Saturday, December 19, 2009
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Advent reflection delivered Friday by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, for Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia. The talk was titled "Mary, Mother and Model of the Priest."
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Mary, Mother and Model of the Priest
In his letter to priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday in 1979, the first of a series during his pontificate, Pope John Paul II wrote: "In our ministerial priesthood there is the wonderful and penetrating dimension of nearness to the Mother of Christ." In this last meditation of Advent, I would like to reflect on this closeness between Mary and the priest.
There is not much talk of Mary in the New Testament. However, if we pay attention, we note that she is not absent from any of the three central events of the Christian mystery, which are: the Incarnation, the Paschal Mystery and Pentecost. Mary was present at the Incarnation because it happened in her womb; she was present at the Paschal Mystery, because it is written that "standing by the cross of Jesus was Mary, his Mother" (cf. John 19:25), she was present at Pentecost, because it is written that the Apostles were "with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus" (cf. Acts 1:14). Each of these three moments reveals to us something of the mysterious closeness between Mary and the priest. As we are now approaching Christmas, I would like to limit myself to the first of these, and discuss what Mary says of the priest and to the priest in the mystery of the Incarnation.
1. What Is the Relationship Between Mary and the Priest?
First of all I would like to refer to the question of the title of priest attributed to the Virgin in tradition. A writer of the end of the fifth century calls Mary "Virgin, and at the same time priest, and altar who has given us Christ -- bread of Heaven for the remission of sins." After this, there were frequent references to the topic of Mary as priest, which subsequently became the object of theological developments in the 17th century, in the French school of St. Sulpice. In it, Mary's priesthood is not placed so much in the context of a relationship with the ministerial priesthood, but rather with that of Christ.
At the end of the 19th century a true and proper devotion to the Virgin-priest spread, and St. Pius X even accorded an indulgence to its relative practice. However, when the danger was perceived of confusing the priesthood of Mary with the ministerial priesthood, the magisterium of the Church became reticent and two interventions of the Holy Office practically put an end to such devotion.
Father Cantalamessa's 2nd Advent Sermon [2009-12-11]
"Ministers of the New Covenant of the Spirit"
Father Cantalamessa's 1st Advent Sermon [2009-12-07]
"Jesus ... Has Called Me Friend! I Am His Friend!"