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Mary model of the Church and of all Christians

Excerpt from the Encyclical Letter "Mother of the Redeemer"
Issued by Pope John Paul II, on March 25, 1987 (No. 37)

The Church, which from the beginning has modelled her earthly journey on that of the Mother of God, constantly repeats after her the words of the Magnificat. From the depths of the Virgin's faith at the Annunciation and the Visitation, the Church derives the truth about the God of the Covenant: the God who is Almighty and does "great things" for man: "holy is his name". In the Magnificat the Church sees uprooted that sin which is found at the outset of the earthly history of man and woman, the sin of disbelief and of "little faith" in God. In contrast with the "suspicion" which the "father of lies" sowed in the heart of Eve the first woman, Mary, whom tradition is wont to call the "new Eve" and the true "Mother of the living", boldly proclaims the undimmed truth about God: the holy and almighty God, who from the beginning is the source of all gifts, he who "has done great things" in her, as well as in the whole universe. In the act of creation God gives existence to all that is. In creating man, God gives the dignity of the image and likeness of himself in a special way as compared with all earthly creatures. Moreover, in his desire to give, God gives himself in the Son, notwithstanding man's sin: "He so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3:16), Mary is the first witness of this marvellous truth, which will be fully accomplished through "the works and words" (cf. Acts 1:1) of her Son and definitively through his Cross and Resurrection.

The Church, which even "amid trails and tribulations" does not cease repeating with Mary the words of the Magnificat, is sustained by the power of God's truth, proclaimed on the occasion with such extraordinary simplicity. At the same time, by means of this truth about God the Church desires to shed light upon the difficult and sometimes tangled paths of man's earthly existence. The Church's journey, therefore, near the end of the second Christian Millennium, involves a renewed commitment to her mission. Following him who said of himself: "(God) has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor" (cf. Lk 4:18), the Church has sought from generation to generation and still seeks today to accomplish that same mission.

The church's love of preference for the poor is wonderfully inscribed in Mary's Magnificat. The God of the covenant, celebrated in the exultation of her spirit by the Virgin of Nazareth, is also he who 'has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, ... filled the hungry with good things, sent the rich away empty, ... scattered the proud-heart ... and his mercy is from age to age on those who fear him." Mary is deeply imbued with the spirit of the "poor of Yahweh", who is the prayer of the Psalms awaited from God their salvation, placing all their trust in him (cf. Pss 25; 31; 35; 55). Mary truly proclaims the coming of the Messiah of the poor" (cf. Is 11:4, 61:1). Drawing from Mary's heart, from the depth of her faith expressed in the words of the Magnificat, the Church renews ever more effectively in herself the awareness that the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the manifestation of his love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which, celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus.

The Church is thus aware - and at the present time this awareness is particularly vivid - not only that these two elements of the message contained in the Magnificat cannot be separated, but also that there is a duty to safeguard carefully the importance of "the poor" and of "the option in favour of the poor" in the word of the living God. These are matters and questions intimately connected with the Christian meaning of freedom and liberation. "Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission".