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The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix

in the Papal Magisterium

  by Arthur Burton Calkins

Part 1


I.  Introduction

            In the course of almost two hundred years the papal Magisterium has provided ever clearer indications about Our Lady's intimate collaboration in the work of our redemption.  In an earlier essay I outlined some major contributions of our present Holy Father in this regard.[1] In his general audience address of 25 October 1995 he contributed a masterful preamble on the development of this important point of doctrine.  In broad strokes it sketches the historical unfolding of this doctrine in a remarkably succinct way:

Saying that "the Virgin Mary ... is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer" (Lumen Gentium, n. 53), the Council draws attention to the link between Mary's motherhood and Redemption.

  After becoming aware of the maternal role of Mary, who was venerated in the teaching and worship of the first centuries as the virginal Mother of Jesus Christ and therefore as the Mother of God, in the Middle Ages the Church's piety and theological reflection brought to light her cooperation in the Saviour's work.

  This delay is explained by the fact that the efforts of the Church Fathers and of the early Ecumenical Councils, focused as they were on Christ's identity, necessarily left other aspects of dogma aside.  Only gradually could the revealed truth be unfolded in all its richness.  Down the centuries, Mariology would always take its direction from Christology.  The divine motherhood of Mary was itself proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus primarily to affirm the oneness of Christ's person.  Similarly, there was a deeper understanding of Mary's presence in salvation history.

  At the end of the second century, St. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, already pointed out Mary's contribution to the work of salvation.  He understood the value of Mary's consent at the time of the Annunciation, recognizing in the Virgin of Nazareth's obedience to and faith in the angel's message the perfect antithesis of Eve's disobedience and disbelief, with a beneficial effect on humanity's destiny.  In fact, just as Eve caused death, so Mary, with her "yes", became "a cause of salvation" for herself and for all mankind (cf. Adv. Haer., III, 22, 4; SC 211, 441).  But this affirmation was not developed in a consistent and systematic way by the other Fathers of the Church.

Instead, this doctrine was systematically worked out for the first time at the end of the 10th century in the Life of Mary by a Byzantine monk, John the Geometer.  Here Mary is united to Christ in the whole work of Redemption, sharing, according to God's plan, in the Cross and suffering for our salvation.  She remained united to the Son "in every deed, attitude and wish" (cf. Life of Mary, Bol. 196, f. 123 v.).

  In the West St. Bernard, who died in 1153, turns to Mary and comments on the presentation of Jesus in the temple:  "Offer your Son, sacrosanct Virgin, and present the fruit of your womb to the Lord.  For our reconciliation with all, offer the heavenly victim pleasing to God" (Serm. 3 in Purif., 2:  PL 183, 370).

A disciple and friend of St. Bernard, Arnold of Chartres, shed light particularly on Mary's offering in the sacrifice of Calvary.  He distinguished in the Cross "two altars:  one in Mary's heart, the other in Christ's body.  Christ sacrificed his flesh, Mary her soul".  Mary sacrificed herself spiritually in deep communion with Christ, and implored the world's salvation:  "What the mother asks, the Son approves and the Father grants" (cf. De septem verbis Domini in cruce, 3:  PL 189, 1694).

  From this age on other authors explain the doctrine of Mary's special cooperation in the redemptive sacrifice.[2]

            As the Holy Father, then, has already traced the high points of this theme in its theological development, I will attempt to indicate the major developments of this subject in the papal magisterium itself.  Following the slow course of this theological development, the specific focus of the papal magisterium on Mary's collaboration in the work of the redemption is a relatively recent one.[3]  Only after pondering over this mystery at length, like Mary herself,[4]does the Church begin to teach about it in a more solemn way.

            A.  Modern Period:  1740 to Present

            It would, no doubt, be highly instructive and interesting to search out the first adumbrations of the doctrine of Marian mediation in the teaching of the popes in the earlier periods of the Church's life, but we must leave this to other researchers. [5]  According to widely accepted convention, the modern period of the codification of the papal magisterium begins with the pontificate of Benedict XIV (1740-1758) [6]while a further notable concentration and consolidation of Marian doctrine begins with the pontificate of Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878).  It is precisely this modern period of the papal Magisterium that we intend to study here.

            B.  Intimate Connection between Coredemption and Mediation

            Finally, we must clarify one further point before we begin to analyze the papal texts themselves.  From at least the beginning of the twentieth century authors have consistently treated Marian coredemption and mediation together under the general title of "mediation". [7] The founder of the Marianum, the Roman theological faculty specializing in the study of Mariology, Father Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., for instance, stated that some Mariologists restrict the title of "Mediatrix" to the second phase of mediation (to the cooperation of Mary in the distribution of grace), reserving the title "Coredemptrix" to the first phase, but even this first phase, he argues, is a true and proper mediation since it is a participation in the mediatorial work of Christ. [8]  This follows logically from the fact that both of these phases may be seen as subdivisions of the broad category of "Marian mediation" or what the late Father Giuseppe Besutti had consistently described in his Bibliografia Mariana since 1968 as "Mary in salvation history [historia salutis]". [9]       These two phases of the redemption are often differentiated as "objective" and "subjective", as well as by other distinctions. [10]   Indeed, many of the pontifical documents which we will examine clearly teach that Our Lady's cooperation in the distribution of grace flows directly from her coredemptive role. [11] For this reason we will find that not a few of the papal texts which we will cite in support of Marian coredemption may also be justly cited in support of Mary's role in the distribution of the graces of the redemption.

II.   A Matter of Terminology

            The term Coredemptrix usually requires some initial explanation in the English language because often the prefix "co" immediately conjures up visions of complete equality.  For instance a co-signer of a check or a co-owner of a house is considered a co-equal with the other signer or owner.  Thus the first fear of many is that describing Our Lady as Coredemptrix puts her on the same level as her Divine Son and implies that she is "Redeemer" in the same way that he is, thus reducing Jesus "to being half of a team of redeemers". [12]  In the Latin language from which the term Coredemptrix comes, however, the meaning is always that Mary's cooperation or collaboration in the redemption is secondary, subordinate, dependent on that of Christ -- and yet for all that -- something that God "freely wished to accept ... as constituting an unneeded, but yet wonderfully pleasing part of that one great price" [13] paid by His Son for world's redemption.  As Mark Miravalle points out:

The prefix "co" does not mean equal, but comes from the Latin word, "cum" which means "with".  The title of Coredemptrix applied to the Mother of Jesus never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the divine Lord of all, in the saving process of humanity's redemption.  Rather, it denotes Mary's singular and unique sharing with her Son in the saving work of redemption for the human family.  The Mother of Jesus participates in the redemptive work of her Saviour Son, who alone could reconcile humanity with the Father in his glorious divinity and humanity. [14]

            While one might argue about the use of the term Coredemptrix [15] because of the possible confusion which might result from it and propose Pius XII's term of predilection, alma socia Christi (beloved associate of Christ), [16] it is equally arguable that there is no other word which places the participation of the Mother of God in our redemption in such sharp and bold relief. [17]  Furthermore, as we shall see, it has been hallowed by use, especially by magisterial use both in the past and in the present.

            A.  First Uses in the Magisterium

            The word "Coredemptrix" makes its preliminary appearance on the magisterial level by means of official pronouncements of Roman Congregations during the reign of Pope Saint Pius X (1903-1914) and then enters into the papal vocabulary.

            1.  The term first occurs in the Acta Apostolicæ Sedis in a response to a request made by Father Giuseppe M. Lucchesi, Prior General of the Servites (1907-1913), requesting the elevation of the rank of the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady to a double of the second class for the entire Church.  The Sacred Congregation of Rites, in acceding to the request, expressed the desire that thus "the cultus of the Sorrowful Mother may increase and the piety of the faithful and their gratitude toward the merciful Coredemptrix of the human race may intensify". [18]

            2.  Five years later the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in a decree signed by Cardinal Mariano Rampolla expressed its satisfaction with the practice of adding to the name of Jesus that of Mary in the greeting "Praised be Jesus and Mary" to which one responds "Now and forever":

There are Christians who have such a tender devotion toward her who is the most blessed among virgins as to be unable to recall the name of Jesus without accompanying it with the glorious name of the Mother, our Coredemptrix, the Blessed Virgin Mary. [19]

            3.  Barely six months after this declaration, on 22 January 1914, the same Congregation granted a partial indulgence of 100 days for the recitation of a prayer of reparation to Our Lady beginning with the Italian words Vergine benedetta.  Here is the portion of that prayer which bears on our argument:

O blessed Virgin, Mother of God, look down in mercy from Heaven, where thou art enthroned as Queen, upon me, a miserable sinner, thine unworthy servant.  Although I know full well my own unworthiness, yet in order to atone for the offenses that are done to thee by impious and blasphemous tongues, from the depths of my heart I praise and extol thee as the purest, the fairest, the holiest creature of all God's handiwork.  I bless thy holy Name, I praise thine exalted privilege of being truly Mother of God, ever Virgin, conceived without stain of sin, Coredemptrix of the human race. [20]

On the basis of these last two instances Monsignor Brunero Gherardini comments that

The authority of that dicastery [the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office], now designated as 'for the Doctrine of the Faith', is such as to confer on its interventions a certain definitive character for Catholic thought. [21]

            4.  The first papal usage of the term occurs in an allocution by Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) to pilgrims from Vicenza on 30 November 1933:

From the nature of His work the Redeemer ought to have associated His Mother with His work.  For this reason We invoke her under the title of Coredemptrix.  She gave us the Savior, she accompanied Him in the work of Redemption as far as the Cross itself, sharing with Him the sorrows of the agony and of the death in which Jesus consummated the Redemption of mankind. [22]

            5.  On 23 March 1934, the Lenten commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows, Pius XI received two groups of Spanish pilgrims, one of which was composed of members of Marian Congregations of Catalonia.  L'Osservatore Romano did not publish the text of the Pope's address, but rather reported his principal remarks to these groups.  Noting with pleasure the Marian banners carried by these pilgrims, he commented that they had come to Rome to celebrate with the Vicar of Christ

not only the nineteenth centenary of the divine Redemption, but also the nineteenth centenary of Mary, the centenary of her Coredemption, of her universal maternity. [23]

He continued, addressing himself especially to the young people, saying that they must:

follow the way of thinking and the desire of Mary most holy, who is our Mother and our Coredemptrix:  they, too, must make a great effort to be coredeemers and apostles, according to the spirit of Catholic Action, which is precisely the cooperation of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church. [24]

            6.  Finally Pope Pius XI referred to Our Lady as Coredemptrix on 28 April 1935 in a Radio Message for the closing of the Holy Year at Lourdes:

Mother most faithful and most merciful, who as Coredemptrix and partaker of thy dear Son's sorrows didst assist Him as He offered the sacrifice of our Redemption on the altar of the Cross ... preserve in us and increase each day, we beseech thee, the precious fruits of our Redemption and thy compassion. [25]

Because of this usage of the term Coredemptrix in magisterial documents and addresses by the Supreme Pontiff Canon René Laurentin wrote thus in 1951 about its employment:

Used or protected by two popes, even in the most humble exercise of their supreme magisterium, the term henceforth requires our respect.  It would be gravely temerarious, at the very least, to attack its legitimacy. [26]

Since that rather nuanced statement the well known French scholar has long since altered his position, saying that

The title of "coredemptrix" which was coined for her [Mary] and widely attributed to her by Mariologists, though not retained by the papal magisterium or by Vatican II, would fit the Holy Spirit in the primary and strictest sense of the term. [27]

Nonetheless, we believe that his earlier defense of the legitimacy of the term may stand on its own.  We shall subsequently note that the term has been retained by the papal magisterium.

            B.  The Second Vatican Council

            A further argument brought up against the use of this term is that it was specifically avoided by the Second Vatican Council.  While this statement is true, it requires a number of clarifications.  First, it must be remembered that the Council was convoked just at a time when Marian doctrine and piety had reached an apex [28] which had been building on a popular level since the apparition of Our Lady to Saint Catherine Labouré in 1830 [29] and on the magisterial level since the time of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854. [30]  This Marian orientation had accelerated notably during the nineteen-year reign of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) with the Consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 31 October 1942, [31] the dogmatic definition of the Assumption of Our Lady on 1 November 1950, [32]  the establishment of the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1944 [33]  and of the Queenship of Mary in the Marian Year of 1954. [34] 

            Secondly, and as a consequence of this comprehensive "Marian movement", much study, discussion and debate had been devoted to Mary's role in salvation history, specifically to the topics of coredemption and mediation. [35]   While there had been vigorous disputation regarding Mary's active collaboration in the work of our redemption during the reign of Pope Pius XII, by the the time of the International Mariological Congress in Lourdes in 1958 there was a fairly unanimous consensus regarding Our Lady's true cooperation in acquiring the universal grace of redemption. [36]   Not surprisingly, then, a good number of bishops entered the Council with the desire to see a comprehensive treatment of these questions.  Father Michael O'Carroll, C.S.Sp. informs us that of the 54 bishops at the Council who wanted a conciliar pronouncement on Mary as Coredemptrix, 36 sought a definition and 11 a dogma of faith on this matter. [37]   On the related question of Mary's mediation, he tells us that 362 bishops desired a conciliar statement on Mary's mediation while 266 of them asked for a dogmatic definition. [38]   Father Besutti, on the other hand, holds that over 500 bishops were asking for such a definition. [39]   A fundamental reason why no such definition emanated from the Council was the expressed will of Blessed Pope John XXIII that the Council was to be primarily pastoral in its orientation, specifically excluding any new dogmatic definitions. [40] 

            Thirdly, at the very same time another current was entering into the mainstream of Catholic life, that of "ecumenical sensitivity".  While Father Besutti confirms that the word "Coredemptrix" did appear in the original schema of the Marian document prepared in advance for the Council, [41]  the Prænotanda to the first conciliar draft document or schema on Our Lady contained these words:

Certain expressions and words used by Supreme Pontiffs have been omitted, which, in themselves are absolutely true, but which may only be understood with difficulty by separated brethren (in this case Protestants).  Among such words may be numbered the following:  "Coredemptrix of the human race" [Pius X, Pius XI] ...[42] 

This original prohibition was rigorously respected and hence the term "Coredemptrix" was not used in any of the official documents promulgated by the Council and, undeniably, "ecumenical sensitivity" was a prime factor in its avoidance [43]  along with a distaste for the general language of mediation on the part of more progressive theologians. [44]   We remain free to debate about the wisdom and effectiveness of such a strategy. [45] 

            C.  Lumen Gentium Chapter 8

            Given these disparate currents present on the floor of the Council, one might have expected a doctrinal minimalism to prevail on the entire question of Marian coredemption/mediation.  While the climate at the Second Vatican Council was not auspicious for its full assimilation, solid groundwork was laid, especially with regard to the topic of Marian coredemption or Mary's collaboration in the work of the redemption.  Here is how Pope John Paul II summarized the matter in his general audience of 13 December 1995:

During the Council sessions, many Fathers wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary's role in the work of salvation.  The particular context in which Vatican II's Mariological debate took place did not allow these wishes, although substantial and widespread, to be accepted, but the Council's entire discussion of Mary remains vigorous and balanced, and the topics themselves, though not fully defined, received significant attention in the overall treatment.

Thus, the hesitation of some Fathers regarding the title of Mediatrix did not prevent the Council from using this title once, and from stating in other terms Mary's mediating role from her consent to the Angel's message to her motherhood in the order of grace (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 62).  Furthermore, the Council asserts her cooperation "in a wholly singular way" in the work of restoring supernatural life to souls (ibid., n. 61). [46] 

This is an astute observation made by one who has continued to meditate on and develop these very themes.  To my knowledge, it is the first official public acknowledgement on the part of a Pope of the currents at the Council which shaped the writing of chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium.  It also makes graceful and unprejudiced reference to the Fathers who "wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary's role in the work of salvation."

            While the term "Coredemptrix" does not occur anywhere in the Council documents, it must be recognized that the concept was nonetheless conveyed.  In fact, the Council taught much more clearly and coherently about Mary's coredemptive role than about her role in the distribution of grace, even if the word "Mediatrix" was used once in #62.  Thus Lumen Gentium #56 speaks forthrightly of Mary's collaboration in the work of redemption:

Committing herself whole-heartedly to God's saving will and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God. [47] 

            In the same paragraph there is further specification about the active nature of Mary's service:

Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith and obedience.  For, as St. Irenaeus says, she "being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."  Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert with him in their preaching:  "the knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience:  what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."  Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her "Mother of the living," and frequently claim:  "death through Eve, life through Mary." [48] 

Quite clearly, then, the Council Fathers speak of an active collaboration of Mary in the work of the redemption and they illustrate this with the Eve/Mary parallel, found already in the writings of the sub-Apostolic Fathers, Saint Justin Martyr (+165), Irenaeus (+ after 193) and Tertullian (+ 220). [49] 

            Further, the Council Fathers move on from the establishment of the general principal of Mary's collaboration in the work of the redemption to underscore the personal nature of the "union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation" [Matris cum Filio in opere salutari coniunctio] throughout Jesus' hidden life (#57) and public life (#58).  Finally, in #58 they stress how she

faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.[50] 

Not only, then, does the Council teach that was Mary generally associated with Jesus in the work of redemption throughout his life, but that she associated herself with his sacrifice and consented to it.  Furthermore, the Council Fathers state in #61 that Mary

shared her Son's sufferings as he died on the cross.  Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. [51] 

Not only did Mary consent to the sacrifice, but she also united herself to it.  In these final two statements we find a synthesis of the previous papal teaching on the coredemption as well as a stable point of reference for the teaching of the postconciliar Popes.

            Monsignor Brunero Gherardini points out that, with or without the use of the term Coredemptrix, the Protestant observers recognized just as readily the Catholic position on Mary's participation in the redemption.  They see any human participation in the work of man's salvation, however secondary and subordinate, as contrary to Luther's principle of solus Christus and thus "a robbery from God and from Christ". [52]  Hence in elaborating the magisterial teaching on Mary's collaboration in the redemption, we are dealing with more than just the possible justification of the term Coredemptrix, but a fundamental datum of Catholic theology, a matter which will not be facilely dealt with in ecumenical dialogue by simply substituting one word or phrase with another which seems more neutral.[53]

            D.  Usage of the Term by John Paul II

            Given this recent history, it is of no little significance that without fanfare, but quite publicly, John Paul II has rehabilitated the word Coredemptrix and has used it or a cognate form at least six times in published statements, not to mention his far more numerous references to the concept which this term represents.  Let us quickly review his usage of Coredemptrix. [54]

            1.  In his greetings to the sick after the general audience of 8 September 1982 the Pope said:

Mary, though conceived and born without the taint of sin, participated in a marvelous way in the sufferings of her divine Son, in order to be Coredemptrix of humanity. [55]

            2.  On the Feast of his patron saint, Charles Borromeo, in 1984 the Pope offered these thoughts in his Angelus address in Arona:

To Our Lady -- the Coredemptrix -- St. Charles turned with singularly revealing accents.  Commenting on the loss of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple, he reconstructed the interior dialogue that could have run between the Mother and the Son, and he added, "You will endure much greater sorrows, O blessed Mother, and you will continue to live; but life will be for you a thousand times more bitter than death.  You will see your innocent Son handed over into the hands of sinners ...  You will see him brutally crucified between thieves; you will see his holy side pierced by the cruel thrust of a lance; finally, you will see the blood that you gave him spilling.  And nevertheless you will not be able to die!" (From the homily delivered in the Cathedral of Milan the Sunday after the Epiphany, 1584). [56]

            3.  On 31 January 1985, in an address at the Marian shrine in Guayaquil, Ecuador, he spoke thus:

Mary goes before us and accompanies us.  The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the "yes" of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment.  There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her son, Mary is the dawn of Redemption; ...  Crucified spiritually with her crucified son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she "lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth" (Lumen Gentium, 58). ...

In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ "to gather into one all the dispersed children of God" (Jn. 11:52).  Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity. ...

  The Gospels do not tell us of an appearance of the risen Christ to Mary.  Nevertheless, 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. [57]

In the above text we have a fine illustration of the various ways in which Mary's collaboration in the redemption is described by the Pope, culminating in his reference to her "role as Coredemptrix".  It should be noted that he presents Mary's coredemptive role here with reference to Paul's statement, "I have been crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20) and also with reference to the mystery of her Heart.

            4.  On 31 March 1985, Palm Sunday and World Youth Day, the Pope spoke in this vein about Mary's immersion in the mystery of Christ's Passion:

At the Angelus hour on this Palm Sunday, which the Liturgy calls also the Sunday of the Lord's Passion, our thoughts run to Mary, immersed in the mystery of an immeasurable sorrow.

Mary accompanied her divine Son in the most discreet concealment pondering everything in the depths of her heart.  On Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, in the vastness and in the depth of her maternal sacrifice, she had John, the youngest Apostle, beside her. ...

May, Mary our Protectress, the Coredemptrix, to whom we offer our prayer with great outpouring, make our desire generously correspond to the desire of the Redeemer. [58]

            5.  On 24 March 1990 the Holy Father addressed volunteer participants in the pilgrimage of the Federated Alliance of Transportation of the Sick to Lourdes (OFTAL) as well as the sick to whom they minister with these words:

May Mary most holy, Coredemptrix of the human race beside her Son, always give you courage and confidence! [59]

            6.  Likewise in commemorating the sixth centenary of the canonization of St. Bridget of Sweden on 6 October 1991 he said:

Birgitta looked to Mary as her model and support in the various moments of her life.  She spoke energetically about the divine privilege of Mary's Immaculate Conception.  She contemplated her astonishing mission as Mother of the Saviour.  She invoked her as the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Sorrows, and Coredemptrix, exalting Mary's singular role in the history of salvation and the life of the Christian people. [60]

            In a completely natural way and without calling undue attention to his use of the word Coredemptrix, the Pontiff has simply resumed the use of terminology which has been employed in the liturgy and by theologians since the late Middle Ages[61] and which was also utilized by the magisterium earlier in this century, and specifically by Pope Pius XI, as we have already seen.

            Pope John Paul II has also used the word "coredeemer" or "coredemption" at least three times in speaking of the on-going collaboration of Christians in the work of Redemption.  Traditionally, theologians have distinguished between Mary's unique collaboration in the redemption as it was taking place in actu primo from the application of the graces of the redemption to individual persons which takes place in actu secundo.  Redemption in actu primo or "objective redemption" or the ascending phase of redemption may be defined as the acquisition of universal salvation by means of the sacrifice willed by God to reconcile the world to himself.  Redemption in actu secundo or "subjective redemption" or the descending phase of redemption or the mediation of grace may be defined as the application of the fruits of the redemption to particular individuals by means of the mediation willed by God. [62]  It has been consistently held that Our Lady participates in both of these phases of the work of redemption while all other Christians can participate in the application of the graces of redemption to specific persons and situations.  Hence we can all be coredeemers in actu secundo.  Here is how the Holy Father illustrated these distinctions in his general audience address of 9 April 1997 without employing the classical technical terminology we used above:

The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavour to spread by prayer and sacrifice.  Mary, instead, cooperated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her cooperation embraces the whole of Christ's saving work.  She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind.  In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity.

The Blessed Virgin's role as cooperator has its source in her divine motherhood.  By giving birth to the One who was destined to achieve man's redemption, by nourishing him, presenting him in the temple and suffering with him as he died on the Cross, "in a wholly singular way she cooperated ... in the work of the Saviour" (Lumen Gentium, n. 61).  Although God's call to cooperate in the work of salvation concerns every human being, the participation of the Saviour's Mother in humanity's Redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact. [63]

Now let us briefly review the Holy Father's use of the word "coredeemer" and "coredemption" as it applies to all Christians.

            1.  In addressing the sick at the Hospital of the Brothers of St. John of God (Fatebenefratelli) on Rome's Tiber Island on 5 April 1981, he asked:

Is it necessary to remind all of you, sorely tried by suffering, who are listening to me, that your pain unites you more and more with the Lamb of God, who "takes away the sin of the world" through his Passion (Jn. 1:29)?  And that therefore you, too, associated with him in suffering, can be coredeemers of mankind?  You know these shining truths.  Never tire of offering your sufferings for the Church, that all her children may be consistent with their faith, persevering in prayer and fervent in hope. [64]

            2.  On 13 January 1982 the Pope addressed himself thus to the sick after giving his general audience address:

To the sick who are present and to those who are in hospital wards, in nursing homes and in families I say:  never feel alone, because the Lord is with you and will never abandon you.  Be courageous and strong:  unite your pains and sufferings to those of the Crucified and you will become coredeemers of humanity, together with Christ. [65]

It should be pointed out that this is a constantly recurring theme in the pastoral discourses of Pope John Paul II, a theme which he treated with remarkable depth and insight in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris of 11 February 1984 in which he expounds at length on Marian coredemption in actu primo and in Christian coredemption in actu secundo without using the words "Coredemptrix", "coredemption" or "coredeemer".

            3.  On 8 May 1988 the Holy Father addressed these significant words about candidates for the priesthood to the Bishops of Uruguay who had assembled at the Apostolic Nunciature in Montevideo:

"The candidate should be irreproachable" (Tit. 1:6), Saint Paul admonishes again.  Personal spiritual direction should cultivate in them [candidates for the priesthood] an unlimited love for Christ and his Mother, and a great desire to unite themselves closely to the work of coredemption. [66]

            Despite all of the facts which I have carefully outlined above, there has been what seems a carefully orchestrated chorus stating that none of these instances are of any theological value.

            First of all there was the "Declaration of the Theological Commission of the Pontifical International Marian Academy" made in Czestochowa, Poland in August of 1996 made by an "ad hoc" commission composed of 18 Catholics, 3 Orthodox, an Anglican and a Lutheran and released by L'Osservatore Romano on 4 June 1997.  Dealing with the titles Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, it states:

The titles, as proposed, are ambiguous, as they can be understood in very different ways.  Furthermore, the theological direction taken by the Second Vatican Council, which did not wish to define any of these titles, should not be abandoned.  The Second Vatican Council did not use the title "Coredemptrix", and uses "Mediatrix" and "Advocate" in a very moderate way (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 62).  In fact, from the time of Pope Pius XII, the term "Coredemptrix" has not been used by the papal Magisterium in its significant documents.  There is evidence that Pope Pius XII himself intentionally avoided using it. [67]

From what I have already stated and documented, it is apparent that this declaration is not above criticism for the way it attempts to deal with facts and that it has no magisterial value.  It dismisses the use of the term by Pope John Paul II as not occurring in significant magisterial documents.

            Together with the declaration in L'Osservatore Romano two commentaries appeared in the same edition:  one unsigned with the title "A new Marian dogma?" [68] and the other under the signature of Salvatore M. Perrella, O.S.M. entitled "Mary's co-operation in the work of Redemption:  Present state of the question". [69] The unsigned commentary offers a further specification with regard to the usage of this term by the present Pontiff:

With respect to the title of Coredemptrix, the Declaration of Czestochowa notes that "from the time of Pope Pius XII, the term Coredemptrix has not been used by the papal Magisterium in its significant documents" and there is evidence that he himself intentionally avoided using it.  An important qualification, because here and there, in papal writings which are marginal therefore devoid of doctrinal weight, one can find such a title, be it very rarely.  In substantial documents, however, and in those of some doctrinal importance, this term is absolutely avoided. [70]

            In the light of these statements we must ask:  What is the doctrinal value of Pope John Paul II's usages of the term "Coredemptrix" and "coredemption"?  I would certainly not argue that his use of the word Coredemptrix occurs in papal documents of the highest teaching authority or that he has proclaimed the doctrine or used the word in the most solemn manner.  I do believe, however, that the instances of his use of the term Coredemptrix to characterize Our Lady's collaboration in the work of our redemption -- especially in the light of previous magisterial usage -- do not deserve to be cavalierly dismissed as "marginal [and] therefore devoid of doctrinal weight". [71]  While it is true that five usages of the term may be regarded as passing references, I do not believe that they deserve to be ignored.  The instance of 31 January 1985 at Guayaquil, however, constitutes a very significant commentary on the meaning of Marian coredemption and deserves to be pondered very carefully.  At the conclusion of this essay it will be possible to make a more comprehensive analysis of the doctrinal weight of the collective papal teaching on the entire question.

            A final terminological question:  How does one explain the Pope's refraining from the use of the words "Coredemptrix", "coredemption" and "coredeemer" since 1991?  Here I am pleased to have recourse to a response given by Father Alessandro Apollonio:

The Pope, from the time when the echoes of the theological controversy raised in the Church as a result of Dr. Miravalle's Vox populi movement have arrived at the highest levels of the hierarchy, has not in fact further used the title Coredemptrix.  Such a prudential stance on the part of the Holy Father is entirely comprehensible because his explicit pronouncement on coredemption, given the circumstances, would have been like a clear and direct approval of the request, while prudence would require that, before pronouncing definitively on a new dogma, the Pope would convoke commissions of experts, promote studies and the devotion, illustrate the doctrine exhaustively and consult with the entire episcopate.  The Wednesday catecheses [from 6 September 1995 to 12 November 1997], while never mentioning the explicit title Coredemptrix, clearly illustrate the doctrine and thus prepare the terrain for the new dogma.  Hence if the Pope, after having prudently done all of this, proclaims the new dogma, he would be doing nothing contrary to his magisterium, but would crown it in the most splendid way, for the edification and exsultation of all of the faithful. [72]

            Pope John Paul II has, in fact, done much more than simply to rehabilitate the use of a word and show that it has a legitimate use.  He has made another gracious gesture in the direction of those "many Fathers [of the Second Vatican Council who] wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary's role in the work of salvation," [73] even as he did in re-proposing the discussion of Marian mediation in his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater [74] after it had largely passed out of theological circulation. [75]  He has shown once again that the magisterium is above mere "theological correctness" and is conscious of continuity with the Tradition.  Further, he continues to draw out the manifold aspects of Mary's coredemptive role, as we shall see.

III.   Mary's Collaboration in the Work of the Redemption

            Now it remains to indicate the consistent perspective of the papal magisterium on Mary's coredemptive role, a matter far greater than the mere use of the term Coredemptrix.  While it would prolong our study unduly to cite every papal text available on this vast topic, I nonetheless intend to illustrate each of the major points with representative passages from the various pontificates.  In doing so, I shall strive to follow the basic orientation which we have already noted in chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, which also follows the historical order indicated by Pope John Paul II in his general audience address of 25 October 1995 [76] i.e., first establishing Mary's collaboration in the work of redemption as the "New Eve" and "Associate of the Redeemer" and then treating her active participation in the offering of the sacrifice of our redemption.  It will be immediately apparent, however, that any given text cited will often fit into more than one category.

            A.  The "New Eve" -- Associate of the "New Adam"

            We have already noted above the Holy Father's reference to St. Irenaeus's teaching about Mary as the "New Eve" in his catechesis of 25 October 1995.  Indeed, St. Justin Martyr (+ 165), St. Irenaeus (+ after 193) and Tertullian (+ after 220), all of whom belong to the sub-Apostolic period, signalled the parallelism and contrast between Mary and Eve.  This fascinating parallelism, never absent from the Church's liturgy [77] and magisterium [78], was highlighted in Lumen Gentium #56 and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #411.  This theme sheds notable light on Mary's role in our redemption and has been amply illustrated by the papal magisterium in modern times.  Here is an instance which comes from the teaching of Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922).  In his homily of 13 May 1920 for the canonization of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque he declared:

But the sufferings of Jesus cannot be separated from the sorrows of Mary.  Just as the first Adam had a woman for accomplice in his rebellion against God, so the new Adam wished to have a woman share in His work of re-opening the gates of heaven for men.  From the cross, He addressed His own Sorrowful Mother as the "woman," and proclaimed her the new Eve, the Mother of all men, for whom He was dying that they might live. [79]

            Pope Pius XII took up the theme on a number of occasions.  Here is an excerpt from his allocution to pilgrims from Genoa of 22 April 1940:

In fact, are not Jesus and Mary the two sublime loves of the Christian people?  Are they not the new Adam and the new Eve whom the Tree of the Cross unites in pain and love to atone for the sin of our first parents in Eden? [80]

            In his Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis of 29 June 1943 he describes Mary as "like a new Eve" [81] and in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus of 1 November 1950, by which he solemnly defined the dogma of Mary's assumption into heaven, he draws our attention to the antiquity of this theme:

We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been designated by the holy Fathers as the new Eve, who, although subject to the new Adam, is most intimately associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal foe which, as foretold in the protoevangelium, would finally result in that most complete victory over the sin and death which are always mentioned together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. [82]

As Eve was subject to Adam, the Pontiff underscores, so is the new Eve to the new Adam.  Nevertheless, he continues, she is "most intimately associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal foe which ... would finally result in that most complete victory over sin and death".  Thus he keeps in balance the Catholic truth which both recognizes Jesus as the only Redeemer and Mary as subordinate and yet "most intimately associated with Him" in the work of redemption.

            In his Encyclical Letter Ad Cæli Reginam of 11 October 1954 Pius XII continued to enlarge upon this analogy between Eve and Mary, calling upon the testimony of Saint Irenaeus:

From these considerations we can conclude as follows:  in the work of redemption Mary was by God's will joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death.  Hence it can be said that the work of our salvation was brought about by a "restoration" (St. Irenaeus) in which the human race, just as it was doomed to death by a virgin, was saved by a virgin. [83]

            In his Professio Fidei or "Credo of the People of God" of 30 June 1968, Pope Paul VI united the closely related themes of "Associate of the Redeemer" and "New Eve" in formulating the Church's belief in the Virgin Mary:

Joined by a close and indissoluble bond to the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate, was raised body and soul to heavenly glory at the end of her earthly life, and was made like her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and We believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed. [84]

This article is truly a masterpiece in synthesizing the principal Marian dogmas i.e., that Mary is Mother of God, ever-Virgin, conceived immaculate, assumed into heaven, while at the same time underscoring her spiritual maternity, and her coredemptive and mediatory roles.

            Finally, let us note a graceful allusion which Paul VI made to the "New Eve" theme in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus of 2 February 1974, stating that:  "Mary, the New Woman, stands at the side of Christ, the New Man, within whose mystery the mystery of man alone finds true light."[85]

            Virtually inseparable from the concept of Mary as "New Eve" is that of her intimate association with the life, suffering and death of Christ.  Hence describing her as associate or companion of the Redeemer [socia Redemptoris] [86] has become another way of recognizing her unique active role in the Redemption.  The first explicit use of this terminology with regard to Mary occurs in the writings of Ambrose Autpert (+784), but he uses the verbal form sociata to express the idea.  "As present knowledge goes, it is Ekbert of Schönau (+1184) who first uses the noun socia of Mary." [87]

            Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878) in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December 1854 enunciated a principle of capital importance for Mariology, which had long been held by the Franciscan school of theology,[88] namely that "God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom." [89]On the basis of this principle, frequently confirmed by the magisterium, [90] Mary's intimate association with Jesus as the "New Eve" in the work of the redemption is axiomatic and, thus, Pius IX declares in the same Apostolic Constitution:

Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with Him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with Him and through Him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot. [91]

            Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) in his rosary encyclical of 1 September 1883, Supremi Apostolatus, argues on the same basis that Mary is the "associate with Jesus in the work of man's salvation" [servandi hominum generis consors]:

The Blessed Virgin was exempt from the stain of original sin and chosen to be the Mother of God.  For this very reason she was associated with Him in the work of man's salvation, and enjoys favor and power with her Son greater than any man or angel has ever attained or could attain. [92]

This brief text which speaks so clearly of Mary as the Associate of Christ in the work of our salvation, also lays the foundation for her mediation.  He develops exactly the same line of argumentation in his rosary encyclical of 5 September 1895, Adiutricem Populi, literally calling Mary the "minister for effecting the mystery of human redemption" [sacramenti humanæ redemptionis patrandi administra] [93]and thus emphasizing her role as Coredemptrix in the past and Mediatrix in the present:

From her heavenly abode, she began, by God's decree, to watch over the Church, to assist and befriend us as our Mother; so that she who was so intimately associated with the mystery of human salvation is just as closely associated with the distribution of the graces which from all time will flow from the Redemption. [94]

Finally, in his Apostolic Constitution Ubi primum of 2 October 1898 he states that Mary was "the cooperatrix in man's Redemption and always the chief and sovereign refuge of Catholics in the trials they underwent." [95]

            Pope Saint Pius X (1903-1914), in his Encyclical Letter Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, refers to Mary as "Jesus' constant companion" [assidua comes] in asking this question:

Will it not appear to all that it is right and proper to affirm that Mary, whom Jesus made His constant companion from the house of Nazareth to the place of Calvary, knew, as no other knew, the secrets of his heart, distributes as by a mother's right the treasures of His merits, and is the surest help to the knowledge and love of Christ? [96]

In the same encyclical the saint goes on to refer to Mary as "a partaker in the sufferings of Christ and the associate in His Passion" [particeps passionum Christi sociaque].[97]

            Following the line of thought developed by Blessed Pius IX and Leo XIII, Pius XI presents Mary's Immaculate Conception as a necessary preparation for her role as "associate in the redemption of mankind" [generis humani consors] in his Letter of 28 January 1933 Auspicatus profecto to Cardinal Binet:

In fact, the august Virgin, conceived without original sin, was chosen to be the Mother of Christ in order to be associated with Him in the Redemption of mankind.  For that reason she was adorned with such abundant grace and such great power in her Son's sight that neither human nor angelic nature can ever acquire a like grace or power. [98]

            During his pontificate the Servant of God Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) would show particular favor to describing Mary as the beloved associate of Christ [alma socia Christi]. [99] In his Radio Message to Fatima of 13 May 1946 he used the verbal form to describe Mary's intimate collaboration in the redemption:

He, the Son of God, gave His heavenly Mother a share in His glory, His majesty, His kingship; because, associated as Mother and Minister to the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of man's Redemption, she is likewise associated with Him forever, with power so to speak infinite, in the distribution of the graces which flow from Redemption. [100]

In the above text we once again notice the accustomed linkage of coredemption with mediation in papal teaching.

            In his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus of 1 November 1950, by which he declared Mary's assumption into a heaven a dogma of the faith, Pius referred to her as "the noble associate of the divine Redeemer" [generosa Divini Redemptoris socia]. [101] He would underscore this association also in his Encyclical on the Queenship of Mary, Ad Cæli Reginam of 11 October 1954, explaining that "in this work of Redemption the Blessed Virgin Mary was closely associated with Christ," [102]that she is "His associate in the work of redemption" [103] and then quoting from Francisco Suarez to the effect that

Just as Christ, because He redeemed us, is by a special title our King and our Lord, so too is Blessed Mary [our Queen and our Mistress] because of the unique way in which she cooperated in our redemption. [104]

Finally, in his great Encyclical Letter on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Haurietis Aquas of 15 May 1956, he described Mary as "His [our Redeemer's] associate in recalling the children of Eve to the life of divine grace".[105]

            Blessed John XXIII (1958-1963) made two allusions to Our Lady as associated with the work of redemption.  In a Radio Message to the faithful of Ecuador, he referred to Mary as "She who, in her earthly life, was so intimately associated in the work of Christ" [106] and on 9 December 1962 at the canonization of Peter Julian Eymard, Anthony Pucci and Francesco da Camporosso he stated:

Beside Jesus is found His Mother -- Regina sanctorum omnium -- she who stirs up holiness in God's Church and is the first flower of His grace.  Intimately associated with the Redemption in the eternal plans of the Most High, Our Lady, as Severianus of Gabala sang forth, "is the mother of salvation, the source of the light that has become visible" (PG 56, 498). [107]

            The Servant of God Pope Paul VI (1963-1978), in the course of his pontificate, followed closely the lines developed in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium.  In his major address at the conclusion of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, the one in which he declared Mary Mother of the Church and entrusted the Church to her once again, [108] he said:

For the Church is not constituted just by her hierarchical order, her sacred liturgy, her sacraments, her institutional structure.  Her inner vitality and peculiar nature, the main source of her effectiveness in sanctifying men, is to be found in her mystical union with Christ.  We cannot conceive of this union apart from her who is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, and whom Christ so intimately associated with Himself in bringing about our salvation.[109]

            He spoke similarly of Mary in his Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum of 13 May 1967, calling her "the Mother of Christ and His most intimate associate"[110] and "the cooperator of the Son in the work of restoration of supernatural life in souls" [111] Likewise in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus of 2 February 1974 he spoke of Mary as "the associate of the Redeemer" [112] and "Mother and associate of the Savior".[113]

            In his message to the Bishops and people of Chile of 24 November 1974, Paul VI characterized Mary as "associated mysteriously and for ever with the work of Christ". [114] But perhaps his most original use of the term was in his Letter of 13 May 1975, E' con sentimenti, to Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens on the occasion of the 14th International Marian Congress.  In that letter he stated:

The Catholic Church, moreover, has always believed that the Holy Spirit, intervening personally, even though in indivisible communion with the other Persons of the Holy Trinity, in the work of human salvation (cf. G. Philips, L'Union personelle avec le Dieu vivant.  Essai sur l'origine et le sens de la grâce crée, 1974), has associated the humble virgin of Nazareth with Himself. [115]

What is of particular interest here is that Paul VI speaks in effect of Mary as the "associate of the Holy Spirit in the work of human salvation".  While he is careful to justify his statement theologically, he nonetheless introduces here a new nuance in conceptualizing Mary's unique collaboration in the work of salvation.

            Pope John Paul has continued in the line of his predecessors to highlight Mary's role as the "New Eve" and "Associate of the Redeemer".  In a notable general audience address given on 4 May 1983 the Holy Father spoke thus with an emphasis on the concept of "Associate":

Dearest brothers and sisters, in the month of May we raise our eyes to Mary, the woman who was associated in a unique way in the work of mankind's reconciliation with God.  According to the Father's plan, Christ was to accomplish this work through his sacrifice.  However, a woman would be associated with him, the Immaculate Virgin who is thus placed before our eyes as the highest model of cooperation in the work of salvation. ...

The "Yes" of the Annunciation constituted not only the acceptance of the offered motherhood, but signified above all Mary's commitment to service of the mystery of the Redemption.  Redemption was the work of her Son; Mary was associated with it on a subordinate level.  Nevertheless, her participation was real and demanding.  Giving her consent to the angel's message, Mary agreed to collaborate in the whole work of mankind's reconciliation with God, just as her Son would accomplish it. [116]

            Let us now consider some more recent instances in which he underscores Mary in particular as the "New Eve".  Here is an exposition from his catechesis of 15 October 1997:

St. Justin and St. Irenaeus speak of Mary as the new Eve who by her faith and obedience makes amends for the disbelief and disobedience of the first woman.  According to the Bishop of Lyons, it was not enough for Adam to be redeemed in Christ, but "it was right and necessary that Eve be restored in Mary" (Demonstratio apostolica, 33).  In this way he stresses the importance of woman in the work of salvation and lays the foundation for the inseparability of Marian devotion from that shown to Jesus, which will endure down the Christian centuries.[117]

He further speaks of Mary as the "new woman desired by God to atone for Eve's fall".[118]  He says that

The parallel, established by Paul between Adam and Christ, is completed by that between Eve and Mary:  the role of woman, important in the drama of sin, is equally so in the Redemption of mankind.

St. Irenaeus presents Mary as the new Eve, who by her faith and obedience compensated for the disbelief and disobedience of Eve.  Such a role in the economy of salvation requires the absence of sin.[119]

Again he tells us that

The universal motherhood of Mary, the "Woman" of the wedding at Cana and of Calvary, recalls Eve, "mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20).  However, while the latter helped to bring sin into the world, the new Eve, Mary, cooperates in the saving event of Redemption.  Thus in the Blessed Virgin the figure of "woman" is rehabilitated and her motherhood takes up the task of spreading the new life in Christ among men. [120]

            As Eve was given to Adam as his helpmate (cf. Gen. 2:18-20), so the Pope tells us

Having created man "male and female" (cf. Gen. 1:27), the Lord also wants to place the New Eve beside the New Adam in the Redemption.  Our first parents had chosen the way of sin as a couple; a new pair, the Son of God with his Mother's cooperation, would re-establish the human race in its original dignity. [121]

In teaching about Mary's glorious Assumption into heaven, the Pope further specifies that, while we may speak of Jesus and Mary as "a couple, a new pair", we must also recognize that there is an important difference as well.

In a way analogous to what happened at the beginning of the human race and of salvation history, in God's plan the eschatological ideal was not to be revealed in an individual, but in a couple.  Thus in heavenly glory, beside the risen Christ there is a woman who has been raised up, Mary;  the new Adam and the new Eve, the first-fruits of the general resurrection of the bodies of all humanity.

The eschatological conditions of Christ and Mary should not, of course, be put on the same level.  Mary, the new Eve, received from Christ, the new Adam, the fullness of grace and heavenly glory, having been raised through the Holy Spirit by the sovereign power of the Son.[122]

            Classical mariology has long known and taught that there is an analogy, a certain "likeness in difference" between Christ and Mary, a certain symmetry and complementarity, though not identity, between them. [123] This principle of analogy is very germane to the topic under discussion and, indeed, the entire discourse on Mary's role in the work of our redemption cannot be understood without it.  Thus in the above catechesis the Holy Father is careful to underscore and illustrate this principle.  He does so as well as in the following catechesis in which he treats of the Kingship of Christ and the Queenship of Mary:

My venerable Predecessor Pius XII, in his Encyclical Ad coeli Reginam to which the text of the Constitution Lumen Gentium refers, indicates as the basis for Mary's queenship in addition to her motherhood, her cooperation in the work of the Redemption.  The Encyclical recalls the liturgical text:  "There was St. Mary, Queen of heaven and Sovereign of the world, sorrowing near the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (AAS 46 [1954] 634).  It then establishes an analogy between Mary and Christ, which helps us understand the significance of the Blessed Virgin's royal status.  Christ is King not only because he is Son of God, but also because he is the Redeemer; Mary is Queen not only because she is Mother of God, but also because, associated as the new Eve with the new Adam, she cooperated in the work of the redemption of the human race (AAS 46 [1954] 635). [124]

Let us note well the "likeness in difference":  Christ is King because (1) he is Son of God and (2) because he is Redeemer; Mary is Queen because (1) she is Mother of God and (2) because she cooperated in the work of the redemption.[125]

IV.  Mary's active participation in the sacrifice of Calvary

            Now we move on to consider the apex of Our Lady's coredemptive activity, her participation in the Passion and Death of her Son.  Pope John Paul II, in the very significant catechesis which he gave on 25 October 1995, provides us a glimpse of the growth of the Church's insight into Mary's active participation in the redemption.  He comments that Irenaeus' intuition that Mary "with her 'yes', became 'a cause of salvation' for herself and for all mankind"

was not developed in a consistent and systematic way by the other Fathers of the Church.

  Instead, this doctrine was systematically worked out for the first time at the end of the 10th century in the Life of Mary by a Byzantine monk, John the Geometer. [126] Here Mary is united to Christ in the whole work of Redemption, sharing, according to God's plan, in the Cross and suffering for our salvation.  She remained united to the Son "in every deed, attitude and wish" (cf. Life of Mary, Bol. 196, f. 123 v.). [127]

            Mary's abiding union with Jesus "in every deed, attitude and wish" is a datum that the Church would come to grasp ever more clearly with the passage of time as she continued to ruminate on the person and role of Mary under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  John the Geometer seems to have been the first to have left us written reflections on the inseparable bond between Jesus and Mary in the work of our salvation.  He explicitly states that "The Virgin, after giving birth to her Son, was never separated from him in his activity, his dispositions, his will." [128] This obviously implies Mary's willing assent to (1) the sacrifice of her Son, which also, of necessity, implies (2) the sacrifice of herself in union with him.  While in the following subsections, I will make a logical distinction between these two offerings, in reality they were simultaneous and the papal texts which I cite will often treat them so.

            A.  Her Offering of the Victim

            Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Church came to understand with ever greater conviction that Mary's "fiat" at the moment of the Annunciation blossomed into her "fiat" under the Cross and that her consent to the offering of the sacrifice of her Son constituted on her part a real offering of the sacrifice.  Here is a text of capital importance from Leo XIII's Encyclical Letter Jucunda Semper of 8 September 1894 which associates these two "fiats":

When she professed herself the handmaid of the Lord for the mother's office, and when, at the foot of the altar, she offered up her whole self with her child Jesus -- then and thereafter she took her part in the painful expiation offered by her son for the sins of the world.  It is certain, therefore, that she suffered in the very depths of her soul with His most bitter sufferings and with His torments.  Finally, it was before the eyes of Mary that the divine Sacrifice for which she had borne and nurtured the Victim was to be finished.  As we contemplate Him in the last and most piteous of these mysteries, we see that "there stood by the cross of Jesus Mary His Mother" (Jn. 19:25), who, in a miracle of love, so that she might receive us as her sons, offered generously to Divine Justice her own Son, and in her Heart died with Him, stabbed by the sword of sorrow. [129]

What I wish to point out here is that Leo links the two "fiats" by means of Mary's presentation of Jesus in the temple (Lk. 2:22-24), which is seen as an anticipation of his presentation on the Cross.  He speaks explicitly of Mary as the one who "generously nurtured the Victim" and who "offered [Him] to Divine Justice".

            Pope Saint Pius X follows in the same line, but with even more conciseness, in his Encyclical Letter Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904:

The most holy Mother of God, accordingly, supplied the "matter for the flesh of the Only-begotten Son of God to be born of human members" so that a Victim for man's salvation might be available.  But this is not her only title to our praise.  In addition, she was entrusted with the duty of watching over the same Victim, of nourishing Him, and even of offering Him upon the altar at the appointed time. [130]

While there is no direct reference here to the sacrifice of Abraham (Gen. 22), the language employed suggests a striking parallel.  Mary is described here as preparing the divine Victim for sacrifice even as Abraham prepared Isaac.  The difference, of course, is that Abraham was spared having to carry through with the sacrifice while Mary was not.

            Pope Benedict XV made a very emphatic affirmation about Mary's offering in his Letter Inter Sodalicia of 22 March 1918.  He stated that

According to the common teaching of the Doctors it was God's design that the Blessed Virgin Mary, apparently absent from the public life of Jesus, should assist Him when He was dying nailed to the Cross.  Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother's rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind. [131]

It should be noted here that Benedict indicates that Mary's presence beneath the Cross of Christ was "not without divine design" [non sine divino consilio], the very same language is reproduced verbatim in Lumen Gentium #58, although with no reference to this text.  Seemingly deriving from the principle that "God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom," [132] Benedict XV holds that God had also predestined Mary's union with her Son in his sacrifice to the extent of making the sacrifice with him quantum ad se pertinebat.

            The next papal statement which we consider came ten years after that of Benedict XV and was destined for the universal Church.  It occurs at the conclusion of Pope Pius XI's encyclical on reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Miserentissimus Redemptor of 8 May 1928:

May the most gracious Mother of God, who gave us Jesus as Redeemer, who reared Him, and at the foot of the Cross offered Him as Victim, who by her mysterious union with Christ and by her matchless grace rightly merits the name Reparatrix, deign to smile upon Our wishes and Our undertakings. [133]

Here Pius XI speaks clearly of Mary's offering of Jesus to the Father as a victim.  Furthermore, by virtue of her intimate union with Christ and her altogether unique grace, he says that she may rightly be called "Reparatrix".  This title had already been attributed to Mary by Blessed Pius IX who called her "Reparatrix of the first parents" in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, [134] by Leo XIII who cited Saint Tharasius of Constantinople [135] as his authority for calling her "Reparatrix of the Whole World" in his Encyclical Letter Adiutricem Populi[136] and by Saint Pius X who quoted Eadmer of Canterbury [137]as calling her "the Reparatrix of the lost world" in his Encyclical Letter Ad Diem Illum. [138]  The title is obviously significant in that it speaks, as Pius XI testifies, of Mary's intimate union with Christ and of the reparation which she makes to the Father in union with the Redeemer (Reparator).

            Mary's offering of Christ to the Father is given classic expression in Pius XII's Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis of 29 June 1943:

She it was who, immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever most closely united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a new Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall, and thus she, who was the mother of our Head according to the flesh, became by a new title of sorrow and glory the spiritual mother of all His members. [139]

Once again we have a clear affirmation that Mary offered Jesus to the Father.  Pius XII adds that Our Lady made this offering "together with the holocaust of her motherly rights and motherly love".  Benedict XV in Inter Sodalicia had put it that Mary had "renounced (or abdicated) her motherly rights".  The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council effectively echoed him when they stated in Lumen Gentium #58 that Mary "loving consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her".

            Blessed Pope John XXIII developed the theme of Mary's "offering of the Divine Victim" in his Radio Message to Bishops of Italy in Catania on occasion of the 16th National Eucharistic Congress and the Consecration of Italy to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of 13 September 1959:

We trust that, as a result of the homage they have just paid to the Virgin Mary, all Italians will be strengthened in their fervor and veneration of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of the Mystical Body, of which the Eucharist is the symbol and vital center.  We trust that they will imitate in her the most perfect model of union with Jesus, our Head; We trust that they will join Mary in her offering of the Divine Victim, and that they will ask for her motherly mediation to obtain for the Church the gifts of unity, of peace, and especially of a new luxuriant blossoming of religious vocations.[140]

Here Pope John made an application linking Mary's offering of Jesus to the participation of the faithful in the Mass.  This co-offering, of course, does not at all take away from the fact that Jesus himself is the primary priest of the sacrifice.  Rather it is an acknowledgement that Mary was the primary co-offerer of the sacrifice along with Jesus himself, [141] just as all members of the faithful present at Mass are called to be co-offerers of the sacrifice along with the priest who acts in persona Christi. [142]

            In #20 of his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus of 2 February 1974 Pope Paul VI proposed Mary to the faithful as "the Virgin presenting offerings" [Virgo offerens]:

The Church herself, in particular from the Middle Ages onwards, has detected in the heart of the Virgin taking her Son to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (cf. Lk. 2:22) a desire to make an offering, a desire that exceeds the ordinary meaning of the rite.  A witness to this intuition is found in the loving prayer of Saint Bernard:  "Offer your Son, holy Virgin, and present to the Lord the blessed fruit of your womb.  Offer for the reconciliation of us all the holy Victim which is pleasing to God."

 This union of the Mother and the Son in the work of redemption reaches its climax on Calvary, where Christ "offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God" (Heb. 9:14) and where Mary stood by the cross (cf. Jn. 19:25), "suffering grievously with her only-begotten Son.  There she united herself with a maternal heart to His sacrifice, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which she herself had brought forth" and also was offering to the eternal Father. [143]

Here I shall limit myself to comments on the Pope's sources.  First, he cites the text of Saint Bernard which Pope John Paul II also used in his catechesis on Mary's collaboration in the work of redemption of 25 October 1995. [144]  Secondly, he quotes from the text of Lumen Gentium #58, adding for emphasis that Mary, too, "was offering [the victim] to the eternal Father" and giving as his reference the text of Pius XII in Mystici Corporis. [145]

            Pope John Paul II is the heir of the magisterial teaching of all his predecessors and shows this in an Angelus address of 5 June 1983, the Feast of Corpus Christi:

Born of the Virgin to be a pure, holy and immaculate oblation, Christ offered on the Cross the one perfect Sacrifice which every Mass, in an unbloody manner, renews and makes present.  In that one Sacrifice, Mary, the first redeemed, the Mother of the Church, had an active part.  She stood near the Crucified, suffering deeply with her Firstborn; with a motherly heart she associated herself with his Sacrifice; with love she consented to his immolation (cf. Lumen Gentium, 58; Marialis Cultus, 20):  she offered him and she offered herself to the Father.  Every Eucharist is a memorial of that Sacrifice and that Passover that restored life to the world; every Mass puts us in intimate communion with her, the Mother, whose sacrifice "becomes present" just as the Sacrifice of her Son "becomes present" at the words of consecration of the bread and wine pronounced by the priest. [146]

Let us note that the Pope links Mary's offering of Christ with her offering of herself, as so many of his predecessors have done.  Again, this follows from the theology of the Mass:  the faithful are called to offer themselves to the Father in union with their offering of Christ.

            On 7 December 1983 in his general audience address the Holy Father linked Mary's offering of Christ to her Immaculate Conception:

We must above all note that Mary was created immaculate in order to be better able to act on our behalf.  The fullness of grace allowed her to fulfil perfectly her mission of collaboration with the work of salvation;  it gave the maximum value to her cooperation in the sacrifice.  When Mary presented to the Father her Son nailed to the cross, her painful offering was entirely pure. [147]

Hence we can say that, even though on an entirely subordinate level, Mary's offering, like Christ's, is a perfect offering, totally pure.  In this she is a model for all the faithful.

            On Saint Joseph's Day in 1995 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Castelpetroso the Pope made these comments:

Dear brothers and sisters, may you also offer the Lord your daily joys and labours in communion with Christ and through the intercession of his Mother venerated here as she offers to the Father the Son who sacrificed himself for our salvation. [148]

Note here the Pope's theological precision:  he speaks of Mary offering the Son to the Father, but further qualifies the Son as he "who sacrificed himself for our salvation".  Mary's offering of Christ always implies his own offering of himself.

            In his Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitæ of 25 March 1995 he links Mary's offering of Jesus to her fiat and to her spiritual maternity:

"Standing by the cross of Jesus" (Jn. 19:25), Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself:  she offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets him to the end for our sake.  The "yes" spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the Cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive and beget as her children all those who become disciples, pouring out upon them the saving love of her Son:  "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!'" (Jn. 19:26). [149]

This passage also subtly evokes the text of Revelation 12:17 which refers to "the rest of the offspring" of "the Woman clothed with the sun" (Rev. 12:1):  while Mary gave birth to Jesus in a painless way, her intense sufferings in union with Jesus on Calvary were the birth pangs by which she "begets as her children all those who become [his] disciples".

            B.  Her Offering of Herself

            We have already seen numerous papal texts which speak of Mary offering herself and her sorrows on Calvary to the Eternal Father for our salvation.  This is so because distinguishing between Mary's offering of her Son and herself to the Father is a legitimate logical distinction -- and it is certainly made by the magisterium because it involves the offering of two distinct persons, one divine and one human -- but, in fact, it is difficult to separate the one offering from the other.  Nonetheless, I believe that there is also particular value in underscoring Mary's offering of herself which became part of the one price of our salvation.

            This, in fact, is precisely the point of a text which comes to us from Pope Pius VII (1800-1823):

Certainly, it is the duty of Christians towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, as children of so good a Mother, to honor unceasingly and with affectionate zeal the memory of the bitter sorrows which she underwent with admirable courage and invincible constancy especially when she stood at the foot of the Cross and offered those sorrows to the Eternal Father for our salvation. [150]

Leo XIII effectively makes the same point in his Rosary Encyclical Iucunda Semper of 8 September 1894 when he speaks of the mystery of the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple:

When she professed herself the handmaid of the Lord for the mother's office, and when, at the foot of the altar, she offered up her whole self with her child Jesus -- then and thereafter she took her part in the painful expiation offered by her son for the sins of the world. [151]

            Saint Pius X speaks eloquently in Ad Diem Illum of the "communion of sorrows and of will" shared by Jesus and Mary on Calvary:

Hence the ever united life and labors of the Son and the Mother which permit the application to both of the words of the Psalmist:  "My life is wasted with grief and my years in sighs".  When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the cross of Jesus there stood Mary, His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind; and so entirely participating in His Passion that, if it had been possible "she would have gladly borne all the torments that her Son underwent."

  From this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary "she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world" (Eadmer, De Excellentia Virg. Mariæ, c. 9) and dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Savior purchased for us by his death and by his blood. [152]

            We have already considered the famous text of Benedict XV's Inter Sodalicia from the perspective of Mary's offering of Christ, but it behooves us now to examine that text from the perspective of Mary's self-offering and of her "paying the price of mankind's redemption" along with Christ.

Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother's rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind. [153]

Benedict speaks as if our redemption were a joint effort.  This, of course, takes nothing away from the fact that Jesus' merits were all-sufficient or that Mary, as a human creature, could never equal her divine Son.  Rather he recognizes that Mary's presence on Calvary was "not without divine design" [154], that it was willed by God as a consequence of his decree predestining Jesus and Mary for the work of salvation.  As if by way of commentary, two years later, in his homily at the canonization of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, he said that "the sufferings of Jesus cannot be separated from the sorrows of Mary" [155]:  they can be logically distinguished, but God sees them as one.



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Version 30th November 2002


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