Present in Every Sunday of the Church by Rev. Ignacio Calabuig, OSM

On May 31, 1998, the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Father addressed to all bishops, clergy, and faithful the apostolic letter Dies Domini on the "sanctification of the Lord's Day." The text is clear and divided into five chapters: 1) Day of the Lord; 2) Day of Christ; 3) Day of the Church; 4) Day of the Person; 5) Day of Days. Subtitles within the chapters give further expressive and suggestive names for Sunday: "day of the new creation," "day of Christ the Light," "day of the gift of the Holy Spirit," "day of faith," "unforsakable day," "first day and octave day."

I said the letter is very clear, but it is also timely, warning pastors and faithful that if we lose sight of the function and beauty of the Lord's Day, the day gets degraded and becomes simply a time for the tasks and chores that can't always be easily taken care of during the week because of social conditions today. In any case, the disciple of Christ, despite the prevailing culture, knows that the celebration of the Lord's Day, "given its many meanings and aspects and its link to the very foundations of the faith, remains an indispensable element of our Christian identity." (DD 30)

I found paragraph 86 of the letter interesting for its Mariological elements. From a partially new viewpoint, it considers the question of Mary's presence in the life of the Church. This is one of the basic themes of the encyclical Redemptoris Mater (March 25, 1987) and a topic which the Holy Father, in his talk at the Marianum on December 10, 1988, said "needs further study." (Marianum 50 [1988] 26)

1. A Presence

In Dies Domini the Holy Father says that Mary, without taking anything away from the centrality of Christ and His Spirit, is always present in the church's Sunday. What is the meaning of the affirmation that Mary, "is always present in the church's Sunday"? I don't think it's so much a matter of the temporal dimension, i.e., the twenty-four hours of the Dies Domini, as it is of the saving events the Church celebrates on that day "in which Christ conquered death and made us partakers of his immortal life." (Eucharistic Prayer III) It is the Eucharistic celebration, the Paschal memorial, that gives meaning and fullness to Sunday. It is the celebration of the Eucharist that makes of "the first day" or "the eighth day"--depending on the viewpoint from which it is considered--"the church's Sunday." On "the church's Sunday," every Sunday, Mary is present: she is present in the celebrating assembly and present in the mystery that is celebrated. This is a joyful and attractive view.

2. The Reason for This Presence

John Paul II was surely aware of the significance of his affirmation and felt the need to justify it. So he adds, "It is the mystery of Christ itself which demands this. Indeed, how could she who is mater Domini and mater Ecclesiae fail to be uniquely present on the day which is both dies Domini and dies ecclesiae?"

According to the Holy Father, the presence of the Blessed Virgin "on every Sunday of the church" is a requirement deriving from the "mystery of Christ" and arising from it. The expression "mystery of Christ" embraces the person and saving work of Jesus of Nazareth: his divinity, identical with that of the Father and the Spirit; his humanity, drawn from the Blessed Virgin and which he has in common with us; the redemption he achieved through the abasement of the Incarnation, in which he took on the form of a servant (cf. Phil 2,7), the irrepressible proclamation of the Good News; his body offered in sacrifice, his blood poured out as seal of the new and eternal Covenant; his resurrection, in which he defeated death and emptied the sepulcher. These are all saving events of the Redeemer, with which the Blessed Virgin was "inseparably linked." (SC 103) But Mary is also closely linked to the Church: of the body of Christ she is the most eminent member (cf. LG 53), and of the Church's children she is the Mother who brought them to life (cf. Ibid.). Then John Paul II rightly concludes with the rhetorical question: "How could she who is mater Domini and mater ecclesiae fail to be uniquely present on the day which is both dies Domini and dies ecclesiae? Her presence is affirmed in consideration of how absurd her absence would be."

In the words of the Holy Father we have to take note of the term "uniquely." It refers to two facts or realities in the order of grace that concern Mary exclusively.

First, the presence of the Blessed Virgin in the Sunday celebration of the divine mysteries is not something reserved exclusively to her. In the Eucharistic celebration the voices of the faithful, still earthly pilgrims, join with those of the angels and saints, already citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. But the Blessed Virgin is "uniquely" present because only she is the true Mother of Christ and the "generous associate" (socia) (LG 61), and only she is Mother of the Church in sense of Paul VI's proclamation of November 21, 1964.

Second, the bond that unites the Mother to the Son was not loosened with her assumption to heaven; rather it was strengthened. The Blessed Virgin, different in this respect from all the blessed, is already glorified in the whole of her existence and fully conformed to the risen Christ. She is where the Risen One is, as is His will (cf. Jr. 17,24), there where the life of grace springs forth, where it is nourished and bears life-filled fruit.

3. The Ways of Her Being Present

In the second part of paragraph 86, John Paul II describes some of the aspects of the ways Mary is present. "As they listen to the word proclaimed in the Sunday assembly, the faithful look to the Virgin Mary, learning from her to keep it and ponder it in their hearts (cf. Lk. 2:19). With Mary, they learn to stand at the foot of the cross, offering to the Father the sacrifice of Christ and joining to it the offering of their own lives. With Mary, they experience the joy of the resurrection, making their own the words of the Magnificat which extol the inexhaustible gift of divine mercy in the inexorable flow of time: "His mercy is from age to age upon those who fear him" (Lk. 1:50)." From Sunday to Sunday, the pilgrim people follow in the footsteps of Mary, and her maternal intercession gives special power and fervor to the prayer which rises from the church to the most holy Trinity."

This is an original paragraph. Without going into a detailed commentary, I want to point out the various ways of Mary's presence in the Sunday Eucharist that the text mentions.

--Fr. Ignacio Calabuig, President

Taken from: Newsletter of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum, n.11, 2/1998, 1-3.

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