Part 4 Mary and the Liturgy

Chapter m41 The Life of Mary in the Liturgy

Preliminary Questions


Jesus:  Event Feasts

Jesus:  Idea Feasts

Mary:  Event Feasts

Mary:  Idea Feasts

Spirituality of the Seasons

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

How much do we know about the life of Mary the mother of Jesus?  What is the source of this historical data?  what events in the life of Mary are celebrated during the liturgical year?

Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page



Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page

Jesus:  Event Feasts

Conception March 25  Solemnity  Rank #3 (according to the Table of Liturgical Days According to their Order of Precedence)

Birth  December 25  Solemnity   Rank #2  [Note: one of the three feasts of "light" : star, star, candle.]

[Circumcision and Naming  January 1  (January 2  former  Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus)]

[Finding in the Temple  Sunday after Christmas,  Feast  Gospel for the Feast of the Holy Family Rank #5]

Presentation  February 2  Feast  Rank #5 (40 days after Christmas 7+31+2=40) [Note: one of the three feasts of "light" : star, star, candle.]

Epiphany January 6  Solemnity  Rank #2 [Note: one of the three feasts of "light" : star, star, candle.] (Epiphany:  3 kings, baptism, Cana)

Baptism  Sunday after Epiphany / First Sunday per annum  Feast  Rank #5  - January 6 ( Epiphany:  3 kings, baptism, Cana) 

[First Sign (Miracle) at Cana  January 6 (Epiphany:  3 kings, baptism, Cana)]

Transfiguration  August 6  Feast  Rank #5 (40 days before September 14) (An ancient tradition held that Jesus was transfigured 40 days before he was crucified. August 6 is 40 days before September 14, the Triumph of the Cross.)

[Jesus visits Lazarus, Martha & Mary  "Lazarus Saturday" Saturday before Passion Sunday]

Entry into Jerusalem Palm Sunday Rank #2

Last Supper and Betrayal  Holy Thursday   Triduum Rank #1

Death  Good Friday  Triduum Rank #1

[Burial  Good Friday - Holy Saturday - Easter Sunday ]

Resurrection  Easter  Triduum Rank #1

Ascension Solemnity  Rank #3 40 days after Easter [according to Luke and the liturgical calendar]  

Pentecost (Jesus sends the Holy Spirit) [Easter day according to John; 50 days later according to Luke and the liturgical calendar]]

Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page

Jesus:  Idea Feasts

Holy Trinity   Sunday after Pentecost (From the year 1334) Rank #3

[Holy Name of Jesus] Second Sunday after Christmas (From the year 1721)

Corpus Christi   Thursday Solemnity Rank #3 (Sunday) after Trinity (From the year 1264)

[Precious Blood] contained in celebration of Corpus Christi. (From the year 1849. Pius XI instituted the feast in gratitude for his return to Rome after the victory of 1848)

Sacred Heart Friday after Corpus Christi Rank #3

Holy Family  Rank #5 Sunday in octave of Christmas (From the year 1921.  Instituted to retard the breakdown of family living)

Christ the King Rank #3 Last Sunday of the Year (From the year 1925. Monarchy was loosing ground in Europe to Communism.)

Triumph of Cross September 14 Rank #5 (Heraclitus, King of Jerusalem returned the Holy Cross on September 14, 629, after the Persians had captured it in 614.)

Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page

Mary:  Event Feasts

Conception   December 8  Solemnity Rank #3

Birth  September 8   Feast Rank #7

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary  November 21  Memorial  Rank #10

Motherhood   January 1  Solemnity Rank #3 [removed:  October 11 Maternity of Mary]

[Annunciation of the Lord   March 25  Solemnity of the Lord Rank #3 ]

Visitation  May 31 Feast Rank #7

[Purification  February 2  (Presentation in the Temple  Feast  of the Lord Rank #5) ]

Assumption / Dormition  [Death]  August 15 Solemnity Rank #3

Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page

Mary:  Idea Feasts

[Apparition of] Our Lady of Guadalupe   December 12  USA Feast  Rank #3 in Mexico; #7 in USA  Apparition at Guadalupe, Mexico

[Apparition of] Our Lady of Lourdes  February 11  Optional Memorial  Rank #12  Apparition at Lourdes, France

Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula  August 2 Rank #7

Queenship of Mary  August 22 Rank #10

Our Lady of Sorrows  September 15 Rank #10

Holy Rosary October 7 Rank #10

The Immaculate Heart of Mary  Sat after the Sacred Heart of Jesus Rank #12

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel   July 16 Rank #12

[Dedication of the Church of]  Our Lady of the Snows  (Mary Major)August 5 Rank #12

[Compassion of Mary] Rank #12

[Mary Mediatrix of All Graces]  May 8 Rank #12

[Name of Mary]  September 12 Rank #12

[Our Lady of Ransom] September 24 Rank #12

In addition to the fifteen Marian feasts in the General Roman Calendar, there are many other feasts in which she plays an important role.

Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page

Spirituality of the Season

[Reprinted from: Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Spirituality of the Seasons: Mary: The First Disciple" St. Anthony Messenger, 103:3 (August, 1995) p 56.]

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" Devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, plays a significant role in every Catholic's spirituality. Besides the seasons of the Church Year, we also celebrate the feasts of the saints -- and first among these is Mary. The Second Vatican Council, describing the Church Year, stated: "In celebrating this annual cycle of Christ's mysteries, the Church honors with special love Mary, the Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son. In her the Church holds up and admires the most excellent effect of the redemption and joyfully contemplates, as in a flawless image, that which the Church itself desires and hopes wholly to be." (Constitution on the Liturgy, 103)

The teaching of the Council about Mary is found in chapter eight of the Constitution on the Church. The title of the chapter is significant: "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church." Mary is honored because of her role in 1) the Mystery of Christ and 2) the Mystery of the Church. Balancing these two roles is the key to authentic devotion to Mary.

Mary's role in the Mystery of Christ: Mary always points to Jesus. The "duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin ... always refer to Christ." (Constitution on the Church, 67) "What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 487). For example, when Mary was proclaimed Theotokos (Mother of God) at the Council of Ephesus in 431, this pronouncement was made in the context of a controversy about the mystery of Christ. To say that "Mary is the mother of God" is a statement about Mary, but first and foremost it is a statement of our belief about Jesus of Nazareth.

Mary's role in the Mystery of the Church: Mary is a type, "a flawless image," of the Church. She exhibits the ideal features and characteristics of a Christian disciple. Mary is all that "the Church itself desires and hopes wholly to be." (Constitution on the Liturgy, 103) "The Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ. For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion." (Constitution on the Church, 64)

Mary bore Jesus in her womb and gave him birth. Today, we -- the Church-- bear Christ in our bodies by Baptism and Eucharist and we are to bring forth Christ in our world by our word and example. Mary's virginity is the type of our single minded devotion to Christ. Mary's sinlessness is model for the Church, the spotless bride of Christ. Mary's assumption is our destiny as disciples.

On August 15 we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. The spirituality of the Assumption is best discovered by examining the Scriptures proclaimed on that day. The first reading (from the Book of Revelation) assures us that the mission of the Church will not be thwarted by the powers of evil. The Church pictured as "a woman clothed with the sun" is "with child." Evil pictured as "a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns" stands ready to devour the child when she gives birth. But the child is saved and taken up to God. The passage refers primarily to the Church; but it is also Mary's story for Mary is a type of the Church.

The second reading (1 Cor. 15:20-25) proclaims that Christ, raised from the dead, is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. In Christ all shall be brought to life, but each one in proper order. Again this is Mary's story, the Church's story, and our story. Mary is the first to be lifted up; but we too shall be brought to life in our turn.

The Gospel (Luke 1:39-56) recounts Mary's visit to help her pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth tells her "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." These words are addressed to us also; we too are blessed if we trust in the Lord's promise. And Mary responds, "He has lifted up the lowly." These words are also addressed to us, for we too are destined to be lifted up, assumed into heaven, even as Mary was.

When we consider Mary as type of the Church, we see that the Assumption is not only about Mary; it is our feast -- it is a feast about us, and our lives now! We are to be confident that our efforts to birth Christ to this world will not be thwarted. Blessed are we when we trust that the Lord's promise will be fulfilled. And we are assured that God will lift us up in due turn, even as God lifted up Mary.

Authentic Marian devotion must "refrain alike from exaggerating and from minimizing" the dignity of the Mother of God. (Constitution on the Church, 67) We must avoid all false claims about Mary, especially those which would make her equal to God, or make her the fourth Person of the Trinity, or the feminine face of the divinity. For example, to say "My sins are so grievous that a just God could never forgive them; only a loving Mother is powerful enough to forgive my sins" makes Mary more powerful than God. This is not really giving honor to Mary; no one likes to be praised for something they are not!

In our devotion to Mary; we "are to guard conscientiously against anything in word or act that might lead Christians separated from us or anyone else to a mistaken idea of what precisely the Church teaches on Mary." (Constitution on the Church, 67) This is especially important today as Pope John Paul II has reminded us: "Among the most fervent petitions which the Church makes to the Lord during this important time, as the eve of the new millennium approaches, is that unity among all Christians of the various confessions will increase until they reach full communion." (On the Coming of the Third Millennium, 16)

"Authentic veneration of the saints consists not so much in the multiplying of external acts as in the greater intensity of our love, whereby, for our own greater good and that of the whole Church, we seek from the saints example in their way of life, company in their communion, and aid in their intercession." ( Constitution on the Church, 51) By giving her consent to be Mother of God, Mary gave Christ to the World. We follow her example when we say yes to God's will in our lives and bring forth Christ to our world. Christ is the savior and liberator of all creation. Who today especially needs to be saved and liberated -- saved from starvation and liberated from poverty and oppression? While there are many in this category, I think that "women" would be one group of particular interest to Mary. A United Nations' study reported that while women comprise more than half of the world's population, they own only 10% of the world's wealth and only 1% of the world's land. Over 75% of starving people are women with their dependent children. What do I do to bring forth the saving Jesus for these people? It is something I think about each time I pray "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus."

Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page

To Think About

In what ways are the feast of Mary which are celebrated in the liturgical year, parallel to the feast of our Lord?

Go to:  Top of This Page   Mary Index  Tom Richstatter Home Page

Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/11/14 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at