Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
June 10, 2019
Today, in Mercy, we celebrate a rather new memorial feast. On February 11, 2018, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (yes, that really exists, even though it sounds a little bit like something from Harry Potter!) inscribed a new obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, into the General Roman Calendar. This memorial is celebrated every year on the Monday after Pentecost.
We might wonder why we need another feast and title for Mary after 2000 years of devotion to her. But the intent is to open our hearts and minds to new and more dynamic understandings of the role of Mary in our spirituality and theology.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said, upon announcing the feast:
This celebration 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.
When any new Feast is decreed, liturgical readings and texts are assigned to it. For this memorial, a Latin hymn was designated, written by the modern Latin poet Anselmo Lentini:
O virgo mater, filia tui beata Filii,
sublimis et humillima præ creaturis omnibus,
Divini tu consilii fixus ab ævo terminus,
tu decus et fastigium naturæ nostræ maximum:
Quam sic prompsisti nobilem,
ut summus eius conditor in ipsa per te fieret arte miranda conditus.
In utero virgine o amor revixit igneus,
cuius calore germinant flores in terra cæ lici.
Patri sit et Paraclito tuo que Nato gloria,
qui veste te mirabili circumdederunt gratiæ. Amen.
Interestingly, Lentini’s text is a clear replication of Dantė’s “Divine Comedy” – Paradiso Canto XXXIII, here translated by Longfellow:
Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son
Humble and high beyond all other creature,
The limit fixed of the eternal counsel,
Thou art the one who such nobility
To human nature gave, that its Creator
Did not disdain to make himself its creature.
Within thy womb rekindled was the love,
By heat of which in the eternal peace
After such wise this flower has germinated.
Here unto us thou art a noonday torch
Of charity, and below there among mortals
Thou art the living fountain—head of hope.
Lady thou art so great, and so prevailing,
That he who wishes grace, nor runs to thee
His aspirations without wings would fly.
Not only thy benignity gives succor
To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
Forerunneth of its own accord the asking
In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
In thee magnificence, in thee unites
Whate’er of goodness is in any creature.
This new memorial of Mary is a further development of the hopes of Pope Paul VI as indicated in his encyclical “Marialis Cultus”:
“ ( There is) the need for Episcopal conferences, local churches, religious families, and communities of the faithful to promote a genuine creative activity in proceeding to a careful revision of expressions and exercise of the piety directed toward the Blessed Virgin. We would like this revision to be respectful of sound tradition and open to the legitimate desires of today’s people.”
Elizabeth Johnson summarizes: “This renewed Mariology should be
- biblical, (rooted in scripture)
- liturgical, (respecting Mary’s role especially in Advent and Pentecost)
- ecumenical, (be in harmony with agreements already in place among Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholics)
- anthropological (conscious of the changing role of women in society, especially as women take on leadership in society: an image of Mary as passive and subservient is not acceptable to many modern women)
- theological (it would have God as the center – with Mary placed in relation to Christ and to the Church”
Catholic Update, “In Search of the Real Mary,” by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, (Cincinnati : St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001)
Music: Pascal Heni – Paradiso 33