Chapter 5 of Christ is the Answer
The Christocentric Mary
The Blessed Virgin is the very air the Pope breathes. From the first moment of his pontificate he has declared himself to be totaly hers.  His teaching is Christocentric not despite or in addition to this Marian dedication, but because of it. Mary is the supremely Christ-centred person, and the surest way for every person to true Christ-centredness. Her whole mission is to bring Christ to men and men to Christ. For this she was predestined and created, for this she was engraced from her conception. To go to Jesus through Mary, therefore, is to take the most direct route, the straightest and swiftest path:
On earth Our Lady loved and served Jesus with an immaculate heart, with the dedication of her whole personality, and in Heaven she still co-operates with Him. By her motherly intercession, she summons us unceasingly to the Son and so to the Father in the Holy Spirit:
The Son of God is inseparable from the woman in whose flesh and by whose faith He became man.  Pope John Paul has reaffirmed this indissoluble bond by actions as well as words. In 1983 it was indicated by the Pope's decision to open the Jubilee of the Redemption on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the day when 'Mary of Nazareth .. . accepts into her womb and into her heart the Son of God as the Son of Man'. Similarly, from Pentecost 1987 to the Assumption 1988, the third millennium of the Incarnation of the Son was prepared for by an Advent year devoted to the Mother.
The Popes Christocentricity is Marian, and his Mariology is Christocentric. He looks on Jesus through Mary, but he looks on Mary through Jesus. With the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, he contemplates 'the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God not in isolation, but in the mystery of Christ and the Church' . In the first part of Redemptoris Mater, he takes a text from Gaudium et Spes concerned with the Christocentricity of Christian anthropology and transforms it into an axiom for Mariology:
Here, says Balthasar, the Pope demonstrates clearly that the whole of Mariology belongs within Christology and can only be justified and made comprehensible by Christology.  No Christology without Mariology, no Mariology without Christology.
Mother of God
Everything in Mary has a reference to Christ. As the Fathers teach, from St Cyril of Alexandria to St John Damascene, the very name 'Theotokos' is a compendium of the Church's faith in the Incarnation. In the words of Damascene:
In his addresses during the 1981 commemoration of the Council of Ephesus, and then in his great encyclicals for the Marian Year, Redemptoris Mater and Mulieris Dignitatem, the Holy Father has continued this Patristic teaching:
The words used here to describe the divine motherhood - quasi fidem fecít, 'like a confirmation' or, as the Vatican Press translation has it 'like a seal' - are reminiscent of Cardinal Newman's in his discourse on 'The Glories of Mary for the Sake of her Son':
More briefly, as the Pope says, Mary is 'almost the identitycard for the truth of the Incarnation'. She is not only the guarantee but the living embodiment of orthodox faith in Christ and the Trinity.
In his unfolding of Our Lady's divine motherhood the HoIy Father builds upon the insights of his philosophical anthropology. The personalism of his Lublin Thomism gives him a heightened sensitivity to the Patristic distinction between person (or hypostasis) and nature:
The Orthodox theologian Bishop Kallistos Ware has suggested that the Pope's Mariological personalism is in continuity with that of St Cyril of Alexandria. Despite the limitations of his technical vocabulary, St Cyril was able to show, against Nestorius, that the name 'Theotokos' does not imply that the Holy Virgin gave birth to the divine nature. It is not natures, but persons-in-nature, that are born of mothers. Mary is rightly and properly called 'Mother of God', because the person to whom she gìves birth ìs a divine person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, but it is of course in His human nature, not His divine nature, that He is born of her. The very same person who in His divinity is eternally begotten of God the Father without a mother is born in His humanity of the Virgin Mother without a Father.
Mother of the Whole Christ
It would be foolish to oppose or even contrast 'Christ-centred' and 'Church-centred' Mariologies,
for the Virgin's Son is inseparable from His Church. Pope John Paul, like the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council,
sees the Theotokos united by a 'twofold bond' with Christ and His Church.  She is the Church's supreme 'model' and 'constant point of reference' in 'faith,
charity, and perfect union with Christ'.  But that is not all: the model is also mother. Those who strive to imitate Mary are her children and
loved by her. Thus the 'Church's motherhood is accomplished not only according
to the model and figure of the Mother of God, but also with her co-operation'.  By her intercession Mary mothers the Church into mothering.
She is Mother of the Church; in a certain sense, she is Mother
Church.  She is the Church's most perfect
image, her beginning and first flowering, 'first Church', Kirche im Ursprung, as Balthasar and Ratzinger so finely say.  All that the Church hopes to be in Christ, she already is. 
The Brides final beautification is not a dream, but even now, in Mary, a glorious reality.
Whatever the Triune God bestows upon Mary, whatever she by His grace says and does, is for the sake of Christ and His Church. It is therefore for Him that she is ever-virgin. It is because of who her Son is, the eternal consubstantial Son of the Father, that by the power of the Holy Spirit she conceives Him without seed and gives birth to Him without corruption. It is for Him that she dedicates her whole self, in body and in soul, to remain a virgin for ever.
In 1992, on the sixteenth centenary of the Council of Capua, the Holy Father gave an immensely rich and detailed exposition of 'the virginity of Christ's humble and glorious Mother'. It is, said the Pope, 'a "Christologicai theme" before being a "Mariological question"'. This was recognized by the Church Fathers, who observed that the virginity of the Mother is a requirement flowing from the divine nature of the Son. For the Christian Tradition, Our Lady's virginal womb, made fruitful by the Holy Spirit without human intervention, becomes, like the wood of the Cross or the wrappings in the empty tomb, 'a reason and sign for recognizing in Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God'.  The Pope had already presented the following classical argument for the fittingness of the Virginal Conception in one of his Christological catecheses:
In Capua the Holy Father vigorousiy reaffirmed the traditional doctrine of Our Lady's virginity in partu. He offered beautiful insights into the truth taught by the Second Vatican Council when it said that in His birth Mary's Son 'did not diminish her virginai integrity but sanctified it'.  Following the Fathers, the Pope points to the important link between the beginning and end of Christ's earthiy life: just as He was born of an 'intact Virgin' so He rises from an 'intact tomb'. He quotes St Peter Chrysologus:
Incarnation is not invasion. In becoming man, the Son of God neither abandons His divinity nor absorbs our humanity The uniting of man's nature to God's in the person of the Word is an act of infinite delicacy it takes place 'without separation or division, without confusion or change' So precious is our humanity to the assuming Word that He does not abolish or diminish it. He comes to beautify not destroy, to raise up, not to crush. The Father's Word and Wisdom 'orders all things sweetly' (cf. Wisd. 8.1). That is why, in taking flesh from the Virgin, He does not merely employ her as a passive instrument, but, with a kind of divine courtesy,  asks for and makes possible her active consent. And as He enters Marys womb, so He leaves it — without hurt or harm of its maidenly wholeness. In the way He is conceived and born, God the Son shows He is faithful to His own commandment: He honours His Mother.
When discussing the Virgin Birth, the Pope explains how the Church loves to tread the path that leads from the Cross back to the Crib. She celebrates Christmas with an eye on Easter, but she does not forget Christmas at Easter. She 'recognizes in Mary the exceptional witness to the identity of the Child born of her virginal flesh and the Crucified One, reborn from the sealed tomb'. The Virginal Conception and Birth of Jesus, on the one hand, and His Bodily Resurrection, on the other, stand or fall together because of their intimate connection with faith in Jesus' divinity:
The Holy Father clearly shows that the virginity of Our Lady is not some minor detail, but a kind of summary, of the whole of Divine Revelation. The more a man meditates upon it, the more he 'comes into contact, so to speak, with the whole of scripture'. In the formation of Adam from the 'virgin earth' (cf. Gen. 2.4B-7), and then in all the exampies of undamaged integrity in the Old Covenant (the Burning Bush, the Closed Door of the Tempie, the Stone Uncut by Human Hand), we have the preparations and promises of the Virgin Theotokos. All the graces given to the Patriarchs lead up to the astonishing plenitude of grace given, even from her conception, to this lowly maiden of Israel. All the blessings showered on Mary have this one end: to enable her, in the whole of her being and at every moment of her life, to dedicate herself to the Son of God:
Immaculate Conception and Assumption
The Immaculate Conception is a Christocentric mystery. Its final cause is Our Lady's mothering of God-made-man: she is immaculately conceived in order to prepare her to be Theotokos. Its meritorious cause is Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary: it is by the power of Christ's redeeming death that Mary is preserved from all stain of Original Sin:
It is the Immaculate Conception which makes Mary so perfectly Christocentric. Through this pre-redemption, the divine Redeemer centres His Mother totally on Himself from the beginning of her existence, so that she may love Him with a spotless, undivided heart. That is why she is the safest guide towards Christ-centredness and Christ-likeness. Pope John Paul explains that, in turning to Christ, he unites himself with Mary, because 'nobody else can bring us as Mary can into the divine and human dimension of [the mystery of Redemption]. Nobody has been brought into it by God Himself as Mary has'.  The active Christ-centredness of Marys faith and intercession depends on the passive Christ-centredness of her election and engracing. 
The bodily Assumption of Our Lady also has a Christocentric meaning. Mary is the first to share
in her Son's victory over death in body as well as soul, because she 'belongs' to Christ, is 'of Christ' (cf. 1 Cor. 15.20-23), in a unique way.  This dogmatic
truth means, as Balthasar says in his commentary on Redemptoris Mater, that Marys mothering of the Church is not purely spiritual: there is 'something supremely bodily and
real, something historical about it.  The
special powers of presence enjoyed by the risen body — what the Scholastics call its 'agility', its ability to obey the soul with supreme swiftness of movement
— are employed in Mary's motherhood in the order
of grace. In her glorified flesh she enjoys a homely intimacy with her children in their mortal flesh. The faithful
sense this with particuiar keenness, says the Pope, at Jasna Gora, Lourdes, Fatima, and the other Marian sanctuaries
and shrines. 
Mary's Christocentricity engages her whole person. Faith and flesh are inseparable; what is spiritual is also bodily, what is bodily is spiritual. As Pope St Leo the Great taught, following St Augustine, the Blessed Virgin conceived the Word in her mind in faith before conceiving Him in her womb in flesh. Leo's successor, John Paul II, expressed the same truth by saying that Mary accepts 'into her womb and into her heart' the Son of God as Son of Man.
Redemptoris Mater is the most detailed papal exposition of
Our Lady's faith in the history of the Church. In fact, in Balthasar's opinion, no other Mariology has placed Mary's
faith so centrally and with such deliberation. Certain
of its more original features deserve to be mentioned here. First, the Holy Father throws Marian light on the teaching
of Vatican I and Vatican II on revelation and faith. Mary at the Annunciation entrusts herself wholeheartedly to
God, with the 'full submission of intellect and will',
co-operating perfectly with the 'grace of God that precedes and assists'. Secondly, the Pope notes that
Mary says Yes to God with 'her whole human and feminine person' (tota sua persona humana, feminea). This is later developed in Mulieris
Dignitatem. The model for the soul of every Christian man and woman in relation to
God is a woman, the Virgin Mother Mary. Thirdly, the Pope sketches the historical 'journey' of Our Lady's faith
from the moment of the Incarnation onwards: the nine months when God Incarnate is quite literally 'central' to
her, the birth in Bethlehem, the Presentation
in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, the humble life in Nazareth when 'Marys
life too is "hid with Christ in God" (cf. Col. 3.3)',  finally the vigil at the foot of the Cross, where her faith enters
the night. On Golgotha Mary is united with Jesus in His self-emptying, 'the
deepest "kenosis" of faith in human history'  In this costliest moment of her faith, we have the model and the beginning of the Church's cooperation
with her Head. Here begins her Eucharistic attitude, here her mysticism, here her mission of compassion.
Everything in Christ is for participation. Head and members are like one mystical person,  and so whatever He is or has in His human nature is, in a certain way, for them to share. He ìs the true and natural son of God; through our ìncorporation into Him we become sons of God by grace and adoption, sons-in-the-Son. He suffered once for all for our sins on the Cross, yet we can share His suffering, 'completing what is lacking in His afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church' (Col. 1.24). In and through His superabundant satisfaction we make satisfaction. Lumen Gentium applies this theology of the Whole Christ - the doctrine of Paul, Augustine, Thomas and Trent - to Our Lady's mediation of grace:
In Redemptoris Mater Pope John Paul examines this statement more deeply and 'gives ìt a new weight for theology and religious piety'. He expounds Our Lady's mediation theologically, says Cardinal Ratzinger, 'while safeguarding it from all danger of misunderstanding'.  In so doing, he reveals the true meaning of Catholic Christocentricity. Christ's mediation is utterly unique (cf. 1 Tim. 2.5-6). No one can rival Him as mediator between God and man, for He alone is true God and true man in one person. However, this mediatorial uniqueness is inclusive, not exclusive; it makes participation possible. Cardinal Ratzinger explains as follows:
The spiritual give-and-take in the Mystical Body is what Catholic Tradition calls the Communio Sanctorum. By the power of the Head, grace flows from Him to His members and then among the members themselves. St Paul describes the rippling flood at the beginning of his Second Letter to the Corinthians. Whatever he receives from God in Christ, he says, be it comfort or affliction, is for the salvation of others (cf. 2. Cor. 1.3-6). Through the grace of our Head we are sons-in-the-Son, and therefore also 'mediators-in-the-Mediator'
Our Lady's mediation resembles this mediation among Christ's member. It too is participated, 'a subordinate role' (munus subordinatum),  the work of the supremely humble Handmaid of the Lord. It flows from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, is founded on His mediation, absolutely depends on it, and draws all its efficacy from it.  However, though it shares these essential characteristics with the other participations in the Mystical Body, the mediating role of the Theotokos, like her person, is 'special and extraordinary' (peculiare et extraordinarium).  It surpasses all the other sharings and reciprocities in the Communion of Saints.
What is special about Mary's mediation is what is special about her: it is motherly, the mediation of the woman who is God's mother and ours. 'It flows from her divine motherhood and can be understood and lived in faith only on the basis of the full truth of this motherhood. Her first and most fundamental act of mediation is her divine motherhood.' Corporeally and spiritually, she mediates the Mediator with a faith and Iove both virginal and spousal, she brings the eternal Son into the world, welcomes Him into human nature. At every stage of His earthly mission, from His conception in her womb to His death on the Cross, she is His handmaiden and co-operator, an associate of unique nobility, completely open to His person and saving work, and so to us, His brethren and hers. Finally, on Calvary, 'she unites herself with a maternal heart to His Sacrifice, and lovingiy consents to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth'. 
Our Lady's enlarged spiritual motherhood comes into its own after her Son's Ascension. When He sends the Holy Spirit upon her and the Aposties at Pentecost, '[Mary's] motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother co-operates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world'  As the Council teaches, her motherhood 'in the order of grace' lasts for ever 'until the eternal fulfiiment of all the elect'. She has not laid aside her saving role. Glorified in body and soul, by her manifold acts of intercession [she] continues to win for us the gifts of eternal salvation'. 
As Mediatrix, Mary in no sense 'gets in the way' between Christ and us. By grace she is utterly transparent to grace. In her no sinful self blocks the streams that run from His heart. In the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, she lets 'all God's glory through'.  In the lights of the Immaculate Conception we can say that it is Christ the Mediator Himself who prepares His Mother to be such a selfless Mediatrix:
The great originality of Redemptor Mater is that its theology of Marian mediation takes up not only the obviously relevant episodes in St Johns Gospel (Cana, the Foot of the Cross), but also what Cardinal Ratzinger has called the apparently 'anti-Marian texts' in St Lukes Gospel (cf. Luke 8.21; 11.28). These words, in which, on a superficial reading, Our Lord might seem to be distancing Himself from His Mother, in fact reveal her true glory:
Thanks for the Feminine
The Marian Christocentricity of Pope John Paul 11 has bequeathed the Church, first in Redemptoris Mater and later in Mulieris Dignitatem, a rich theology of womanhood. He shares the Patristic and medieval perception that the restoration of humanity, like its downfall, was the work of a man and a woman. From Genesis to the Apocalypse the male Saviour is linked with the Woman, New Adam with New Eve. She is foreshadowed in the promise made to our exiled first parents, and she shines ahead of us, the glorious embodiment of Our hopes. She stands at the centre of history's centre (the Incarnation of God), sharing 'fully in it with her personal and feminine I'. When God asks mankind for an answer of faith, it is a maiden not a man who speaks. To adapt something Chesterton said, men are men, but in humanitys finest hour, man is a woman. She is, therefore, 'the "new beginning" of the dignity and vocation of women, of each and every woman'.
The woman in and through whom the Incarnation takes place enjoys a union with God that exceeds all the expectations of the human spirit  The highest elevation of human nature took place in the masculine gender, when the divine person of the Son of God became man and male. But the highest elevation of the human person took place in the feminine gender, in Mary, the Virgin Mother of God. The greatest after God is a woman. The only truly fulfilled human person, the person already glorified in body as well as soul, is not a male but a female — the Lord's lowly handmaid, the incandescent Queen of Heaven.
Since grace fulfils nature, does not destroy it, we can say, we must say, that the fullness of grace given to the Theotokos is the perfection of femininity. The wonderful coincidence in her of virginity and motherhood, far from making her remote from other women, makes her accessible as a model to women in every state of life. Mary, Virgin and Mother, discloses to us that attitude of receptivity which is quintessentially feminine but also the proper disposition of the creature, whether man or woman, in relation to God. In the light of the Mother of God we see all womanhood, all creatureliness, anew.
John Paul IIs Marian theology of womanhood has many strong affinities with the thinking of Balthasar. Indeed, the Pope quotes him in a footnote in Mulieris Dignitatem. There is no doubt that the Pope would endorse the Swiss theologians warning in Elucidations:
Guardian of the Redeemer
The way for the Church to a truly Marian Christocentricity is a person. His name is Joseph:
The 'Guardian of the Redeemer' has a unique place in the 'Christological constellation'. No one is closer to Mary, and so one, after her, is closer to Jesus. With Mary, he is the first guardian of the mystery of the Incarnation, the first to follow on the pilgrimage of faith in the Word Incarnate. His Heavenly mission is the chivalrously male one of protecting the Marian profile of the Church, of helping the faithful to learn this truth, the truth he lived: The heart of the Mother holds the secret of the Son.
1 On the Montfortian inspiration of the Holy Fathers consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary (cf. RM 48), see Alphonse Bossard SMM, 'L'encyclique Redemptoris Mater et Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort', Marianum 139 (1989), 261-268. The formula totus tuus is Christocentric in the way it is expressed by St Louis de Montfort: 'I am all yours, and all I have is yours, O dear Jesus, through Mary, your holy Mother' (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, n. 233 in God Alone: The Collected Writings of St Louis Marie de Montfort, ET (Bay Shore, 1987), p. 364).
2 St Mary Major, 8/12/80.
3 To Dutch Bishops, 31/1/80.
4 10/12/88, cf. LG 53.
6 Cf. RM 26, 396.
7 LG cap.8.
8 RM 4, 364. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the Pope says that it was 'thanks to St Louis of Montfort' that he 'came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption' (New York, 1994), p. 213).
9 Balthasar, Maria, p. 131.
10 De Fide Orthodoxa 3, 12; PG 94. 1029CD. Cf. St Cyril: 'To confess our faith in orthodox fashion ... it is enough to confess that the Blessed Virgin is Theotokos' (Homiliae Diversae 15; PG 77. 1093C).
11 RM 4, 365.
12 'The Glories of Mary for the Sake of her Son', Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congregations, new ed. (London & New York, 1892), p. 347f.
14 1n the words of the ancient antiphon, the Mother of God is 'victorious over all heresies'.
15 RM 45, 422.
16 Cf. 'Mary Theotokos in the Orthodox Tradition', Marianum 140 (1990), 215.
17 See my article 'The Theotokos in the Theology of the Church', Chrysostom 6 (1984), 205-233.
18 Cf. RM 5, 366.
19 Cf. LG 63, cited in RM 5, 366.
20 RM 44, 421. At the Council, in a written animadversio on chapter 8 of the ecclesiological schema, Archbishop Wojtyla wrote: 'This motherhood of the Church exists first and foremost in the hands and heart of the Most Blessed Virgin, and is intimately linked with the office of Mediatrix' (Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani 11 1/4 (Vatican City, 1971), p. 598).
21 Cf. Balthasar in Maria, p. 138f.
22 Balthasar & Ratzinger, Maria - Kirche im Ursprung (Freiburg, Basle & Vienna, 1986).
23 Cf. LG 65; RM 6, 367.
24 L'Osservatore Romano (10 June 1992), 13ff.
26 28/1/87, Catechesi 5, 27f.
28 LG 57.
29 Sermo 75, 3; CCSL 24A. 460.
30 The word and concept of courtesy comes from the Christian culture of the Middle Ages. It is frequently found in Dante, and re-appears in the medieval English mystics. Hilaire Belloc has sung the praises of this forgotten virtue: 'The first was of Saint Gabriel;/On wings a-flame from heaven he fell;/And as he went upon one knee/He shone with Heavenly Courtesy' (Sonnets and Verse (London, 1923), p.51).
33 RM 39, 412f. Pope John Paul also explicitly re-stated the teaching of the Council of the Lateran (649) on Our Lady's perpetual virginity in the Christological Catecheses (28/2/87; Catechesi 5, p. 25; cf. DS 503).
34 Redemptoris Custos, n.17.
35 RM 10, 322
36 Cf. RM 9-10, 371f.
39 Balthasar, Maria, p. 139.
40 'In all these places that unique testament of the Crucified Lord is wonderfully actualized. In them man feels ihat he is entrusted and confided to Mary. He goes there in order to be with her, as with his Mother. He opens his heart to her and speaks to her about everything' (Fatima, 13/5/82).
41 RM 13 376.
43 Maria, p. 133.
44 Cf. RM 13, 375; cf. DS 3008, 3010.
46 The Son's mission begins in her, under her heart (3/12/79). See my book Redeemer in the Womb. Jesus Living in Mary (San Francisco, 1993).
47 RM 17, 380.
48 RM 18, 383.
49 Cf. St Thomas, ST 3a 48, 2, ad l.
50 Cf. The Council of Trent, 14th Session, Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance (1551), chapter 8, DS 1690-1692.
51 LG 62; Decreta, p. 200. See Salvatore M. Meo OSM, 'La "mediazione materna" di Maria nell' enciclica Redemptoris Mater (Marianum 139 (1989), 145-170).
52 Ratzinger, Maria, p. 120.
54 LG 62; Decreta, p. 200.
55 LG 60 cited in RM 38, 411.
56 RM38, 412.
57 LG 58 cited in RM 18, 382.
58 RM 39, 413f.
59 RM 40, 415.
60 LG 62 cited in RM 40, 415.
61 'The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe', The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 4th ed. (London, 1970), p. 95.
62 RM 39, 414.
63 Ratzinger, Maria, p. 123.
64 See also CL, 49-52; AAS 81 (1989), 486-498.
65 'One man and one woman djd us grievous harm, but thanks be to God, by another man and another woman everything is restored to us' (St Bernard of Clairvaux, Dominica infra octavam Assumptionis, Sermo; Sanctis Bernardi Opera (Rome, 1968), p. 262).
66 RM 47, 426.
67Cf.. The Napoleon of Notting Hill, new ed. (London, 1928), p. 14.
68 MD 3, 1659.
69 MD3, 1659.
70 Cf. M. J. Scheeben, Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik, vol. 2, new ed. (Freiburg, 1933), p. 922.
71 Cf. MD 5, 1660f.
72 Elucidations, ET (London, 1975), p.
73 Redemptoris Custos 1; AAS 82 (1990), 6.
74 Ibid.,6, 11.
This chapter reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher.
Section Contents Copyright ©; Mark Alder and Professor John Saward 1995-2003
This version: 12th June 2003