The Marian cult: origins and development

Annunciazione

Over the centuries, via theological reflections, the Church has highlighted the scripture, patristic and traditional foundations of the cult of Mary.
In the Gospels, Mary is part of God’s mysterious plan through:

  • the virginal conception of Jesus;
  • the exchange of faith with God from the succession of the Son until the crucifixion;
  • sharing with the fellowship of the Apostles.
  • In ancient times, the Church assigned Mary the main truths of faith that are the basis of Marian dogma:
  • "Theotòkos" (Mother of God) at the Council of Ephesus 431;
  • "Aeiparthenos" (Always Virginal) at the Council of the Lateran 649.

In the Middle Ages, the Marian cult developed further. The monastic prayers referred to Mary as a "Queen" and "Mother of Mercy", "Mediator for the reconciliation between Christ and Church" and "Mother of Miracles to help sinners." It is possible to detect these epithets in the duties of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in the various Marian crowns, from which the Holy Rosary derives.
In modern day, the apparitions of the Madonna to Catherine Labouré (1830) and to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes (1858), accompany the formulation of the "Dogma of the Immaculate Conception" (1854), proclaimed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in union with all the Bishops in the world. The widespread Marian cult culminates in the "Dogma of the Assumption of Mary" proclaimed by Pius XII in 1950.
Today the Marian Doctrine is based above all on the "Lumen Gentium", dogmatic constitution of the Second Vatican Council, that presents Mary in the role of "Mother of the Saviour", part of the mystery of Christ of the Church and of the universal Saviour. After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI published the apostolic exhortation "Marialis cultus" for the straight order and development of the cult of the Blessed Virgin.
Another of Mary’s great supporters was Pope John Paul II who loved the figure of the Virgin, chose "Totus tuus" as an apostolic motto and devoted his mandate to Mary. His most significant Marian reflections are enunciated in the encyclical "Redemptoris Mater" of 1987, while the Apostolic Letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" in 2003 relaunched the practice of the Rosary by enriching it with the "mysteries of Light."