By: Rev. Paul Scalia
The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary invokes our Lady as “Virgin most renowned.” It is of course a fair description — most renowned because she alone is both virgin and mother, most renowned because through her virginity she became the Mother of God.
The Latin for this invocation brings out another dimension: Virgo praedicanda. Literally, Virgin needing to be proclaimed — not that she is not already known and renowned, but that she still needs to be made known. And this for one simple reason: Mary is the full flowering of the grace of Jesus Christ. To know her is to know what He has accomplished, what His victory has won. She, the perfection of grace, shows in a singular manner what all of us are called to become. Mary embodies her Son’s every teaching and instruction — therefore all preaching. In proclaiming her we in effect proclaim the fullness of the Gospel.
Consider this first of all as regards our Lord’s proclamation of the Gospel. We do not know how often our Lady may have heard her Son preach. Perhaps she was there in the crowd, listening peacefully. Whether physically or in His mind’s eye, she was present as He taught. In her He had before Him the perfection, the fullness of what He preached. In a sense by preaching the Gospel He was proclaiming her who is full of grace. And her presence must have brought Him great consolation as others rejected Him. When the crowds turned on Him, Mary not only stood by Him but also by her holiness witnessed to the truth they rejected. Most especially from His most important pulpit, the Cross, He drew comfort and encouragement from the very sight of Mary — the living vindication of all He taught and accomplished.
As for our Lord’s ministry, so also for His Church’s. As the full flowering of Gospel grace and truth, Mary needs to be preached and proclaimed. We may draw back from speaking about her, not wanting to offend or come across as odd and over-devotional. But the Christian life cannot be understood apart from her, the only human person to be perfectly defined by the grace of Christ.
We preach and proclaim the Virgin Mary first of all because she simply deserves it. We do not remain silent about truths. And the more glorious a truth, the more we proclaim it. In Mary we find the glorious truth that God created one of us (Mary is not superhuman but fully human) without sin — that He became her Son, was carried in her womb, rested in her lap, obeyed her words, and was entombed by her hands; that He made her fruitful, becoming man not despite her virginity but through it; and that He assumed her body and soul to Himself, not allowing the power of death to corrupt even her body.
But notice that in such preaching about Mary, in making known what God has accomplished in her, we also proclaim something about ourselves. For every dogma about our Lady applies in a certain way to us as well. She is the realization of all that He has promised us. The singular graces she received reveal what God intends to accomplish for all. She reveals to us what it means to be Christ’s disciples. In the truth about her we find our calling.
By keeping her free from sin He shows that He desires to deliver all of us from sin and make us full of grace — defined by grace, as she was. In her becoming the Mother of God, we learn that He desires us to conceive in Him in our thoughts and bring Him forth by our words and actions. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:50). He makes her virginity fruitful because He intends our souls likewise to be pure and fruitful. And He assumes her body and soul into heaven because He desires to raise our bodies to the same glory.
In proclaiming Mary we make known not only Christ’s masterpiece of grace but also what He desires to accomplish in us. She, the Church in her perfection, needs to be proclaimed and preached so that the truth of Christ’s victory and grace will shine forth more clearly.