Monday, August 09, 2010

Contemplating Mary as a model for offering the Eucharist

What follows is an excerpt from Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Priest chapter 6, "The Eucharistic Prayer", pp. 180-181.

In addition to Jesus Himself, we have been given another model to imitate in the Eucharistic offering. While Jesus is the model par excellence, especially for ordained priests, His mother is an excellent model for the lay faithful to look to.

Our contemplation of Mary as a model for offering the Eucharist begins at the foot of the cross, where St. John tells us she stood. (cf. John 19:25) A 13th century hymn about the sorrows of Mary at the Passion of her Son, Stabat Mater, opens with Mary “At the Cross, her station keeping.” [Footnote: One of the priest's prayers before Mass is a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary which asks her to stand by the priest as she stood by the cross on Calvary.]

In the Offertory, the priest is presented with gifts from God, and in the Eucharistic Prayer they are offered to God. Mary experienced this first-hand: she received the Word as a “gift” from God and offered Him back to God on the cross. This theme occurs in some papal documents from the past few centuries, such as Pope Leo XIII’s 1894 encyclical on the Rosary:
As we contemplate [Jesus] in the last and most piteous of those [Sorrowful] Mysteries [of the Rosary], there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother, who, in a miracle of charity, so that she might receive us as her sons, offered generously to Divine Justice her own Son, and died in her heart with Him, stabbed with the sword of sorrow. (Iucunda Semper Expectatione 3)
The role of Mary in offering Christ to the Father was also described in Ven. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ:
It was [Mary], the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father... (Mystici Corporis Christi 110)
More recently, Ven. Pope John Paul II reflected on Marian aspects of the Eucharist at the end of his encyclical on the Eucharist and the Church:
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… (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 56)
Mary does not represent the priest at the crucifixion, for Jesus is the priest, victim, and altar of His sacrifice; so what role does that leave for her? Mary is a figure of the Church (cf. Catechism 967, 972), so in her is represented all the faithful who offer the sacrifice with the priest. She joined her suffering with that of her Son (cf. Luke 2:34-35); she offered Him, even as He offered Himself. Thus Mary is a surpassing model for the lay faithful at Mass, she who inaugurated the exercise of the common priesthood by assisting at the first “Mass” on Calvary.

No comments: