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D. Mary in the Life of Church
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  1. "All the promises of God find their ‘Yes' in Christ: that is why we offer the ‘Amen' through him, to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 1:20). God's ‘Yes' in Christ takes a distinctive and demanding form as it is addressed to Mary. The profound mystery of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27) has a unique meaning for her. It enables her to speak the ‘Amen' in which, through the Spirit's overshadowing, God's ‘Yes' of new creation is inaugurated. As we have seen, this fiat of Mary was distinctive, in its openness to God's Word, and in the path to the foot of the cross and beyond on which the Spirit led her. The Scriptures portray Mary as growing in her relationship with Christ: his sharing of her natural family (Luke 2:39) was transcended in her sharing of his eschatological family, those upon whom the Spirit is poured out (Acts 1:14, 2:1-4). Mary's ‘Amen' to God's ‘Yes' in Christ to her is thus both unique and a model for every disciple and for the life of the Church.

  2. One outcome of our study has been awareness of differences in the ways in which the example of Mary living out the grace of God has been appropriated into the devotional lives of our traditions. Whilst both traditions have recognized her special place in the communion of saints, different emphases have marked the way we have experienced her ministry. Anglicans have tended to begin from reflection on the scriptural example of Mary as an inspiration and model for discipleship. Roman Catholics have given prominence to the ongoing ministry of Mary in the economy of grace and the communion of saints. Mary points people to Christ, commending them to him and helping them to share his life. Neither of these general characterizations do full justice to the richness and diversity of either tradition, and the twentieth century witnessed a particular growth in convergence as many Anglicans were drawn into a more active devotion to Mary, and Roman Catholics discovered afresh the scriptural roots of such devotion. We together agree that in understanding Mary as the fullest human example of the life of grace, we are called to reflect on the lessons of her life recorded in Scripture and to join with her as one indeed not dead, but truly alive in Christ. In doing so we walk together as pilgrims in communion with Mary, Christ's foremost disciple, and all those whose participation in the new creation encourages us to be faithful to our calling (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17, 19).

  3. Aware of the distinctive place of Mary in the history of salvation, Christians have given her a special place in their liturgical and private prayer, praising God for what He has done in and through her. In singing the Magnificat, they praise God with her; in the Eucharist, they pray with her as they do with all God's people, integrating their prayers in the great communion of saints. They recognize Mary's place in "the prayer of all the saints" that is being uttered before the throne of God in the heavenly liturgy (Revelation 8:3-4). All these ways of including Mary in praise and prayer belong to our common heritage, as does our acknowledgement of her unique status as Theotókos, which gives her a distinctive place within the communion of saints.

    Intercession and Mediation in the Communion of Saints

  4. The practice of believers asking Mary to intercede for them with her son grew rapidly following her being declared Theotókos at the Council of Ephesus. The most common form today of such intercession is the ‘Hail Mary'. This form conflates the greetings of Gabriel and Elizabeth to her (Luke 1:28,42). It was widely used from the fifth century, without the closing phrase, "pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death", which was first added in the 15th century, and included in the Roman Breviary by Pius V in 1568. The English Reformers criticized this invocation and similar forms of prayer, because they believed that it threatened the unique mediation of Jesus Christ. Confronted with exaggerated devotion, stemming from excessive exaltation of Mary's role and powers alongside Christ's, they rejected the "Romish doctrine of … the Invocation of Saints" as "grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God" (Article XXII). The Council of Trent affirmed that seeking the saints' assistance to obtain favours from God is "good and useful": such requests are made "through his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our sole Redeemer and Saviour" (DS 1821). The Second Vatican Council endorsed the continued practice of believers asking Mary to pray for them, emphasizing that "Mary's maternal role towards the human race in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power … in no way does it hinder the direct union of believers with Christ, but rather fosters it" (Lumen Gentium 60). Therefore the Roman Catholic Church continues to promote devotion to Mary, while reproving those who either exaggerate or minimize Mary's role (Marialis Cultus 31). With this background in mind, we seek a theologically grounded way to draw more closely together in the life of prayer in communion with Christ and his saints.

  5. The Scriptures teach that "there is one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:5-6). As noted earlier, on the basis of this teaching "we reject any interpretation of the role of Mary which obscures this affirmation" (Authority II 30). It is also true, however, that all ministries of the Church, especially those of Word and sacrament, mediate the grace of God through human beings. These ministries do not compete with the unique mediation of Christ, but rather serve it and have their source within it. In particular, the prayer of the Church does not stand alongside or in place of the intercession of Christ, but is made through him, our Advocate and Mediator (cf. Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25, 12:24, 1 John 2:1). It finds both its possibility and practice in and through the Holy Spirit, the other Advocate sent according to Christ's promise (cf. John 14:16-17). Hence asking our brothers and sisters, on earth and in heaven, to pray for us, does not contest the unique mediatory work of Christ, but is rather a means by which, in and through the Spirit, its power may be displayed.

  6. In our praying as Christians we address our petitions to God our heavenly Father, in and through Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit moves and enables us. All such invocation takes place within the communion which is God's being and gift. In the life of prayer we invoke the name of Christ in solidarity with the whole Church, assisted by the prayers of brothers and sisters of every time and place. As ARCIC has expressed it previously, "The believer's pilgrimage of faith is lived out with the mutual support of all the people of God. In Christ all the faithful, both living and departed, are bound together in a communion of prayer" (Salvation and the Church 22). In the experience of this communion of prayer believers are aware of their continued fellowship with their sisters and brothers who have ‘fallen asleep,' the ‘great cloud of witnesses' who surround us as we run the race of faith. For some, this intuition means sensing their friends' presence; for some it may mean pondering the issues of life with those who have gone before them in faith. Such intuitive experience affirms our solidarity in Christ with Christians of every time and place, not least with the woman through whom he became "like us in all things except sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

  7. The Scriptures invite Christians to ask their brothers and sisters to pray for them, in and through Christ (cf. James 5:13-15). Those who are now ‘with Christ', untrammelled by sin, share the unceasing prayer and praise which characterizes the life of heaven (e.g. Revelation 5:9-14, 7:9-12, 8:3-4). In the light of these testimonies, many Christians have found that requests for assistance in prayer can rightly and effectively be made to those members of the communion of saints distinguished by their holy living (cf. James 5:16-18). It is in this sense that we affirm that asking the saints to pray for us is not to be excluded as unscriptural, though it is not directly taught by the Scriptures to be a required element of life in Christ. Further, we agree that the way such assistance is sought must not obscure believers' direct access to God our heavenly Father, who delights to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11). When, in the Spirit and through Christ, believers address their prayers to God, they are assisted by the prayers of other believers, especially of those who are truly alive in Christ and freed from sin. We note that liturgical forms of prayer are addressed to God: they do not address prayer ‘to' the saints, but rather ask them to ‘pray for us'. However, in this and other instances, any concept of invocation which blurs the trinitarian economy of grace and hope is to be rejected, as not consonant with Scripture or the ancient common traditions.

    The Distinctive Ministry of Mary

  8. Among all the saints, Mary takes her place as Theotókos: alive in Christ, she abides with the one she bore, still ‘highly favoured' in the communion of grace and hope, the exemplar of redeemed humanity, an icon of the Church. Consequently she is believed to exercise a distinctive ministry of assisting others through her active prayer. Many Christians reading the Cana account continue to hear Mary instruct them, "Do whatever he tells you", and are confident that she draws the attention of her son to their needs: "they have no wine" (John 2:1-12). Many experience a sense of empathy and solidarity with Mary, especially at key points when the account of her life echoes theirs, for example the acceptance of vocation, the scandal of her pregnancy, the improvised surroundings of her labour, giving birth, and fleeing as a refugee. Portrayals of Mary standing at the foot of the cross, and the traditional portrayal of her receiving the crucified body of Jesus (the Pietà), evoke the particular suffering of a mother at the death of her child. Anglicans and Roman Catholics alike are drawn to the mother of Christ, as a figure of tenderness and compassion.

  9. The motherly role of Mary, first affirmed in the Gospel accounts of her relationship to Jesus, has been developed in a variety of ways. Christian believers acknowledge Mary to be the mother of God incarnate. As they ponder our Saviour's dying word to the beloved disciple, "behold your mother" (John 19:27) they may hear an invitation to hold Mary dear as ‘mother of the faithful': she will care for them as she cared for her son in his hour of need. Hearing Eve called "the mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20), they may come to see Mary as mother of the new humanity, active in her ministry of pointing all people to Christ, seeking the welfare of all the living. We are agreed that, while caution is needed in the use of such imagery, it is fitting to apply it to Mary, as a way of honouring her distinctive relationship to her son, and the efficacy in her of his redeeming work.

  10. Many Christians find that giving devotional expression to their appreciation for this ministry of Mary enriches their worship of God. Authentic popular devotion to Mary, which by its nature displays a wide individual, regional and cultural diversity, is to be respected. The crowds gathering at some places where Mary is believed to have appeared suggest that such apparitions are an important part of this devotion and provide spiritual comfort. There is need for careful discernment in assessing the spiritual value of any alleged apparition. This has been emphasized in a recent Roman Catholic commentary.

    Private revelation … can be a genuine help in understanding the Gospel and living it better at a particular moment in time; therefore it should not be disregarded. It is a help which is offered, but which one is not obliged to use … The criterion for the truth and value of a private revelation is therefore its orientation to Christ himself. When it leads us away from him, when it becomes independent of him or even presents itself as another and better plan of salvation, more important than the Gospel, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Theological Commentary on the Message of Fatima, 26 June, 2000).

    We are agreed that, within the constraints set down in this teaching to ensure that the honour paid to Christ remains pre-eminent, such private devotion is acceptable, though never required of believers.

  11. When Mary was first acknowledged as mother of the Lord by Elizabeth, she responded by praising God and proclaiming his justice for the poor in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). In Mary's response we can see an attitude of poverty towards God that reflects the divine commitment and preference for the poor. In her powerlessness she is exalted by God's favour. Although the witness of her obedience and acceptance of God's will has sometimes been used to encourage passivity and impose servitude on women, it is rightly seen as a radical commitment to God who has mercy on his servant, lifts up the lowly and brings down the mighty. Issues of justice for women and the empowerment of the oppressed have arisen from daily reflection on Mary's remarkable song. Inspired by her words, communities of women and men in various cultures have committed themselves to work with the poor and the excluded. Only when joy is joined with justice and peace do we rightly share in the economy of hope and grace which Mary proclaims and embodies.

  12. Affirming together unambiguously Christ's unique mediation, which bears fruit in the life of the Church, we do not consider the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us as communion-dividing. Since obstacles of the past have been removed by clarification of doctrine, by liturgical reform and practical norms in keeping with it, we believe that there is no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division on these matters.

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