adhered to revealed Truth
John Paul II
August 20, 1997
1. The Church is a mother and virgin. After affirming that
she is a mother, modeled on Mary, the Council gives her the
title of virgin, explaining its significance: "She herself
is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith
she pledged to her spouse. Imitating the Mother of her Lord,
and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she preserves with
virginal purity an integral faith, firm hope and sincere
charity" (Lumen gentium, n. 64).
Thus Mary is also a model of the Churchís virginity. In this
regard, it is necessary to explain that virginity does not
belong to the Church in the strict sense, since it does not
represent the state of life of the vast majority of the
faithful. Indeed, by virtue of Godís providential plan,
marriage is the most widespread and, we could say, common
state for those called to the faith. The gift of virginity
is reserved to a limited number of the faithful, who are
called to a particular mission within the ecclesial
Nevertheless, in mentioning St Augustineís teaching, the
Council maintains that the Church is virginal in the
spiritual sense of integrity in faith, hope and charity.
Therefore, the Church is not a virgin in the body of all her
members, but possesses a virginity of the spirit (virginitas
mentis), that is, "integral faith, firm hope and sincere
charity" (In Io. Tr., 13, 12; PL 35, 1499).
2. The Constitution Lumen gentium therefore takes pains to
recall that Maryís virginity, a model for that of the
Church, also includes the physical dimension, by which she
virginally conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit
without manís intervention.
Mary is a virgin in body and a virgin in heart, as appears
from her intention to live in deep intimacy with the Lord,
decisively manifested at the time of the Annunciation. Thus
she who is invoked as "Virgin of virgins" is without doubt
for everyone a very lofty example of purity and of total
self-giving to the Lord. But she is a special source of
inspiration for Christian virgins and for those who are
radically and exclusively dedicated to the Lord in the
various forms of consecrated life.
Thus after its important role in the work of salvation,
Maryís virginity continues to have a beneficial influence on
the Churchís life.
3. Let us not forget that Christ is certainly the first and
highest example for every chaste life. However Mary is a
special model of chastity lived for love of the Lord Jesus.
She encourages all Christians to live chastity with
particular commitment according to their own state, and to
entrust themselves to the Lord in the different
circumstances of life. She who is the sanctuary of the Holy
Spirit par excellence helps believers rediscover their own
body as the temple of God (cf. 1 Cor 6:19) and to respect
its nobility and holiness.
Young people seeking genuine love look to the Blessed Virgin
and invoke her motherly help to persevere in purity.
Mary reminds married couples of the fundamental values of
marriage by helping them overcome the temptation to
discouragement and to subdue the passions that try to sway
their hearts. Her total dedication to God is a strong
encouragement to them to live in mutual fidelity, so that
they will never give in to the difficulties that beset
4. The Council urges the faithful to look to Mary so that
they may imitate her "virginally integral" faith, hope and
To preserve the integrity of the faith is a demanding task
for the Church, which is called to constant vigilance even
at the cost of sacrifice and struggle. In fact, the Churchís
faith is not only threatened by those who reject the Gospel
message, but especially by those who, in accepting only part
of the revealed truth, refuse to share fully in the entire
patrimony of the faith of Christís Bride.
Unfortunately, this temptation, which we find from the
Churchís very beginning, continues to be present in her
life, urging her to accept Revelation only in part, or to
give the Word of God a limited, personal interpretation in
conformity with the prevailing mentality and individual
desires. Having fully adhered to the Word of the Lord, Mary
represents for the Church an unsurpassable model of
"virginally integral" faith, for with docility and
perseverance she accepts the revealed Truth whole and
entire. And by her constant intercession, she obtains for
the Church the light of hope and the flame of charity,
virtues of which, in her earthly life, she was an
incomparable example for everyone.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy
I am pleased to extend special greetings to the
English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at todayís
Audience, especially those from England, the United Arab
Emirates, India, Pakistan, Japan and the United States. As I
prepare to leave tomorrow for the World Youth Day in Paris,
I ask your prayers for this important event. Upon all of you
I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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