11 March 2013

Vatican II: Lumen Gentium V

After a two-day hiatus during which I couldn't really string together coherent sentences at this time of night, I'm back!  And just in time for the conclave, too.  Assuming a pope isn't elected on the first ballot tomorrow, I may offer some thoughts tomorrow on who I hope/think will be elected, but for now, it's time to finish up my posts on Lumen Gentium with the last topic covered by the Council Fathers: the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to esteemed sources (read: Wikipedia), there apparently was some debate over the format of the Fathers' writings on Mary -- some of them wanted to keep this part as a separate document so as not to offend Protestants.  Because really, Protestants weren't offended enough when the Fathers wrote that salvation comes through the Church?  Fortunately, that argument did not win the day, and Lumen Gentium closes with a lengthy section on Mary's relationship to the Church.

The Fathers begin by setting forth Mary's role in the economy of salvation.  In paragraph 56, we find:
Embracing God's salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption. Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she "being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race." Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert in their preaching, "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith." Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her "the Mother of the living," and still more often they say: "death through Eve, life through Mary."
In expounding on Mary and the Church, the Council Fathers make it abundantly clear (to answer a common Protestant objection to the Church's view of Mary) that the honor given to her does not diminish Christ's role as the sole mediator between God and man.
For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.
 On Mary as preeminent example for the Christian faithful:
Piously meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church with reverence enters more intimately into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her Spouse. For Mary, who since her entry into salvation history unites in herself and re-echoes the greatest teachings of the faith as she is proclaimed and venerated, calls the faithful to her Son and His sacrifice and to the love of the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her exalted Type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things. 
The Fathers certainly do not call for a de-emphasis on the Church's Marian teachings, as many of the "Spirit of Vatican II crowd" like to claim.  Instead, they are clear about the Blessed Mother's role in salvation history and the Church.
This most Holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and the practices and exercises of piety, recommended by the magisterium of the Church toward her in the course of centuries be made of great moment, and those decrees, which have been given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed.
The section (and the constitution) close with a wonderful petition to Mary, asking her prayers and protection for all people of the world, that we may all be gathered together as one:
The entire body of the faithful pours forth instant supplications to the Mother of God and Mother of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints, until all families of people, whether they are honored with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. 
Amen.  On the eve of the conclave, may Our Lady protect us with her most powerful motherly intercession as she always does.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.  Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.  Amen. 

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