Love of Mary shared byEast & West

Pope John Paul II from OsservatoreRomano N.34(1454)

Summery: Mary is the center of the devotion of the Church. That devotionstarted in East by the Christians of the Middle East then went to in West

Before praying the Angelus at Castel Gandolfo on Sunday, 18 August,the Holy Father spoke of the devotion to Our Lady and to the saints thatis shared by the Eastern and Western Churches. "One could say thenthat Western and Eastern Christians 'compete' in their love for the BlessedVirgin, recognizing in Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and of the Church,the synthesis and culmination of the marvels worked by God for man",the Pope said. Here is a translation of his reflection, which was givenin Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In a special way the light of Christ shines out in the saintsand illumines the face of the Church (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 1). Their venerationis a bridge vitally linking the Churches of the East and West, fosteringthe exchange of spiritual gifts and the way to full unity. One could saythen that Western and Eastern Christians "compete" in their lovefor the Blessed Virgin, recognizing in Mary, Mother of the Redeemer andof the Church, the synthesis and culmination of the marvels worked by Godfor man.

A few days ago we celebrated her Assumption into heaven. In the East,where this solemnity is also known as the "Dormition" of Mary,it is considered the greatest Marian feast, for which the faithful preparewith eight days or more of fasting and prayer. Indeed, one aspect of theChristian vision emerges from Mary's Assumption, which is justifiably emphasizedin the Eastern tradition: if every human person is created in the imageand likeness of God, Mary, full of grace, is the one who "resembleshim the most".

In her is fulfilled the plan of God, who desires to raise man to thelevel of his Trinitarian life. Mary was raised to the peak of the "visionof God". This is not only because like a true Mother, she gave herflesh to the Word of God, but above all because she cherishes him in herheart forever, as the Znamenie icon splendidly portrays.

The famous akathistos hymn to the Mother of God presents Mary as "acompendium of the truths of Christ".

2. Together with Mary, the saints are the Church's great treasurein the East as in the West. They are the splendour of the Redemption broughtabout by Christ. Their death is remembered as their "birth in heaven,and the liturgy commemorates several of them each day. Many of the saintsare common to both traditions, especially those of the biblical era andthe first Christian centuries. Countless hymns of praise have been dedicatedto them. Art has made them the subject of splendid depictions. The peopleconsider them patrons and models of life. If the Eastern and Western liturgiesare compared, an obvious complementarity can be noted. Here too, it isnecessary to become better acquainted and to have greater appreciationof one another. In this regard, I am pleased to recall the case of St.Gregory the Great: the great Pope who had been apocrisiarius in Constantinopleunderstood that his ministry as Successor of Peter was that of being "servantof the servants of God". He was appreciated by Eastern Christiansand they remember him with the unusal epithet of "Gregory the Dialogist".While this evocative expression calls to mind a famous work by the greatPontiff, it also serves as the inspiration for a programme of holinessand ministry in which resolute service to the truth always walks in stepwith the ability to listen and theintense quest for communion among thebrethren.

3. Let us entrust to Mary's intercession the ecu menical journeyto which Christians are committed and which was given a decisive impetusby the Second Vatican Council. If we turn to the past beneath the gazeof our common Mother and in the light of the saints, it will be easierto build a future of holiness and, with it, a future of unity. Unfortunately,the history of East-West relations has been marked by serious shadows.But today more than ever, as the third millennium rapidly approaches, itis necessary to look ahead. May Mary Most Holy, model of the Church andthe living icon of her mystery, guide and sustain our steps.