Wednesday General Audience
Mary Shows Way to Full
Union With God, Pope Says
VATICAN CITY, MAR. 14, 2001 (Zenit.org).-
Here is a translation of John Paul II's address at today's general audience.
1. We began our meeting hearing one of the most well-known pages of
John's Apocalypse. In the pregnant woman, who gives birth to a son, before a
blood-red colored dragon that rages against her and against him whom she
generated, Christian liturgical and artistic tradition has seen the image of
Mary, the Mother of Christ. However, according to the primary intention of the
sacred author, if the birth of the baby represents the advent of the Messiah,
the woman obviously personifies the people of God, whether biblical Israel or
the Church. The Marian interpretation is not opposed to the ecclesial meaning of
the text, since Mary is a "figure of the Church" ("Lumen Gentium," 63; see St.
Ambrose, Expos. Lk, II, 7).
Therefore, in the depths of the faithful
community, the profile of the Mother of the Messiah is perceived. The dragon,
who evokes Satan and evil, rises against Mary and the Church, as already
indicated in the symbolism of the Old Testament; red is the sign of war,
slaughter, spilt blood; the "seven heads" crowned indicate a tremendous power,
while the "ten horns" recall the impressive strength of the beast described by
the prophet Daniel (see 7:7), also the image of the prevaricator's power that
rages in history.
2. Thus, good and evil confront one another. Mary, her
Son and the Church represent the apparent weakness and littleness of love, truth
and justice. Against them is unleashed the monstrous devastating energy of
violence, falsehood and injustice. However, the song that seals the passage
reminds us that the final verdict is entrusted to "the salvation, strength, the
Kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ" (Apocalypse 12:10).
Certainly, in the time of history the Church might be obliged to seek
refuge in the desert, as ancient Israel did on the way to the promised land.
Among other things, the desert is a traditional shelter for the persecuted, it
is the secret and serene ambit where divine protection is offered (see Genesis
21:14-19; 1 Kings 19:4-7). However, the woman remains in this shelter, as the
Apocalypse underlines (see 12:6,14), only for a limited period. The time of
anguish, of persecution, of trial is not, therefore, indefinite: In the end
there will be deliverance and it will be the hour of glory.
Contemplating this mystery from a Marian perspective, we can affirm that
"Mary, next to her Son, is the most perfect icon of the liberty and deliverance
of humanity and the cosmos. It is to her that the Church, of which she is mother
and model, must look to understand the meaning of her mission in its fullness"
(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Libertatis conscientia," March,
22, 1986, No. 97; see "Redemptoris Mater," No. 37).
3. Let us fix our
gave, then, on Mary, icon of the pilgrim Church in the desert of history, but
outstretched to the glorious end of the heavenly Jerusalem where she will shine
as the Bride of the Lamb, Christ the Lord. As the Eastern Church celebrates her,
the Mother of God is the Odighitria, she who "shows the way," namely Christ,
only mediator to lead us fully to the Father. A French poet sees in her "the
creature in her first honor and final flowering, as she came from God in the
morning of her original splendor" (P. Claudel, "La Vierge à Midi," ed. Pléiade,
In her Immaculate Conception, Mary is the perfect model of the
human creature who, full from the beginning of that divine grace that sustains
and transfigures the creature (see Luke 1:28) always chooses, in her freedom,
the way of God. In her glorious Assumption to heaven Mary is, instead, the image
of the creature called by the risen Christ to attain, at the end of history, the
fullness of communion with God in the resurrection of a blessed eternity. For
the Church, which often feels the weight of history and the siege of evil, the
Mother of Christ is the luminous emblem of humanity redeemed and enveloped in
4. The ultimate end of human events will take place when
"God may be everything to every one" (Corinthians 15:28) and, as the Apocalypse
announces, the "sea was no more" (21:1), namely the sign of the destructive
chaos and of evil will finally be eliminated. The Church will present herself to
Christ as a "Bride adorned for her Husband" (Apocalypse 21:2). That will be the
moment of intimacy and flawless love. However, already now, by looking at the
Virgin taken up to heaven, the Church has a foretaste of the joy that will be
given to her in fullness at the end of time. In the pilgrimage of faith through
history, Mary accompanies the Church like the "model of the ecclesial communion
in faith, charity and union with Christ. Eternally present in the mystery of
Christ, she is, in the midst of the Apostles, in the heart itself of the Church
being born and of the Church of all times. In fact, the Church was congregated
in the upper room of the cenacle with Mary, who was Jesus' mother, and with his
brothers. Therefore, one cannot speak of the Church if Mary, the Mother of the
Lord, is not present with his brothers" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, "Communionis notio," May 28, 1992, No. 19; see Cromazio di Aquileia,
5. Let us then sing our hymn of praise to Mary, image of
redeemed humanity, sign of the Church that lives in faith and love, anticipating
the fullness of the heavenly Jerusalem. "The poetic genius of St. Ephrem of
Syria, defined as "the zither of the Holy Spirit,' has tirelessly sung Mary,
leaving a still living impression on all the traditions of the Syrian Church"
("Redemptoris Mater," No. 31). He it is who represents Mary as the icon of
beauty: "She is holy in her body, beautiful in her spirit, pure in her thoughts,
honest in her intelligence, perfect in her feelings, chaste, firm in her
resolutions, immaculate in her heart, eminent, filled with all the virtues"
(Hymns to the Virgin Mary 1,4; ed. Th. J. Lamy, Hymns of Blessed Mary, Malines
1886, t. 2, col. 520). May this image shine at the center of every ecclesial
community as a perfect reflection of Christ and may it be as a sign raised among
the people, as a "city placed at the top of a mountain" and "an oil lamp on a
pedestal, to give light to all" (see Matthew 5:14-15).