What does it mean to say that Mary is the Mother of the Church?
What does it mean to say that the Church herself always and particularly in our time has the need for a Mother?
Pope John Paul II once raised these questions. He finds the answer more suitably in the council when he said: “We owe a debt of Gratitude to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, who expressed these truths in the constitution of the church (Lumen Gentium) with its reach Mariological doctrine. Paul IV inspired by the teaching proclaimed the Mother of Christ ‘Mother of the Church,’ and this title has become known Far and wide.
Thus, while the Church is called our Mother, we also address Mary as the Mother of our Church. This last title is traceable from John 19:26-17, where Mary is entrusted with maternal responsibility for the whole Church, in the person of the Beloved Disciple, John.
Although there is no passage in the New Testament, that speaks of Mary explicitly as the Mother of the Church, the title is closely enough linked to Scriptures for Pope Paul VI to have made its promulgation a matter of first importance during the Second Vatican Council.
The title, ‘Mother Of The Church’ needs to be understood in two ways:
First, Mary is the Mother within the Church, while she is also a member of it. Meanwhile, while each member of the church has his or her special endowment given by the Holy Spirit to equip them for the personal service of the whole Church – some are Apostles, some are teachers etc, for the building up of Christ’s Body (Eph 4:11-12). Mary’s special endowment is to be a mother, who serves as Mother.
She is not only one within the Church who has the responsibility of a Mother, but she is also Mother of the Church in the sense that her relationship to the Church is that of Mother to Her offspring. This follows immediately from her relationship to her son: she is the Mother of the one whose body is the Church – Christ. Mary who took the Beloved Disciple as her son at the feet of the cross continues to support the church with her prayers.
Secondly, Mary’s role as the Mother of the Church is not separate from her role as the type and model of the Church, which receives such clear emphasis at Vatican II. The third Gospel picks out contemplative faith and obedience, as her characteristics (Lk 1:45; 2:19; 2:51; 8:21; 11:28). She provides an example of what it means to be her son’s disciple. She demonstrates uniquely in her own person the working of God’s grace in all of us. This is especially true of the two most recent Marian dogmas.
Mary’s fullness of grace and preservation of original sin through her immaculate conception, and her reception, body, and soul, into heaven at the assumption, are divine actions already accomplished in her, pointing to a similar destiny to which we are all called in eternity.
Therefore, Christ himself is the Church and automatically, Mary being the Mother of Christ, is the mother of the Church.