The Church celebrates Mary, Mother of the Church – a tradition which can be traced back to the first century.
The Church has traditionally portrayed the Blessed Virgin Mary together with the apostles and disciples gathered at that first Pentecost, joined in prayer with the first members of the Church.
The title, Mater Ecclesiae is found in the writings of Berengaud, bishop of Treves (d.1125). In the 1895 encyclical Adjutricem populi (Helper of the People) Pope Leo XIII wrote, “She is invoked as Mother of the Church and the teacher and Queen of the Apostles”. Following the title’s usage by Leo XIII, it was later used many times in the teachings of John XXIIIand Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The use of the Mater Ecclesiae title to the Virgin Mary goes back to Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century, but this was not known until its 1944 rediscovery by Hugo Rahner. Rahner’s Mariology, following Ambrose, sees Mary in her role within the Church. His interpretation, based solely on Ambrose and the early Fathers, greatly influenced Vatican II and Pope Paul VI, who, quoting Ambrose, declared Mary the “mother of the Church”.