Together with Mary

The feast of Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles gathered together with Mary in the cenacle, the “upper room”. In this reflection Igino Giordani invites us to contemplate Mary’s presence in the early Church, as does the feast day of Mary Mother of the Church on 21 May, recently proclaimed by Pope Francis.

“When Jesus was no longer physically present on earth, Mary lived with the Church, the continuation of Jesus. To outward appearances, she would have seemed to be the mother of John, representing all disciples, rather than the mother of Jesus who was no longer to be seen. So Mary was found in the heart of the Church, in the cenacle, the “upper room”. She had withdrawn there from Mount Olivet with the Apostles, disciples and pious women after the ascension. The Apostles “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14).

The first Church – according to Saint Luke – formed “one heart and one soul” and “none of them was in need”, all gathered around the one table. How was such communion possible, making them all one? It was because Mary was there, hence the Holy Spirit was there. So the ideal of the Son was fulfilled and the Father reigned there. His kingdom had come, with the presence of “our Father who art in heaven” and “our daily bread on earth”. The Magnificat was being expressed again and diakonia – service, was being lived out.

The function of Mary – a function of love, and therefore of the Holy Spirit – was and is that of unifying, putting heavenly and earthly goods in common. In this way the mystical body of Christ is raised to life; generating Jesus for the world; and in him she unifies souls together, setting them in wisdom.

She is the model for mothers of Christian homes, with a heart that unifies, a mind that enlivens […], igniting the atmosphere of warmth (of “focolare” = fire place), where all feel as one, cells of the one body.
Aware of this mission, which is to participate in the work of Christ, woman – associated more than any other creature with the work of creation – finds it easier to turn to the Creator. She can confide more tenderly with Mary. Following her example she can endow her intimate home life with both virginal purity and maternal warmth. In this way she can come to resemble the Virgin Mother.

In the cenacle, Mary represented Jesus and hence bore the highest dignity, spiritually sustaining the juridical pre-eminence of Peter. But what came to light in her way of being was a soul who completely identified herself with the Church, making it her own, blessed fruit of her womb, hidden, losing herself within it, as a true ancilla Domini, handmaid of the Lord.
In fact, all the faithful, laity included, must live the Church, in the Church, with the Church, always with this same sentiment. In this way the Church will no longer seem to be something extraneous, but will be their own, their life, the centre of their sanctification. Neither words nor special attire are needed. It is sanctity that needs to be lived within the Church. And the first fruit will be its unity.

Mary inspires “many different forms of apostolate by the laity. … There are souls yearning to live the doctrine of Jesus more openly and more completely. There are souls burning with the desire to make him known to others, particularly to their work colleagues. There are those desiring to re-establish justice and charity within social institutions and to introduce into the temporal order of society a reflection of the perfect harmony that unites the children of God. To all these souls, Mary obtains the grace of the apostolate. She places on their lips words which can convince without wounding …” (Pope Pius XII).

Mary is a social reformer, a credible model of apostolate, a symbol of charity, font of justice. No small number of lay movements look to her in order to contribute towards building unity, that ideal testament of Jesus, in a “Mary-like” manner, preparing for the city of God on earth. Mary, in fact, has been viewed by the saints as the “city of God”.

Igino Giordani, Maria modello perfetto, Città Nuova, Roma, 1967 2012, pp.150-152.




  1. Antonio Bacelar

    GRAZIE di questa bellissima scelta che ho potuto appena condividere, cosi: “La più bella meditazione per la Festa di oggi (perché anche “memoria” è un modo di fare festa…) con toni di “profezia” (di più di 50 anni fa…) e come migliore augurio per il rinnovato Concistoro e particolarmente i suoi nuovi membri ieri nominati: che anche esso possa essere sempre di più cenacolo, casa di Maria!”


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