The Mind of the Council on Mary
Address of Pope Paul VI on the Feast of the Purification
February 2, 1965

This Ceremony of the offering of the Candles stirs up thoughts and sentiments within Us that We would like to express at greater length and leisure than that allowed Us by this short interruption. We feel first of all that We owe thanks to each of you, to the Church organizations and the religious congregations and Catholic institutions you represent as you symbolically bring Catholic Rome before Us in a very devoted and filial gesture of self-giving, devotion, religion, and tradition.

Your gesture has a threefold lofty meaning. It honors Christ, "lumen ad revelationem gentium," light to enlighten the nations, it pays tribute to Mary, Mother of the Word made man, with an act of devotion that links us with the oldest and most venerable Eastern and Latin liturgies; and it shows the Pope how Rome is united to him as her father and bishop in a faithful and heartfelt fashion. Thank you, beloved Brothers and Sons! May the gifts and sentiments of which you bring Us such noble evidence and comforting consolation prove spiritually rewarding to you and those you represent.

Traditional Roman piety

How wonderful it would be to dig more deeply into this awareness of abundant and stirring religious, historical, and ecclesial values! How fruitful it would be in lofty reflections if We were to consider along with you the look of Roman piety, one that is unknown to many people and is nowadays hidden over by the modern aspect of the city, itself very respectable and dear and yet unfortunately somewhat forgetful of the sacred lines of its ancient, fascinating religious image, and not always as proud as it should be of the extraordinary treasures of art, archeology, and devotion that adorn its regal "form" like no other city in the world. Along with a kind of transparent vision of the centuries and the places of our Christian Rome, you are offering Us a sacred continuation of the matchless spirituality that comes from her history of teaching nations and saints her indescribable art of believing and praying. You bring Us wonderful consolation by showing Us through actions that speak and through faithful hearts that history is not just a dream of times laid to rest, nor just a legendary piece of poetry disengaged from the prose of current materialistic reality, but rather a song that continues, a voice that is still alive and intoning a new verse that may now be fuller and more sonorous than ever before a verse of conscience, of culture, of tormented and passionate love.

We want to congratulate you today for this: for the persistency, indeed the revival, of Roman devotion. It gives Us immense pleasure to see that this devotion is the happy and jealous heir to the liturgical treasures of a tradition that is authoritative and papal as well as popular and spontaneous, and to see that, in you, it is eager to revive its religious spirit with new and authentic expressions, such as those prescribed by the recent Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.2

Rome's loyalty to Mary

We want Our congratulations and Our recommendations to lay stress on one point, the very one that We are illustrating at this moment in this ceremony, namely, devotion to Mary Most Holy. We are very glad about the wealth, the beauty, and the fullness that this Rome of ours has always and no less today reserved for Our Lady in its monuments, in the liturgy, in the devotion of faithful hearts. We are convinced that a fountain of blessings is linked to this loyalty to Marian devotion such blessings as adherence to the true faith of Our Lord Jesus Christ, affection for His Gospel, efforts at Christian regeneration of morals and of feeling, pride and joy in belonging to the Catholic Church, profound trust in a maternal protection that is capable of instilling into souls the strongest of moral energies and the gentlest of spiritual consolations.

Marian dogma a kind of Synthesis

Blessed are we, Brethren and Sons, for we have been trained in this devotion to the Mother of Christ in the school of the holy Church. Through a kind of incontrovertible experience, we feel how this devotion that we want to be profound, personal, human, and truly tender, does not in any way separate us from recognition of the unique, transcendent, divine font of truth, life, and grace that is Christ Jesus. Instead, it leads us to Him, binds us to Him, unites us to Him, as the one who alone is holy, the one who alone is Lord, the one who alone is our most high teacher and our Redeemer. We feel, indeed, that the teaching on Mary and Marian devotion introduce us into the plan of salvation that Christ has established in the sense that, as has been so well said, there is in Marian dogma a "symbolic summary of the Catholic doctrine on human cooperation in the redemption; in this way, it offers a kind of synthesis of the very dogma on the Church."3

Homage to the Mother of the Church

Shouldn't we feel glad that our attention was recently directed to this genuine doctrine and worship through the authoritative, beautiful, profound, and exact statement made by the Ecumenical Council when it wisely inserted the chapter on the Blessed Virgin Mary into the monumental Constitution on the Church ? And won't we give the title of "Mother of the Church" one that We recognized as due Mary Most Holy at this very moment of the maturing of the doctrine on the Church the meaning of Mother of Christians, our spiritual Mother because the natural Mother of Christ, our Head and our Redeemer? As has been equally well said, under one aspect the Blessed Virgin is a part, a daughter of the Church, our sister, because like us, although in an eminent and privileged way, she too has been redeemed by Christ; but under another aspect, because she is the one who generated the Son of God made man, she is the "Theotokos," the Mother of God, Queen of the Church, mother of the Mystical Body according to faith and charity. "If devotion is, for the most part, directed toward the individual aspects of Mary's spiritual maternity, is it not perhaps desirable to have this view completed by its community aspect and to have the attention of the faithful called to this?"4

The upcoming Marian Congress in Santo Domingo

These ties of Mary with the Church, and many others as well (like the one dear to St. Ambrose Ecclesae typus on Luke 2, 7), along with other doctrinal matters dealing with Our Lady, will certainly be the object of meditation, publicity, and celebration at the approaching International Marian Congress, scheduled for Santo Domingo at the end of March. We want to express the wish that along with Our Cardinal Legate there will be a great number of bishops, priests and faithful who will come with great fervor from every part of the world and especially from America to pay tribute to Mary Most Holy, and to impress upon the devotion and piety with which we want to honor her that Christocentric and ecclesiological orientation that the Council intended to give to our Marian doctrine and devotion.

Its post-conciliar and renovating character

We feel sure that this orientation, which sets her who was "blessed among women" in her loftiest and truest splendor, will impress upon the Congress a character that is post-conciliar, renovating, and a guiding force in promoting Catholic devotion to Mary. We feel sure that it will give it the merit of seeking out the true and faithful sources of the devotion itself in the pages of Sacred Scripture, in the teachings of the Fathers, in the speculations of the Masters, and in the traditional doctrine of the Church, Eastern as well as Latin, in such a way that study by Catholics of the Mother of Christ and devotion to her will result in the added benefit of bringing together around Mary, "Mater Unitatis," not only all the Catholics who are already close to her as children in so many different ways, but, also, God willing, all Christians as well, including those still separated from us. For, if they are not already enjoying it, a great joy is being prepared that will come to them on the day when they are integrated into the one Church founded and willed by Christ. It is the joy of rediscovering Mary, who is humble and most exalted in the essential role God assigned to her in the plan of our salvation.

And so We think that this postconciliar Congress, and along with it devotion to Mary throughout the world, will turn toward a deepening of understanding and love for the mysteries of Mary, rather than toward a dialectical effort at theological speculations that are still questionable and are more likely to divide individuals than to unite them. It will stir up ever more attentive and admiring reflection upon the content of truth that is at the root of devotion to Mary, tempering, where need be, any sentimentalism of an unbalanced or unenlightened nature that may have sprung up around it. What this means is that it will encourage a serious and living devotion to Our Lady, the devotion that is to be found at work in the great and unified liturgical plan of the Church, calling the faithful back to a profession of true love and to a practice of true imitation with regard to the Blessed Virgin a love and imitation that will show more and more the immense spiritual and moral value of devotion to Mary.

These are the wishes that we can apply to ourselves in order to honor Our Lady in a worthy fashion on this feast of hers and in order to enjoy, the good fortune of her maternal protection and her heavenly blessings. And may Our Apostolic Blessing now serve to assure you of them, beloved Sons.

Factors in distributing the candles

Now, We imagine that you would like to know what destination we have chosen, in keeping with a nice and meaningful custom introduced a few years ago, for these candles that have been blessed on the feast of the Purification of Mary Most Holy. It is a gesture with profound symbolism which fits in very well with the mysterious richness of today's splendid liturgy. Just as in other years, We want it to be a kind of heartfelt suggestion that applies to the present moment in the life of the Church and that will be indicative of the aims and intentions and feelings that occupy Our mind after the unforgettable experiences of last year.

Destinations announced

We will destine the candles that you have given Us, first, in keeping with custom, to the new diplomatic representatives of various countries recently accredited to the Holy See, and next to the twenty-seven new Cardinals whom We have just called to become part of the Senate of the Church; then to the Catholic universities, which are holding aloft in the world the prestige of culture strengthened by faith; to the churches and institutions of Bombay, along with the distinguished president of the noble Indian nation, as a renewed pledge of Our gratitude for the welcome extended to Our pilgrimage last December; to Our Brethren in the episcopate who co-celebrated the Divine Sacrifice with Us at the close of the third session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council; to the churches in the Vajont region, rising again from the ruins; to the Missionary Institutes of men and women that have suffered so much from recent sad events in various parts of the world; and to the prefectures of Our diocese of Rome, as testimony to Our gratitude.

May these Candles serve to carry an announcement of joy and of evangelical peace into every place, and along with it an outpouring of Our paternal affection, and Our Blessing.

-- Reported in L'Osservatore Romano, February 3, 1965. Italian text. Translation prepared for The Pope Speaks by Very Rev. Austin Vaughan.

Reprinted with the permission of Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 (http://www.osv.com)


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