this devotion ever more pure and vigorous will be applied withsincerity. We rejoice that the Lord has given us the opportunity of putting forward somepoints for reflection in order to renew and confirm esteem for the practice of the rosary.Comfort, confidence, hope and joy are the sentiments which we wish to transform intofervent praise and thanksgiving to the Lord as we unite our voice with that of the BlessedVirgin in accordance with the prayer of the Roman Liturgy.
Dear Brothers, while we express the hope that, thanks to your generous commitment,there will be among the clergy and among the people entrusted to your care a salutaryincrease of devotion to Mary with undoubted profit for the Church and for society, wecordially impart our special apostolic blessing to yourselves and to all the faithfulpeople to whom you devote your pastoral zeal.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the second day of February, the Feast of thePresentation of the Lord, in the year 1974, the eleventh of our Pontificate.
1) Cf. Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones IV, 3, 6-10: CSEL 19, p. 279.
2) Cf. II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SacrosanctumConcilium, 1-3, 11, 21, 48: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 97-98, 102-103, 105-l06, 113.
3) II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium,103: AAS 56 (1964), p. 125.
4) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,66: AAS 57 (1965), p. 65.
6) Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Preface.
7) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium,66-67: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 65-66, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SacrosanctumConcilium, 103: AAS 56 (1964), p. 125.
8) Apostolic Exhortation, Signum Magnum: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 465-475.
9) Cf. II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SacrosanctumConcilium, 3: AAS 56 (I), p. 98.
10) Cf. II Vatican Council, ibid., 102: AAS 56 (1964), p. 125.
11) Cf. Roman Missal restored by Decree of the Sacred Ecumenical II VaticanCouncil, promulgated by authority of Pope Paul VI typical edition, MCMLXX, 8 December,Preface.
12) Roman Missal, restored by Decree of the Sacred Ecumenical II Vatican Councilpromulgated by authority of Pope Paul VI, Orio Lectionum Missae. typical editionMCMLXIX, p. 8, First Reading (Year A: Is 7:10-14: "Behold a Virgin shallconceive"; Year B: 2 Sam 7:1-15: 8b-11. 16: "The throne of David shall beestablished for ever before the face of the Lord"; Year C: Mic. 5:2-5a [Heb 1-4a]:"Out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel").
13) Ibid., p. 8, Gospel (Year A: Mt 1:18-24: "Jesus is born of Mary who wasespoused to Joseph. the son of David"; Year B: Lk 1:26-38: "You are to conceiveand bear a son"; Year C: Lk 1:39-45: "Why should I be honoured with a visit fromthe Mother of my Lord?").
14) Cf. Roman Missal, Advent Preface, II.
15) Roman Missal, ibid.
16) Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer I, Communicantes for Christmas and itsoctave.
17) Roman Missal, 1 January, Entry antiphon and Collect.
18) Cf. Roman Missal, 22 August, Collect.
19) Roman Missal, 8 September, Prayer after Communion .
20) Roman Missal, 31 May, Collect.
21) Cf. ibid., Collect and Prayer over the gifts.
22) Cf. Roman Missal, 15 September, Collect.
23) Cf. 1, p. 15.
24) From among the many anaphoras cf. the following which are held in special honour bythe Eastern rites: Anaphora Marci Evangelistae: Prex Eucharistica, ed. A. Hanggi-l. Pahl,Fribourg, Editions Universitaires, 1968, p. 107; Anaphora Iacobi fratris Domini graecaibid., p. 257; Anaphora Iannis Chrysostomi, ibid., p. 229.
25) Cf. Roman Missal, 8 December, Preface.
26) Cf. Roman Missal, 15 August, Preface.
27) Cf. Roman Missal, 1 January, Prayer after Communion.
28) Cf. Roman Missal, Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 6, Paschaltide,Collect.
29) Roman Missal, 15 September, Collect.
30) Roman Missal, 31 May Collect. On the same lines is the Preface of theBlessed Virgin Mary, II: "We doe well... in celebrating the memory of the VirginMary... to glorify your love for us in the words of her song of thanksgiving."
31) Cf. Lectionary, III Sunday of Advent (Year C: Zeph 3:14-18a): IV Sunday ofAdvent (cf. above footnote 12); Sunday within the octave of Christmas (Year A, Mt 2:13-15;19-23; Year B: Lk 2:22-40; Year C: Lk 2:41-52) II Sunday after Christmas (Jn 1:1-18) VIISunday after Easter (Year A: Acts 1:12-14); II Sunday of the Year C: Jn 1:1-12); X Sundayof the Year (Year B: Gen 3:9-15); XIV Sunday of the Year (Year B: Mk 6:1-6).
32) Cf. Lectionary, the catechumenate and baptism of adults the Lord's Prayer(Second Reading, 2, Gal 4:4-7); Christian initiation outside the Easter Vigil (Gospel, 7,Jn 1:1-5; 9-14; 16-18); Nuptial Mass (Gospel, 7, Jn 2:1-11); Consecration of Virgins andreligious profession (First Reading 7, Is 61:9-11; Gospel, 6, Mk 3:31-35; Lk 1:26-38 [cf. OrdoConsecrationis Virginum, 130; Ordo professionis religiosae, Pars altera, 145]).
33) Cf. Lectionary, For refugees and exiles (Gospel, 1, Mt 2:13-15, 19-23); Inthanksgiving (First Reading, 4, Zeph 3:14-15).
34) Cf. La Divina Commedia, Paradiso XXXIII, 1-9, cf. Liturgy of the Hours, remembranceof Our Lady on Saturdays, Office of Reading, Hymn.
35) Ordo baptismi parvulorum, 48: Ordo initiationis christianaeadultorum, 214.
36) Cf. Rituale Romanum, Tit. VII, cap. III, De benedictione mulieris post partum.
37) Cf. Ordo professionis religiosae, Pars Prior, 57 and 67.
38) Cf. Ordo consecrationis virginum, 16.
39) Cf. Ordo professionis religiosae, Pars Prior, 62 and 142; Pars Altera, 67and 158; Ordo consecrationis virginum, 18 and 20.
40) Cf. Ordo unctionis infirmorum eorumque pastoralis curae, 143, 146, 147, 150
41) Cf. Roman Missal, Masses for the Dead, For dead brothers and sisters,relations and benefactors, Collect.
42) Cf. Ordo exsequiarum, 226.
43) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,63: AAS 57 (1965), p. 64.
44) Cf. II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SacrosanctumConcilium, 7: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 100; 101.
45) Sermo 215, 4: PL 38, 1074.
47) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum,21: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 827-828.
48) Cf. Adversus Haereses IV, 7, 1: PG 7, 1, 990-991; S. Ch. 100, t. II, pp.454-458.
49) Cf. Adversus Haereses III, 10, 2: PG 7, 1, 873; S. Ch. 34, p. 164.
50) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,62: AAS 57 (1965), p. 63.
51) II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium,83: AAS 56 (1964), p. 121.
52) II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 63: AAS57 (1965), p. 64.
53) Ibid., 64: AAS 57 (1965), p. 64.
54) Tractatus XXV (In Nativitate Domini), 5: CCL 138, p. 123; S. Ch. 22 bis, p.132; cf. also Tractatus XXIX (In Nativitate Domini), I: CCL ibid., p. 147; S. Chibid., p. 178; Tractatus LXIII (De Passione Domini) 6: CCL ibid., p. 386; S. Ch.74, p. 82.
55) M. Ferotin, Le Liber Mozarabicus Sacramentorum, col. 56.
56) In Purificatione B. Mariae, Sermo III, 2: PL 183, 370; Sancti Bernardi Opera, ed.J. Leclercq-H. Rochais, vol. IV, Rome 1966, p. 342.
57) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,57: AAS 57 (1965), p. 61.
58) Ibid., 58: AAS 57 (1965), p. 61.
59) Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis: AAS 35 (1943), p.247.
60) Cf. II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SacrosanctumConcilium, 47: AAS 56 (1964), p. 113.
61) Ibid., 102, 106: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 125, 126.
62) "...deign to remember all who have been pleasing to you throughout the agesthe holy Father, Patriarchs. Prophets. Apostles... and the holy and glorious Mother of Godand all the saints... may they remember our misery and poverty, and together with us maythey offer you this great and unbloody sacrifice": Anaphora Iacobi fratris Dominisyriaca: Prex Eucharistica ed. A. Hanggi-l. Pahl, Fribourg, Editions Universitaires, 1968,p. 274.
63) Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, 11, 26: CSEL 32, IV, p. 55; S. Ch. 45, pp.83-84.
64) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,62: AAS 57 (1965), p. 63.
65) II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium,103: AAS 56 (1964), p. 125.
66) II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 67: AAS57 (1965), pp. 65-66.
67) Cf. ibid.
68) Cf. II Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SacrosanctumConcilium, 104: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 125-126.
69) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,66: AAS 57 (1965), p. 65.
70) Cf. Paul VI, Talk of 24 April 1970, in the church of Our Lady of Bonaria inCagliari: AAS 62 (1970), p. 300.
71) Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Ineffabilis Deus: Pii IX Pontificis Maximi Acta I,1 Rome 1854, p. 599. Cf. also V. Sardi, La solenne definizione del dogma dell'Immacolatoconcepimento di Maria Sanctissima. Atti e documenti... Rome 1904-1905, vol. II, p. 302.
72) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,66: AAS 57 (1965), p. 65.
73) S. Ildephonsus, De virginitate perpetua sanctae Mariae, chapter XII: PL 96, 108.
74) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,56: AAS 57 (1965), p. 60 and the authors mentioned in note 176 of the document.
75) Cf. St. Ambrose, De Spiritu Sancto II, 37-38; CSEL 79 pp. 100-101; Cassian, Deincarnatione Domini II, chapter II: CSEL 17, pp. 247-249; St. Bede, Homilia I, 3: CCL 122,p. 18 and p. 20.
76) Cf. St. Ambrose, De institutione virginis, chapter XII, 79: PL 16 (ed. 1880), 339;Epistula 30, 3 and Epistula 42, 7: ibid., 1107 and 1175 Expositio evangelii secundum LucamX, 132 S. Ch. 52 p. 200; S. Proctus of Constantinople, Oratio I, 1 and Oratio V, 3: PG 65,681 and 720: St. Basil of Seleucia, Oratio XXXIX, 3: PG 85, 433; St. Andrew of Crete,Oratio IV: PG 97, 868; St. Germanus of Constantinople, Oratio III, 15: PG 98, 305.
77) Cf. St. Jerome, Adversus lovinianum I, 33: PL 23, 267; St. Ambrose, Epistula 63,33: PL 16 (ed. 1880), 1249; De institutione virginis, chapter XVII, 105: ibid. 346; DeSpiritu Sancto III, 79-80: CSEL 79, pp. 182-183; Sedulius, Hymn "A solis ortuscardine", verses 13-14: CSEL 10, p. 164; Hymnus Acathistos, Str. 23; ed. 1. B. Pitra,Analecta Sacra I, p. 261; St. Proctus of Constantinople, Oratio I, 3: PG 65, 648: OratioII, 6: Ibid., 700; St. Basil of Seleucia, Oratio IV, In Nativitatem B. Mariae: PG 97, 868;St. John Damascene, Oratio IV, 10: PG 96, 677.
78) Cf. Severus of Anthioch, Homilia 57; PO 8, pp. 357-358; Hesychius of Jerusalem,Homilia de sancta Maria Deipara, PG 93, 1464; Chrysippus of Jerusalem, Oratio in sanctamMariam Deiparam, 2 PO 19, p. 338; St. Andrew of Crete, Oratio V: PG 97, 896: St. JohnDamascene, Oratio VI, 6: PG 96, 972.
79) Liber Apotheosis, verses 571-572: CCL 126, p. 97.
80) Cf. S. Isidore, De ortu et obitu Patrum, chapter LXVII, 111: PL 83, 148; St.Ildephonsus, De virginitate perpetua sanctae Mariae, chapter X: PL 96, 95; St. Bernard, InAssumptione B. Virginis Mariae: Sermo IV, 4: PL 183, 428; In Nativitate B. VirginisMariae: II, Oratio ad Deum Filium: PL 145, 921; Antiphon "Beata Dei GenetrixMaria": Corpus antiphonalium officii, ed. R. J. Hesbert, Rome 1970, vol. IV, n. 6314,p. 80.
81) Cf. Paulus Diaconus, Homilia I, In Assumptione B. Mariae Virginis: PL 95, 1567; DeAssumptione sanctae Mariae Virginis: Paschasio Radherto trib., 31, 42, 57, 83: ed. A.Ripberger, in "Spicilegium Friburgense", 9, 1962, pp. 72, 76, 84, 96-97; Eadmerof Canterbury, De excellentia Virginis Mariae, chapters IV-V: PL 159, 562-567: St.Bernard, In laudibus Virginis Matris, Homilia IV, 3: Sancti Bernardi Opera, ed. J.Leclercq-H. Rochais, IV Rome 1966, pp. 49-50.
82) Cf. Origen, In Lucam Homilia VII, 3: PG 13, 1817; S. Ch. 87, p. 156; St. Cyril ofAlexandria, Commentarius in Aggacum prophetam, chapter XIX: PG 71, 1060; St. Ambrose, Defide IV 9, 113-114: CSEL 78, pp. 197-198: Expositio evangelii secundum; Lucam II, 23 and27-28: CSEL 32, IV, pp. 53-54 and 55-56; Severianus Galbalensis, In mundi creationem,Oratio VI, 10: PG 56, 497-498; Antipater of Bostra, Homilia in Sanctissimae DeiparaeAnnuntiationem, 16: PG 85, 1785.
83) Cf. Eadmer of Canterbury, De excellentia Virginis Mariae, chapter VII: PL 159, 571:St. Amedeus of Lausanne, De Maria Virginea Matre, Homilia VII: PL 188, 1337; S. Ch. 72, p.184.
84) De virginitate perpetua sanctae mariae, chapter XII: PL 96, 106.
85) II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 54: AAS57 (1965), p. 59. Cf. Paulus VI, Allocutio ad Patres Conciliares habita, altera exactaConcilii Oecumenici Vaticani Secundi Sessione, 4 December 1963: AAS 56 (1964), p.57.
86) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium,6, 7-8. 9-11: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 8-9, 9-12, 12-21.
87) Ibid., 63: AAS 57 (1965), p. 64.
88) St. Cyprian, De Catholicae Ecclesiae unitate, 5: CSEL 3, p. 214.
89) Isaac de Stella, Sermo LI, In Assumptione B. Mariae: PL 194, 1863.
90) Sermo XXX, 1: S. Ch. 164, p. 134.
91) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,66-69: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 65-67.
92) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum,25: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 829-830.
93) Op cit., 13: AAS 50 (1964), p. 103.
94) Cf. Officum magni canonis paracletici, Magnum Orologion, Athens 1963, p. 558;passim in liturgical canons and prayers: cf. Sophronius Eustradiadou, Theotokarion,Chennevieres, sur Marne 1931, pp. 9, 19.
95) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,69: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 66-67
96) Cf. ibid., 66: AAS 57 (1965), p. 65; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SacrosanctumConcilium, 103: AAS 56 (1964), p. 125.
97) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,67: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 65-66.
98) Ibid., 66: AAS 57 (1965), p. 65.
99) Cf. Paul VI, Address in the Vatican Basilica to the Fathers of the Council, 21November 1964: AAS 56 (1964), p. 1017.
100)Cf. II Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, 20: AAS57 (1965), p. 105.
101) Encyclical Letter, Adiutricem Populi: ASS 28 (1895-1896), p. 135.
102) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,56: AAS 57 (1965), p. 60.
103) Cf. St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo CXLIII: PL 52, 583.
104) II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 55:AAS 57 (1965), pp. 59-60.
105) Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution, Signum Magnum, I: AAS 59(1967), pp. 467-468: Roman Missal, 15 September, Prayer over the gifts.
106) Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 67: AAS 57(1965), pp. 65-66.
107) St. Augustine, In Johannis Evangelium Tractatus X, 3: CCL 36, pp. 101-102;Epistula 243, Ad Laetum, 9: CSEL 57, pp. 575-576; St. Bede, In Lucae Evangelium expositio,IV, XI, 28: CCL 120, p. 237; Homilia I, 4: CCL 122, pp. 26-27.
108) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,58: AAS 57 (1965), p. 61.
109) Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Advent, Collect. Similarly the Collect of 25March, which may be used in place of the previous one in the recitation of the Angelus.
110) Pius XII, Letter to the Archbishop of Manila, "Philippinas Insulas": AAS38 (1946), p. 419.
111) Discourse to the participants in the III Dominican International Rosary Congress:Insegnamenti di Paolo VI , 1, (1963) pp. 463-464.
112) In AAS 58 (1966), pp. 745-749.
113) In AAS 61 (1969), pp. 649-654.
114) Cf. 13: AAS 56 (1964), p. 103.
115) Decree on the Lay Apostolate, Apostolicam Actuositatem, II: AAS 58(1966), p. 848.
116) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,11: AAS 57 (1965), p. 16.
117) Cf. II Vatican Council, Decree on the Lay Apostolate, Apostolicam Actuositatem,11: AAS 58 (1966), p. 848.
118) Op cit., 27.
119) II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 53:AAS 57 (1965), pp. 58-59.
120) La Divina Commedia, Paradiso XXXIII, 4-6.
121) Cf. II Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,60-63; AAS 57 (1965), pp. 62-64.
122) Cf. ibid., 65: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 64-65.
123) Ibid., 65: AAS 57 (1965), p. 64.
124) Cf. II Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudiumet Spes, 22: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 1042-1044.
125) Cf. Roman Missal, 31 May, Collect.
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