Reflections by Bishop Soto from his "ad limina" visit
Bishop Jaime Soto from the Vatican, April 19
Thursday was a relatively easy day. It was a Vatican holiday, commemorating the seventh anniversary of election of Pope Benedict XVI. All the Vatican offices are closed so this gave the bishops of Region XI little to do. Most of us used the time to nap, catch up on the news, or attend to accumulated e-mails in the virtual inbox. Later in the afternoon, a bus took us to the Basilica of Santa María Maggiore. There we gather as the successors of the apostles around the Madonna Salus Populi Romani, an ancient Marion icon of the Virgin Mary, the protectress of the Roman people.
The basilica dates from the time of the early Church Council of Ephesus, 431AD. At that Council, the Virgin Mary was recognized as Theotokos, the Mother of God. The recognition of the dignity of Mary as the Mother of God draws the church’s attention to the incarnate mystery of Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary. Affirming the maternal dignity of Mary roots the saving work of Jesus in a human life wrapped up in the muddled and messy dynamics of family, neighborhood, village, friendships and, yes, even politics.
Mary, the Mother of God, reveals the divine hand working in the history of humanity, muddled and messy as that history is, the history of the church included. Because of Mary, the Mother of God, we can say confidently in the First Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation: “Never did you turn away from us, and, though time and again we have broken your covenant, you have bound the human family to yourself through Jesus your Son, our Redeemer, with a new bond of love so tight that it can never be undone.”
This is the beauty of the church’s reflection on Mary. She leads us to a richer, deeper understanding of the Lord Jesus. Blessed John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter on the Holy Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, spoke about the rosary being Cristo-centric. The mysteries of the Marian rosary lead us to her Son. This is true not only about the rosary. It is also true about Mary. Understanding her role in salvation unfolds the mystery of her Son’s saving work. This begins with seeing her as the young woman overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1.35) and continues as she sits with the Apostles in the upper room when the same Holy Spirit overshadows them at Pentecost (Acts. 1.13-14). Just as young Virgin Mary went hastily into the hillside of Judea filled with the good news, so the Apostles would overcome their fears and boldly leave the upper room to preach the good news.
As the Mother of God, Mary is also the Mother of the Church. So it was good for us bishops to gather under this treasured icon of Holy Mary, the Mother of God, and plead that she sit and pray with us as well. Through her intercession, may the same Spirit overshadow us and our local churches with the ardent fire of apostolic faith.