Magisterial Documents: Redemptoris Mater
Encyclical Letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church Pope John Paul II
25 March 1987
The full document is available on the internet. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031987_redemptoris-mater.html
Redemptoris Mater was published in connection with the Marian Year proclaimed by Pope John Paul II in 1987/88. The Marian Year was, "to promote a new and more careful reading of what the Council said about the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and of the Church ... not only of the doctrine of faith but also of the life of faith, and thus of authentic 'Marian spirituality,' seen in the light of Tradition, and especially the spirituality to which the Council exhorts us." (LG 66-67) (RM 49)
Sacred Scripture is the first source of knowledge about the Mother of the Redeemer. Life- lived-out-of-faith based on Scripture, according to the document, is the source of true Marian spirituality. Whereas Marialis Cultus (1974) exhorted to correct devotion – that is, correct liturgical celebration and public expression of devotion based on doctrinal criteria – Redemptoris Mater aimed at formation of life based on doctrine, hence, Marian spirituality.
The three major topics of the document are: Mary in the Mystery of Christ, The Mother of God at the Center of the Pilgrim Church, and Maternal Mediation. The document also explains the Marian Year, and the text treats of pastoral concerns arising from women's issues.
Redemptoris Mater gives its own statement of intention in article 1. The encyclical is to be "a reflection on the role of Mary in the mystery of Christ and on her active and exemplary presence in the life of the Church. For [born of a woman, Gal 4:4-6] are words which celebrate together the love of the Father, the mission of the Son, the gift of the Spirit, the role of the woman from whom the Redeemer was born, and our own divine filiation, in the mystery of the 'fullness of time.'" and "a jubilee in celebration of the birth of Mary." (RM 1)
Among a wide variety of topics discussed in the encyclical, the expression "pilgrimage of faith" taken from Lumen Gentium 52 is developed extensively, in Redemptoris Mater . Mary "bears within herself the radical 'newness' of faith: the beginning of the New Covenant. (RM 17) But, this faith also experiences the dark night: "Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying ... At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self- emptying. This is perhaps the deepest 'kenosis' of faith in human history." (RM 18) The key to Mary's religious experience, and her blessedness, is her faith. Redemptoris Mater continues, "All those who from generation to generation accept the apostolic witness of the Church share in that mysterious inheritance, and in a sense share in Mary's faith." (RM 27)
Redemptoris Mater lists a variety of ways in which Mary is present in the Church in the faith and spirituality of believers and through various traditions of families, parishes, religious institutes, dioceses, nations, and great shrines. (RM 28) The document explains that Mary "is present in the Church's mission, "present in the Church's work of introducing into the world the Kingdom of her Son." (cf. LG 13) (RM 28)
Diverse devotions including sacred art (RM 59) and prayer forms (RM 30-34) are also given. Finally, Redemptoris Mater explains that Marian apostolate includes striving "energetically and constantly to bring all humanity ... back to Christ its Head in the unity of his Spirit." (LG 13; RM 28)
I. Mary in the Mystery of Christ
1. Full of grace 7-11
2. Blessed is she who believed 12-19
3. Behold your mother 20-24
II. The Mother of God at the Center of the Pilgrim Church
1.The Church, the People of God present in all the nations of the earth 25-28
2. The Church's journey and the unity of all Christians 29-34
3. The "Magnificat" of the pilgrim Church 35-37
III. Maternal Mediation
1. Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord 38-41
2. Mary in the life of the Church and of every Christian 42-47
3. The meaning of the Marian Year 48-50
AAS 79 (1987): 361-433;
St Paul Editions, 1987
© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2005