Mary and Vatican II
This October, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council provides an opportune moment to look back and see what the council had to say about Mary. The council didn’t produce a document solely about the Mother of God; however, it did speak about Mary’s role “in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body, and the duties of the redeemed toward the Mother of God, who is the mother of” all humanity and especially of all believers (Lumen Gentium, 54).
The very first document promulgated by the council, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), was meant to renew and invigorate the common prayer of the Church. By celebrating Marian feasts throughout the year, it says, the Church proclaims its special love of Mary. Mary is inseparably linked with the saving action of her son and is the “faultless image” of what the Church desires and hopes to be (103).
The council expanded on this initial Marian reflection in its later document, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). Here the council fathers reflected on Mary in the context of Church teachings. This was one of the most important documents of the council, and its final chapter is devoted entirely to Mary. However, rather than trying to say all that ever needs to be said about official teaching on the Mother of God, the council simply concentrated on Mary’s function in the plan of salvation, her relationship to the Church, and her cult within the Church.
While warmly encouraging the veneration and celebration of Mary in the Church’s liturgical and devotional life, the council sought to strike a balance in the way Catholics speak about and practice their devotion. It warned against “all gross exaggerations” in Marian piety and urged theologians and preachers to rightly represent the role of Our Lady in light of Scripture and Church teaching (LG 67).
May we keep such a balance in our own lives and in our devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.