Pope John Paul II : Mother of the Redeemer

Pope John Paul II's first encyclical letter to the church, Redeemer of Man (1979), explained the leading theological ideas of his papacy: Christ -- God and man -- came to restore human beings to the freedom and dignity of which sin had deprived them. In Rich in Mercy (1980) and Lord and Giver of Life (1986) he continued to examine the trinitarian basis of Christian life and service. As Christ is the center of Pope John Paul's theology, so Christ's life is the center of the Christian year, which revolves around Advent-Christmas and Easter-Pentecost. To the mysteries of Christ are added the Marian feasts like the Immaculate Conception, Annunciation and Assumption. To the annual cycle of these feasts corresponds a wider cycle: as the year 2000 is the anniversary of Christ's birth, so the Marian year of 1987-1988 commemorates the anniversary of Mary's birth. Pope John explains the meaning of this Marian year in his encyclical, Mother of the Redeemer ( Redemptoris Mater , 25 March 1987), which is divided into three parts.

(1) Mary in the Mystery of Christ. Mary was given the fullness of the life of grace by him to whom she gave life in the order of earthly birth. She received the grace of Christ through her faith, even before she conceived Christ in her virgin womb. Her faithful reception of the angel's message at the Annunciation was the beginning of her life-long pilgrimage of faith, which Pope John outlines beautifully, as he meditates on what the Scriptures tell us about Mary's life. As Mary was present at her Son's birth and death, so, too, she was present, praying for the coming of the Spirit, at the birth of the Church on Pentecost.

(2) The Mother of God at the Center of the Pilgrim Church. Mary is present in the church as we journey through time and space. The theology of the church and the theology of Mary are two areas of disagreement among many Christian groups. However, the Eastern churches share with Catholic tradition a deep devotion to Mary. Moreover, Mary, the humble daughter of Sion, proclaimed in her Magnificat the gospel of freedom and liberation for the poor, which is the special concern of many churches today. She is the perfect model of a truly free person.

(3) Maternal Mediation. By accepting her calling to be the Lord's handmaid, the virgin Mary became the mother of the Redeemer. Her mother's care for him grew into a burning charity for all those to whom his mission was directed. As virgin, she is a model of fidelity to the Word; as mother, a model of fruitful mission. Bodily assumed into heaven, she expresses the fullness of grace which is the goal of the church's pilgrimage, and she embraces each member of the church in her love.