Pope Benedict XVI writes in his Encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis
on The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary
33. From the relationship between the Eucharist and the individual sacraments, and from the eschatological significance of the sacred mysteries, the overall shape of the Christian life emerges, a life called at all times to be an act of spiritual worship, a self-offering pleasing to God. Although we are all still journeying toward the complete fulfillment of our hope, this does not mean that we cannot already gratefully acknowledge that God’s gifts to us have found perfect fulfillment in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother.
Mary’s assumption body and soul into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope for it shows us on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste. In Mary most holy, we also see perfectly fulfilled the “sacramental” way that God down to meet His creatures and involves them in His saving work.
From the Annunciation to Pentecost, Mary of Nazareth appears as someone whose freedom is completely open to God’s will. Her immaculate conception is revealed precisely in her unconditional docility to God’s word. Obedient faith in response to God’s work shapes her life at every moment. A virgin attentive to God’s word, she lives in complete harmony with his will; she treasures in her heart the words that come to her from God and, piecing them together like a mosaic, she leans to understand them more deeply (Lk 2:19, 51).
Mary is the great Believer who places herself confidently in God’s hands, abandoning herself to his will. This mystery deepens as she becomes completely involved in the redemptive mission of Jesus. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, “the blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son until she stood at the Cross, in keeping with the divine plan (Jn.19:25), suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son, associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim who was born of her.
Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus, dying on the Cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: ‘Woman, behold your Son.’ From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary is the one who received the Word, made flesh within her and then silenced in death. It is she, lastly, who took into her arms the lifeless body of the one who truly loved his own “to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Consequently, every time we approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic liturgy, we also turn to her who, by her complete fidelity, received Christ’s sacrifice for the whole Church. The Synod Fathers rightly declared that “Mary inaugurates the Church’s participation in the sacrifice of the Redeemer.” She is the Immaculata, who receives God’s gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist .
first image used with permission from the artist, Tommy Canning