The major Marian teaching of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, chapter 8 does not stand
alone. It has to be studied in terms of the counciliar action and documents that preceded and
followed it. The evolution of the council's understanding of itself in terms of discussion on
theological issues to a seeing itself as a pastoral council is another factor that determines how
Mary was presented in Lumen Gentium.
In 1963, prior to Lumen Gentium, chapter 8, in 1964, two documents were
published, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and The Decree on the Means of
Social Communication. Parallel to Lumen Gentium two decrees were published,
The Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches and The Decree on Ecumenism.
The first document approved at the end of the 1963 session was The Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy. The centrality of sacred liturgy, especially eucharistic liturgy, as focal point
and gathering place of the People of God, was reaffirmed. Henceforth, all conciliar discussion
would be keenly aware of the liturgical changes involved (for example, use of the vernacular)
and the goal to vivify and unite the Church in the liturgy.
Article 103 on Mary is the first official Vatican II statement on Mary and is quoted here
in its entirety:
103 In celebrating this annual cycle of the mysteries of Christ, Holy
Church honors the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, with a special love. She is inseparably linked
with her son's saving work. In her the Church admires and exalts the most excellent fruit of
redemption, and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image, that which she herself desires and
hopes wholly to be.
From the start, the council affirms its special love for Mary due to her role in salvation history
and her inseparable link to Christ's work. Mary is admired and exalted because she is the first of
the redeemed. This statement places Mary among us, as one of us. The Church looks at Mary as
an example of what it means to be a redeemed person.
The second document at Vatican II, Decree on the Means of Social Communication,
promulgated on the same day as The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, does not
mention the Blessed Virgin Mary. The document, however, speaks of the Church as a
mother. The document asks the Church to be open to the world, show initiative in reaching
the world, and see the value of media for proclaiming the Good News. The text indicates that the
Church is separate from the world. Social communication is to help to break down the
distance between the Church and the world. These two documents set the backdrop for the
thinking of Lumen Gentium, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The Church
must do all in her power to reach the world through liturgy, language, communication and
Simultaneous with Lumen Gentium, two additional documents were published at the end
of the second session: Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, and Decree on
Ecumenism. Discussions on Mary paralleled the discussion on ecumenism. Both documents
include Mary. Orientalium Ecclesiarum does so in the concluding article 30, in a pro
forma manner: In the struggle for unity, "all Christians, Eastern and Western, are strongly urged
to pray to God daily with fervor and constancy in order that, by the help of God's most holy
Mother, all may be one."
In Unitatis Redintegratio, the first Marian text is in article 14. The council
teaches appreciation for the heritage of the Christian East. "Nor must we underestimate the fact
that the basic dogmas of the Christian faith concerning the Trinity and the Word of God made
flesh from the Virgin Mary were defined in Ecumenical Councils held in the East. To preserve
this faith, these Churches have suffered, and still suffer much."
The second Marian text, article 15, centers on the liturgy: "In this liturgical worship, the
Eastern Christians pay high tribute, in beautiful hymns of praise, to Mary ever Virgin, whom the
ecumenical Synod of Ephesus solemnly proclaimed to be the holy Mother of God in order that
Christ might be truly and properly acknowledged as Son of God and Son of Man, according to
the scriptures." The article confirms the unity of the churches of the East and West in regard to
the two early Marian teachings: Mother of God (Theotokos) and ever Virgin.
The third Marian mention is in article 20; it articulates the ecumenical difficulties: "We
are indeed aware that there exist considerable differences from the doctrine of the Catholic
Church even concerning Christ the Word of God made flesh and the work of redemption, and
thus concerning the mystery and ministry of the Church and the role of Mary in the work of
salvation." Having named Mary's role as one of the "considerable differences" dividing the
churches, and yet recognizing her also as one who could help toward unity, the bishops will have
had this in mind as they discussed the Marian contribution in chapter 8 at Vatican II.
The eight chapters of Lumen Gentium describes the Church as it exists and as it longs to
be. It was in this context that Mary's place was argued. By including her at this point in the
documents, Mary is at the same time totally integrated into the mystery of Christ and the mystery
of the Church. As Mary existed for Christ from the Incarnation, throughout his life, at his death,
and for eternity, so Mary is the model of the Church as it hopes to be. Mary continues to assist
the Church to fulfill its destiny.
Chapter 7 of Lumen Gentium, The Pilgrim Church, discusses the Communion of Saints
and our union in the Communion of Saints. The Church has always venerated the apostles and
martyrs "together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels, with a special love, and has
asked piously for the help of their intercession." (LG 50) It is in the celebration of the liturgy,
the fellowship of communion," that the saints are remembered and honored. (LG 50) The
teaches, "Let the faithful be taught that our communion with these in heaven, provided that it is
understood in the full light of faith, in no way diminishes the worship of adoration given to God
the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit; on the contrary, it greatly enriches it." (LG 51)
Chapter 8 consists of seventeen articles divided into five subtitles. Mary is introduced as the
woman (Gal 4:4) of our Creed from whom Christ became incarnate by the Holy Spirit.
is due her because she "received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life
[Christ] to the world." (LG 52) She is honored in our liturgy, and is the "pre-eminent" and
"wholly unique member of the Church." (LG 53) The Church teaches about both her role and
duties toward her. (LG 54) She is a sign of comfort and of hope. (LG 68) Chapter 8 incorporates
the scriptural passages on Mary as the basis for Marian devotion.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church|
| I. ||Introduction 52 - 54
| II. || The Function of the Blessed Virgin in the Plan of
| III. ||The Blessed Virgin and the Church
| IV. || The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church
| V. || Mary, Sign of the True Hope and Comfort for the
Pilgrim People of God 68-69|
Link to complete
This document is found at:
Dogmatic Constitution of the Church,
Lumen Gentium |
Note: To locate a specific quote once you have reached the document, use ctrl+f to
AAS 57 (1965):1-67|
St Paul Editions, 1966