Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate
by Arthur Burton Calkins
IV. Mary as Advocate
In his book, Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Dr. Mark Miravalle declares:
In stating himself in this way Dr. Miravalle also acknowledges that he is following a thought process traced by St. Maximilian-Maria Kolbe. In lecture notes dated 5-20 August 1940 Maximilian speaks of the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit.
Mary, then, according to St. Maximilian, is not only the chosen channel of grace to man, but also the unique human person through whom man begins his return to God. As Miravalle puts it:
The theme of Mary as our Advocate is also a very ancient one in Christian literature. It can be traced to the thought of St. Irenaeus (+ after 194) who spoke of the Virgin Mary becoming the advocate of the virgin Eve, destroying virginal disobedience by virginal obedience.  "It has been assumed," says Father O'Carroll, "that the Greek word used was Paracletos," the same word used by Jesus to speak of himself and the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17). Just as we speak of Mary's mediation as subordinate and secondary to and dependent upon the mediation of Jesus, so Mary's advocacy must be understood in the same way.
Our Lady's advocacy is likewise presupposed in the earliest recorded invocation to the Mother of God of which we are aware, the prayer known in the Latin tradition as the Sub tuum præsidium. While the earliest extant manuscript of this prayer, which dates from the third or fourth century, is in Greek, a standard rendering of this prayer in English is the following:
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council saw fit to make a reference to this famous prayer in #66 of Lumen Gentium. In #62 of that same chapter they point to Mary's advocacy as a consequence of her spiritual maternity:
Pope John Paul II developed this theme in his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater by saying that "Mary's motherhood continues unceasingly in the Church as the mediation which intercedes." He also presented the idea succcinctly in a homily which he gave at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii on 21 October 1979: "Mary is always at the very centre of our prayer. She is the first among those who ask. She is Omnipotentia supplex: the 'Omnipotence of intercession.'"
As the liturgy characterizes Mary as "minister of grace", so it also describes her as "advocate of grace". In the Preface for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception [In Conceptione Immaculata Beatæ Mariæ Virginis] the celebrant addresses the Father in these words:
This is really another way of looking at the mystery of Mary's mediation of grace and Father O'Keefe does not hesitate to render the idea in this way:
The same terminology is found in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of All Creation [Beata Maria Virgo, Universorum Regina]:
The whole Preface, of which we have only quoted a part, makes a striking parallel between the humiliation and exaltation (Kingship) of Christ and the analogous humiliation and exaltation (Queenship) of Mary. It also evokes the Old Testament image of the Queen Mother who sits at the right hand of her son the King and intercedes on behalf of others. It is in this sense that Mary is our "advocate of grace".
Without a doubt the liturgy is a privileged witness to the Church's profound belief in Mary's advocacy on behalf of her children. A beautiful example of this occurs in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Gate of Heaven [Beata Maria Virgo, Ianua Cæli]:
Here the Latin describes Mary as the Virgo supplex, literally "the suppliant Virgin" who obtains by her entreaty the return of sinners to her Son.
After reviewing the testimony of the conciliar and subsequent documents of the papal magisterium on Mary as the "supplex Mater" [the suppliant Mother], Father Calabuig notes what a frequent theme Mary's intercession is in the liturgy and how this very recurrence testifies to the truth of the axiom that the lex supplicandi [the law of supplication] has established the lex credendi [the law of belief]. There is hardly a Marian prayer in the Roman liturgy which does not beg or refer in some manner to Mary's intercession. Father Calabuig refers to the ancient and splendid oration of the Solemnity of the Mother of God:
While the English translation does convey the idea of Mary's intercession on our behalf, it doesn't do justice to the richness of the concepts employed in the Latin.  Here is an attempt to be faithful to those concepts while also striving to render them in dignified modern English:
This prayer may be taken as representative of a great many in former editions of the Roman Missal as well as that of Paul VI. A glance at the valuable index provided by Fathers Johnson and Ward indicates how frequently the words "intercede" and "intercession" -- not to mention other cognate forms -- are attributed to Our Lady in the Collection. Unfortunately, I am not aware of a similar tool which could be indicated for immediate references to the vocabulary of the present Roman Missal. I have found at least twelve orations in Masses of Our Lady which employ the word intercede or intercession and even more which deal with the idea.
We have already noted that the Latin word præsidium is translated as "patronage" in the ancient Marian prayer which dates from the third or at latest the fourth century in its original Greek form. It is a word whose range of meaning isn't matched by one single English word. It means a sitting before, hence a (military) protection, a defense, a place occupied by a garrison and, in a more general sense, help, assistance, support. By the early Middle Ages præsidium became a conventional way of describing the protection which could be expected as a result of Mary's advocacy, of her all-powerful intercession. Hence it is found in private prayers invoking Our Lady's help already in this period of Christian history.Here is how it occurs in the Opening Prayer of the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel [Beatæ Mariæ Virginis de Monte Carmelo Memoria]:
Unhappily, several allusions are lost in this translation. Let us listen to Father Joncas' incisive comment:
Even more important, from our perspective, is the plea that Mary's intercession might help us, so that "fortified by her protection," we may reach the mountain which is Christ.
This idea of Mary's protection [præsidium] recurs a number of times in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For instance, in the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle [Beata Maria Virgo a Cenaculo] the priest prays
Here the concept is precisely that under Mary's protection we will have the right conditions to work for unity and peace. In the Opening Prayer of the Mass of the Holy Name of Mary [Sanctum Nomen Beatæ Mariæ Virginis] the language is borrowed directly from the Sub tuum præsidium:
Unfortunately, the translators have transformed the relative clause and also the object of the petition while retaining some of the key ideas. A more literal translation can bring to the fore more readily the literary borrowing: "grant that we who fly trustingly to her protection, may be comforted by calling upon her maternal name."
In a very notable way the concept of Mary's protection [præsidium] occurs in the Latin title and repeatedly in the prayers of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pillar of Faith [Beata Maria Virgo, Fidei Præsidium], which borrows in great part from the Mass of Our Lady of the Pillar, taken from the typical edition of the Missal approved by the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Perhaps the idea is best exemplified in the Opening Prayer:
One understands the obvious allusion to the famous pillar in Saragossa, surmounted by a statuette of Our Lady, which, according to tradition, was left by her to Saint James the Great, the Apostle of Spain, as a precious reminder that he must be strong in the faith. However, it seems to me that the word præsidium here has more the sense of "defending wall", "bulwark" or "fortification". Such is the power of Our Lady's protection for those who seek her as their advocate. Here I would propose that the idea could be rendered with even more strong imagery: "Almighty, eternal God, who have given the Blessed Virgin Mary, the glorious Mother of your Son as a defending wall to all who call upon her, ..."
The same idea of the strength of Our Lady's protection is communicated in this line of the Preface:
I offer this literal rendition to illustrate my point: "Glorious by virtue of her Son [the seed, the bud], she shines out as the hope of the faithful and the bulwark of faith." Likewise the notion of Mary as a source of impregnable strength is to be found in the Prayer after Communion of that Mass:
I would propose that here beatæ Mariæ Virginis freti præsidio could be rendered more forcefully as "relying on the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary".
The concept of Mary's maternal protection in the Roman Liturgy is certainly not limited to the occurrence of the word præsidium. We find it, for instance, in the beautiful Preface of the Mass of the Commendation of the Blessed Virgin Mary [Commendatio Beatæ Mariæ Virginis]:
The final sentence in Latin could be rendered in English: "She will for ever be the mother of believers who will always fly safely to her," but the English translators have done well here to recognize that the very idiomatic securi confugient speaks of Mary's motherly protection. A point not to be missed is that confugere is precisely the verb used in the prayer Sub tuum præsidium [We fly to your patronage] and hence it makes a subtle allusion to the trusting spirit of that prayer.
The same verb is used with the same association in the Preface of the Mass of Mary, Mother of Reconciliation [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater Reconciliationis]:
Recognizing the compassion of Mary's heart for sinners, "they fly to her imploring your pardon". Sinners should know that Mary is not the source of pardon, which comes from God, but that she is their "advocate of grace" with him. This, in fact, is carefully drawn out in the Opening Prayer of the same Mass which beautifully sets out Mary's role as the "Reconciler of sinners":
Here we might simply point out that a more literal translation would indicate that God was pleased to appoint the mother of his Son as the Reconciler of sinners. The very use of the verb constituere here indicates Mary's appointment to an office, a special function, a mission or role [munus]. (We have already noted that she is called the "minister of the salvific plan" [salvificæ dispensationis ministra]. ) Hence, it is through her intercession that we may obtain pardon for our sins.
The Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians [Beata Maria Virgo, Auxilium Christianorum] further illustrates the theme of God's appointing Mary to a special role as advocate or helper:
We might also simply note here that matrem et auxilium populi christiani constituisti indicates that God gave Mary the particular role of advocate by appointing her to be "the mother and help of the Christian people" and, thus, with her protecting them [ipsa protegente] they can be fearless, steadfast and secure.
We have already noted more than once that præsidium is translated as "patronage" in the traditional English version of the Sub tuum præsidium [We fly to thy patronage]. In fact the idea of Mary's patronage was yet another way of illustrating her advocacy in the Middle Ages. Just as a vassal would put himself under the patronage and at the service of a suzerain, so many Christians freely choose to put themselves under Mary's patronage by commiting [or consecrating] themselves to her. Not surprisingly, we find that the terms patron [patrona] and patronage [patrocinium] have also entered into the liturgical vocabulary of the Collection. Here is an example from the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of the Holy Name of Mary [Sanctum Nomen Beatæ Mariæ Virginis]:
Here the understanding quite clearly is that all those for whom Mary is a mother in the order of grace  have a right to her guidance and patronage.
In the Prayer over the Gifts of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Magistra Spiritalis], there is also the unhesitating assertion that Mary's patronage extends over all who have been reborn in the waters of Baptism:
The Italian translation of this prayer seems surprisingly less faithful to the Latin text than is the English, but in rendering patrocinio custodit as "she protects us with her help", we get the idea that Our Lady's patronage is always dynamic, that she never ceases to watch over her spiritual children.
The linking of Mary's patronage with her spiritual maternity is even clearer in the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom [Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede]:
Thus Mary is the advocate or patroness of those who "have received the sacrament of redemption" precisely because she is their mother. As mother, she ever intercedes for them and looks after them.
Finally, in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick [Beatæ Mariæ Virginis, Salus Infirmorum] Mary is indicated as being a special patron of the sick because of her own share in the mystery of suffering:
In this graceful way Mary's patronage is linked with her role as Coredemptrix, her unique participation in the mystery of redemptive suffering.
It should be apparent by now that the themes of Our Lady's Coredemption, Mediation and Advocacy are abundantly represented in the Mass formularies of the present Roman Liturgy, especially in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have not touched the Liturgy of the Hours, nor have I considered the readings available in the Lectionary of Paul VI or in the Collection. In fact, it cannot be said that this study has exhausted all the instances in which these themes occur, even in the liturgical books to which I have limited myself. I do believe, however, that I have provided sufficient examples to demonstrate that a case is not being built on one or two debatable texts, but on a truly ample documentation.
We have examined at some length how the euchological texts present Mary's collaboration in the redemption in various ways such as the associate of Christ [socia Christi], the new Eve [nova Eva], totally devoted to the person and work of her Son, a sharer in the sufferings of her Son, the one who presents her Son to the Father and the one who unites her sacrifice to that of her Son. We have then studied the liturgical treatment of Mary as "minister of grace" [ministra gratiæ, ministra pietatis and other cognate forms] which indicate that Mary truly exercises an office of mediating and distributing the grace of the redemption. Finally we have considered some ways in which the present orations of the Roman liturgy present Mary as advocate for the people of God: advocate of grace [advocata gratiæ], intercessor, protection [præsidium], Reconciler of sinners, help of Christians and patroness [patrona].
It is obvious that the liturgy does not present these themes in airtight compartments and we have often seen how the various topics which we have investigated are so interwoven that they cannot be neatly separated one from the other. I would now like to present two Prefaces which unite in themselves, in a marvelously lapidary way, the three topics which we have been considering, i.e., Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. Each one consolidates the doctrines which we have been examining from its own unique thematic perspective.
The first of these Prefaces is that of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Mediatrix Gratiæ], which we have already looked at under the topic of Mary's mediation of grace. So doctrinally rich is this composition that a second examination will not be out of place.
I have already proposed above my own literal translation of a part of this splendid composition in order to highlight Mary's maternal mission as "minister of grace". Here I should like to underscore the fact that Mary is also referred to as the "companion of the Redeemer" [Redemptoris socia], thus establishing the basis of her maternal and mediatorial mission [munus maternum]: of intercession and pardon, of prayer and grace, of reconciliation and peace [intercessionis et veniæ, impetrationis et gratiæ, reconciliationis et pacis] and her role as "minister of grace" [gratiæ ministra]. Mary's advocacy is sensitively sketched thus: "Her children, in their trials and fears, turn with confidence to the Blessed Virgin, calling to her as mother of mercy." One familiar with the Latin text of the Sub tuum præsidium will notice a subtle allusion to that prayer in the words periculis and confugiunt.
The second Preface which I would like to indicate as tying all of the themes together is that of the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom [Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede]:
I have already considered portions of this superb composition under the topics of (1) Associate of the Redeemer, (2) totally devoted to the work of her Son and (3) "minister of the redemption" [redemptionis ministra]. Now let us simply observe how the theme of coredemption is developed by describing Mary as "joined closely to her Son in the work of redemption" and as his "faithful companion in his passion" [fidelis socia passionis]; how that of mediation is attested to by the reference to Mary as "minister of redemption" [redemptionis ministra] and that of Advocate is witnessed to not only by the word advocata but also by the description of how she cares for all of her children with a mother's love. The use of the word necessitate may also be seen as alluding to the Sub tuum præsidium. Both of these texts, it seems to me, are not only magnificent prayers, but remarkable formulations of Our Lady's mediatorial office, first on earth, then in heavenn.
B. Specific Conclusions
1. Consolidation of Doctrine. In his foreward to Præcelsa Filia Sion Cardinal Virgilio Noè states that
These words of Cardinal Noè aptly express my own conviction as I bring this study to a close. How striking that the times in which we live -- with all of the counter signs and confusion and with the "Marian eclipse" which followed immediately upon the Council -- should constitute a privileged moment for "the deepening of theological, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral understanding of [Mary's] role in the economy of salvation"! This is surely not merely man's doing; it seems to be a sovereign manifestation of God's will.
Another entire study would be required to speak authoritatively about the Marian Mass formularies found in the editions of the Roman Missal prior to that promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 (including those in the Propers of Saints for Certain Places), but I believe that this almost casual remark of Father Joncas about the past and present prayer formulas for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is highly significant: "It may be instructive to compare the two orations to show the shift from devotional to mystagogical prayer on this feast." I would simply add to this an acknowledgement that the conciliar emphasis on placing Our Lady in the context of salvation history has had a very salutary effect in the composition of these new Masses.
In this particular matter the words of Paul VI in Signum Magnum, which I cited at the beginning of this investigation, have proven prophetic:
As I previously noted, the Pope was citing the principle lex orandi, lex credendi here from the perspective of the faith of the Church establishing the law of prayer.
What I find particularly remarkable in this regard is that, even though the conciliar treatment of Mary's mediation was deliberately minimalistic, the term Coredemptrix was not mentioned and Our Lady's advocacy was presented from a somewhat apologetic perspective without notable development, nonetheless the doctrine which these Masses consolidate corresponds to some of the highest points reached by the papal magisterium on Our Lady. I believe that this is a matter to note well because since the Council there has been silence on many fronts about already well-established Marian truths with the tacit or even explicit understanding that it is no longer appropriate to speak about them since the Council did not do so. This is a clear misreading of the intent of chapter eight of Lumen Gentium whose prologue concludes thus:
Hence, while we cannot say that the Mass formularies which we have considered represent a "development of doctrine" in the strict sense, we can say that, from the doctrinal side, they provide an extremely valuable testimony to the Church's faith and perform a genuine work of consolidation. In this sense I pray that the study of these texts and -- even more -- their use in worship will help to dispel a lingering confusion in some quarters regarding the magnitude and scope of Mary's mission in the life of Christ and of the Church.
2. Need for greater clarity and fidelity in the English translations. At this stage I do not think it necessary to belabor the need for a careful revision of the English translations of these Marian liturgical texts. While I have not done an exhaustive analysis of all the translations (which was not the aim of this study), I believe that the euchological texts which I have analyzed are sufficiently representative. In a number of respects the translations of the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary are notably superior to the translations generally found in the English edition of the Roman Missal of Paul VI. Unfortunately, this is not enough.
At times the English renditions of these magnificent prayers betray a remarkable arbitrariness, the acceptance of a questionable ideology and an innocence of some of the finer points of the Marian theology which the Latin originals embody. To me the most egregious instance of this final issue is the constant rendition of ministra pietatis and ministra gratiæ as "handmaid of love" and "handmaid of grace" which ignores the consistent terminology employed in the papal Marian magisterium for the last hundred years. My strong recommendation is that a revision of the present English translations be undertaken with the collaboration of theologians thoroughly conversant with the magisterial tradition and competent in mariology. In this regard I wish to cite the words of our Holy Father of 4 December 1993 to Bishops of the United States on the "ad limina" visit:
3. Magisterial value of these texts. In his introduction to the valuable study tool provided by Fathers Johnson and Ward for the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cardinal Noè says:
The Cardinal speaks here of the publication of these Masses as a "development by the magisterium ... of the great riches that are represented by Mary, the Mother of God." This is a point which should not be missed. The development and approval of the Masses in the Collection have a definite magisterial value precisely because of the axiom that "the law of prayer is the law of faith" or legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi. The Mass formularies of the present Roman liturgy testify strongly to the Church's belief in Mary's role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God. At the same time, these marvelous prayers of the Church militant are meant to draw her children ever more securely into the worship of the Church triumphant in union with Mary, her Mother. This is so because, as the Council Fathers happily put it:
Laus Iesu Virginique Matri Eius!
164. Miravalle 67-68.
165. Anselm W. Romb, O.F.M. Conv. (ed.), The Kolbe Reader (Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1987) 192.
166. Miravalle 68.
167. CMP Vol. I, #90, 95; cf. Theotokos 5-6 (especially on the debate of Patristic scholars on the meaning of advocate in this context), 189-190.
168. Theotokos 5-6.
169. Cf. Miravalle 57; Totus Tuus 41-45.
170. Theotokos 336.
171. Joseph P. Christopher, Charles E. Spence and John F. Rowan (eds.), The Raccolta (Boston: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1957) #333.
172. Lumen Gentium #62 (Flannery 418-419).
173. Maternitas Mariæ in Ecclesia indesinenter perdurat ut mediatio intercedens. Inseg X/1 (1987) 728 [St. Paul Editions 57].
174. Inseg II/2 (1979) 816 [ORE 610:3].
175. RM 70: 8 December.
176. Oremus 356.
177. Col #29.
178. Cf. Sodi 140.
179. Cf. Miravalle 58-59; Miguens, Mary "The Servant of the Lord" 49, 62-67.
180. Col #46.
181. Calabuig 235-242.
182. Calabuig 241.
183. RM 70 Opening Prayer for 1 January.
184. Cf. critique and literal translation of this prayer in John Allyn Melloh, S.M., "Mary in the Mysteries of Christ from Advent to the Baptism of the Lord: Liturgical References," Marian Studies 41 (1990) 74-75.
185. Oremus 25; cf. also the translation in RM 67 of the Opening Prayer from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Christmas to the Purification.
186. PFS 708-709.
187. Cf. Totus Tuus 42.
188. Cassel's 467-468.
189. Cf. Henri Barré, C.S.Sp., Prières Anciennnes de l'Occident a la Mère du Sauveur (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1963) 36, 112 (3), 142 (79), 159 (48), 232 (10), 234 (82), 266 (24).
190. RM 70, 16 July.
191. The same oration is used as the Opening Prayer for the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Magistra Spiritalis] (Col #32) where a more faithful translation is given.
192. Joncas 128.
193. Cf. the translation of the Opening Prayer of Col #32 which has "under her protection", the literal translation of Joncas 128 which renders this idea "equipped by her help" and Oremus 138 which gives "guarded by her help".
194. PFS 741.
195. Col #17.
196. Col #21.
197. In repeated cases like this one cannot help being puzzled at the seeming arbitrariness of the translators and those entrusted with verifying their translations.
198. Cf. Introduction to Col #35.
199. Col #35.
200. Cf. Zsolt Aradi, Shrines to Our Lady Around the World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1954) 22-24; Domenico Marcucci, Santuari Mariani d'Europa (Milano: Edizioni San Paolo, 1993) 144-145.
201. The Italian edition gives: "Dio, onnipotente ed eterno, che nella beata Vergine Maria, gloriosa madre del tuo Figlio, hai dato un sostegno e una difesa a quanti la invocano ..." [PMM 310] indicating that God has given Mary as "a support and a defense" to those who call upon her. The same title is given to the Mass, Maria Vergine Sostegno e Difesa della nostra Fede [PMM 308].
202. Col #35.
203. The Italian translation renders fidei præsidium "defense of the faith" cf. PMM 312.
204. Col #35.
205. Col #13.
206. The Italian text gives: The faithful will for ever run to her as to a secure refuge [Ricorreranno nei secoli i fedeli come a un sicuro rifugio]. PMM 136.
207. Col #14.
208. Col #14.
209. Cf. Col #7: Preface.
210. Cf. Sodi 104-106.
211. Col #42.
212. Cf. Barré 39, 142 (81), 183 (21), 302 (11).
213. Cf. Totus Tuus 48-52.
214. PFS 736.
215. Col #21.
216. Cf. Lumen Gentium #62.
217. Cf. Sodi 124-125.
218. Col #32.
219. ci protegge con il suo aiuto, PMM 292.
220. Col #43.
221. Col #44.
222. Cf. footnote 150 above.
223. Col #30.
224. Col #43.
225. PFS 629.
226. Joncas 110, footnote 91.
227. AAS 59 (1967) 467 [St. Paul Edition 3].
228. Lumen Gentium #54 [Flannery 414].
229. Cf. footnote 198 above.
230. Cf. footnote 150 above.
231. ORE 1320:3.
232. PFS 630.
233. CCC #1124.
234. Lumen Gentium #65 [Flannery 420-421].
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This Version: 2nd February 2003