Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of the Eucharist

According to St. John Paul II, “Mary, throughout her life at Christ’s side and not only on Calvary, made her own the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of ‘anticipated Eucharist’ — one might say a “Spiritual communion” — of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in His Passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that Passion.” 

Like Mary we too, can anticipate our participation at the Holy Mass. In this article we will reflect on the Holy Mass in light of Mary’s mystical and maternal presence. As Mother of the Church, Mary teaches us how to prepare for and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so as to make it become the “source and summit” of our lives even as it is the center of her life and our way to Heavenly glory. 

Often, many Christians, approach Holy Mass as if it were just another event among others. It is not a weird type of entertainment we are commanded to attend by our religion. It is not a business requirement to fulfill on Sunday to meet our obligation with God. It is not even about us at all. It is not whether the music or homily made us “feel good.” Nor is it about fellowship or making people feel “welcome.” Rather, the Holy Mass is Christ’s Sacrifice and the Wedding Feast of Heaven and Earth. At the heart of the Mass is the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the vertex of love who gathers in herself all of the love of earth to the love of Heaven on our behalf. She is the most perfect human person, the Immaculate Conception, who in her role as Mother of the Church gathers us to Christ Who in turn offers us perfectly to the Father. As Mediatrix of all graces, Mary also mediates every grace that comes from Christ’s sacrifice to the mystical Body. 

The Mass is essentially a “sacrifice” which means a Holy offering in which Jesus Christ, Who is true Man and true God, is offered to our loving Almighty Father in the Bread and Wine which is transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states, “The same Christ Who offered Himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, is present and offered in an unbloody manner”(1367). The Eucharistic Sacrifice is also the highest form of worship and thanksgiving, because “in Jesus, in His sacrifice, in His unconditional ‘yes’ to the will of the Father, is contained the ‘yes,’ the ‘thank You’ and the ‘amen’ of all humanity.” Therefore, the Mass is the representation, memorial and effective application of the merits gained by Christ on the cross. With regards to this mystery, St. John Paul II teaches: “It is in that one sacrifice that Mary had an active part, the first among the redeemed, the Mother of the Church. Each Eucharist is a memorial of that sacrifice and Easter that gave life to the world again; each Mass brings us into an intimate communion with her, the mother, whose sacrifice ‘is present again,’ just as ‘the sacrifice of the Son’ becomes present at the words of consecration of Bread and Wine spoken by the priest.”

Mary’s role in the work of redemption was singular and unique and none can take her place. However, Mary’s participation in the accomplishment of redemption at Calvary is extended in and through time to the application of Christ’s merits in our lives. St. John Paul II stated, “The piety of the Christian people has always very rightly sensed a profound link between devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the worship of the Eucharist: Mary guides the faithful to the Eucharist.” Mary is still offering her Son on the altar of Heaven in which every earthly Mass participates. Like Mary in her life at Ephesus with St. John, we too, should make the Holy Mass the “source and summit” of our lives. We should contemplate how Mary would attend Holy Mass with St. John so that we too, can be conformed to Christ as St. John was, from a “son of thunder” to the “beloved disciple.” This was possible because he took Mary into his home and entered into the refuge of her heart, allowing her to form him into another Christ. May we also allow Mary, the Mother of the Church and Mother of the Eucharist to form us into the image and likeness of her Son, so that we can also share in Christ’s glorious victory over sin and death.

Next time we will look at how Mary helps us to prepare for the Mass, to participate in the Mass in its distinct parts, and to live the fruits of the Mass in our daily lives.

Anchor guest columnist Grace Small and her husband Bill are parishioners of St. Vincent’s Parish in Attleboro and have recently made their solemn profession as Third Order Franciscans of the Immaculate on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. They are also attending classes with TINE at the Pastoral Center in Braintree, toward a certificate in Catechetical Studies.

1 “ENCYCLICAL LETTER ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS PRIESTS AND DEACONS MEN AND WOMEN IN THE CONSECRATED LIFE AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL ON THE EUCHARIST IN ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE CHURCH.” April 17, 2003. 56. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_eucharistia_en.html.

2 “APOSTOLIC LETTER MANE NOBISCUM DOMINE OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY AND FAITHFUL FOR THE YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST OCTOBER 2004–OCTOBER 2005.” http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/2004/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20041008_mane-nobiscum-domine.html.

3 “ANGELUS “ Last modified June 5, 1983. http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/pt/angelus/1983/documents/hf_jp-ii_ang_19830605.html.

4 “IOANNES PAULUS PP. II REDEMPTORIS MATER on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church.” March 25, 1987. 44. http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031987_redemptoris-mater.html.



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