1. Trinitarian, Christological and Ecclesial Aspects of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
25. In the first place it is supremely fitting that exercises of piety
directed towards the Virgin Mary should clearly express the Trinitarian and
Christological note that is intrinsic and essential to them. Christian worship
in fact is of itself worship offered to the Father and to the Son and to the
Holy Spirit, or, as the liturgy puts it, to the Father through Christ in the
Spirit. From this point of view worship is rightly extended, though in a
substantially different way, first and foremost and in a special manner, to the
Mother of the Lord and then to the saints, in whom the Church proclaims the
Paschal Mystery, for they have suffered with Christ and have been glorified with
Him.  In the Virgin Mary everything is
relative to Christ and dependent upon Him. It was with a view to Christ that God
the Father from all eternity chose her to be the all-holy Mother and adorned her
with gifts of the Spirit granted to no one else. Certainly genuine Christian
piety has never failed to highlight the indissoluble link and essential
relationship of the Virgin to the divine Savior.
 Yet it seems to us particularly in
conformity with the spiritual orientation of our time, which is dominated and
absorbed by the "question of Christ," 
that in the expressions of devotion to the Virgin the Christological aspect
should have particular prominence. It likewise seems to us fitting that these
expressions of devotion should reflect God's Plan, which laid down "with one
single decree the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of the divine Wisdom."
 This will without doubt contribute to
making piety towards the Mother of Jesus more solid, and to making it an
effective instrument for attaining to full "knowledge of the Son of God, until
we become the perfect man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself"
(Eph. 4:13). It will also contribute to increasing the worship due to Christ
Himself, since, according to the perennial mind of the Church authoritatively
repeated in our own day,  "what is given
to the handmaid is referred to the Lord; thus what is given to the Mother
redounds to the Son; ... and thus what is given as humble tribute to the Queen
becomes honor rendered to the King." 
26. It seems to us useful to add to this mention of the Christological
orientation of devotion to the Blessed Virgin a reminder of the fittingness of
giving prominence in this devotion to one of the essential facts of the Faith:
the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Theological reflection and the liturgy
have in fact noted how the sanctifying intervention of the Spirit in the Virgin
of Nazareth was a culminating moment of the Spirit's action in the history of
salvation. Thus, for example, some Fathers and writers of the Church attributed
to the work of the Spirit the original holiness of Mary, who was as it were
"fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature."
 Reflecting on the Gospel texts - "The
Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you
with his shadow" (Lk. 1:35) and - [Mary] was found to be with child through the
Holy Spirit .... She has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit" (Mt. 1:18,
20) - they saw in the Spirit's intervention an action that consecrated and made
fruitful Mary's virginity  and
transformed her into the "Abode of the King" or "Bridal Chamber of the Word,"
 the "Temple" or "Tabernacle of the
Lord,"  the "Ark of the Covenant" or "the
Ark of Holiness,"  titles rich in
biblical echoes. Examining more deeply still the mystery of the Incarnation,
they saw in the mysterious relationship between the Spirit and Mary an aspect
redolent of marriage, poetically portrayed by Prudentius: "The unwed Virgin
espoused the Spirit,"  and they called
her the "Temple of the Holy Spirit,"  an
expression that emphasizes the sacred character of the Virgin, now the permanent
dwelling of the Spirit of God. Delving deeply into the doctrine of the
Paraclete, they saw that from Him as from a spring there flowed forth the
fullness of grace (cf. Lk. 1:28) and the abundance of gifts that adorned her.
Thus they attributed to the Spirit the faith, hope and charity that animated the
Virgin's heart, the strength that sustained her acceptance of the will of God,
and the vigor that upheld her in her suffering at the foot of the cross.
 In Mary's prophetic canticle (cf. Lk.
1:46-55) they saw a special working of the Spirit who had spoken through the
mouths of the prophets.  Considering,
finally, the presence of the Mother of Jesus in the Upper Room, where the Spirit
came down upon the infant Church (cf. Acts 1:12-14; 2:1-4), they enriched with
new developments the ancient theme of Mary and the Church.
 Above all they had recourse to the
Virgin's intercession in order to obtain from the Spirit the capacity for
engendering Christ in their own soul, as is attested to by Saint Ildephonsus in
a prayer of supplication, amazing in its doctrine and prayerful power: "I beg
you, holy Virgin, that I may have Jesus from the Holy Spirit, by whom you
brought Jesus forth. May my soul receive Jesus through the Holy Spirit by whom
your flesh conceived Jesus.... May I love Jesus in the Holy Spirit in whom you
adore Jesus as Lord and gaze upon Him as your Son."
27. It is sometimes said that many spiritual writings today do not
sufficiently reflect the whole doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit. It is the
task of specialists to verify and weigh the truth of this assertion, but it is
our task to exhort everyone, especially those in the pastoral ministry and also
theologians, to meditate more deeply on the working of the Holy Spirit in the
history of salvation, and to ensure that Christian spiritual writings give due
prominence to His life-giving action. Such a study will bring out in particular
the hidden relationship between the Spirit of God and the Virgin of Nazareth,
and show the influence they exert on the Church. From a more profound meditation
on the truths of the Faith will flow a more vital piety.
28. It is also necessary that exercises of piety with which the faithful
honor the Mother of the Lord should clearly show the place she occupies in the
Church: "the highest place and the closest to us after Christ."
 The liturgical buildings of Byzantine
rite, both in the architectural structure itself and in the use of images, show
clearly Mary's place in the Church. On the central door of the iconostasis there
is a representation of the Annunciation and in the apse an image of the glorious
Theotokos. In this way one perceives how through the assent of the humble
handmaid of the Lord mankind begins its return to God and sees in the glory of
the all-holy Virgin the goal towards which it is journeying. The symbolism by
which a church building demonstrates Mary's place in the mystery of the Church
is full of significance and gives grounds for hoping that the different forms of
devotion to the Blessed Virgin may everywhere be open to ecclesial perspectives.
The faithful will be able to appreciate more easily Mary's mission in the
mystery of the Church and her preeminent place in the communion of saints if
attention is drawn to the Second Vatican Council's references to the fundamental
concepts of the nature of the Church as the Family of God, the People of God,
the Kingdom of God and the Mystical Body of Christ.
 This will also bring the faithful to a
deeper realization of the brotherhood which unites all of them as sons and
daughters of the Virgin Mary, "who with a mother's love has cooperated in their
rebirth and spiritual formation,"  and as
sons and daughters of the Church, since 11 we are born from the Church's womb,
we are nurtured by the Church's milk, we are given life by the Church's Spirit."
 They will also realize that both the
Church and Mary collaborate to give birth to the Mystical Body of Christ since
"both of them are the Mother of Christ, but neither brings forth the whole
[body] independently of the other." 
Similarly the faithful will appreciate more clearly that the action of the
Church in the world can be likened to an extension of Mary's concern. The active
love she showed at Nazareth, in the house of Elizabeth, at Cana and on Golgotha
- all salvific episodes having vast ecclesial importance - finds its extension
in the Church's maternal concern that all men should come to knowledge of the
truth (cf. 1 Tin. 2:4), in the Church's concern for people in lowly
circumstances and for the poor and weak, and in her constant commitment to peace
and social harmony, as well as in her untiring efforts to ensure that all men
will share in the salvation which was merited for them by Christ's death. Thus
love for the Church will become love for Mary, and vice versa, since the one
cannot exist without the other, as St. Chromatius of Aquileia observed with keen
discernment: "The Church was united... in the Upper Room with Mary the Mother of
Jesus and with His brethren. The Church therefore cannot be referred to as such
unless it includes Mary the Mother of our Lord, together with His brethren."
 In conclusion, therefore, we repeat that
devotion to the Blessed Virgin must explicitly show its intrinsic and
ecclesiological content: thus it will be enabled to revise its forms and texts
in a fitting way.