Article 82 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Paragraphs 963-975 Mary
Allow me to propose two questions for your consideration: 1). Who in the world’s history transcends all others as the most famous woman? Examine all of literature – all our poetry, our novels, our dramas; examine Sacred Scripture itself. Consider the world of art – those masterpieces prized by the art museums of every nation. Inquire into the fame of important women everywhere. You will inevitably conclude that there is only one answer: Mary of Nazareth is the most famous woman in the world. Why? Because she is the Mother of God and our Mother.
2). What comes to mind when you hear the word “fiat”?
For some, the word “fiat” brings to mind the largest automobile manufacturer in Italy. In most English dictionaries, however, the word “fiat” is defined as “a command or act of will that creates something without, or as if without, further effort.” In short, “fiat” is defined as an “authoritative determination.”
Mary, the mother of Jesus’ “fiat” is summarized in the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel (1:38) when the Angel Gabriel came to her and announced that she would “conceive in your womb and bear a son” and she would “call his name Jesus” (Lk 1: 31). Mary’s “fiat” or response was: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according toyour word” (Lk 1:38). Mary’s “fiat” made it possible for Jesus Our Savior, the Son of God, to make His entrance into human history. The Catechism summarizes it this way: “By pronouncing her ‘fiat’ at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body” (ccc 973).
The opening paragraph in this section of theCatechism states emphatically: “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church” (ccc 963) is wholly united with her Son. Quoting from the Second Vatican Council’s 1964 “DogmaticConstitution on the Church”
(“Lumen Gentium,” 57), the Catechism continues, “Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it…This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death” (ccc 964). The “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” teaches us that following the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, Mary stayed with the members of the infant Church and helped them “by her prayers” (“Lumen Gentium,” 69). In her association with the apostles and several women, “we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation” (ccc 965). Three main points considered in this section of the Catechism on Mary, the Mother of God, include: 1. By pronouncing her “fiat” at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body (ccc 973).
2. The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body (ccc 974). 3. The Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ (Paul VI, CPG § 15) (ccc 975).
Mary, the first and most perfect disciple, has been honored by followers of Christ from the earliest days of the Church, most especially with the title “Mother of God” (ccc 971). Other titles by which Mary has been honored include that of “Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (ccc 969). From her present place in heaven, “in the glory which she possesses in body and soul” (ccc 972), “the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother” (ccc 972). To say it another way, where Mary has gone with a glorified body and soul, we hope to follow one day with a glorified body and soul.
The Catechism explains
further that by the Virgin Mary’s total commitment to the Father’s will, to the redemptive work of God’s Son, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, she “is the Church’s model of faith and charity” (ccc 967). Therefore, the Church rightly honors her “with special devotion” (ccc 971).
One of the final passages in this section reminds us that Mary, “in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come” (ccc 972). In this regard, Mary serves as “a sign of certain hope and comfort to (us), the pilgrim People” (ccc 972).
To summarize, “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death” (ccc 966). The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.
As we imitate Mary in all things, may we echo her “fiat” through our discipleship: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to the will of God” (see Lk 1:38).
Father Hillier serves as Director of the Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Censor Librorum and oversees the Office for Persons with Disabilities