In 1964 at the close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Paul VI bestowed upon Mary the title “Mother of the Church”. It is no accident that the Council chose to situate its discussion of Mary in the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. In chapter eight of this document the Council affirms its special love for Mary due to her role in salvation history and instructs the Church to look to Mary as an example of what it means to be a redeemed person. By meditating on Mary in light of the Word made flesh, the Church enters more intimately into the mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more like Christ. Mary is “the model of virtues”; in contemplating her holiness, imitating her charity, and in receiving the word of God in faith, the Church herself becomes a mother.2
In 1975 the Apostolic See proposed a votive Mass in honour of the Blessed Mary Mother of the Church, which has since been inserted into the Roman Missal, and is the basis of the new liturgical celebration. The Gospel passage for the Mass, from the Gospel of John 19:25 – 27, takes place at the foot of the Cross:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Mary is simultaneously present in the Church as the Mother of Christ and as the Mother that Christ gave to humanity in the person of the beloved disciple, John.3
Tradition holds that Mary prayed with the apostles in the upper room awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that gave birth to the Church. The members of this Church are the Body of Christ and united with Christ their Head they share the same mother, Mary. It is fitting that Pope Francis has chosen the following day to commemorate Mary’s motherly care of the pilgrim Church on earth. The new celebration reflects a maturation of liturgical veneration of Mary that “will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.”4
By: Simone Brosig, Ph.D | Director of Liturgy