Profound and constant prayer enabled the Virgin Mary to embrace God’s will in her life, Pope Benedict XVI taught in his March 14 general audience.
Jesus’ mother “was placed by the Lord at the decisive moments of salvation history and has always been able to respond with full availability, the result of a deep relationship with God developed in assiduous and intense prayer,” the Pope told the more than 10,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
In recent months, the Pope has traced the history of prayer through the Old Testament and the four Gospels, focusing on the Psalms and the prayer life of Christ himself. This Wednesday, he began a new chapter in his series of talks on prayer by focusing on the role of prayer in the early Church, with Mary as its first and greatest disciple.
Mary, he explained, “teaches us the necessity of prayer,” through which God gives believers the courage “to reach the ends of the world and proclaim everywhere the Lord Jesus, savior of the world.”
While Jesus’ disciples often showed their human weaknesses and lack of understanding, Mary modeled a deeper life of contemplation and wisdom, made possible by the Holy Spirit within her. In this way, the Pope said, she paved the way for the disciples’ reception of the same Spirit at Pentecost.
“If there is no Church without Pentecost, there is no Pentecost without the Mother of Jesus,” he said, “because she lived in a unique way, which the Church experiences each day under the action of the Holy Spirit.”
At Pentecost, Christ fulfilled his promise to the apostles that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” enabling them to bear witness to him throughout the world. Pope Benedict reminded his listeners that the fulfillment of this promise involved a great deal of prayer.
“In Jerusalem, the apostles … are gathered in the house to pray,” he observed, “and it is in prayer that they await the promised gift of the risen Christ, the Holy Spirit.”
Mary, he suggested, showed them how to meet this world-changing event with humility and readiness.
“Even in the Upper Room in Jerusalem … in an atmosphere of listening and prayer, she is present, before the doors are thrown open and they begin to proclaim Christ the Lord to all nations.”
Her presence with Jesus’ inner circle of followers, recorded by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, “is not just a historical record of a past thing, but takes on a meaning of great value.”
“She shares with them what is her most precious asset: her living memory of Jesus, in prayer and this mission of Jesus, preserving the memory of Jesus and thus also his presence.”
Pope Benedict stressed the importance of Mary’s presence in the Church, then and now, with a quotation from the third- and fourth-century bishop St. Chromatius of Aquileia, who declared in a sermon that “one cannot therefore speak of the Church unless Mary, Mother of God is present.”
As both “Mother of God and mother of the Church,” the Blessed Virgin “exercises this motherhood until the end of history. We entrust to her every passing phase of our personal and ecclesial life, not least that of our final transit.”
Pope Benedict said the Church’s devotion to Mary should bring believers closer to one another, teaching them to imitate the apostles, who were known for their unity and love.
“Mary invites us to open the dimensions of our prayer, to turn to God not only in need and not just for ourselves, but in a unanimous, persevering, faithful way, with ‘one heart and mind.’”