Our Lady’s Ambassador: John Paul II, Fatima, and the Fifth Marian Dogma

My Marian journey began in 1960 when the Catholic world was waiting for Pope John XXIII to reveal the third secret of Fatima. Now, as we approach the third millennium, there is again an eager anticipation among God s people of an imminent theophany when God will manifest His presence to save His people. The present Holy Father, in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, expressed this sentiment when he said that, as we end this century, Our Lady’s words to the children of Fatima seem close to their fulfillment. The victory, he said, when it comes, shall be brought by Mary.

His elaborate preparation for the Great Jubilee Year that he called the hermeneutical key and the defining point of his pontificate is without doubt in anticipation of this victory.

FATIMA: Its Prophetic Force into the Third Millennium

In 1981 while I was researching the Fatima message, I came across a commemorative message broadcast over Vatican Radio. In part, it said: “Neither Pope John XXIII, nor Pope Paul VI, considered advisable to reveal to the world the third part of the Secret of Fatima. However, there is a certainty that the third part of the Secret contains a particular gravity, confirmed by the tragic reality that the entire world is living today Have we reached the fullness of times? Are we living the beginning of the Apocalypse prophesied by St. John? The time has come when words are not enough anymore. It is now necessary to act immediately if we wish that humanity, that each of us, may be able to see, besides the fire, the light.”

I sensed that the Holy See was issuing a wake-up call. This reference to fire and apocalyptic times from the authoritative and conservative Vatican Radio must have a special meaning. All doubt disappeared when the news was flashed on television that Pope John Paul II was shot by an assassin. The day was May 13th, the anniversary of Fatima. I knew in my heart that this was not a coincidence and that we are to see the Fatima message fulfilled in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. How I wished then that I could meet him face to face and talk to him about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Two years later, Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., a freedom fighter, was assassinated as he came home from exile. The nation mourned his death; two million Filipinos marched in his funeral. The country was in turmoil and the Philippine Bishops turned to Mary for help as they declared a Marian Year to commemorate her anniversary in 1985. Five million Filipinos pledged to pray her Rosary daily, praying for liberation and salvation. Elections were held but the Catholic Bishops Conference, unprecedented in the history of the universal Church, declared the proceedings fraudulent. Amidst dramatic events led by the people and the power of prayer, the dictator fled and Maria Corazon Aquino took her oath as the seventh President of the Third Philippine Republic. The day was February 25, 1986, the feast of Our Lady of Victory. On May 13th, the anniversary of Fatima, the new President called me and asked if I could be her Ambassador to the Holy See. I knew then that I was on a mission for Our Lady but I did not know what the mission was.

I presented my credentials to the Holy Father on the eve of Our Lady’s birthday, and after the ceremonial exchange of formal messages, His Holiness invited me to his study for a private conversation that lasted forty-five minutes. My desire to interview the Holy Father, made five years ago, was granted by Our Lady in a grand manner beyond my dreams. I related to the Holy Father how our democracy was restored with Our Lady’s intercession at the end of the Philippine Marian Year. His Holiness listened attentively, nodded and repeated the words “Marian Year.” He then explained to me how Our Lady of Fatima saved his life in 1981. He said that, by an act of divine providence, the bullet that struck him missed his vital organs and he had sent this bullet to Fatima to be imbedded in the crown of Our Lady.

Imagine my amazement during the Pontifical Mass on New Year’s Day at St. Peter’s Cathedral when the Holy Father announced a Marian Year for the universal Church. The next day, L’Osservatore Romano reported that the Holy Father was inspired by the events of the Philippines during the Marian Year. Our Lady had accomplished my mission, which was kept secret from me.

In his Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, announcing the celebration of the Advent of the Third Millennium, the Holy Father attributed the miraculous events in Eastern Europe following the Marian Year to our Blessed Mother which, he said, “remain surprising for their vastness and speed with which they occurred. One could discern the invisible hand of Providence at work with maternal care.”

His Holiness said that these historic events were only a prelude to a greater victory that “will find fuller expression in the Year 2000, the Great Jubilee Year.” For this year 1998, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, he specifically asked that we renew “our hope in the definitive coming of the Kingdom of God, preparing for it daily in our hearts….”

The Pope was not speaking of a figurative coming. He says: “The term Jubilee speaks of joy; not just an inner joy but a jubilation which is manifested outwardly, for the coming of God is also an outward, visible, audible and tangible event.”

After the Philippine Marian victory, Cardinal Jaime Sin gathered a number of renowned theologians for an international symposium in Fatima on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This was to comply with the wish of Our Lord, expressed to Sr. Lucia, that “my entire Church acknowledge this victory as coming from My Mother so that the devotion to her Immaculate Heart can be placed alongside the devotion to My Sacred Heart.” Cardinal Sin wanted to pay tribute to Our Lady for our Marian victory and for the whole Church to acknowledge the high stature that God has given to the Immaculate Heart of Mary so that her Triumph might be realized in the world.

This proposal met with obstacles from the beginning. Some theologians said that there was no theological basis for joining the Two Hearts together. One is the heart of God and the other the heart of a woman, albeit the Mother of God. This objection is similar to the objection to the Fifth Dogma of Our Lady Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces, and Advocate that “no creature, not even Mary, can be placed on level with the Word of God in this particular redemptive function.” Cardinal Jaime Sin courageously decided to proceed anyway and he wrote the Holy Father to ask for His Holiness’ blessings, which the Holy Father granted immediately.

A preliminary meeting was held at the Vatican with Cardinal Ciappi, the personal theologian of the Holy Father, presiding. During the discussions, the theologians from the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith proposed to limit the symposium to the Immaculate Heart alone, and not in conjunction with the Sacred Heart. Not only did Cardinal Ciappi stoutly defend the original inspiration of Cardinal Sin, but all objections disappeared after the Holy Father himself gave a series of Angelus homilies on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The theologians led by Cardinal Sin presented the symposium papers with two vota to the Holy Father. The first votum was for the Holy Father to issue an important document on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The second votum was to elevate the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Heart from an optional to an obligatory memorial.

Ten years later on January 1, 1996, the second votum was granted. The Holy Father authorized a decree issued by the Congregation of Divine Worship elevating the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to an obligatory memorial on the day following the feast of the Sacred Heart. This essentially complies with the request of Our Lord for the Church to honor the Immaculate Heart of His Mother properly. I believe this is a prelude to the coming Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Fifth Dogma and Our Lady’s Triumph

Mary’s rightful place beside Jesus needs to be established to prepare for the fulfillment of a promise made by Our Lady at Fatima, which was the conversion of Russia. Today, it is the long awaited Triumph of her Immaculate Heart promised at Fatima that will bring peace to all nations. The entire Catholic world, led by the Holy Father, is anticipating this victory. The conversion of Russia was conditioned on its solemn collegial consecration by the Holy Father to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with the Bishops of the world, and this victory had to be acknowledged by the entire Church as coming from the Mother’s Heart.

The stakes are even greater today. For Our Lady to bring peace to all nations, the Holy Father is asked to solemnly proclaim the privilege and power which the Holy Trinity has bestowed on the Lady and Mother of All Nations: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate. The Holy Father seems predisposed, as he has spoken several times of Our Lady as Coredemptrix. In Redemptoris Mater he refers to Mary as Mediatrix. And as well His Holiness has called her Advocate. Yet, these titles are creating much controversy today, particularly among theologians. Why?

Theology is the science of God. Perhaps, as a Philippine Bishop suggested to me, the theologians might be approaching the problem too clinically. Theology is a discipline of which I do not have the slightest expertise. Allow me then to offer a few insights on Our Lady’s titles by the simple approach of a layman, who understands this dogma predominantly with his heart.

The first is inspired by His Eminence Christoph Cardinal von Schönborn, O.P. In his thesis submitted to the Fatima Symposium on the Alliance of the Two Hearts, Cardinal Schönborn said:

Why is it that theology finds the center of its heart in the heart of a woman who is Jesus’ mother? Mary is the guarantor of Christian realism; in her becomes manifest that God’s word was not only spoken but also heard; that God has not only called, but that man has also answered; that salvation was not only presented, but also received. Christ is God’s word, Mary is the answer; in Christ, God has come down from heaven; in Mary the earth has become fruitful. Mary is the seal of perfect creatureliness; in her is illustrated in advance what God intended for creation.

From my simple understanding of Cardinal Schönborn, the gift of redemption, freely and perfectly given, must be freely and perfectly received. The Heart of Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. But what is the Word of God if it is not heard and received by the heart of man? The Heart of Jesus represents the love of God for man, but again, what is the love of God if man does not respond to it? The longings of the Heart of Jesus are perfectly fulfilled in the Heart of Mary. Her Heart is the only untarnished receptacle of the Word of God. The Heart of Mary has perfectly responded, love for love, to the perfect love of God.

Our Lady is the “seal of perfect creatureliness.” From this light, she is indispensable in God’s plan for the redemption of man. She is indispensable not because God is incapable by Himself to redeem us, but because He wants man, whom He has created with a free will, to cooperate freely in his own redemption to make this redemption truly redemptive, worthy of both God and man.

This redemption would be unworthy of God if it is imposed on man. And it would be unworthy of man if he did not desire this redemption of his own free will. The Redeemer therefore needs man to be his coredeemer, to cooperate in his own redemption. This role of coredemption was offered to Mary who was conceived without original sin. Only she could begin a new blood lineage liberated from the slavery of sin. Her Immaculate Conception ended man’s legacy of sin, qualifying her alone to be Coredemptrix, who like the paschal lamb must be unblemished. This offer was made by the Lord through the Angel Gabriel, and with her fiat she accepted on behalf of all mankind and became Coredemptrix.

This is why in the 1945 Amsterdam apparitions of “The Lady of All Nations,” the title of which has been approved by the late local ordinary, Bishop Hendrik Bomers of Haarlem, Our Lady said: “The Lady is Coredemptrix, not because I am the Mother of God, but, mark this well, because I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The Ecumenical Question

Some oppose the fifth Marian Dogma on the grounds that it would be divisive, that it would not be a catalyst for unity in the Church. The argument goes something like this: “I believe in my heart that Our Lady is Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate, but I cannot support its proclamation at this time. It might divide the Church.”

I found a response to this objection in the writings of His Eminence, Luis Cardinal Martinez, the author of the book El Espiritu Santo. The Cardinal wrote:

Two sanctifiers are necessary to souls, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, for they are the only ones that can reproduce Christ … The first is the sanctifier by essence because He is God, infinite sanctity … and it belongs to Him to communicate to souls the mystery of that sanctity. The Virgin Mary, for her part, is the co-operator, the indispensable instrument, in and by God’s design … These two, then, the Holy Spirit and Mary, are the indispensable artificers of Jesus, the indispensable sanctifiers of souls. Any saint in heaven can co-operate to the sanctification of a soul, but his co-operation is not necessary … while the co-operation of these two Artisans of Jesus is so necessary that without it souls are not sanctified (and this by actual design by Providence). Such is the grace that the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary have in the order of sanctification. Therefore, Christian piety should put these two artisans of Christ in their true place, making devotion to them something necessary, profound and constant. The Sanctifier by His Essence … the Virgin Mary the Cooperator, the indispensable instrument.

This, I believe, is the most powerful and compelling argument to support the Fifth Marian Dogma: that by divine fiat, no sanctification can be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit who is the Essence and the Cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the indispensable instrument of mediation.

With this thesis, we can say with conviction that it is not enough that we believe the truth of this dogma in our hearts. But this knowledge must make us understand that this dogma is essential to our Catholic Faith, not in its periphery but in its core. And we must proclaim it to the world in order for the Immaculate Heart to Triumph and the Holy Spirit to come, in our hearts first and then in all nations. Truth in itself does not cause division; only the rejection of truth.

This proclamation is not for her sake, as we cannot add any title that the Holy Trinity had not already bestowed on her, but it is for our sake that we understand and accept this truth, for our own sanctification and grace.

As for the timeliness of the Marian definition now, this truth must be proclaimed today because our need is urgent as the battle between the Gospel of Life and the culture of death is raging in our midst, and the conflagration of evil engulfs the world. As Vatican Radio had admonished, words are not enough anymore, we must act resolutely now.

From May 13, Fatima to May 31, Amsterdam

While Fatima is undoubtedly the most important Marian apparition of the twentieth century, foretelling the events of this century that impact on our faith and the future of mankind, the messages of the Lady of All Nations, which lasted for fourteen years, are an extension of the Fatima messages. The Amsterdam messages, approved for acceptance by the individual conscience by Bishop Bomers of Haarlem, are meant for our time as they contain three elements, each one connected to an important event that is yet to come.

The first element is the coming of the Holy Spirit, to be sent by the Father and the Son into the world for a Second Pentecost. As an act of Divine Mercy, He is to come and “live in the hearts of all nations, to preserve them from degeneration, disaster and war.”

The second element is the grave warning of “tremendous forces threatening the world,” of “terrible scourges” and of “gravest events” including a general loss of faith.

This grave time, the Lady of All Nations said, has come upon us. She spoke of a great chastisement by fire that could be a description of a nuclear holocaust. “Hurricanes of fire will pour forth from the clouds … an uninterrupted rain of fire will take place…”

The third element of the Amsterdam messages is a message of hope. Our Lady said:

This Dogma will be and is the crowning glory of your Mother and when it is proclaimed, the Lady of All Peoples will obtain peace, peace for the whole world. The Holy Spirit of peace is nearer now than ever before but He will only come if you will pray. He is the salt. He is the water. He is the light. He is the power that overshadowed your mother. He has proceeded from the Father and the Son and it is He who has endowed the Lady of All Peoples with His power, and because of this she can and may distribute graces to you.

The times have arrived. The Holy Spirit must come upon the earth. The Holy Spirit must again come down and this time it will be upon all peoples. The Lady comes to announce the Holy Spirit and she comes to prepare the way for this.

AKITA: Continuation and Confirmation of Fatima and Amsterdam

Twenty-eight years separate the 1917 Fatima apparitions and the Amsterdam apparitions which began in 1945. Another 28 years after 1945, in the year 1973, a wooden sculptured image of The Lady of All Nations, in a convent of contemplative nuns in the city of Akita, in the diocese of Niigata, Japan, began to shed human tears, sweat human perspiration and bleed human blood. Sister Agnes Sasagawa Kasuko was the chosen witness who received the stigmata from Our Lord and messages from Our Lady. The third message was on October 13, 1973, which coincides with the date of the miracle of the sun in Fatima.

As The Lady of All Nations did in Amsterdam, she again warned at Akita of a chastisement of fire upon mankind: “If men do not repent and better themselves, the Heavenly Father will inflict a great punishment on all humanity. It will definitely be a punishment greater than the Deluge, such as has never been seen before. Fire will plunge from the sky and a large part of humanity will perish.”

Bishop Ito, the superior at Akita, issued an important statement on the Akita apparitions in 1991 when he visited the Philippines. What he said is important as Our Lady herself told Sister Sasagawa that Bishop Ito will provide the authoritative interpretation of the Akita events. This is what he said:

The distinctive characteristic of the Marian apparition in Akita is that the wooden statue of the Blessed Mother stands before the Cross. This posture of the miraculous statue means that the Blessed Mother has a deep relationship and linkage with the redeeming Passion of Christ on the Cross in Calvary.

The statue was carved from a reproduced card of an oil painting of the Blessed Mother of Amsterdam, who appeared to a Dutch Catholic woman name Ida Peerdeman from 1945 to 1959. In Amsterdam, the Blessed Mother identified herself as Coredemptrix. This role of Coredemptrix means that the Blessed Mother gave birth to the Redeemer and shared in the sufferings of Christ. Christ came into the world as the Redeemer and the work of redemption was the Cross, with all its sufferings, both body and spirit. The Blessed Mother suffered with Her Son Jesus, standing in front of the Cross. While the suffering of Our Lady is not the essential principle of the redeeming sacrifice of Our Lord, the suffering of the Blessed Mother was necessary to enable mankind to receive Divine graces that come from the redemption by Christ on the Cross.

Fr. Thomas Teiji Yasuda SVD, the spiritual director of Sister Sasagawa, was quoted in the book, Akita: Mother of God as Coredemptrix as saying, “The miracles of the bleeding and weeping of the statue of the Blessed Mother in Akita were brought about by God in order to illustrate the truth of Mary’s role as Coredemptrix.”

Even the Miraculous Medal, the apparitions of which constituted the true beginning of the Marian message to the modern world and the work of Marian coredemption, also depicts the Blessed Mother as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate. She appears as Mediatrix of all Graces with her hands extended dispensing graces. The words inscribed “Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” presents her as the Advocate of sinners. The cross is intertwined with the letter M at its foot, as a clear reference to Mary as Coredemptrix, as it is by the cross that Christ has redeemed the world.

The Mother of All Peoples and the New Advent

We have seen how these three messages of the 20th century, Fatima, Amsterdam and Akita are interlocked, guiding the destiny of mankind as we enter the third millennium. Fatima occurred in 1917.Twenty-eight years after Fatima, in 1945, the Lady of All Nations came to Amsterdam and after another twenty-eight years, she manifested herself in Akita in 1973. And if we add another twenty-eight years after Akita, it will bring us to the year 2001, the first year of the third millennium.

Bishop John Ito, Ordinary of Akita who approved the apparitions, wrote to me after he briefed the Holy Father about the Akita events and presented his pastoral to Cardinal Josef Ratzinger for approval. Bishop Ito was certain that Akita was an extension of Fatima, and Cardinal Ratzinger personally confirmed to me that these two messages, of Fatima and Akita, are essentially the same. Bishop Ito said: “The Father wants to purify mankind before it enters into the third millennium.” Bishop Ito said categorically that the Akita miracle confirms the authenticity of the Amsterdam messages as the Akita statue that wept and bled was a sculptured image of The Lady of All Nations. Heaven would not have allowed the supernatural events at Akita to be focused on an image of Our Lady of All Nations if her messages at Amsterdam do not represent the truth. And if it is the truth, why are we suppressing the proclamation of the truth? The proclamation of the Fifth Dogma is no longer our prerogative; it is now our duty. We must heed the advice of Vatican Radio that “the time has come when words are not enough anymore. It is now necessary to act immediately if we wish that humanity, that each of us, may be able to see, besides the fire, the light.”

Two thousand years ago, during the First Advent, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and when the power of the Most High overshadowed her, she conceived Jesus, Son of God. Now, during this New Advent, it is The Mother of All Peoples, the Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate, who will accompany her Spouse to descend into our hearts and souls and recreate in each of us – if we give our fiat – the likeness of Jesus. United with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, in their passion for the Father’s Will, with the fire of the Holy Spirit blazing in us, we can dispel the darkness that shrouds the world and renew the face of the earth.

 

The Honorable Howard Q. Dee is the former Vatican Ambassador from the Philippines.

This article was originally published in Contemporary Insights On A Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations III, Queenship, 2000.

Mary Co-redemptrix: A Protestant Pastor Responds

The possible emergence of a papal dogma declaring Mary as the mediatrix, coredemptrix, and advocate for all of God’s people couldn’t hit the world ecumenical stage at a worse time. At least that is the reaction of many Protestant and some Catholic theologians as well. It was the initial reaction of such noted Catholic scholars as Prof. Dr. Joseph Seifert, Rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein and an acclaimed Catholic teacher.

There were numerous reasons for such initial objections and Dr. Seifert is quick to point them out. Would not such a doctrine be regarded, in the first place, as just another promotion of what he terms, “a merely marginal Catholic belief that is open to many understandings, given the fact that there is only one Savior and one Redeemer, Jesus Christ”? A second objection he raises is that the issuance of such a dogma is not very timely given the fact that the Church today is shaken to its foundations by other greater issues, and a third concern which arises is that such a Marian dogma does not seemingly possess any Biblical roots, but is based purely on oral sacred Tradition.

After careful study of the proposed dogma and its ecumenical implications, Dr. Seifert has concluded that an urgent need actually exists for such a statement and that this need far overrides any reservations the world Christian community might have regarding its ecumenical or social implications.

A leading exponent for the proclamation of Mary-Mediatrix is Dr. Mark Miravalle, professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and a leader in the international Catholic movement called Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici. His efforts have the support of such people as the late Mother Teresa who wrote, “the papal definition of Mary as coredemptrix, mediatrix, and advocate will bring great grace to the Church,” and the late John Cardinal O’Conner, Archbishop of New York, who responded by saying, “clearly a formal papal definition would be articulated in such a precise terminology that other Christians would lose their anxiety that we do not distinguish adequately between Mary’s unique association with the redemption and the redemptive power exercised by Christ alone.”

The initial Protestant reaction to such a dogma has been, rather predictably, one of anxiety. Will it not produce a red flag in the remarkable progress that has already been made through more than a quarter century of dialogue between leaders of various Christian communions? The answer to that question is—not necessarily.

Like Dr. Seifert, leaders of all the world’s Christian groups need to prayerfully study and evaluate the theological truth implied in any such statements about Mary’s place in our common Christian faith, but also the implications for such a proclamation at this point in history.

Perhaps a statement by Dr. Seifert, in a letter to the members of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, sets the stage for any new dogma by asserting that it “would have to exclude any blurring of the distinction between Christ’s redemptive deed and Mary’s purely human way of participating in redemption and of becoming coredemptrix.” Given such careful attention to wording, there should be no valid reason for Protestant objections. Such a statement could have two major positive effects on world Christian dialogue. First, it would set the record straight in terms of Catholic teaching, i.e. the Catholic maintains the centrality of Christ and His redemptive act for human salvation. Secondly, it would bring into focus the often overlooked importance of the Mother of our Lord, who in becoming the willing human bearer of the Incarnate God, participates in her Son’s act for human salvation.

Protestants need to understand that the words mediatrix, and coredemptrix do not mean equality. Pope John Paul II, while showing a deep devotion to the Mother of our Lord, has made it clear on numerous occasions that he understands human salvation as being an act empowered by Christ alone. The pontiff’s words and witness should present no problem for Protestants. The Anglican theologian, John Macquarrie, notes that while there have been abuses of Mary-Mediatrix terms in past Church practices in which “unthinking enthusiasts may have elevated Mary to a position of virtual equality with Christ,” such abuses do not represent the official teachings of the Catholic Church any more that some extremist views or practices in other Christian churches represent the official teaching of those churches. Macquarrie acknowledges, “all responsible theologians would agree that Mary’s coredemptive role is subordinate and auxiliary to the central role of Christ. But if she does have such a role, the more clearly we understand it, the better.”

In this whole process, there is obvious need for dialogue. For only in the give-and-take atmosphere of such dialogue do Christians learn from each other and, in the process, learn to appreciate the uniqueness of each other’s responses to the acts of a loving God on the stage of human history.

Perhaps it might not be too earth-shaking to suggest at this point in time that any papal formulation of a dogma of Mary Mediatrix also consider the input of Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant leaders as well as the input of the Roman curia and its theologians. Perhaps it would not be too earth-shaking; then again, maybe something earth-shaking is exactly what the world Christian community needs to do. And what better place to start than with Mary, the Mother of our unity.

If such be the case, then the response of this Protestant pastor is one which says, “let’s go for it!”

 

Rev. Charles Dickson is a Lutheran pastor based in North Carolina, U.S.A. He is a frequent contributor to several theological and mariological publications, particularly in the area of Ecumenism, and is author of the book, A Protestant Pastor Looks at Mary.

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini and Mary Co-redemptrix

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini († 1917) Foundress, and ardent missionary among the immigrants, has left a patrimony of pure and profound faith both by her example and her teachings. In an anthology on the words of Mother Cabrini treated by the wise theologian Giuseppe De Luca, (1) we find a harvest of simple but essential doctrine, animated by a “theological faith,” writes Miotto, “lived ad intra in that most intimate dynamic of the love of the Holy Spirit, manifested and radiated ad extra in the dynamic of that labor of love translated into works of charity, into the active apostolate, into that unwearied missionary passion even to the end.” (2)

Within the patrimony of her teaching there is contained the precious pearl of doctrine on Marian Coredemption. In God’s salvific design, in fact, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini points out the centrality of Mary’s presence who, given to us by Christ, “is the Mediatrix between God and men, our most amiable Mother,” (3) and with a very pertinent biblical reference, she defines Blessed Mary as the “New Eve, true Mother of the living,” (4) as the one “chosen by God to be Coredemptrix of the human race.” (5) From Eve to Mary, from the sinful mother to the Mother Coredemptrix: these passages are explicit and enlightening. Mary’s salvific mission is rooted in Genesis 3:15, the most celebrated biblical prophecy that presents the Mother and Son indissolubly united in the work of Redemption.

To this biblical reference, furthermore, Mother Cabrini wisely unites the reference to the Pontifical teaching which gives it the security and guarantee of infallible truth. In her times Pope St. Pius X was her principal Master in the Faith, and to him she expressly appeals when she explains the mystery of the Marian Coredemption, writing that “if the glory of giving life to our Redeemer pertained to her, then also, as our Holy Father said so well, the office of guarding and preparing the Sacred Victim of the human race for sacrifice pertained to her as well. Mary was not only the Mother of Jesus in the joys of Bethlehem, but even more so on Calvary,… and there she merited to become our most worthy Coredemptrix.” (6)

This too is a splendid page of doctrine and faith, exemplary by its simplicity of diction and by its essential theological content. Mother Cabrini, with her strong and profound sensus fidei, sees Mary’s salvific mission as Coredemptrix as being most strictly united with that of her divine Son. She sees the divine Mother as entirely consecrated, for the whole span of her life, to her Son’s redemptive work for the salvation of the human race, she herself preparing “the Sacred Victim” to be offered on Calvary in a co-immolation so interior and personal, so real and matter of fact, as to merit her becoming “the most worthy Coredemptrix.”

In these affirmations of Mother Cabrini the truth of the Marian Coredemption is presented clearly and firmly in its substance, bound to its biblical roots, nourished by the Church’s Magisterium, espoused to the serenity and security of faith which does not encounter any obstacles in believing and transmitting a doctrine that makes up a part of the Church’s grand, perennial patrimony of Faith. In St. Francis Xavier Cabrini’s teaching it is obvious that she did not have the need to defend the truth of the Marian Coredemption. Quite the contrary. There was nothing to defend. She writes and speaks of this most precious truth of our Faith with the maternal concern of recommending to the Mother Coredemptrix the entire work of the apostolate and of evangelization which she and her daughters were engaged in throughout the world.

Miotto, in fact, writes that for Mother Cabrini our Blessed Lady:

is the Mother Coredemptrix, united and inseparable from her Redeemer Son in her cooperation with the accomplishment and completion of the universal plan for salvation, always “serving towards the mystery of Redemption under Him and with Him,” as Vatican II summarizes it (L.G. 56). This is the substance of the most genuine Marian soteriology, all in the key of the Coredemption, which we find in the holy Mother Cabrini’s intrepid and ardent life of faith, having sailed forth without rest across the oceans from one continent to another. (7)

Endnotes

(1) G. DE LUCA, Parole sparse della Beata Cabrini, Rome, IT, 1938.
(2) S.M. MIOTTO, La voce dei Santi e la “Corredentrice,” in Maria Corredentrice, Frigento, IT, 2000, vol. III, p. 203. It is interesting to point out the rich biblical-symbolic intonation of Cabrini’s thought (cf. ibid. p. 204, nt. 40).
(3) Parole sparse della Beata Cabrini, edition cited, p. 164.
(4) Ibid. p. 169.
(5) Ibid. 1.c.
(6) Ibid. p. 170. Pope St. Pius X wrote the following text: “Not only is praise due to the most holy Mother of God for having formed ‘the material of the flesh of the only Son of God who had to be born with human members’, and not only for having as such prepared a victim for the salvation of men, but she also had the task of guarding and nourishing the Victim, and of placing Him on the altar on the day established” (AAS 36, 1903-1904, 453).
(7) Work cited, pp. 205-206.

Fr. Stefano Manelli, F.I., is Founder and Minister General of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. He is internationally known for his distinguished preaching and biblical, Mariological scholarship. His biblical Mariology has recently appeared in English under the title: All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed.

Co-redemptrix Foretold: The Old Testament

It is one thing to define a term; it is quite another to believe it. That the Church defines the meaning of Co-redemptrix as Mary’s entirely unique sharing in the work of Redemption with Jesus is clear. But on what basis does she believe it to be true?

God’s perfect providence, dictated not by absolute necessity but by divine disposition, the Heart of God expressed to the heart of man, is revealed with a certain primacy through Sacred Scripture.

The Mother of Jesus is rightly understood not as a woman in Scripture, but as The Woman of Scripture. She is, as we shall see, the “woman” of Genesis (Gen. 3:15), the “woman” of Cana (Jn. 2:4), the “woman” of Calvary (Jn. 19:25), the “woman” of Revelation (Rev. 12:1), and the “woman” of Galatians (Gal. 4:4).

But here we must ponder the revelation of the Woman of Scripture specific to her role “with Jesus” in the work of Redemption. We commence with the ancient Covenant between God and man and its written Testament.

The Great Prophecy—Genesis 3:15 (1)
“I will put enmity between you and the woman”

We begin at the beginning, in the Book of Genesis with the protoevangelium, the “first gospel.” For the merciful love of the Father permits fallen humanity to be in despair without a redeemer for only a few verses.

After the human “sin of sins” takes place, God is quick to reveal his redemptive plan to reverse or “recapitulate,” as the early Fathers would say, the sin of Adam and Eve. The Creator in his omniscience makes known a plan to bring about the serpent’s complete defeat by using the same basic means, though in reverse, by which Satan effected the loss of grace for the human family. In doing so, God the Father of all mankind further reveals his omnipotent sovereignty over Satan.

God reveals his redemptive plan of a future woman and her future “seed” of victory: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he (she) shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his (her) heel (Gen. 3:15).”

In this greatest of Old Testament prophecies, we see a struggle between a woman and her offspring, or “seed,” against Satan and his seed of evil and sin. With the revelation of the battle is the revelation of the eventual victory of the woman and her seed in the crushing of Satan’s head.

The “seed” who is ultimately victorious over Satan and his seed can refer only to Jesus Christ. No one else may lay claim to the redemptive victory of the crucified and resurrected Redeemer. The “woman” of the seed of victory must then also refer to Mary in the most essential and ultimate sense, who is alone the true and natural mother of Jesus Christ. Eve does not give physical birth to the Redeemer, nor does Israel, nor does the Church. Only Mary the “New Eve” does.

This Genesis passage is quintessentially prophetic, foretelling a definitive victory over Satan to take place in the future—”I will put.” So, too, must the two persons of the victory be in the future, so that through a woman yet to be born and her victorious seed, the loss of the first woman would be vindicated.

God places “enmity” between the woman and the serpent and their respective “seeds.” “Enmity” in scripture refers to a complete and radical opposition, (2) and it is precisely this enmity which separates the woman and her seed (Mother and Son) from Satan and his seed. It is within this divinely-established enmity that the nature and role of Mary Co-redemptrix is first foretold.

The woman shares with her seed in the struggle against the serpent and his seed. In the full light of salvation history, we understand that this passage foreshadows Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, who intimately shares in the identical struggle against Satan and evil as does Jesus the Redeemer. The Woman “with Jesus” participates in the great battle for buying back humanity, which is revealed by the Heavenly Father immediately after the first woman participates in the loss of humanity “with Adam.” Eve becomes the “co-peccatrix”—”with the sinner”; Mary is prophesied as the “Co-redemptrix”—”with the redeemer.” (3)

The “enmity” between the woman and the serpent also foretells the “Immaculate One,” who is both free from sin and full of grace. Only a person in total and complete opposition to the Evil One could be entirely immaculate or “stainless,” (macula meaning stain). In its positive meaning, this Woman will be “full of grace” (Lk. 1:28), for she positively bears the full fruits of Redemption applied to her in an exalted way, in a preservative way, through which she will never be touched by Satan and his sinful seed. (4)

The Heavenly Father’s “Immaculate One,” His Virgin Daughter full of grace, will represent humanity in the battle “with Jesus” for souls. She will be God’s greatest masterpiece, his greatest creature, fighting against his most heinous creature in this cosmic struggle. Only one free from sin could be an appropriate partner with the Redeemer in the work of Redemption. A sin-stained partner would be acting as a type of double agent, working with the Redeemer and with Satan at the same time. Mary will be the Co-redemptrix entirely and exclusively “with Jesus,” because she is first the Immaculate Conception. (5) Her freedom from sin from the moment of conception will be God’s gift to mankind, and her “fiat,” freely given, will represent mankind’s response. The necessity of this freedom, this total giving of self, is essential, for God respects absolutely the free cooperation of his creatures in the work of human salvation.

“She will crush your head.” The revelation of the Co-redemptrix in Genesis 3:15 does not depend upon the debated pronoun translation, whether “he” or “she,” of this second line of the prophecy. It is revealed first in the Eternal Father’s foretelling of the future battle in which Mary, woman of the “seed,” mother of the redeemer, will intrinsically participate with her Son against those with whom they have enmity, Satan and his seed.

It is nonetheless noteworthy that in the revealed text, it is the woman who must struggle directly against the serpent, while the seed of the woman is in parallel struggle against the seed of the serpent. If we are to properly respect the parallelism in the text, it is appropriate to conclude from the first “enmity” announced between the woman and the serpent, that the subsequent pronouns then logically refer to the first protagonist, the woman, and the first antagonist, the serpent. The pronoun “she” thereby refers to the woman-protagonist crushing the “head” of the serpent-antagonist. (6)

The traditional Vulgate which conveys the Genesis passage with the female pronoun, “ipsa” or “she” has been used by numerous popes in papal documents in referring to Mary. For example, Bl. Pius IX in the papal bull defining the Immaculate Conception, Ineffabilis Deus (Dec. 8, 1854), refers to the woman of Genesis 3:15 as Mary, who will crush the head of Satan “with her virginal foot” and clearly identifies the Mother’s sharing in the Son’s redemptive victory. This is but one of several examples from the papal magisterium that identify without question the woman of Genesis 3:15 as Mary:

The Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, enlightened by instruction from on high, taught that the divine prophecy: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed,” clearly and plainly foretold how there was to be a merciful Redeemer for mankind, namely, the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. They also taught how the prophecy pointed to His Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, and how it clearly expressed at the same time their common enmity toward the devil. Just as Christ, the Mediator between God and men, by taking our nature, cancelled the decree of condemnation against us, triumphantly nailing it to the cross, so too the most holy Virgin, intimately and indissolubly united to Christ, became with Him the everlasting enemy of the venomous serpent, and thus shared with Her Son His victory over the serpent, crushing as she did the serpent’s head with her virginal foot. (7)

It is telling that Our Lady herself does not appear to be hindered by a pronoun translation debate when in the Church-approved Miraculous Medal apparitions of Our Lady of Grace at Rue de Bac (Nov. 27, 1830), the vision and subsequent medal depict the Mediatrix of all graces as literally stepping on the head of the serpent with her foot. (8)

Mary Co-redemptrix is the Woman of Genesis 3:15. But she is also the Woman and the Virgin Mother of Isaiah, who in another great Old Testament prophecy is foretold in bringing forth the great sign of salvation predicted to Ahaz: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name, Immanuel” (Is. 7:14). She is further the Woman of Micah, who “in travail” brings forth the future ruler who will save Israel: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth, then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel” (Mic. 5:2-3). The prophecy of the travail of the woman refers not to birth pains due to sin, inapplicable to the Immaculata conceived without original sin and its effects, but rather to the co-suffering that awaits the Mother of the Redeemer in giving spiritual birth to the many at the greatest of prices.

Old Testament Types and Symbols of the Co-redemptrix

And what of the many great women of the Old Testament, who in their very persons foretell of the Co-redemptrix to come?

Sarah, wife of Abraham, through a miraculous birth, gives birth to Isaac and becomes the “Mother of nations” (Gen. 17:15-17). Mary, through a miraculous birth, gives birth to the Redeemer and becomes the Mother of all peoples (cf. Lk. 1:38Jn. 19:25-27).

Rebecca dresses Jacob in the clothing of Esau to obtain the inheritance of the first born from his father, Isaac (cf. Gen. 25:1-40). Mary dresses Jesus in the clothing of humanity to obtain for the rest of the human family the inheritance of the Heavenly Father. Rachel gives birth to Joseph, the future savior for the tribe of Jacob, who is sold for twenty pieces of silver by his own brethren (cf. Gen. 37:28). Mary gives birth to Jesus, the future savior of all people, who is sold for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Mt. 26:15).

The prophetess Deborah is Barak’s active partner in the victory over Sisera (which leads to the crushing of Sisera’s head by Jael), for which Deborah later proclaims a hymn of exultation (cf. Judg. 4:5). Mary, Queen of Prophets is the active partner with Christ in the victory over sin and the crushing of Satan’s head, for which she proclaims the greatness of the Lord (cf. Lk. 1:46).

The valiant Judith battles against the enemy Holofernes, and triumphs over him with the cutting off of his head (cf. Jud. 8-16). The valiant Mary battles against Satan, and triumphs over him with the crushing of his head (cf. Gen. 3:15, Jn. 19:27).

Queen Esther finds favor with King Ahasuerus in risking her life to save her people from a decree of death. Mary Co-redemptrix finds favors with Christ the King in offering her life for the mission of Redemption in the saving of all people “with Jesus” from the decree of eternal death (Lk. 1:38).

A phenomenal Old Testament type of Mary Co-redemptrix is found in the noble “Mother of Maccabees” (cf. 2 Mac. 7). Under a persecution from the secular king, Antiochus, six sons, one after the other, are torturously murdered in the presence of their mother because of their fidelity to the fasting practices of the Covenant. Antiochus himself calls upon the mother to intervene with her seventh son to save himself by accepting the offers of wealth and power from the king, if the son will only turn away from the fasting disciplines of the Covenant. The mother instead takes the opportunity to appeal to her son with words of encouragement and exhortation, instructing him to, “accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers” (2 Mac. 7:29).

How eloquently the Mother of Maccabees foreshadows the story of Mary Co-redemptrix! The seven swords of sorrow that will pierce the Mother s heart are predicted in the sufferings of the seven sons of Maccabees. The courageous glance, amidst the necessary tears, from the face of the Mother directed to the face of the crucified Son at Calvary convey in a message beyond words the imperative to persevere in the redemptive plan of the New and everlasting Covenant. The temptations of wealth, power, fame, or even the “futility” of the upcoming crucifixion whispered to the Son by the Prince of this world, are countered by the witness of humility, poverty, and obedience manifested by the faithful Virgin Mother, who herself wholly Immaculate, is the greatest and most worthy fruit of the Redemption wrought by her Son.

The scriptural account of the Mother of Maccabees and her seven sons ends with the words: “Last of all, the mother died, after her sons” (2 Mac. 7:41). So too, the popes tell us, does the Mother Co-redemptrix experience at Calvary a true “dying with Him in her heart, pierced by the sword of sorrow,” (9) where the Mother of the Redeemer is “crucified spiritually with her crucified son.” (10)

The Mother Co-redemptrix is moreover foretold in the greatest of all Marian symbols of the Old Testament, the “Ark of the Covenant.” The Ark is the place of “Gods presence,” bearing fragments of the tablet of the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron, and the mysterious manna from heaven, which together represent the law, the priesthood, and the sustaining food of the Covenant. As such the Ark is the concrete sign of the saving covenant between Yahweh and the people of Israel (cf. Deut 31:25; Ex. 16:4-36; Num. 17:1-13).

Likewise, the Mother of the Redeemer bears within herself Christ the New Law, Christ the High Priest, and Christ the Eucharist, which makes her the supreme Ark of the New Covenant. She is the divinely created and crafted bearer of the new and eternal covenant between divinity and humanity, the free and active Ark made of incorruptible wood, who both bears and suffers with the High Priest of the Everlasting Covenant. Every groaning of the Old Testament yearns forward to the Incarnation and to the fulfilled mission of Christ the Redeemer. And every longing for the redeeming Son is also, according to the saving plan of the Eternal Father, a longing for the co-redeeming Mother. For, as Blessed Pope Pius IX instructs in the dogmatic proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, both the Redeemer and the Co-redemptrix were indissolubly willed by the Father of all mankind to partake in the mission of human Redemption in “one and the same decree.” (11)

 

The above article is from the second chapter of “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix, Queenship Publications, 2003. The book is available from Queenship for the price of $3.00 U.S.

 

Notes

(1) For extended commentaries, cf. T. Callus, S.J., Interpretatio mariologica Protoevangelii, vol. 1, Tempore post-patristico ad Concilium Tridentinum, Rome, 1949; vol. 2, A Concilio Tridentino usque ad annum 1660, Rome, 1953; vol. 3 Ab anno 1661 usque ad definitionem dogmaticum Immaculatae Conceptionis (1854), Rome, 1954; cf. D. Unger, O.F.M.Cap., “Patristic Interpretation of the Protoevangelium,” Marian Studies, vol. 12, 1961, pp. 111-164; cf. A. Bea, S.J., “II Protoevangelio (Gen. 3:15) nella tradizione esegetica,” L’Osservatore Romano, Oct. 30, 1954, p. 1; “Maria SS. Nel Protovangelo (Gen. 3:15),” Marianum, vol. 15, 1953, pp. 1-21; cf. S. Manelli, F.F.I., All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, Academy of the Immaculate, 1995; “Mary Co-redemptrix in Sacred Scripture,” Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate Theological Foundations II, Queenship, 1996, pp. 71-80.

(2) For other examples of “enmity” in Scripture, cf. Num. 35:21-22, Deut. 4:42, Deut. 19:4, 6.

(3) Cf. Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, Maria: Mitterloserin, Salzburg, Dec. 9, 1990, Informationsblatt der Priesterbruderschaft St. Petrus, n. 12, Wigratzbad, Jahrgang, 1991.

(4) Bl. Pius IX, Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, 1854.

(5) Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, Homily on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1973; cf. John Paul II, General Audience, Dec. 7, 1983, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, December 12, 1983, p. 2; General Audience, Jan. 24, 1996, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, January 31, 1996, p. 11; cf. also H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe, trans. by R. Arnandez, F.S.C., Franciscan Marytown Press, 1977, chs. 2, 7.

(6) For an extended discussion of the parallelism of the Genesis 3:15 text, and a defense of the ipsa, “she,” pronoun from historical and medieval commentaries, particularly Cornelius à Lapide, cf. Bro. Thomas Sennott, M.I.C.M., “Mary Co-redemptrix,” Mary at the Foot of the Cross II: Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, Academy of the Immaculate, 2002, pp. 49-63. The author offers the following initial explanation in support of ipsa and quotes Cornelius a Lapide in support:

“In Hebrew hu is ‘he,’ and he ‘she’ . . . There is no ‘it’ in Hebrew, both hu and he can be translated ‘it’ depending on the context.

In Greek ‘he’ is autos, ‘she’ aute, and ‘it’ auto.

In Latin ‘he’ is ipse, ‘she’ ipsa, and ‘it’ ipsum

Cornelius à Lapide in his great Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram says that the underlying mystery is even reflected in the Hebrew grammar. ‘Also hu is often used instead of he especially when there is some emphasis on action and something manly is predicated of the woman, as is the case here with the crushing of the serpent’s head … It makes no difference that the verb is masculine yasuph, that is “(he) shall crush,” for it often happens in Hebrew that the masculine is used instead of the feminine and vice versa, especially when there is an underlying reason or mystery, as I have just said’ (C. a Lapide, Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram, Larousse, Paris, 1848, p. 105). The ‘underlying mystery’ is, of course, that Our Lady crushes the head of the serpent by the power of Our Lord.”

(7) Bl. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus; For other papal magisterial or conciliar references citing Mary’s unique role in Redemption as revealed in the Genesis 3:15 passage, cf. Leo XIII, Encyclical Augustissimae Virginis, 1897; ASS 30, p. 129; St. Pius X, Encyclical Ad Diem Ilium, Feb. 2,1904; ASS 36, p. 462; Pius XI, Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, 1937; AAS 29, p. 96; Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, 1937; AAS 42, p. 768; Encyclical Fulgens Corona, 1953; AAS 45, p. 579; Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 55; Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Signum Magnum, May 13, 1967; John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, March 25, 1987.

(8) See the descriptions of the apparitions found in R. Laurentin, Catherine Labouré et la Medaille Miraculeuse, Paris, 1976.

(9) Leo XIII, Encyclical Jucunda Semper, Sept. 8, 1894; ASS 27, 1894-1895, p. 178.

(10) John Paul II, in an Address at the Marian shrine in Guayaquil, Ecuador on January 31, 1985, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, March 11, 1985, p. 7.

(11) Bl. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus.

Mary Coredemptrix and Disputes Over Justification and Grace: An Anglican View

There have been times in the history of Christianity when Christ himself has become such a divine, exalted, numinous figure that the worshippers found him so distant that they needed a new mediator or mediatrix closer to their own humanity to fill the space that had opened between themselves and the original mediator. No doubt this is something that should never have happened, and the New Testament itself teaches clearly, “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Not only should it not have happened, I think we can say that in fact it is not happening at the present time, because for several generations theologians have been stressing the humanity of Christ. The Christ of post-Enlightenment theology is not a distant and exalted Christ in glory but more commonly a Christ reduced to all-too-human proportions. So the need for a mediatrix is not likely to be felt today with the intensity that was sometimes known in the past.

However, the matter cannot be settled by pointing to the dangers of exaggeration and abuse, or by appealing to isolated texts of scripture such as the verse quoted above from 1 Timothy, or by the changing fashions in theology and spirituality, or by the desire not to say anything that might offend one’s partners in ecumenical dialogue. Unthinking enthusiasts may have elevated Mary to a position of virtual equality with Christ, but this aberration is not a necessary consequence of recognizing that there may be a truth striving for expression in words like Mediatrix and Coredemptrix. All responsible theologians would agree that Mary’s co-redemptive role is subordinate and auxiliary to the central role of Christ. But if she does have such a role, the more clearly we understand it, the better. It is a matter for theological investigation. And, like other doctrines concerning Mary, it is not only saying something about her, but something more general concerning the Church as a whole or even humanity as a whole. At this point as at others, mariology impinges on anthropology.

The general question which, as it seems to me, is raised by the specifically mariological question about the co-redemptive role of the Virgin, is that of the human role in any adequate theology of salvation. Is this human role purely a passive one, or is it, as Vatican II asserted about Mary, a role that is also active? This is where mariology threatens to revive old controversies. With Martin Luther, the principle sola gratia, “by grace alone,” was fundamental. Although Pelagianism, the view that the human being has in himself the resources to find the path of salvation and to progress along it, has made great inroads into all the churches in the past two hundred years, the principle “by grace alone” has remained a shibboleth of orthodox Protestant theology. It is prominent, for instance, in the work of Karl Barth. On this view, fallen man is so disabled by sin that he is totally unable to help himself. Grace alone can redeem him, and he can contribute nothing.

In some forms of this teaching, it is even believed that human beings can be saved without even knowing that salvation is taking place. It has all taken place already through the once-for-all redeeming work of Christ. It is a fact, whether anyone recognizes it or not. Karl Barth speaks in this way, though admittedly there are some ambiguities in what he says. But it is his belief that from all eternity the whole human race has been elected or predestined to salvation in Jesus Christ. This event has taken place outside of humanity, without it and even against it. (1) He says also, “If the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11ff.) gives his life for the sheep, he does so to save the life of the sheep, but without any co-operation on their part.” (2) We may agree that the sheep do not need to cooperate or to be aware that there is any danger—the threat is an external one (perhaps a pack of wolves in the neighborhood) and they need never know that these wolves had been around. But though this may be true of sheep and an adequate account of how sheep may be saved from physical dangers, it is not true of human beings and is a woefully inadequate view of what is required for human salvation. The salvation or redemption offered by Christianity is not from some enemy “out there,” but from the enemy within, namely, sin. It is not a physical rescue that is required—that might not demand any co-operation and the person rescued might not even be conscious of what was going on—but salvation, in the Christian sense, is very different. In this case, salvation has to be appropriated inwardly by an act of penitence (turning) and faith on the part of the person saved.

The whole question was argued thoroughly a generation ago between Barth and Bultmann, but people have short memories. Bultmann had laid stress in his writings on the “decision of faith.” This decision is also expressed by Bultmann as “making Christ’s cross one’s own,” that is to say, by taking up the cross through an act of inward acceptance and appropriation. Barth strongly denied this. For him, the redemption is a purely objective act, already finished “outside of us, without us, even against us,” to recall his words already quoted and used by him in his polemic against Bultmann. Redemption is not, in his view, to be considered as an ongoing process in which we have some part, but as the once-for-all act of God long before we were born—though it is hard to know whether this act in the past is the death of Christ on Calvary or the eternal predestinating decree of God in the very beginning. But it is all complete already without us.

Now, if one conceded Barth’s point, then I think one would have to say that he is indeed treating human beings like sheep or cattle or even marionettes, not as the unique beings that they are, spiritual beings made in the image of God and entrusted with a measure of freedom and responsibility. This fundamental human constitution remains, even though ravaged by sin. Human beings are still human, not mere things or animals. If Barth were correct in what he says on these matters, it would make nonsense of the struggles of history, of the training and preparation of Israel, of the very incarnation of the Word, of the redemptive mission of the Church, of the preaching of the gospel and the ministration of the sacraments. These events in time could have no real significance, for everything has been settle in advance. Human beings, on such a view, have no freedom and no responsibility. They are not beings made in the image of God with some small share in the divine creativity and rationality, they are things to be passively manipulated and pushed around. Fortunately for us—or so we are assured—we are manipulated by grace rather than by a malignant fate or blind chance, nevertheless, we are manipulated. This seems to me a degradation of the concept of humanity implicit in the biblical accounts of creation. Feuerbach’s words about Luther remain, alas, true of much of the theology that stems from him and from other leading Reformers: “The doctrine is divine but inhuman, a hymn to God but a lampoon of man.” (3) It is understandable that Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche and a whole galaxy of modern thinkers came to believe that Christianity alienates them from a genuine humanity.

I was careful to say that there are ambiguities in what Barth says about salvation and the human beings’s part (or lack of part) in it. Though salvation is, in his view, an objective act accomplished by God, he does believe that it is important for human beings to become aware of God’s redemptive work and to appropriate it in their lives—he can even at one point introduce the controversial word “synergism” or “co-working,” though he envisages this as something which does not belong to redemption itself but is subsequent to it. I do not think, however, that his occasional modifications are sufficiently clear or that they are fully integrated into his main argument. Certainly, he never concedes what is for me a vital point—that from the very first moment when the divine grace impinges on a human life, it needs for its fruition a response, however feeble, of penitence and faith. Not for a moment is it being suggested that the human being initiates the work—the initiative belongs to God. But if it is merely outside of us, without us and even against us, then nothing worthy to be called “salvation” can take place. There has got to be something corresponding to Mary’s reported words to Gabriel: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).

The questions to which we have come are highly controversial, and yet they are so central to the place and significance of Mary that we must pursue them further. Although we are trying to see Mary as a reconciling influence for different Christian traditions, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that she also raises issues that have been divisive, for these must be faced if any true reconciliation is ever to be achieved. In particular, we must examine more carefully the conflict that arises from the teaching about the moral and spiritual helplessness of human beings and the doctrine of justification by grace alone to which that teaching has given rise. There have been strenuous efforts in recent years to bridge the gulf that opened at the Reformation on these matters—one thinks, for instance, of Hans Küng’s excellent early book, Justification, in which he tried to show that the teaching of the Council of Trent and that of Karl Barth on this question are not so totally opposed to each other as had been assumed: or to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission’s document on justification, which was another praiseworthy attempt to narrow the gap between the opposing points of view. There have also been important New Testament researches into the topics of faith, justification, grace and works.

Luther himself believed that the doctrine of sola gratia can be clearly derived from the New Testament, especially from the writings of Paul which had become for him a kind of canon within the canon. He was especially impressed by Paul’s account in Romans of his unavailing struggles to fulfill the law, and likewise with Paul’s strong opposition, expressed in Galatians, to those Judaizing elements who wished to impose some residual elements of the law of Moses on Gentile converts to Christianity. Luther saw these oppositions in extreme terms: on the one side, a harshly legalistic Judaism in which salvation was to be gained through good works performed in obedience to the law, and on the other side, Christianity as a religion of grace in which redemption has been gained for us by the cross and salvation is offered to us as a free gift, without regard to our merit or lack of merit. The recent work of such New Testament scholars as W. D. Davies and E. P. Sanders has called into question this simplistic but highly influential exegesis inherited from Luther. Davies puts the point quite mildly when he warns us that “it is possible to make too much of the contrast between Pauline Christianity as a religion of liberty and Judaism as a religion of obedience,” and he expresses the opinion that “justification by faith” is not the dominant factor in Paul’s thought. (4) These remarks have been greatly strengthened by the important studies of Sanders, who shows that in the Palestinian Judaism of Paul’s time there was a stress on grace as well as works, and that Paul’s own position was not so very different from that of his Jewish teachers. Sanders claims that “the Rabbis kept the indicative and the imperative (i.e., grace and works) well balanced and in the right order.” (5)

Luther’s exegesis of Romans was developed by him into a polemic against the Roman Catholic church, which he equated with legalistic Judaism and contrasted with the Reformation religion of grace. But now that the New Testament basis of his contrast between first-century Judaism and early Christianity has been placed in doubt, his application of this model to the relation between Roman Catholic and Protestant versions of Christianity must also be doubtful. It is interesting to note that Barth, in spite of his championship of grace versus good works, is careful to distance himself from Luther’s misuse of Galatians, still uncritically accepted by many Protestant writers. Barth says:

Certainly in Galatians there were and are many more things to be discovered than what Luther discovered then. Certainly there was and is much more to be said of the Roman church and Roman theology both then and since, than what the Reformers said then within the schema of Galatians. We do not need to consider ourselves bound either in the one respect or in the other by their attitude. (6)

In theology and probably in many other subjects as well, highly one-sided solutions to problems are rarely satisfactory. As far as our present problem is concerned, I believe that in any adequate theology there must be a place both for divine grace and for human effort, for divine initiative and for the human acceptance and active response. When Sanders speaks of getting these things in the right order and well balanced, I take him to mean that God’s grace comes first, and presumably it is grace that evokes and enables the human response, but the priority of grace does not for a moment render the human response superfluous, or suggest that the person who is the recipient of grace is in any way delivered from the imperative to bring forth “fruits worthy of repentance” (Lk. 3:8). It is the combination of divine grace and human response that is so admirably exemplified in Mary. She is “highly favoured” of God (or “full of grace” in the familiar Vulgate rendering), but she is also, in words which I quoted from W. P. DuBose, the one who “represents the highest reach, the focusing upwards, as it were, of the world’s susceptibility for God.” (7) If we accept that the human being has been created by God, endowed with freedom, and made responsible for his or her own life, and even if we accept in addition that there are limits to freedom and responsibility, and especially that through the weakness of sin no human being can attain wholeness of life through effort that is unaided by divine grace—even Kant in spite of his insistence on autonomy conceded as much—yet we are still bound to say that there must be some human contribution to the work of redemption, even if it is no more than responsive and never of equal weight with the grace of God.

While the champions of sola gratia have concentrated their attention on some passages of scripture and have probably interpreted even these in a one-sided way, there are other passages, even in the writings of Paul, where the element of co-operation in the work of salvation seems to be clearly recognized. It is Paul who, after the magnificent hymn in praise of Christ’s redeeming work, in his letter to the Philippians, goes on immediately to say to the Christian believers: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you” (Phil. 2:12). The thought here seems clearly to be that God’s work and man’s work go on side by side in the realization of salvation. In another epistle, he writes: “Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1). A straightforward interpretation of these words seems quite incompatible with any rigorous doctrine of sola gratia. For what does it mean “to accept the grace of God in vain” but to fail to make any response to this grace, to refrain from any answering work? The expression “working together with him,” which has also been translated “as co-workers with him,” is in Greek synergountes, from which we derive the English word “synergism,” cited at an earlier stage in the discussion. This word “synergism” is the usual theological term for the point of view I have been commending, namely, that human salvation is accomplished neither by man’s own unaided efforts nor by an act of God entirely outside of man, but by a synergism or co-working, in which, of course, the initiative and weight lie on the side of God, but the human contribution is also necessary and cannot he left out of account.

Before we leave the New Testament on these questions, let us call to mind in addition to the Pauline material the letter of James. Luther was so unhappy with this letter that he questioned whether it should ever have been included in the canon of the New Testament. It seems inconsistent with Paul’s insistence that we are justified by faith, not by works, or perhaps we should say, with Paul’s view of these matters as interpreted by Luther. But one could say that the apparent tension between James and Paul should not be taken to mean that James should have been excluded from the canon, but rather that the inclusion of his letter is a much needed corrective to some of the more one-sided Pauline pronouncements as they have been commonly understood. “What does it profit, my brethren,” asks James, “if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you say to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas. 2:14-17). Or perhaps one should say that faith, as decision, is itself the beginning of the work.

We have already noted how Luther contrasted Jewish legalism with Christian freedom, and how he sought to find a parallel contrast in the opposition between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Calvin in the meantime developed a doctrine of double predestination no less rigorous than that of Augustine. But we do find a dissenting voice among the Reformers. Luther’s friend and associate, Philip Melanchthon, was the principal theologian of the Lutheran Reformation. It is often claimed that he taught a doctrine of synergism, though some Lutherans have tried to play down this side of his teaching. But others have accused him of betraying the Lutheran cause and of subverting even the key doctrine of justification by grace alone. The truth is that Melanchthon retained a strong humanistic bias through the passionate controversial years following the Reformation, and therefore he could never feel at ease with doctrines which seemed to him to threaten such essential human characteristics as rationality, freedom and responsibility. So he was obviously unhappy with such notions as predestination and irresistible grace. He could not accept that, as he put it, “God snatches you by some violent rapture, so that you must believe, whether you will or not.” (8) Again, he protested that the Holy Spirit does not work on a human being as on a statue, a piece of wood or a stone. The human will has its part to play in redemption, as well as the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Such teaching might seem to us to be just common sense, but in the highly charged atmosphere of Melanchthon’s time, it needed courage to say such things, and it brought angry rejoinders from other Lutherans. But Melanchthon shows that even at the heart of Lutheran theology an effort was being made to find an acceptable place for synergism or co-working between God and man in the work of salvation.

Let us now come back to the consideration of Mary as Coredemptrix. Perhaps we do have to acknowledge that Barth and others have been correct in believing that the place given to Mary in Catholic theology is a threat to the doctrine of sola gratia, but I think this is the case only when the doctrine of sola gratia is interpreted in an extreme form, when this doctrine itself becomes a threat to a genuinely personal and biblical view of the human being as made in the image of God and destined for God, a being still capable of responding to God and of serving God in the work of building up the creation. This hopeful view of the human race is personified and enshrined in Mary.

First, we have to consider Mary in the context of the Church in which she is judged to be its preeminent and paradigmatic member. Because Mary personifies and sums up in herself the being of the Church, she also exhibits in an exemplary way the redemptive role that belongs to the whole Church. In the glimpses of Mary that we have in the gospels, her standing at the cross beside her Son, and her prayers and intercessions with the apostles, are particularly striking ways in which Mary shared and supported the work of Christ—and even these are ways in which the Church as a whole can have a share in co-redemption. But it is Mary who has come to symbolize that perfect harmony between the divine will and the human response, so that it is she who gives meaning to the expression Coredemptrix.

But secondly, there is the further context in which Mary has to be considered, the context of the incarnation of the Word. In this context, the language of co-redemption is also appropriate, but in a different way, for in this regard her contribution was unique and by its very nature could not be literally shared with anyone else. We are thinking of her now not just as representative or pre-eminent member of the Church, but as Theotokos or Mother of God. Mary’s willing acceptance of her indispensable role in that chain of events which constituted the incarnation and the redemption which it brought about, was necessary for the nurture of the Lord and for the creation of the Church itself. So Mary is not only in the Church and of the Church, she is also prior to the Church, as is implied in her title, Mother of the Church.

Professor John Macquarrie, Anglican Philosopher and Theologian, has served as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He is a distinguished author of numerous important works on Philosophy, Theology and Mariology, and a contributor to the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This article was originally published in Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical, Queenship, 1996.

Endnotes

(1) Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann—ein Versuch ihn zu verstehen (Zurich, 1952), p.19.

(2) Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, p.231.

(3) L. Feuerbach, The Essence of Faith according to Luther (Harper & Row, 1967), p.41.

(4) W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: (SPCK. 1960), pp 145, 222.

(5) E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (SCM Press. 1977), p. 97.

(6) Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/I, p. 623.

(7) W. P. DuBose, The Soteriology of the New Testament, p. 176.

(8) P. Melanchthon, Loci Communes (OUP, 1965), p xiii.

Co-redemptrix Fulfilled

Calvary is the summit of human history, where the drama of God’s salvation of man reaches its climax. Every human experience and expression, every action, every thought, every exercise of free will, finds its meaning and fulfillment only through the Cross.

It is at Calvary that we see enacted the fulfillment of the Mother Co-redemptrix, but in a category of human experience that transcends the dignity and efficacy of any other human vocation. At Calvary, the Mother partakes in the very act of Redemption, which in turn gives Christian meaning, purpose, and value to every other human act throughout the course of history. For it is by the objective measure of salvation, according to the ultimate meaning of love and truth, that all acts will be weighed.

Jn. 19:25-27: “Woman, behold, your son! . . . Behold , your mother”

Here, the prophecy of Simeon is fulfilled by a sword of sorrow so painful that no other human heart could bear it and live. Only the Immaculate Heart is granted the graces by the Eternal Father to endure the immolation of her Son as Victim for her other spiritual sons and daughters to-be. “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother . . . When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (Jn. 19:25-27).

Jesus, Mary, the tree of the Cross. How entirely supernatural is the Heavenly Father’s reversal of Satan’s initial victory in the original fall of man (Gen. 3:1-6). At Eden, the original human sin is committed by the First Adam through the intercession of the First Eve at the tree of the forbidden fruit. At Calvary, the original human sin is reversed and redeemed by Jesus, the New Adam (1) through the intercession of Mary, the New Eve at the tree of the Cross. The prophecy of Genesis 3:15 is supernaturally fulfilled at Calvary with the “Woman” and her “seed of victory” crushing the head of Satan and his seed of sin.

This is why the Church’s Liturgy sings to God the Father the praises of the New Eve in the mission of the Redemption:

In your divine wisdom, you planned the Redemption of the human race and decreed that the new Eve should stand by the cross of the new Adam: as she became his mother by the power of the Holy Spirit, so, by a new gift of your love, she was to be a partner in his passion, and she who had given him birth without the pains of childbirth was to endure the greatest of pains in bringing forth to new life the family of your Church. (2)

“Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn. 19:26). Woman of Genesis, Woman of Cana, and now, near the end of your maternal crucifixion of heart, you, Woman of Calvary, behold, your son. And behold as well your universal office as Spiritual Mother to all those redeemed here at Calvary, represented by your “new son,” the beloved disciple. For you, Mary Co-redemptrix, have suffered “with Jesus” for their ransom, and therefore you shall spiritually nourish and protect them with Jesus, the Redeemer of all peoples, as the new Mother of all peoples.

John Paul II eloquently notes of the Mother’s share in the “redemptive love” of her Son and its universal, spiritual fecundity for humanity:

The Mother of Christ, who stands at the very center of this mystery—a mystery which embraces each individual and all humanity—is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind. The man at the foot of the Cross is John, “the disciple whom he loved.” But it is not he alone. Following tradition, the Council does not hesitate to call Mary “the Mother of Christ and mother of mankind”: since she “belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all human beings . . . Indeed she is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ . . . since she cooperated out of love so that there might be born in the Church the faithful.'”

And so this “new motherhood of Mary,” generated by faith, is the fruit of the “new” love which came to definitive maturity in her at the foot of the Cross, through her sharing in the redemptive love of her Son. (3)

But what was the actual price of suffering for Mary Co-redemptrix in order to partake “with Jesus” in the Redemption of the human race and, as a result, to become the spiritual Mother of all peoples?

No human mind or heart can fully comprehend the depth and breadth of this suffering. Popes and poets, musicians and artists have sought to convey the Mother’s pain in various creative mediums, from the Stabat Mater to the Pieta. But all human efforts fail, and the humble are quick to acknowledge the inability to grasp fully the genus of suffering “with Jesus” experienced by Our Lady of Sorrows in order to buy back an entire human race.

The Mother stands near the cross of Jesus amidst the litanies of blasphemies intoned by the onlookers, some recited by the ecclesiastically trained who have condemned him by using a rationalistic exegesis of the Father’s Law. Other blasphemies are hurled by common people who ignorantly follow their misguided shepherds. Still more contempt is heaped on her son by those who habitually condemn because of their own fallenness. The Mother hears each and every insult individually. She receives her own direct insults as the condemned’s mother, as is still the practice today when someone seeks to inflict pain by directing their insult at a person’s mother. Such blasphemies are unintended testimonies to the Co-redemptrix’s unity of mission with Jesus.

On the cross Jesus bleeds, but his Mother cannot stop his bleeding and care for his wounds. On the cross, Jesus cannot find a place to rest his head due to the crown of thorns, but his Mother cannot direct his head. On the cross, Jesus “thirsts” (Jn. 19:28), but the Mother cannot give him drink. On the cross, Jesus confesses in human kenosis, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34), but the Mother cannot console her Son.

The Mother shares in the Heart of her Son when he utters from the new tree of the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). The Mother also forgives and joins in the petition for the Father’s forgiveness, as such is the very purpose of Redemption and Coredemption. And the Mother finds a drop of consolation amidst the ocean of desolation (and a confirmation of their redeeming mission) when she hears the Son declaring to the good thief: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43).

Finally, with a paradoxical bittersweetness of heart, the Mother hears the words of the Son that he is now departing. He is at the moment of death. He will be taken from her, but their lifelong mission of Redemption has been eternally successful in buying back humanity: “It is consummated” (Jn. 19:30). It is not only finished but fulfilled.

John Paul II describes the intensity of the Immaculate Mother’s suffering at this moment as “unimaginable”:

In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith, but also a contribution to the Redemption of all . . . .It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached such an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view, but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. (4)

Rev. 12 : The Woman Clothed “With the Sun” (5) and the Dragon

A final scriptural revelation of the Co-redemptrix is given in the mystical language of the Apocalypse.

The vision of the “woman clothed with the sun” of Revelation 12:1 is introduced by the vision of the Ark of the Covenant within the Temple in Revelation 11:19: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple . . . And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1).

Mary is the New Ark who bears within herself Jesus the Redeemer, who is the New Covenant between divinity and humanity. (6) It is of utmost significance that the Marian image of the New Ark ushers in the last great revelation of the Woman of Scripture in all her glory. She is the Woman of solar and celestial brightness, the Woman who is clothed “with the Sun” in brilliant light and surrounded “with Jesus,” the true Son and Light of the world.

The Fathers of the Church and later ecclesiastical writers (7) taught that the Woman of Revelation 12 depicts both Mary and the Church in various ways. But in its first sense, the Woman of Revelation 12 must reveal Mary, for the Immaculate Virgin of Nazareth “brings forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with an iron rod” (Rev. 12:5). Jesus is that ruler and Mary alone is his true and natural mother.

The Immaculate alone is the Woman placed in enmity with the serpent in the great parallel texts of Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12, an enmity that leads to and culminates in the cosmic battle for souls depicted in Revelation 12: 13, 17: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had born the male child . . . then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.” The spiritual battle between God’s greatest creature and his most evil creature comprises the “bookends” of Sacred Scripture, and depicts a struggle for souls that not only extends through the breadth of the Written Word of God but also the entire course of human history, inclusive of our present hour.

The Co-redemptrix, “with Jesus,” battles against the Dragon who wars upon the rest of the Woman’s offspring, which is redeemed humanity. With his seed of sin in all its forms, including its contemporary manifestations of abortion, communism, pornography, freemasonry, materialism, secularism, cloning, nuclear war and the like, the Dragon seeks to lure her offspring eternally away from the Woman and her Seed of victory.

The Woman of Revelation 12 is, in diverse though complementary ways, both a “Woman of glory” and a “Woman of suffering.” (8) She is a woman of glory in so far as she is the woman clothed with the sun and crowned by twelve stars (v. 1), who gives birth to the male-child, ruler of all nations (v. 5). She is a woman of suffering in so far as she is the woman with child that “cries out in the pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (v. 2) and is at war with the Dragon for “the rest of her offspring” (v. 17).

Both the Woman of glory and the Woman of suffering are in the first sense a revelation of Mary Co-redemptrix. The Virgin Mary is the Woman of glory, clothed with the fullness of grace coming from the Son; crowned with twelve stars as Queen of the Apostles and all creation; and who alone gives birth to Jesus, the male-child, King of all nations. She is also the Woman of Suffering, who on Calvary “cries out in the pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” in giving mystical birth to us all as spiritual “sons” (Jn. 19:25-27). Her glorification in heaven is not merely a decorative honor in acknowledgment of her human role as the mother of the Savior. It is the fruit of her lifelong sharing in his saving mission, her partaking in his suffering, for glory and suffering are inextricably united in the mission of Redemption (Jn. 13:3).

Mary Co-redemptrix continues to this day to battle the Dragon for souls, a mystical battle that sometimes causes her to weep (9) over the loss of so many of her offspring in our times. She is the Woman of Revelation who “cries out in the pangs of birth, in anguish of delivery” and the Woman of Calvary called to “behold, your son.” Both passages are parallel revelations of the same co-redeeming Mother who continues to suffer intensely in order to bring forth disciples in Christ Jesus. (10)

When we scripturally examine the Mother’s participation in the accomplishment of Redemption by Jesus Christ, the Word of God elicits a simple and obvious conclusion: the Woman and Mother “with Jesus” from the Annunciation to Calvary uniquely shares in the work of Redemption through which the salvation of the human family is obtained, and at the price of the greatest human suffering imaginable.

The Immaculate Mother, in a way that is shared by no other creature, participates in the “Redemption accomplished” as the Co-redemptrix, and therefore becomes the Mediatrix of all graces, (11) in the order of the “Redemption received.” (12) Her acquisition of grace leads to her distribution of grace—from the “Mother to us in the order of grace” (Lumen Gentium, 61).

The Testaments of Scripture, Old and New, reveal that a man and a woman “sold” humanity to Satan through sin, and a Man and a Woman “bought back” humanity through suffering. The price paid by the Woman “with Jesus” for our eternal ransom is perhaps best poetically conveyed in the classic verses of the Stabat Mater:

At the Cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole-begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O sweet Mother! Font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the Cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In His very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia.) (13)

 

The above article is from the fourth chapter of “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix, Queenship Publications, 2003. The book is available from Queenship for the price of $3.00 U.S.

Notes

(1) Cf. 1 Cor. 15:22, 45.

(2) Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin, vol. 1, Sacramentary, Catholic Book Publishing, 1992, p. 117; original Latin text in Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine I, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987, p. 49.

(3) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 23.

(4) John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, 25.

(5) For an extended commentary on Mary as the Woman of Revelation 12, cf. Matthias J. Scheeben, Mariology, Herders, 1947, vol. 1, p. 15; Bernard Le Frois, The Woman Clothed With The Sun: Individual or Collective, Orbis Catholicus, Rome, 1954; Pope Paul VI, Signum Magnum.

(6) Cf. Chapter II, “Co-redemptrix Foretold.”

(7) Cf. Le Frois, The Woman Clothed with the Sun, ch. 1, arts. 1, 2, 3; de La Potterie, Maria nel mistero dell’ Alleanza, p. 258.

(8) Manelli, Mary Coredemptrix In Sacred Scripture, p. 99.

(9) For example, the documented weeping Madonna statue at the Church approved apparitions of Our Lady of Akita in Japan, where a wooden statue carved in the image of the Lady of All Nations from Amsterdam wept lacrimations on one hundred and one occasions, cf. T. Yasuda, “The Message of Mary Coredemptrix at Akita and Its Complementarity with the Dogma Movement,” Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma, Queenship, 2000, pp. 235-249.

(10) Cf. R. Laurentin, La Vergine Maria, Rome, 1984, pp. 51-52.

(11) For references to Our Lady’s title and function as Mediatrix of all graces, cf. Pius VII, Ampliatio privilegiorum ecclesiae B.M. Virginis ab agnelo salutatae in coenobio Fratrum Ordinis Servorum B.M.V., Florentiae, A.D., 1806 in J. Bourasse, Summa aurea . . . , vol. 7, Paris, 1862, col. 546; Pius IX, Encyclical Ubi Primum, 1849; Leo XIII, Supremi Apostolatus, 1883 and Octobri Mense, 1891; St. Pius X, Ad Diem Illum; Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Inter Sodalicia, March 22, 1918, AAS 10, 1918, and Mass and Office of Mediatrix of all Graces approved in 1921; Pius XI, Apostolic Letter Cognitum Sane, AAS 18, p. 213 and Encyclical Ingravescentibus Malis, AAS 29, 1937, p. 380; Pope Pius XII, Superiore Anno, AAS 32, 1940, p. 145; Pius XII, cf. AAS 45, 1953 and Mediator Dei, 1947; John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, ch. 3, “Maternal Mediation” and in a Papal Address, Rome, October 1, 1997, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, October 8, 1997, p. 11; cf. also A. Robichaud, S.M., “Mary, Dispensatrix of all Graces,” Mariology, vol. 2, pp. 426-460 and Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Still Mediatress of All Graces?,” Miles Immaculatæ vol. 24, 1988, pp. 121-122. Usages of the Mediatrix of all graces title during the pontificate of John Paul II number seven and are here included (courtesy of the research of Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins):

1. December 1, 1978, Address to the General Council, Provincial Superiors and Directors of the Italian Institutes of the Congregation of St. Joseph (Giuseppini of St. Leonard Murialdo), n. 3:

We cannot conclude without addressing the Blessed Virgin, so loved and venerated by Murialdo, who had recourse to her as the Universal Mediatrix of all grace. The thought of Mary returned continually in his letters. In them he inculcated the recitation of the rosary, entrusted his sons with spreading devotion to the Holy Virgin, and stated: “If one wishes to do a little good among the young, one must instill love for Mary in them.” The beneficial work carried out by your Founder is the best confirmation of this. So follow his example in this matter too (Inseg I (1978) 250; Talks 370).

2. August 30, 1980, Address to Young People at Our Lady’s Shrine on Mount Roio, n. 3:

I conclude by entrusting you to the Virgin Mary, to whom St. Bernardine was extremely devoted and whom, it can be said, he went proclaiming all over Italy every day. Having lost his own mother, he chose Our Lady as his mother and always lavished his affection on her and trusted completely in her. He became the singer of Mary’s beauty, it can be affirmed, and preaching her mediation with inspired love, he was not afraid to state: “Every grace that is given to men proceeds from a triple ordained cause: from God it passes to Christ, from Christ it passes to the Virgin, from the Virgin it is given to us.”

Turn to her every day with confidence and with love, and ask her for the grace of the beauty of your soul and of your life, of what alone can make you happy (Inseg III/2 (1980) 495; ORE 648:3).

3. January 17, 1988, Angelus Address, n. 2:

Another center of Marian devotion worthy of mention is the Church dedicated to Our Lady in Meadi, on the outskirts of Cairo, on the banks of the Nile. The Church seems to have been built in the fifth century, even if, in the course of the centuries and in modern times, it has been modified and restored. It is entrusted to the Coptic-Orthodox Christians, and many pilgrims continuously come to this sanctuary to entrust their intentions to the Mediatrix of all graces (Inseg XI/1 (1988) 119; ORE 1023:5).

4. April 10, 1988, Homily for Octave of Easter in the Roman parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, n. 7:

In this Marian Year, your parish, which is placed under the patronage of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Redemptoris Mater, has an extra reason for renewing and strengthening its own devotion towards her, the Mediatrix of all graces, our Advocate with her Son Jesus and the Help of Christians. Call upon her, honor her, draw close to her. She will hear you and will obtain for you whatever good you desire (Inseg XI/1 (1988) 863; ORE 1036:11).

5. July 2, 1990, Reflection Made at the Shrine of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento, n. 1:

With loving intuition from ancient times you have been able to grasp the mystery of Mary, as Mediatrix of all graces, because she is the Mother of the very Author of Grace, Jesus Christ. That is why the people of Benevento throughout the ages have turned and continue to turn to her, invoking her not only as “Our Lady of Graces,” but often also as “Our Lady of Grace” (Inseg XIII/2 (1990) 17; ORE 1148:2).

6. September 18, 1994, Angelus Address in Lecce, nn. 1, 3:

From the city of Lecce, honored by the name of Civitas mariana, I raise my prayer to you today, Most Holy Virgin. I do so among this beloved people of Apulia, who venerate you with deep devotion and hail you as the Mother of all Graces. You who go before us on the pilgrimage of faith, accompany the Successor of Peter on today’s visit, which is a further step in the “Great Prayer for Italy . . . .”

Watch over each with assiduous care, and pour an abundance of your gifts on all, O Queen without the stain of sin, O Mother of all Graces, O Virgin Mary! (Inseg XVII/2 (1994) 344-345; ORE 1358:8-9).

7. June 28, 1996, Address to the General Chapter of the Mercedarian Sisters of Charity, n. 4:

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, invoked with the title “de las Mercedes,” assist you and lead you to frequent encounters with her divine Son in the Eucharistic mystery. May she, true Ark of the New Covenant and Mediatrix of all graces, teach you to love him as she loved him. May she also support you with her intercession in the various apostolic works in which you are involved. (Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 1638; ORE 1451:5).

(12) Theologians seek to categorize both the nature of the Redemption and the precise nature of the Mother’s participation in the Redemption with terms such as Redemption “in actu primo” or participation in “objective redemption,” which refer to the obtaining of the graces of Redemption. This is distinguished from Redemption “in actu secundo” or “subjective redemption,” which identifies the distribution of the graces of Redemption to humanity.

And yet both the historical act of Redemption by Jesus and Mary at Calvary is an “objective” event, and also the reception of these redemptive graces by members of the human family is likewise “objective,” in the sense that it is free from a merely relativistic concept of personal Redemption. Perhaps more true to classical terminology of in actu primo and in actu secundo and yet more compatible for contemporary understanding would be the terms of “Redemption accomplished” to designate the historical acquisition of grace by Christ and Mary, and “Redemption received” to designate its personal salvific reception by the human family.

(13) Roman Missal, Lectionary for Mass, Catholic Book Publishing, 1970, pp. 801-802.

Illumination Through the Heart of The Mother Co-redemptrix

In the spiritual life the soul must be illuminated by faith, especially when faced with the bloody reality of Christ’s shameful death on the Cross. The Holy Apostle Paul is extremely explicit on this point: “For the word of the Cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness…But we preach Christ Crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (I Cor 1:18, 23-24). Without the light of faith, Christ Crucified is nothing else but foolishness; with divine faith, however, the Cross of the Savior is the power and wisdom of God.

The model of faith is the Theotokos (Mother of God) standing at the foot of the Cross. “Throughout her entire life,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “and even at the final test, when Jesus, her Son, died on the Cross, her faith never wavered…This is why the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.” (49) In her maternal gaze on Calvary she beheld her Son crucified and tormented amongst blasphemy, mockery and indifference; in her Mother’s Heart, however, she ever saw her “God-Savior” (cf. Lk 1:47) and she adored Him in His misery as the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” She offered her own suffering to the Father in union with Jesus and, as far as what depended on her, she offered Christ as an expiation for sins, sacrificing her maternal rights over her Son precisely in order to redeem humanity in her subordinate, but essential role as Mother Coredemptrix. (50) Her faith in the Divinity of her Son was constant right from the Incarnation, when she gave her informed consent, her fiat, to be the Mother of God. (51)

The Centurion: Illumination and the Theotokos Coredemptrix

As St. Bonaventure points out, we are deeply in need of this illumination of faith. “We have need of these three things…” writes the Seraphic Doctor, “to be enlightened in the intellect, to be purified in the affections, to be perfected in both works and effects. And this we cannot bring about without the interventions of the glorious Virgin.” (52) Here is the treasure we find in the Theotokos Coredemptrix: she is not only the supreme model of faith, but she intervenes and plays an active, essential role in the illuminative way. “Hence, for all practical purposes,” writes Fr. Fehlner, “it is impossible to advance in wisdom, knowledge, counsel, etc., that is in holiness, unless one is supported by the courage of the Mother who brings (profert) to earth the price of our salvation, who pays (persolvit) the price of our salvation, who possesses (possedit) the price of our salvation.” (53) She, as Mother Coredemptrix, mediates the light of faith to us. Hence the Seraphic Doctor does not hesitate to call her our “Illumanitrix.” (54)

Among the wide variety of souls who stood near the Cross there was the Roman Centurion, an executioner by profession. What should have been but another day’s work turned out to be the day of his salvation. St. Mark recounts: “And the Centurion who stood over against Him, seeing that crying out in this manner He had given up the ghost, said: ‘Indeed this man was the Son of God.'” (Mk 15:39; cf. Mt 27:54 and Lk 23:47). Upon witnessing the most humiliating and excruciating death in the history of the world and the most dreadful interior martyrdom of the Blessed Mother, the pagan soldier received the grace of professing the Divinity of Jesus Christ. And where did this grace come from, if not from the reservoir of Mary’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart?

The Centurion represents every soul that acquires the gift of faith and the light of heavenly wisdom. “Mary penetrates the deep recesses of the soul,” writes a contemplative, “and, in this interior depth, she shows herself and makes the soul hear her voice, admire her beauty, penetrate the mysteries of her life; and she expands over it the splendors of divine Wisdom…” (55) The Mother of God and Seat of Wisdom forms and instructs the soul interiorly, cooperating with the Holy Spirit in infusing the theological virtue of faith. Since her faith as the Mother Coredemptrix is the model of faith for every believer, she desires to instill her very own faith into souls. De Montfort, in fact, writes that “the Virgin Mary will make you a partaker of her faith…it will be…your hidden treasure of divine Wisdom and your all-powerful weapon which will serve to enlighten you.” (56)

The intervention of the Theotokos Coredemptrix in enlightening the soul by the virtue of faith occurs not only at the first moment of divine illumination, as in the case of the Centurion, but continues until that last moment of faith: the hour of our death. Regarding her ongoing maternal mediation in the illuminative way we can take, for example, the telling episode recorded by the Franciscan mystic St. Charles of Sezze: “…when I began praying before Our Lady, I did not set out to discourse with thought…God concurred with a special light within the intellect, I left as if outside of myself, that is of this base nature, and I was transformed in my soul into a supernatural being, losing my thought and intellect in that divine light…” (57) We note here how the Saint, while praying before the Blessed Mother, was enlightened from on high and even transformed in that divine light.

Equally indicative are the experiences of the three little shepherds of Fatima. In their second apparition on June 13th, 1917, Our Blessed Lady said to the children: “I will never leave you, my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead to God.” Sr. Lucia, in her memoirs, adds: “As she said these last words the Blessed Virgin opened her hands and communicated to us for the second time the reflex of the immense light that enveloped her. We saw ourselves in it, as if submerged in God…There was a Heart before the palm of the right hand of Our Lady with thorns piercing it. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so offended by the sins of mankind, desiring reparation.” (58)

Hence the Sorrowful Heart of the Mother Coredemptrix, interiorly pierced with the thorns of our sins, radiates to souls the immense light of her divine faith and communion with God; it is through her maternal mediation that the Holy Spirit enlightens the heart of man and unites him, by degrees, to Jesus who is the “true light that enlighteneth every man” (Jn 1:9). It is fitting, then, for souls to meditate on the Passion of the Redeemer and the Compassion of the Coredemptrix where these souls, like the Centurion, can profess and live their faith in the Son of God and the Son of Mary, Jesus Christ our Lord. “In considering frequently their most sweet Mother…,” writes Ven. Michael of St. Augustine, and we conclude this section with his words, “such souls sense great joy, merriment and happiness of spirit, so much so that they do not know what to say or do in order to thank God, in order to bless and praise Mary and God in a manner proportionate to the internal illuminations and knowledge conceded to them.” (59)

St. Mary Magdalene: Purification and the Virgin Coredemptrix

In the journey of the soul towards God there has to be an ongoing purification. The soul that is converted and enlightened senses the urgent need to be perfect as its heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt. 5:48) and yet is keenly aware of its lack of perfection and inability to attain it by itself. Hence the purgative way with its various aspects of active and passive purification of both the senses and the spirit.

Let us review quickly what are meant by these terms. By active purification is meant that purification whereby we actively correspond to the cleansing action of God with prayer, penance and the practice of the virtues. By passive purification is understood the divine activity which the soul passively undergoes, the work here being entirely divine while the soul, for its part, simply abandons itself to Divine Love with confidence and hope.

In the active and passive purifications the Holy Spirit operates in two ways: from without to purify the senses and from within to purify the spirit. Hence “the dark night of the senses” which purifies the soul from creatures, that is from all that is not God, and “the dark night of the spirit” which purifies the soul from itself and the things of the spirit. (60)

Fr. Ragazzini writes: “With such direct intervention (called passive purification, or mystical purgatory, or martyrdom of love, or the night of the senses and the spirit) grace tends to purify the soul of its nature and of sin so that, being purified as such, it might then be elevated to the contemplation of God…Upon this painful purgatory,” he adds, “behold there falls the gaze of Mary and her motherly intervention which bring great refreshment to the soul already decisively moving towards complete purification.” (61)

These difficult, but necessary passages towards spiritual perfection are graces acquired by the Virgin Coredemptrix who applies them to the souls of her children. She, although being all-pure and the ever Virgin, nonetheless suffered the most intense “pains of purification,” for example, at the prophecy of Holy Simeon, at the losing of the Child Jesus in the Temple, and especially during the Sacred Passion. We say “pains of purification,” not because they purified her who had a “purity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater” (62) but rather because by these pains she, in union with her Son and subordinate to Him, merited our purification. (63) As we are healed by the wounds of Christ the Redeemer (cf. I Pt 2:24), so also we are cleansed by the sorrows of Our Lady Coredemptrix (cf. Lk 2:35).

St. Bonaventure, in fact, observes that she herself invites us to “lay aside every earthly weight” (64) in seeking spiritual perfection. But the Virgin Coredemptrix not only invites, she assists us actively and hence the Seraphic Doctor did not hesitate to call her our “Purgatrix.” (65) Precisely because of her Sorrows, the Blessed Virgin in union with her Son merits and effects our purification by drawing us near to her Most Pure Heart.

For our part, it behooves us to deliberately consecrate ourselves and the work of our purification and sanctification to the Heart of the Coredemptrix. Ven. Michael of St. Augustine states that he who entrusts himself to her “places his heart in the hands of Mary so that there it may be purified of all that which might displease God and His most Holy Mother.” (66)

Although in being purified a soul may sense itself utterly abandoned by God and the Virgin Mary, the truth of the matter is that they are most near, actively drawing the soul to the heights. Ragazzini writes that the “heavenly Mother shall stand beside me in this arduous work of overcoming myself, sustaining me and animating me along the whole course of the necessary and providential purification.” (67) Thus the painful process of purification is sweetened by the presence and assistance of the Virgin Coredemptrix.

Returning to Calvary, then, we discover one person in particular who is a type of the soul undergoing purification: St. Mary Magdalene. She “stood by the Cross of Jesus” with the Blessed Mother (Jn 19:25; cf. Mt 27:55-56; Mk 15:40). In sacred art she is almost always depicted on her knees embracing the Savior’s feet and weeping tears of love and sorrow. An author of the early Church says that in her Christ “found a harlot and made her purer than a virgin.” (68) Like St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross with the Virgin of Sorrows, so also our souls come to be purified in the Blood of the Immaculate Lamb and the tears of the Holy Virgin.

An amazing illustration of the important and essential role of the Virgin Coredemptrix in cleansing the soul can be found in the mystical experiences of St. Veronica Giuliani. With regards to the active purification of her soul she recounts that, “Turning to the Blessed Virgin, I prayed to her that she might instruct me as to what I could do in order to belong entirely to Jesus. She made me understand that I had to forget myself entirely if I wanted to perfectly unite myself with Divine Love. She promised to assist me in everything and for everything.” (69) Obviously the Blessed Virgin was true to her promise right to the very end, producing a great masterpiece of spiritual perfection. It is clear, therefore, that the soul which turns to Our Lady will be instructed and assisted by her throughout the purgative way.

There is yet another telling experience of the Saint regarding the passive purification and the tears of the Virgin Coredemptrix; she writes: “Tonight…Mary Most Holy took the chalice which contained her holy tears and it seemed to me that she poured out all of them upon me…My heart remained cleansed and moistened with her holy tears. Everything is the charity of Mary Most Holy…(which) wants to shower grace after grace upon me.” (70)

Certainly very few have the privilege of mystically seeing and experiencing the cleansing balm of the Virgin’s tears as did St. Veronica; however, the reality of Our Blessed Lady’s coredemptive and maternal intervention, even if unseen and undetected by the soul itself, is continuous and efficacious. As St. Mary Magdalene came to the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother, was sustained by her presence and made purer than a virgin by the redeeming grace acquired and distributed by Christ and His Virgin Mother, so also every soul docile to the workings of the Holy Spirit is brought by the Virgin Coredemptrix to the feet of Jesus Crucified, there to be purified by His precious Blood and cleansed by her maternal and coredemptive tears.

If we, for our part, abandon ourselves entirely into the hands and the Heart of “yes, our dear Coredemptrix,” (71) as St. Pio of Pietrelcina calls her, then we will be able say throughout the purgative way the very words that he himself wrote: “I am sorry that I do not have sufficient means to thank our beautiful Virgin Mary by whose intercession I do not doubt to have received much strength from the Lord in order to support the many mortifications to which I am subject day after day.” (72)

Fr. Maximilian Mary Dean, F.I. is a member of the Franciscans of the Immaculate and author of several Mariological publications which include his recent book, In Pursuit of Immortal Souls. The remaining two parts of Fr. Maximilian’s Marian Coredemption and the Spiritual Life will be featured in upcoming issues of Mother of All Peoples.

Notes

(49) Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.149.

(50) Pope Benedict XV in his encyclical letter Inter sodalicia, March 22, 1918 (AAS 10 1919, 182) writes: “In truth Mary suffered and almost died with her suffering and agonizing Son; she renounced her maternal rights over her Son…and as far as what depended upon her, she immolated the Son to placate the divine justice in such a way that one can rightly say she, with her Son, redeemed the human race.”

(51) Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli, in his masterpiece, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology, (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 1994), rightly maintains that at the Annunciation “the objects of Mary’s faith were: the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity…,of the Incarnation…,of the Redemption…,of the divine Maternity…,of the virginal Maternity…” (p.162-165; cf. 135-149); one can also see the brilliant essay of Fr. Alessandro Maria Apollonio, F.I., Maria, Modello di Fede?, Castelpetroso (IS), Italy, 1995.

(52) St. Bonaventure, “His tribus indigemus… ad illuminandum nos in intellectu, ad purificandum in affectu, ad perficiendum in opere sive in effectu. Et hoc non possumus facere sine gloriosae Virginis interventi. » Serm. 2 de Purif. B.M.V.; IX, 640-641.

(53) Fr. Peter Damian M.Fehlner, The Mystery of Coredemption…, (work cited—p.26); Il Mistero della Corredenzione (work cited)—p.51.

(54) St. Bonaventure, Serm. 2 de Assumpt. BMV; IX, 636b; 638a.

(55) La varie devotion à la Saint Vierge enseignée par le Saint Esprit, in “Revue des Pretes de Marie,” July, 1919.

(56) St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort, True Devotion, n.214 ; according to Ven. Fr. Gabriel Mary Allegra, O.F.M., “Souls consecrated to the Immaculate Heart live by wisdom…which means concretely: they live by faith, an intense and integral faith, informed by charity and rich in good works…” Il Cuore Immacolato di Maria, (work cited) p.109.

(57) St. Charles of Sezze, Le grandezze della Misericordia di Dio, I, VII, 22ff.

(58) From the Memoirs of Sr. Lucia, O.C.D., reported in Mother of Christ Crusade.

(59) Ven. Fr. Michael of St. Augustine, (work cited); Ch. 11, p.55.

(60) Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul.

(61) Fr. Severino Ragazzini, (work cited); p.410-411.

(62) St. Anselm, De conceptu Virginali et originale peccato, c.18, .”..decens erat ut ea puritate, qua major sub Deo nequit intelli, Virgo illa niteret.” This is cited and adapted to the Immaculate Conception by Bl. Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus (1854). In the light of this read St. Anselm’s great discourse (oratio) 7 prayer for begging love of her and Jesus—used in part for solemnity of Immaculate Conception.

(63) St. Francis Anthony Fasani notes that, along with Jesus, “the most Blessed Virgin did not suffer for an actual sin of her own nor for that of original sin, but in order that she might be the Associate to her Son and Coredemptrix of the human race” (Mariale “Ecce nubecula parva…,” 14; Lucera, Italy, 1998; p.54); regarding this Saint’s Mariology one can see the recent in-depth study of Fr. Antonio M. Di Monda, O.F.M. Conv, Il mistero dell’Immacolata. San Francesco Antonio Fasani nel filo d’oro della tradizione francescana, in Miles Immaculatae, Anno XXXVI fascicolo II, 2000 (pp. 506-531 are specifically on his teaching regarding Marian Mediation and Coredemption). In addition, Fr. Peter Damian M. Fehlner concurs: “The Virgin, according to St. Bonaventure, is purified, viz., sanctified, not because of her sins, but for the sanctification of the Church. That sanctification begins with the divine Maternity, but is consummated in the sacrifice of the cross, ritually at the feast of the Purification, really on Calvary.” (The Mystery of Coredemption…, (work cited—p.19); Il Mistero della Corredenzione (work cited)—p.41).

(64) St. Bonaventure, Serm. 1 de Nativ. B.M.V.; IX, 707b; The Saints “…fuerunt invitati ad deponendum omne terrenitatis pondus.

(65) St. Bonaventure, Serm. 2 de Assumpt. BMV; IX, 636b; 638a.

(66) Ven. Fr. Michael of St. Augustine, (work cited); Ch. 11, p.55.

(67) Fr. Severino Ragazzini, (work cited); p.265.

(68) Attributed to St. John Chrysostom, cited in Bl. Columba Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, P.I, C.V; St. Louis, MO, 1939, p.218.

(69) St. Veronica Giuliani, Diario, III, Prato; (FI), Italy, 1905-1927; p.603. For an in-depth study, on Marian Coredemption and St. Veronica Giuliani, by Mother M. Francesca Perillo, F.I., see Mary at the Foot of the Cross, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA 2001; pp.237-265.

(70) St. Veronica Giuliani, Diario, VII, (edition cited); p.648.

(71) St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Epistulario III, p.384.

(72) St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Epistulario I, p.187.

The Co-redemptrix, The Cross, and Contemporary Society

The Blessed Virgin Mary of Nazareth plays an integral role in Catholic theology and liturgical practice. Sprinkled throughout the liturgical calendar, Marian feasts remind us of the important role the Blessed Mother played in human salvation and how she continues to intercede for us with her Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Of her many titles, the Sorrowful Mother, or Mater Dolorosa, captures the unique purpose and role of Mary’s life. She was a woman who suffered much that she could not comprehend, but she never ran from her pain. Rather she embraced her cross of suffering, and in the process became partners with her Son’s redemptive work and today mediates between Christ and the world. Mary’s life lived in much pain and uncertainty can be a model for our lives today as we approach the new millennium.

The Sorrowful Mother in Scripture

Scripture, the primary medium of divine revelation, is the basic source for our knowledge of Mary and her association with the cross. The Gospels, together with the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, provide many insights into the life of Mary and her relationship with Jesus. While many episodes in the Virgin’s life were difficult, there are seven specific events that have been labeled the dolors, or sorrows, of Mary:

1. The prophecy of Simeon
2. The flight into Egypt
3. The loss of Jesus in the Temple
4. Mary meets Jesus on the Via Dolorosa
5. The hours beneath the cross
6. The slain Jesus rests in His mother’s arms
7. The laying of Jesus in the tomb (1)

The presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:22-40) provides the background for the first, most prophetic, of Mary’s sorrows, Simeon’s prophecy.

We read, “This child is destined to be the downfall and rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed—and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare” (Lk 2:34-35). Origen (d. 252-3), the towering theological figure of the patristic Church in the East, understood Simeon’s prophecy in a unique way, believing that his words referred to a doubt that invaded Mary’s heart when she saw her Son’s suffering. In placing these words on Simeon’s lips, Luke is suggesting that the scandal to the cross experienced by the apostles would also be felt by Mary.

Origen’s great authority in the Church as a scholar made this interpretation popular in the East. St. Basil of Caesarea (d. 379) repeated the idea, and Hesychius of Jerusalem (d. after 451) in the mid-fifth century still spoke of “discord” within Mary as she witnessed the Passion of Jesus. (2)

In the Latin Church, in contrast, where Origen’s influence was weak, Simeon’s prophecy always referred to Mary’s own suffering under the cross. For Western theologians, such as Bernard of Clairvaux, who preached that Mary was martyred, not in body but in spirit, the key words of the relevant passage in Luke were “and you yourself will be pierced with a sword” (Lk 2:35a).

Simeon could have announced Christ’s future suffering without reference to Mary, but in directly addressing her he makes the announcement significant. Why did Simeon speak to Mary specifically and what was he telling her?

While there is some precedent for associating children predestined by God for greatness with their mothers, (3) it is more likely that Simeon (and probably Luke as well) wanted to demonstrate that Mary, by a unique right apart from Joseph, was to be associated with the sorrowful destiny of the Messiah. Even if he had not added the words indicative of Mary’s future suffering, the simple fact that Simeon spoke to Mary directly would be strong evidence to her place in Jesus’ suffering and death.

Mary was not destined to escape the feelings of darkness and abandonment that Jesus would experience on His way to Calvary; she was to suffer along the road that would take her Son to His salvific death. The theologian and Jesuit priest Jean Galot has concluded: “The prophecy, therefore, unites Mary and her child so closely that it reveals the Passion of Jesus to us through the sword of sorrow that will pierce the soul of His mother.” (4)

Scholars often ask what exactly was the sword that would pierce Mary? Some have suggested that the sword is the grief to be caused by the contradiction of which Jesus will be the object. Mary will suffer from the trial that will affect her Son to whom she is inseparably united.

In this view, the sword is an integral part of the prophetic picture, because it will play a major role in the drama of salvation. The majority of Scripture exegetes, however, believe that the sword refers to Mary’s act of offering her Son on Calvary. Returning to the basic association of Mary with suffering and the cross, Galot writes of Simeon’s image of the sword: “Under the effect of this revelation, Mary lives in the constant perspective of sacrifice, and she holds herself ready to share in her heart the tragic fate of the Messiah.” (5)

St. Matthew’s description of the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod most assuredly brought Mary sorrow. But it is in the conclusion of Luke’s infancy narrative that we again find specific reference to the psychological pain experienced by the Virgin.

The description of Jesus’ being lost in the Temple, where it becomes clear to Mary and Joseph that Jesus belongs completely to God’s service, must be associated with the Presentation as the logical conclusion to His consecration to God. The drama portrayed is a precursor to Calvary. For three days—a time period certainly not coincidental with Jesus’ suffering and resurrection—Mary and Joseph search “in sorrow” for their Son. The event makes Mary understand the threat of the sword that hangs over her and gives a foretaste of the sacrifice that will one day be her lot to present. The episode demonstrates again the close association of Mary with her Son, a bond that will find its culmination years later under the cross.

Scripture’s description of Mary’s sorrows finds its climax and fulfillment in the Passion account of St. John. Of all the Evangelists, John is the only one who posits Mary at Calvary, demonstrating by this the significance of her presence. Why would Mary come to Calvary to witness the painful and ignominious death of her only Son, and why would St. John describe these events?

For John, the suffering and death of Jesus is His greatest triumph, the time when He demonstrates fully His purpose and mission. Thus, the Church intentionally uses this Gospel at the Good Friday service as a clear indication of not only the necessity but also the greatness of Christ’s death. John wishes to draw attention to Mary and her sacrifice of love. She is there by intention, not by accident; she fully intends to walk the road of suffering to the end. Galot remarks: “We must conclude that Mary’s presence by the cross was not the mere result of a combination of circumstances, but proceeded from the firm determination of Mary to be united with the dramatic destiny of Christ.” (6)

In the twentieth century, various papal documents have echoed the sacrificial nature of Mary’s action under the cross and her close association with the sufferings of her Son. Pope St. Pius X in Ad Diem (1904) spoke of Jesus as the victim that Mary places “near the altar at the appointed hour”:

Nor was she merely engaged in witnessing the cruel spectacle; rather she rejoiced that her only-begotten was being offered for the salvation of the human race, although her compassion was so intense that, if it were at all possible, she herself would have embraced even more eagerly all the sufferings that her Son endured.

In Miserentissimus Redemptor (1928), Pius XI described Mary’s action of “offering him at the foot of the cross as victim for our sins” as heroic. Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis (1943) also wrote of Mary’s special sacrifice: “She offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam’s sin.”

In the end, the great contribution and challenge of Scripture with reference to Mary’s role as the Sorrowful Mother is the concept of belief. Dominican Father Thomas O’Meara has written: “When this night (of pain) reached its darkest intensity, Mary’s faith was such that it enabled her to stand near the cross.” (7)

Mary believed that God’s plan had a purpose that was beyond her understanding, and through her faith she was able to participate fully and without apparent hesitation, despite uncertainty and predictions of suffering. The words of Simeon prepared her, but it was only her faith that sustained her as the cross began to appear on her horizon.

The Sorrowful Mother in Tradition and the Magisterium

The cult of the Mater Dolorosa finds its earliest roots in the patristic Church. The Latin Fathers, save Ambrose, wrote that the trials and events of Calvary should be interpreted in terms of Mary’s sorrows.

Theologians saw Simeon’s prophecy as a foretaste of the experience through which Mary would have to pass as the most involved spectator at the Crucifixion, as well as a reference to her own . The concept of prophecy and its fulfillment was important for the Latin Fathers. Jesus’ words from the cross, “Woman, there is your son” and “There is your mother,” appeared to clearly fulfill Simeon’s warning in the Temple. The great drama of this scene was depicted in the Kontakion of Romanos Melodos, written in the sixth century by order of Emperor Justinian for a Good Friday service:

I am overwhelmed, O my Son
I am overwhelmed by love
And I cannot endure
That I should be in the chamber
And You on the wood of the cross;
I in the house
And You in the tomb.

Mary appears to ask why God should have to suffer such a cruel death, but the answer comes that such a fate is the will of God to which she must submit. (8)

The cult of Mary as the Sorrowful Mother began to flourish in Italy, France, England, the Netherlands and Spain from the end of the eleventh century, reaching its full flowering from the fourteenth century forward. Promoters of the cult stressed Mary’s participation in humanity’s ordinary, mundane and painful lot. Her sorrows became a significant source of medieval popular piety; her life and suffering somehow made ordinary lives more meaningful. The theologian Marina Warner has written:

The Virgin was the instrument mediating bafflement at the mystery of the Redemption into emotional understanding. She made the sacrifice of Golgotha seem real, for she focused human feeling in a comprehensible and accessible way. (9)

The cult of the Mater Dolorosa reached its apex through the establishment of a liturgical feast on the Church calendar. One catalyst to the cult was the rapid spread of the Black through Europe, reaching its height in 1348 to 1350. Those who saw the plague as the retribution of a just God on the wickedness of humanity suggested the image of the Mater Dolorosa as a means of penance.

In the late-medieval period, especially in the Rhine area of Germany, the Church began to commemorate the sorrows of Mary during the season of Lent. In a provicial synod of 1423 at cologne, a feast honoring Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows was established on the third Sunday before Easter and was adopted by various dioceses and religious communities under the title Lamentatio Mariae (Wailing of Mary).

In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended the feast to the universal Church, for celebration on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday. In a parallel development, the Servites in 1667 were granted a special feast based on Mary’s sorrows, to be celebrated on the third Sunday in September. In 1814, Pope Pius VII, in thanksgiving for his safe return from exile in France, universalized the Servite feast. In 1913, Pius X transferred the celebration to Sept. 15, its present date in the liturgical calendar. In 1943, Pope Pius XII summarized the Church’s understanding of Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows:

Bearing with courage and confidence the tremendous burden of her sorrows and desolation, truly the Queen of martyrs, she more than all the faithful “filled up these things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ…for his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24). (10)

Numerous representations of the Mater Dolorosa in art have been created over the centuries. Michelangelo’s “Pieta” was the best and most famous attempt to capture in statuary or in paint the depth of the Virgin’s grief as she held the body of her crucified Son. In his famous play “Faust,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has his heroine, Grethchen, cry out to Mary in her hour of crisis:

Incline my countenance graciously to my need, thou who art abounding in pain. With the sword in thy heart and with a thousand pains thou dost look up at the death of thy Son. Thou dost look to the Father and send sighs upward for (thy Son’s) trial and for thine own.

In a more contemporary vein, the third symphony of Polish composer Henryk Gorecki uses an exchange between Christ and His Mother to expand the sorrows of the Mater Dolorosa by embracing all the suffering and the fallen of World War II:

Where has he gone
My Dearest Son?
Perhaps during the uprising
The cruel enemy killed him. (11)

The most famous artistic expression of the Sorrowful Mother is the Stabat Mater, traditionally attributed to the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306). This hymn—based on John 19:35, Luke 2:25, Ezekiel, 2 Corinthians 4:10, and Galatians 4:17—speaks of the need for all people to share in the sufferings of Mary and Jesus. The prose version of this hymn reads in part: “Holy Mother, do this for me. Pierce my heart once and forever with the wounds of your crucified Son. Let me share with you the pain of your Son’s wounds, for He thought it right to bear such suffering for me.” The hymn continues later, “Grant that…I may feel the pains of my crucified Lord.” (12)

The establishment of a liturgical feast in honor of the Mater Dolorosa was complemented by the parallel theological development of Mary’s role in salvation history, beginning with the teaching that she was the “new Eve.” In the West, this idea began when theologians contrasted the obedience of Mary with the disobedience of Eve. Justin Martyr (d. 165), the first apologist to speak of Mary as the new Eve, wrote in his Dialogue with Trypho, “For Eve, an undefiled virgin, conceived the word of the serpent, and brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary, filled with faith and joy…answered, ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word.'”

Irenaeus in the second century was first to integrate the Eve-Mary analogy into theology:

Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yes, yet still a virgin…became by her disobedience the cause of death for her herself and the whole human race, so Mary too, espoused yet a virgin, became by her obedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race. (13)

For Irenaeus, the cooperation of Eve with Satan in effecting humanity’s spiritual is matched and outstripped by Mary’s cooperation with God in effecting humanity’s return to life. In the West, Eve was viewed as the mother of the human race, but Mary the mother of salvation. St. Jerome (d. 430) succinctly stated the belief: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.” (14)

Marian devotion in the Eastern Church was generally more advanced than in the West, but the concept of Mary as the new Eve gained acceptance in the East only after the belief was well established in the Latin Church. St. Ephraem, a representative of the fourth-century Syrian Church, saw the parallelism between Eve and Mary at the root of human dignity. He wrote that humanity’s “lovely and lovable glory was lost through Eve, (but) was restored through Mary.”

In 348, Cyril of Jerusalem preached to catechumens that “It was through the virgin Eve that death came; it was through a virgin, or rather from a virgin, that life had to come to light—that, just as a serpent deceived the former, so Gabriel might bring glad tidings to the latter.” By the end of the fifth century in the Eastern Church, Mary, as the second Eve, was called “cause of salvation,” “gate of salvation,” “cause of life” and it was said of her that “(she) brought immortality to the world.” (15)

The theological concept of Mary as the new Eve was the base upon which the Church doctrine of Mary as Co-redemptrix was built. Mary’s role in salvation history did not cease at Calvary but rather began anew in her mission as assistant to her Son in the work of Redemption.

It was not until the sixth century that the Syrian poet Jacob of Sarug (d. 521), in his sermon “The Passing of Mary,” gave the Virgin the title “Mother of Mercy.” But it was St Irenaeus in his late-second-century treatise Against Heresies who gave her a theological role in the Redemption of humanity: “Just as she (Eve)…having disobeyed became the cause of death to herself and to the entire human race, so Mary…being obedient (to the angel’s message) became the cause of salvation to herself and to the entire human race.” (16)

Jean Galot has expressed how Mary’s maternal role, initiated at Calvary when Jesus gave the beloved disciple to Mary, became the foundation for her function as Co-redemptrix:

Ontologically, this motherhood (given to John at Calvary) is given to every man called to be a true disciple of Christ. On the Messianic plane where it is proclaimed, the motherhood of Mary cannot be limited to a private relationship with John, but must have universal scope. (17)

Although Church tradition had long associated Mary with her Son’s work in the Redemption of humanity, the title “Co-redemptrix” was only given papal sanction in the first decade of the twentieth century by Pope Pius X, who connected the title to devotion to Mary of the Seven Dolors. Several popes in their teachings this century have echoed Pius X’s approbation of Mary as Co-redemptrix and its association with Mary the Sorrowful Mother. Benedict XV in his apostolic letter Inter Sodalica (1918) wrote:

To such an extent did (Mary) suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son, and to such an extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man’s salvation, and immolated Him—insofar as she could—in order to appease the justice of God, that we may rightly say that she redeemed the human race together with Christ.

In 1933, Pius XI spoke of how Mary “accompanied Him (Jesus) in the work of redemption as far as the cross itself, sharing with Him the sorrows of agony and death.” The encyclical letter Haurietis Aquas of Pius XII (1956) best articulates Mary’s role in the word of her Son:

In bringing about the work of human redemption, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was, by the will of God, so indissolubly associated with Christ that our salvation proceeded from the love and sufferings of Jesus Christ intimately joined with the love and sorrows of His mother.

Most recently, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II speaks of Mary’s “inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son.” (18)

The theology of Mary under the title of Co-redemptrix is complicated for the obvious reason of a human participating in the work of the divine. The theological foundation to every role of Mary, no matter how diverse interpretations may be, is found in her great fiat. Certainly, Mary’s association with Christ in the work of Redemption begins with the Incarnation, is exercised throughout her relationship with Him, and finds its climax in her cooperation with the great work for which He became human, His great sacrifice on the cross.

Mary does not through justice merit any role in the salvation of humanity; only God can do this. She does, however, merit her special role through friendship and her maternal relationship with Jesus. Understood in this light, Mary’s work as Co-redemptrix is not astounding; it is simply stating in technical terms that her life and suffering, and her willingness to offer both, were accepted by her Son and God the Father in a special way. The theologian Thomas O’Meara has succinctly explained this unique phenomenon:

Mary participated in a maternal way, proper to her alone, in the redemption of mankind not only by becoming the Mother of God Incarnate, but by consenting to her son’s redemptive actions and by offering the Son to God. Her suffering and love were accepted by Almighty God and were joined to Christ’s infinite work to produce the same effect, the salvation of mankind. (19)

Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix can, therefore, only be understood in relation to her position as the Mater Dolorosa. Mary suffers with her Son and then offers Him to the Father for us. Her action is one of satisfaction; the pains she endured were accepted as partial satisfaction for the offenses of humanity. The immensity of her love, the intensity of her pain, her maternal dignity and the presence of Christ’s grace in her make her a fountain that provides the water of Christ’s Redemption for all people. Thus, Mary’s cooperation in her Son’s life, through motherhood and personal suffering, forms the base for her role in human Redemption.

As with her title of Co-redemptrix, Mary’s role as Mediatrix between her Son and the human race is directly connected to her role as the Sorrowful Mother. The theologian Jaroslav Pelikan has written of this association in Christian history:

Clearly there was a close correlation between the subjectivity of the devotion to Mary as the Mater Dolorosa and the objectivity of the doctrine of Mary as the Mediatrix. It was not the correlation of complemetarity. (20)

The doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix follows from her active roles in the Incarnation and Redemption. It was through Mary that the Savior came to humanity, and it is through her life and suffering that she participates in Christ’s redemptive work. Thus, Mary becomes the one through whom we have access to the Son.

As with most Marian doctrines, the theological principle of Mary as mediator begins in the Eastern Church. Germanus Constantinople (d. 733) seems to have been the first to state that Mary’s power of intercession rested upon her relationship with the Messiah. In a prayer, he writes:

You (Mary) can obtain forgiveness even for the greatest sinners. For He (Jesus) can never fail to hear you, because God obeys you through and in all things, as His true mother. (21)

In the Latin Church, the concept of Mary as Mediatrix developed in a parallel line with the cult of the Mater Dolorosa. Although the term “Mediatrix” was circulating in the West by the end of the eighth century, it was not until the High Middle Ages that the title received widespread acceptance.

Bernard of Clairvaux called Mary “our Mediatrix, the one through whom we have received thy mercy, O God.” Thomas Aquinas spoke of Mary’s grace that “overflows on to all mankind…Thus, in every danger thou canst find a refuge in this same glorious Virgin.” (22) In 1915, Pope Benedict XV in a speech remarked of Mary:

Mother of the Prince of Peace, Mediatrix between rebellious man and the merciful God, she is the dawn of peace shining in the darkness of a world out of joint; she never ceases to implore her Son for peace although His hour is not yet come; she always intervenes on behalf of sorrowing humanity in the hour of danger. (23)

Mary’s title of Mediatrix applies not only to salvation history but also to her ongoing position as intercessor between Christ and humanity. The consummation of glory, for the believer, was the knowledge that Mary stood as Mediatrix between the individual and her Son. Moreover, the belief that God had chosen Mary for the specific task of pleading the cause of humanity before her Son was a great consolation. Mary was seen as the one to bring succor against the temptations of Satan by her mediation between Christ and humanity.

Mary’s Cross and Contemporary Society

How can the understanding of Mary as the Mater Dolorosa and its consequent doctrine of Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix become meaningful and efficacious for us today? The answer must be found in understanding Mary as a model for Christian life in the new millennium that we await. The Rev. Peter Gomes, pastor of Memorial Church at Harvard University, remarked, “Mary is an evangelical paradigm, a role model, an exemplary lady by whose example the faithful have a chance to play our part in God’s great drama.” (24)

As the mother of all the faithful, Mary is the one who leads her children through the darkness of error to a new light that shines with the radiance of her Son: she is the perfect model of faithfulness. Her fiat, willingness to suffer and constant maternal vigilance must be our model and source of strength in the confusion and uncertainty of today’s world.

We need someone who experienced fear, doubt and pain, and transformed these human sufferings into life-giving moments. We need Mary!

Mary’s psychological cross, integral to her existence, was a reality from which she never sought escape. The Virgin’s life was uncertain, and she bore much pain that could not be understood. But she never shirked her responsibility, ran from her fears or surrendered in a defeatist attitude. Rather, she carried out God’s plan for her to its fullest.

Our future is as uncertain as was Mary’s, and certainly our lives are more complex. But unlike her, we often find excuses to run from experiences that are problematic or challenging, believing that we do not possess the requisite gifts to overcome the obstacles. Mary’s life must be our model, and her place as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix must be our hope that what we need for any situation will be provided.

There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother Mary, who knew grief and was a Lady of Sorrows. She is our special patroness, a women who bore much she could not understand and who stood fast. To her many sons and daughters, whose devotions ought to bring them to her side, she tells much of this daily cross and its daily hope. (25)

Conclusion

The cross, the great paradox of Christian life, is unavoidable in life and thus we should not try to run from it. Nobody likes difficulty and pain, yet it is only through our embracing the cross that we can find the eternal life that is the goal of every human person.

Mary did not ask for the life that God gave her. But her great fiat of acceptance, voiced without clear vision or knowledge, was strong and genuine. Mary believed and she possessed the requisite faith to accept the opportunity presented her. The life of sorrow she experienced was anything but easy, but she bore the pain so that God’s plan for human salvation would find its fulfillment in her Son, Jesus.

Our challenge is to be like Mary, especially in today’s very busy, complicated and, at times, problematic world. What the future holds for the world and us individually is not known. But there is no doubt of God’s guidance and assistance in making the world what we wish it to be. Let us follow Mary’s lead to the cross, be the seed that dies, and the one that finds new life.

 

Father Richard Gribble, C.S.C., has taught at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, Indiana, and is a contributor to Catholic journals such as Homiletic and Pastoral Review. This article was originally published in Contemporary Insights On A Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations III, Queenship, 2000.

 

Endnotes

(1) Over the history of the Church, debate raged on what specific events would be called Mary’s sorrows. In the seventeenth century, the seven sorrows in Luke, Matthew, and John were collected under the supervision of Pope XI.

(2) Hilda Graef, The Devotion to Mary (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1963), p. 13.

(3) One example of this phenomenon is found in Judges 13:3 when the angel of the Lord appears to the wife of Manoah to announce the birth of Samson. In Isaiah 7:14, the prophet describes how the Messiah, under the title Emmanuel, will come into the world by “the virgin.”

(4) Jean Galot, S.J. , Mary in the Gospel (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1965), p. 92.

(5) Ibid., p. 95.

(6) Ibid., p. 181.

(7) Thomas A. O’Meara, O.P., Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966), p. 185.

(8) Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976), p. 209. See also Jaroslav Pelikan, Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), pp. 127-28. In the full text, Mary laments: “I am vanquished by loving grief, child, vanquished / And cannot bear the thought of being in my chambers while You are on the cross; / I at home, while You are in the tomb. / Let me come with You! The sight of You soothes my pain.” To this Christ replies: “Lay aside your grief, mother, lay it aside. Lamentation does not befit you who have been called ‘Blessed.’ / Do not obscure your calling with weeping. / Do not liken yourself to those who lack understanding, all-wise maiden. / You are in the midst of my bridal chamber.”

(9) Warner, p. 211.

(10) Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis.

(11) Pelikan, p. 127.

(12) The twenty-stanza poetic version contains a similar message: “O Sweet Mother, font of love / Touch my spirit from above / Make my heart with yours accord. / Let me share with you His pain. / Who for all our sins was slain. / Who for me in torments died.”

(13) Quoted in Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., ed., Mariology, Vol II (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1955), pp. 89-90.

(14) Ibid., Vol 1, p. 113.

(15) Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 92, 98.

(16) Quoted in O’Meara, p. 182.

(17) Galot, p. 187.

(18) Quoted in Carol, Vol. I, p. 37; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 103.

(19) O’Meara, p. 87.

(20) Pelikan, p. 136.

(21) Quoted in Graef, pp. 36-37.

(22) Quoted in Pelikan, p. 132.

(23) Pope Benedict XV, Our Lady (speech to all the consistory), Dec. 24, 1915. Selected and arranged by theBenedictine Monks of Solesmes (Boston: St. Paul’s Editions, 1961), p. 191.

(24) Peter J. Gomes, “What Shall We Do with Mary?” (sermon), delivered Dec. 14, 1997 Memorial Church, Harvard University.

(25) Constitution of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Constitution 8, “The Cross Our Hope,” no. 120.

Our Lady, Ecumenism, and the Dogma

The subject of this theme is of such profound importance that it behooves us all to redouble our efforts to remove any and all obstacles to the action of the Holy Spirit that persist in ourselves and in the whole community of the Church. By the grace of God we have received from the Second Vatican Council some enlightenment and clarification on the Blessed Virgin Mary, on her function in the Plan of Salvation and on her relationship with the Church. These teachings are to be found at the end of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) following upon the teachings on the mystical and hierarchical nature of the Church and teachings on the Laity and Religious. The Holy Spirit obviously influenced many theologians and especially the Fathers of the Council to promulgate these teachings on Our Lady to the People of God. I have continued to express my thanks to the Blessed Trinity for the gift of this teaching.

However, while I deeply respect the very valuable work and effort that the Fathers put into the Council, with all due deference to them, I must confess that I found it difficult to repress feelings of dissatisfaction and a sense of something seriously lacking in the procedures and circumstances leading up to the final document.

For that reason I was all the more delighted when I heard, two years ago, about the Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici movement to proclaim the dogma that the Blessed Mother is Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate. With a grateful heart I regard this movement as God’s Providence acting to make up for the insufficiency of the teaching on Mary, the cause of which is to be found in the excessive caution of the Council Fathers. As human beings we cannot completely understand the will of the Holy Spirit. It must be said therefore that being human, with all the limitations that it entails, even though they were Council Fathers nonetheless they could not interpret the will of the Holy Spirit in a perfect and faultless manner. What I have to say now is premised on that assumption. I have already pointed out that I was dissatisfied with the document on Mary both in its content and in the procedures by which it was approved and promulgated. The following are the reasons for my dissatisfaction:

1. First of all, the draft prepared by the Preparatory Theological Commission was presented to the Council in the form of a separate and independent Constitution on the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, having been subjected to many vicissitudes of fortune, it was finally reduced to forty articles and tacked on, so to speak, to the Constitution of the Church (the vote for and against its integration with the Constitution on the Church was 1,114 FOR, 1,074 AGAINST, and 5 INVALID). Normally, near consensus of over 90% was achieved in the voting on most issues brought before the general assembly of the Council, but I have heard that this was the first time since the inauguration of the Council that the voting was split down the middle. I personally felt a sense of great loss that the document on the Blessed Virgin Mary designed by the Preparatory Theological Commission as a separate and independent Constitution was not so decided on and promulgated.

2. Secondly, looking at the document which was finally promulgated, I was saddened when I heard the details of how the use of the title of Mediatrix for Our Lady was decided upon. It was reported that it was with great reluctance that the title Mediatrix was recognized, to say nothing of the title of Coredemptrix.

3. Finally, in spite of Pope Paul VI’s clearly and strongly expressed desire that the title of Mother of the Church should be given to Mary, his wish was ignored by the Council Fathers. Because of this, the Pope himself, on November 21, 1964, on the last day of the third session of the Council, on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Mary, having solemnly approved and promulgated the Constitution on the Church, he then, at that same location by his Motu Proprio, formally declared Mary to be the Mother of the Church. I clearly remember the displeasure I felt towards the Council Fathers when I received the news of the Pope’s action.

It is abundantly clear that the reason for the hesitant and conciliatory attitude of the Council Fathers was the fear that the doctrine that Jesus is the sole Mediator might be compromised and that strong emphasis of Mary’s role in our redemption might prove to be a handicap, then certainly a cause of bad feeling among our separated brethren.

As far as the Korean Catholic Church is concerned there is absolutely no problem with the first point, namely that Jesus Christ is the sole Mediator between God and humankind. There is not one single Korean Catholic who harbors any doubts about this basic doctrine. I would go further and question the possibility that there could exist a single Catholic on the face of the earth who would deny or doubt the truth of this revelation. If the Council Fathers were apprehensive on this point, then it must be said that such apprehension was groundless. It is a fact that the right and fitting guidance of the Magisterium is always necessary, but throughout two thousand years of history the people of God have never doubted that Christ is the sole Mediator nor have they ever affirmed that Mary is a Mediatrix on an equal basis with Christ. In my view, therefore, the excessive caution on the part of the Council Fathers was due primarily to their fear of irritating or alienating further the members of the Protestant churches. It was regarded as basic common sense not to introduce anything of an inflammatory nature into the conversations, which must take place to promote Christian unity.

However, when it comes to Marian doctrine and devotion, no matter how much one strives to be careful and polite, no matter how much one brings a conciliatory attitude to the dialogue, the result is fruitless. This statement of mine is based on over ten years of involvement on my part with the movement for Christian unity in Korea. The question must be asked—how much have the anemic and vague presentations about the role and titles of Mary contributed to the movement for Christian unity? Conversely, if the Council Fathers, united in their conviction about the true role of Mary, had given her the titles that are her due, who is to say that the movement for Christian unity would be adversely affected? It is precisely this point that I wish to emphasize here today. The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Korea has put me in charge of the Committee for Promoting Dialogue among Christian churches. Naturally what I have to say here is confirmed in the movement for Christian unity in Korea.

According to the 1995 statistics on the population of South Korea, out of the total population of 44,850,000 people, Catholics number 3,600,000 or eight percent; over twenty mainline Protestant churches and one-hundred-seventy Protestant sects together number 8,760,000 or twenty percent. Those participating in the movement for Christian unity in Korea, apart from the Catholic Church, are the Salivation Army and the Anglican, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox and Presbyterian churches, and they meet once a week for a prayer liturgy during Church Unity Week. In addition, there is a sporadic cooperation in human development and social projects. Dialogue with them towards unity in the strict sense of the word is practically non-existent. Rather, the emphasis is on promoting the orthodoxy of each one.

In Korea, a deep gulf separates the Catholic Church from the Protestants. The misunderstandings, ignorance, and prejudice about the doctrine, Sacraments, Liturgy, devotions and practices of the Catholic Church are extremely serious. Our doctrines and traditions concerning Our Blessed Lady, as well as the Papacy, constitute an enormous stumbling block to them. They vehemently deny our doctrines on Mary and are critical of Catholic devotions. It is not a question of their being merely ignorant of our claims and teachings. Protestant theologians and instructors are able to precisely outline the four Dogmas on Our Lady to their members, before systematically attacking them one by one. And so it is that many Korean Protestants are a priori opposed to the Blessed Mother and they accuse the Catholic Church of Mariolatry.

Sadly, it sometimes appears that nothing short of our complete disavowal of the total body of doctrine on Mary and the Liturgy and devotions that follow on it, will silence the never-ending and noisome criticism from some ecclesial bodies. It can be seen therefore that in spite of the considerable efforts at care and restraint on the part of the Council Fathers when discussing the various roles and titles of Mary, the movement for Christian unity in Korea was not helped in the slightest way, as a result. On the contrary, it is certain that if full and clear expression of the glories of Mary had been made with all due emphasis, there would have been no change for the worse as far as the unity movement was concerned. Even though the Catholic Church were to completely disavow the four doctrines on Our Lady, this would not bring the Protestants one inch closer nor would it serve to create good will or friendly relations with Catholics. On the other hand, I am convinced that even if we can achieve our goal of having our Holy Father, the Pope, solemnly define the Maternal Mediation of Mary as Auxiliary Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, the ecumenical movement in Korea will not be adversely affected in the slightest manner.

Meanwhile, there is a united consensus among Korean Catholics that Mary is not only their Advocate before God but is also the Mediatrix of all grace and is the one human being par excellence, who played and who continues to play a unique, auxiliary role in our redemption. In Korea the only people who would not give public support at this time to the Vox Populi movement would be only a few bishops and some priests who did their studies in Europe. But I have no doubt that they too will readily accept the official teaching when the Pope proclaims it ex cathedra. As a matter of fact, no dogma of the Church ever had one hundred percent support prior to its official promulgation. The Fathers of the Church and the theologians never had prior, complete agreement. But the unified acceptance on the part of the general body of Catholics presents no problems. It is my feeling that the movement to promote the fifth Marian Dogma reflects the already formed sensus fidelium, if not physically then certainly morally, not only of Korea but also of the whole world.

We are now living in the Age of the Holy Spirit and of His Bride, Mary. The unification of Christians is the task not merely of us humans but primarily of the Holy Spirit and of Mary, His Bride. I have this innate intuition formed by my long experience with the movement of Christian unity, that the Holy Spirit does not wish to act alone in granting the gift of unity. We must ask the question how much real Christian unity has taken place since the Second Vatican Council in spite of the enormous amounts of time, money, and energy that have been expended. My reply has to be negative. The Holy Spirit will not act apart from Mary in effecting this work or any other work that is connected with us.

Pope Paul VI described Mary as the “permanent dwelling of the Spirit of God.” (1) St. Maximilian Kolbe, a pioneer in the field of modern Mariology, has said: “The union between the Immaculata and Holy Spirit is so inexpressible, yet perfect, that the Holy Spirit acts only by the most Blessed Virgin, his Spouse. This is why she is the Mediatrix of all grace given by the Holy Spirit.” (2) I am convinced that it is the will of God that Christian unity be brought about through the joint action of the Holy Spirit and Mary. If that sacred will of God is opposed and Mary is not properly treated, how can we receive the grace of Christian unity? Based on this, it would appear that unity among those Christian churches which honor Mary along with the Holy Spirit can be easily achieved, relatively speaking, whereas unity with those churches adamantly outside this group will be impossible.

A Korean saying has it that “Like cures like.” If the difficulties encountered by the Christian unity movement arise because of Mary, then rather than weakening Mary’s position, the solution to those difficulties must be sought from Mary herself. As an example of the truth of the saying “Like cures like” I can cite a story related to the tears of blood shed by Our Lady in Naju. Naju is a town in the Archdiocese of Kwangju, which is situated in the southwest of Korea. It is the place where a statue of Our Lady has been shedding tears of blood on numerous occasions for the past twelve years. It has not yet been formally approved by the Ordinary of the Archdiocese but already the Madonna of Naju, weeping tears and blood, has become widely known throughout the world, and pilgrims from home and abroad are making their way there in increasingly large numbers. Interspersed among these pilgrims are a number of Protestant leaders who, for one reason or another, have visited there and, wonderful to relate, a miraculous change has taken place in all of them. They still remain in their churches but at the risk of being ostracized or dismissed from their job, they are reciting the Rosary every day and quietly spreading the word about Our Lady. One of them, a Protestant minister, has recently published a pamphlet entitled “We are One in the Holy Mother.” Another who was a woman elder in the Presbyterian church, was converted to the Catholic Church and then in turn converted her husband and twenty of her family and relatives.

The West mobilized its political, diplomatic and military strength against the former Soviet Union, but most Catholics are in agreement with the Pope that is was Our Lady of Fatima who brought about the sudden collapse of Communism. So why can we not claim that the seemingly impossible task of Christian unification can also be brought about through the help of that same Blessed Mother?

Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has stated that he regarded the work of Christian unification as one of the priorities of his pontificate. And indeed he has clearly given proof of this through a variety of actions, measures, and decisions that he has taken. His efforts have brought much fruit and it is our fond hope that his sincere desire for unity in Our Lord Jesus Christ will be achieved at the earliest possible date. It is our hope and prayer that the Pope’s efforts will go well and, to this end, the movement of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici must achieve its objective, namely the solemn proclamation of this new Marian dogma by the Holy Father. When that day comes, the Holy Spirit of unity, along with His Bride, now publicly revered under her new titles, will face all Christians and call out with one voice, “Come.” For such a grand culmination I humbly hope and pray.

 

The Most Rev. Paul Chang Yeol Kim is Bishop Emeritus of Cheju, South Korea. This article was originally published in Contemporary Insights On A Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations III, Queenship, 2000.

 

Endnotes

(1) Marialis Cultus, 26.

(2) Letter to Father Mikolajczyk, July 28, 1935.

Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate

The symbols of Her Majesty as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate are imprinted in the Medal of the Immaculate Conception (Miraculous Medal). Its history began in Eden. When, in the fullness of time, God created Adam out of the dust of the earth and placed him in the garden of Eden, he then created Eve out of his rib and gave her to him as “a companion” (Genesis 2:18). Our first mother, the first Eve, the “Mother of the living,” then brought death to her children and the world by her sin of disobedience and by wanting to be “like God.” She, and soon afterwards the first Adam, fell prey to “the father of lies,” the ancient serpent, once Lucifer, now Satan, who deceived them (Genesis 3:4-5).

It was then that God made his first promise to mankind when he said to Satan: “Because you have done this, I will put enmity between you and the woman; between your seed and her seed; (s)he will crush your head…” (Genesis 3:15). God was referring to a new Eve and a new Adam. It was to be Mary and Jesus in time to come. She was to defeat him through her seed, the second Adam. Eventually, in the fullness of time the new Eve was born. She was to be the mother of the man, the new Adam, who was to restore life and the friendship of God with mankind. She was to be the new “Mother of the living,” the Mother of Mankind.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, theologized that when man rebelled against God, God’s justice required that adequate reparation be made; justice meaning “giving to everyone his due.” But since God is infinite, an infinite insult was made to him when man rebelled against him, and if the reparation was to be adequate, that is, if justice was to be satisfied, such an insult required infinite reparation. Justice also required that the reparation be made by man, but man is a finite being and incapable of making infinite reparation. Left to himself, therefore, man would forever be separated from God. The only solution to the impasse was that the infinite God should become man, and as man offer reparation to God. Since the person offering the reparation would himself be infinite, the reparation would equal the crime and man would once more be united in friendship with God. And so, in his loving mercy, God sent his Son to make reparation for the sin of man: “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son…” (John 3:16).

Coredemptrix

Now, the first Adam and the first Eve were immaculate at birth. Sin had not entered the world as yet. The second Eve, too, in anticipation of the merits of her son, by a special privilege of God, was preserved from the stain of original sin and was immaculate at birth. She was the Immaculate Conception. She was to be the helpmate and “companion” of the Redeemer, who was the “sinless One.” The spiritual history of man was about to start all over again, this time not in Eden, but in Nazareth!

The first Adam gave birth to the first Eve. The second Eve gave birth to the second Adam. Indeed, she gave him the very instrument of redemption, his human body, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me” (Heb. 10:5-7). No human father was involved and scientifically speaking, therefore, his DNA was totally Marian! In the words of the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Of course, Mary is the Coredemptrix. She gave Jesus his body, and it is his body which saved us.”

The first Eve was proud. The second Eve was humble. The first Eve was disobedient. The second Eve was obedient. The first Eve said yes to Satan and sin. The second Eve said yes to Gabriel and God. It was a fruit which hung from a tree in the garden of Eden which was the instrument which Satan used to bring death to the world. It was the “fruit of her womb” (Luke 1:42) who hung from a tree on Calvary and restored life to mankind. The first Eve brought death to the world. The second Eve brought life. The Eden tragedy was reversed on Calvary.

In sum, it was a man and a woman who had sinned and, therefore, it had to be a man and a woman to restore what was lost by sin. It is as logical as that! Anyone therefore who leaves the “woman” out of that redemptive act is only preaching half Genesis 3:15, half the gospel, half the truth—and half-truth is no truth! It was Jesus and Mary.

Redemption had to come from suffering. As Eve gave the fruit to Adam as the instrument for the fall of humanity, Mary gave a body to Jesus as the instrument for the redemption of humanity, the body in which he would live and suffer and die for us. And so, by virtue of giving flesh to the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14), who in turn redeemed humanity, the Virgin of Nazareth uniquely merits the title Coredemptrix. But the climax of Mary’s role as Coredemptrix was at the foot of the Cross where the total suffering of the mother’s heart, “pierced with a sword,” was obediently united with the suffering of the son’s heart in the fulfillment of the Father’s plan of redemption (cf. Gal. 4:4).

As Rev. Cyril Papali, O.D.C., in his book Mother of God, Mary in Scripture and Tradition, also said: “Hers was the most spiritual and the most pure, the most selfless, the most intense, incomprehensible suffering ever known. One solitary creature suffering with God and for God, suffering for all mankind and from them. That was the price of being the Coredemptrix. That is the meaning of being the second Eve.” When therefore the Church calls Mary the “Coredemptrix,” she means that Mary uniquely participated in the redemption of humanity with her son, although in a completely subordinate and dependent manner. As Mark Miravalle, Professor of Theology and Mariology at Steubenville University, Ohio, wrote: “Mary participated in Jesus’ reconciliation of the human family with God like no other created person. Mary’s unique participation in the redemption was scripturally foreshadowed in the prophecy of Simeon in the temple when he said to her: ‘A sword would pierce your own heart, too'” (Luke 2: 35).

Miravalle clearly explained that the term “Coredemptrix” if properly translated means “the Woman with the Redeemer.” Undoubtedly, God could have redeemed us on his own, but he willed otherwise. It would not have been perfect. The important point, however, is that Mary could never have redeemed us on her own. Her role was secondary and subordinate. She was the Coredemptrix, and “Co” comes from the Latin “cum” which means “with” and certainly does not mean “co-equal,” but “co-operating with.” I wish to make this abundantly clear because it is of major theological and ecumenical importance. The co-pilot, for example, is not equal but is subordinate to the pilot. Indeed, Mary always knew her cooperative role: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). But it was her “Immaculate Conception” which properly prepared her for and made her worthy of the intimate and unique role she had to play with the Redeemer in the work of salvation. And so, the title Coredemptrix should never be interpreted as Mary having an equal role in the salvation of the world with Jesus. Indeed, it was never at any time in Church history meant to be so interpreted.

We were redeemed on Calvary with the blood of the son and the tears of the mother. Redemption came from this suffering. It was a suffering which stemmed from “love.” Indeed, the Mother of the Redeemer was predestined to suffer with her son. Simeon only confirmed what she already understood before she gave her fiat to Gabriel: “And a sword would pierce thine own heart” (Luke 2:35).

This is not new doctrine. The earliest Christian writers and Fathers of the Church referred to Marian co-redemption with great profundity. For example, the fourth century Church Father, St. Jerome, said: “Death through Eve, life from Mary.” The seventh century Church writer, Modestus of Jerusalem, stated that through Mary, we “are redeemed from the tyranny of the devil.” St. John Damascene (eighth century) greeted her: “Hail thou, through whom we are redeemed from the curse,” and the twelfth century Marian lover St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) preached that “through her, man was redeemed.” He added: “One man and one woman harmed us grievously. Thanks to God, all things are restored by one man and one woman, and that with interest.”

It is true that Christ would have been adequate, since all our sufficiency comes from him, but it was not good for us that it should be a man alone. It was more appropriate that both sexes should take part in our reparation, since both had wrought our ruin. But her cooperation means much more than this. It implies the true dependence of the whole work of redemption on her free will because God himself willed it to be conditioned by her consent. Redemption in its entirety is her cooperative work also and for that reason alone she deserves to be called Coredemptrix.

Indeed, it is against this rich Christian foundation that twentieth century Popes and saints have used the title Coredemptrix for Mary’s unique role in human redemption. Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) in his 1918 apostolic letter wrote: “To such extent that she (Mary) suffered and almost died with her suffering and dying son, and to such extent that she surrendered her maternal rights over her son for man’s salvation, …we may rightly say that she together with Christ redeemed the human race.”

As Miravalle researched: “In a Papal Audience in 1933, Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) marked a Marian milestone when for the first time in Church history a Pope had personally and explicitly attributed the title ‘Coredemptrix’ to Mary (The author wishes to add here that her role as such was always recognized by the Church.) It was the single word ‘Coredemptrix’ which was used for the first time.” Pope Pius XI said:

In the very nature of things, the Redeemer could not help but associate his mother in his work and therefore we invoke her under the title of Coredemptrix. She has given us the Savior; she raised him for the work of redemption unto the cross, sharing in the suffering and death by which Jesus accomplished the redemption of all men. And it was upon the cross, in the last moments of his life, that the Redeemer proclaimed her our mother and the mother of all. “Behold your son,” he said of St. John, who represented all of us; and those other words, spoken to the Apostle were addressed to us too: “Behold your mother.”

Pius XII referred to Mary as Coredemptrix no less than six times in various papal documents. In another Papal statement, in 1935, he addressed Mary in these words:

O Mother of piety and mercy, who, when thy most beloved son was accomplishing the redemption of the human race on the altar of the Cross, did stand there suffering with him, as a Coredemptrix … Day by day preserve and increase in us the precious fruit of his redemption and your compassion as his mother.

In his homily on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the cathedral in Krakow before he became Pope John Paul II, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla summarized this Marian truth: “In order to be Coredemptrix, she was first the Immaculate Conception.” (1) But her Majesty herself made this connection during her apparitions in Amsterdam as the Lady or Mother of all Nations: “Tell the Theologians,” she said to Ida Peerdeman, “that this is why the Lady of all Nations has been compelled to come now, in these present times, for she is the Immaculate Conception, and as a consequence of this, the Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.”

Then, as Pope, John Paul II used the term Coredemptrix for Mary on six occasions during his pontificate. In a papal statement in 1985, for example, he specifically used the title “Coredemptrix” in developing the understanding of Mary’s spiritual crucifixion at the foot of the Cross:

Crucified spiritually with her crucified son, she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought fourth” (Lumen Gentium, No. 58) … As she was in a special way close to the Cross of her son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her son.

Mediatrix

A mediator is someone who is able to stand between two groups or at least has a special “in” with both sides so that she or he can hope to bring the two sides together. As M. Basil Pennington wrote in his book Mary Today, when God wanted to partake of our humanity, he looked for a free “yes” from us. It was Mary who stood there in our name and said that yes. Indeed, the medieval image of a man like Bernard of Clairvaux, who depicts the whole human race gathered around Mary encouraging her to say that yes, waiting with bated breath until she does say it, is not altogether fanciful. Mary was our spokesperson before the Divine. Thus Mary, in a very real and special sense, is our mediatrix.

When God did become man and the Son of God embraced our humanity, we then had the mediator—one who belonged totally to both sides and brought them together in deepest harmony and union. It was this mediator’s first “yes” to the Father that truly reconciled humanity with the divine. Mary’s was the second “yes.”

Thirty years later the mother and her son were invited to a wedding banquet. The wine ran out. “They have no wine,” she said to her son, pleading on behalf of the bride and groom in Cana. It was then that he changed water, not merely into wine, but the best wine. It was the first documented manifestation of her role as mediatrix with the one mediator between God and man. As Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And as St. Paul says: “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). This, of course, is a teaching that the Catholic Church fully acknowledges. However, as Miravalle has said, the text of Paul’s Letter to Timothy, while excluding any other parallel mediation, does not exclude subordinate mediation.

It is at Cana, therefore, that we see the first public manifestation of both the divinity of Christ, the one mediator, and the motherly intercession of Mary for the needs of her children. Mary, then, is mediatrix with the mediator. At the moment that he expressed that “yes” in its fullness on Calvary hill, the one chosen by God to stand at his side and be a total “yes” with his “yes” was Mary. “There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother” (John 19:25).

In his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II professed Mary as the “mediatrix,” who in her position as mother has the right to intercede for mankind, and in the General Audience of Wednesday, September 24, 1997, he also said:

Having entered the Father’s eternal kingdom she can more effectively exercise in the Spirit the role of maternal intercession entrusted to her by divine Providence… As maternal mediatrix, Mary presents our desires and petitions to Christ, and transmits the divine gifts to us, interceding continually on our behalf.

Mediatrix of All Graces

Now, grace flows from the Father to the Son and when the Church says that the mother of Jesus is Mediatrix of all Graces, she means that all favors and graces granted from the Father to the Son reach us through Mary. It is a privilege given to her by the son. Indeed, didn’t Her Majesty herself not give this hint during her apparition in Paris when she showed the image of the Medal of the Immaculate Conception in the Rue du Bac to Catherine Laboure in 1830? “These are the graces I bestow upon those who ask for them,” she said to Catherine, referring to the rays emanating from the rings on her fingers. Mary’s role as Dispensatrix or Mediatrix of the graces of the redemption follows appropriately from her role as Coredemptrix because of her special participation in meriting the graces of redemption. Indeed, Mary also mediated all graces to humanity by giving birth to Jesus and by bringing the source and author of all graces to the world.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who has been rightly called the “Doctor of Mary’s Mediation,” once wrote:

It is the will of him who wanted us to have everything through Mary … God has placed in Mary the plenitude of every good, in order to have us understand that if there is any trace of hope in us, any trace of grace, any trace of salvation, it flows from her… God could have dispensed his graces according to his good pleasure without making use of this channel (Mary), but it was his wish to provide this means whereby grace would reach you.

To put it another way, in appreciation of his mother’s companionship and cooperation from the crib to the Cross, the godliness of the God-Man, and manliness of the Man-God extended to his mother the privilege to distribute his graces to whomsoever requests them.

Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) referred to Mary as the “Dispensatrix of all Graces.” Pope Pius IX (1846-1878), the Marian Pope who defined Mary’s Immaculate Conception, wrote: “God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her is obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation.” Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) referred to Mary as the “treasurer of our peace with God and dispensatrix of heavenly graces.”

Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) strongly encouraged the spread of the doctrine of Mediatrix of all Graces by granting a special feast of “Mediatrix of all Graces” to any Bishop who desired to celebrate it in his diocese. It was Cardinal Desiree Mercier of Belgium who was the first to receive, through his intercession and petitioning to Pope Benedict XV, the Mass and Office of Mediatrix of all Graces. Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) also had his say: “And since,” as St. Bernard declared, “it is the will of God that we obtain all favors through Mary, let everyone hasten to have recourse to Mary… She teaches us all virtues; she gives us her son and with all the help we need, for ‘God wished us to have everything through Mary.'”

Finally, in 1989, in a Papal address, John Paul II referred to Mary as the Mediatrix of Graces: “Enlightened by the fullness of Christ’s light, Mary, Mediatrix of Graces, reflects him in order to give him to all her children.” So, in light of the fact that the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces has been universally taught throughout the Church by Popes of the last two hundred years, and in virtue of this universal teaching of the Church, the doctrine of Mediatrix of all Graces already possesses the nature of a defined doctrine of faith. In other words, Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces represents essential Catholic teaching through the order of the ordinary Magisterium.

Advocate

The Church also teaches that Mary intercedes to God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit, on behalf of humanity, as our Advocate, especially in times of danger and difficulty. As Mark Miravalle also wrote in his book Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, we can see an authentic foreshadowing of the role of the mother of Jesus as Advocate in the Old Testament role of the Queen Mother, the role and office held by the mothers of the great Davidic kings of Israel.

In the kingdom of Israel, the mother of the king held the exalted office of the Queen Mother. At times she even sat enthroned at the right side of the king. Indeed, the office and authority of the Queen Mother made her the strongest advocate to the king for the people of the kingdom, as exemplified in 1 Kings 2:19-20:

And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said: “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.”

This Old Testament role of the Queen Mother as Advocate prophetically foreshadows the role of the great Queen Mother of the New Testament, for as the Mother of Christ, the King of all Nations, she is automatically Queen and Mother in the kingdom of God and Mother of all nations on earth. But this title of “Advocate” is ancient Church doctrine. Between 1000 and 1100 AD the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen) was composed, and it was the first Christian prayer recited in the New World by Columbus and his men on the island of San Salvador: “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy… turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us…” And so, Her Majesty is not only Advocate but she is also the Queen of Heaven or more precisely the Queen Mother of Heaven—and Earth.

Conclusion

MARY is her name and one can argue a case for using it as a mnemonic where M is for Mediatrix, A for Advocate, R for Redemptrix (Co) and Y for the “Yes” she said to Gabriel and God when, as a consequence of her Immaculate Conception, she became Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.

Dr. Courtenay Bartholomew, M.D., is a scientist from Trinidad who is considered a leading international AIDS researcher. He has authored a series of mariological studies from a scientific perspective entitled: A Scientist Researches Mary. The above article is an excerpt from his book, Her Majesty Mary, Queen of Peace: End Times Prophecies and Warnings of Mary, Queenship, 2002.

 

Endnotes

(1) December 8, 1973.