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Papers on Proposed 5th Marian Dogma

Mary Coredemptrix In Sacred Scripture

Part 2



With the Annunciation (Lk l: 26-38) begins the concrete history of salvation promised by God, prophetized, prefigured and symbolized in the Old Testament. The message of the Angel Gabriel to Mary is a message of universal salvation resting on the redemptive incarnation of the Word. The announcement of the Angel Gabriel, in fact, opens the way of salvation, and is linked to two persons: the divine Messiah, Savior and Redeemer, and his Mother, most closely and inseparably united to Him, called also Alma socia Christi (Beloved Helpmate of Christ).

The event of the Annunciation is surely a "singular" event of "Mediation" on the part of Mary Most Holy, who finds herself exactly "in the middle," that is, between God and us, in the sensitive position of deciding on the redemptive Incarnation of the Word, becoming herself the ever Virgin, Mother of God by the working of the Holy Spirit. "In this historic event of the Incarnation of the Word," writes I. de La Potterie, "the role played by the Mother is clearly a mediatory role. Her part was truly indispensable in realizing the Incarnation, in making it possible for the Son of God to become flesh, or Jesus, the man... In this sense we can and must speak here of the Mediation of Mary." [33]

The Annunciation contains in itself, ab initio et in radice (from its start and radically), both the coredemptive Mediation of salvation and the distributive Mediation of grace. More simply, in the Annunciation we are shown the Blessed Virgin Mary called to the mission of Coredemptrix of salvation and Mediatrix of grace. In fact, writes Cignelli, "if the Incarnation is in itself already a mystery of salvation, to have cooperated formally in it is to concede Mary the right to be called Coredemptrix."[34]

Accepting the invitation of the Angel, in fact, and obeying the request of God, she becomes the One who bestows all grace (the Word Incarnate) and all salvation (the Redeemer Messiah); she becomes the Mediatrix as Mother of the Word Incarnate, as Coredemptrix with the Redeemer, as Dispensatrix of every grace which is needed to renew souls.

In a still more embracing sense one may add that she is here, at the Annunciation, called to be the great "Advocate of grace" for mankind, in union with the Holy Spirit, the divine "Paraclete" and the generous Auxiliatrix (or Help)of the redeemed people.


Incarnation and redemptive Maternity


The fulcrum of the message of the Annunciation is found in the revelation of the divine plan by the Angel and in its acceptance on the part of the Blessed Virgin, without any break in continuity.

The Angel Gabriel sets before Mary Most Holy the divine plan for the Incarnation of the Word, the "Son of the Most High" (Lk 1:32), of Him who will be "Great" and will inherit "the throne of David" (ibid) and "whose reign will have no end" (Lk 1:33): behold the divine Son whom the Blessed Virgin Mary understands she must conceive and bear virginally by work of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35). She understands she must assent to be Virgin-Mother, the Virgin ever intact in heart and body, even though fecund of God, as Mother of the God "born of the woman" (Gal 4:4). To believe and to agree to all this was "loudly" proclaimed by St. Elizabeth the "blessedness" of Mary's sublime faith: "Blessed is she who has believed the things spoken to her by the Lord" (Lk 1:45).

At the same time the Angel gives the Blessed Virgin to understand, even if only once expressly, that the "Word made flesh" (Jn 1:14) will be that Messiah so longed awaited and hoped for by the nations, that is, will be the Savior, for she herself must call him by the name "Jesus," which means precisely "God Savior."

The revelation of the name "Jesus" suffices to remind the Blessed Virgin of all that had been written by the prophets about the Messiah Savior of the nations, about his mission of "suffering servant" (Is 53:12) of Yahweh, about his passion and death as a "criminal" (Jn 18:30) to ransom the human race from sin and from death itself.[35]

Pietrafesa correctly observes that in the Annunciation "is already found implicitly a forecast of the martyrdom of Mary; already the shadow of the cross can be seen. In her joyful maternity there are not absent links to the atrocious suffering of her mission as Coredemptrix of the human family"[36]

The redemptive Incarnation of the Word (as Feuillet calls it) [37] with the redemptive Maternity: behold the salvific plan of God laid by the Angel Gabriel before the humble Virgin Mary of Nazareth. To this salvific plan of God she is now called to give her free and fully deliberate consent, thus to open the way to the Redeemer and to complement with her coredemptive maternity the universal Redemption so long awaited and desired over the millennia. That consent "given at the Annunciation will perdure without interruption and be faithfully maintained without wavering under the Cross until the final crowning of all the elect."[38]

The redemptive Incarnation of the Word which is actuated with the coredemptive Maternity of Mary: this is in synthesis the salvific content of the angelic message, this is the revelation of the redemptive plan of God, to which the Virgin of Nazareth is called to give her consent, conscious of the extraordinary mission for which she alone has been chosen. [39] "from the moment of the virginal conception of Christ to his death."[40]


Consent to the redemptive plan


The announcement to Mary has a uniqueness which differentiates it from the message to Zachariah (cf. Lk 1: 13-20) and from that to the shepherds (cf. Lk 2: 10-14). The singularity consists specifically in being, not simply a message-revelation of the divine plan, but in being a message-revelation-proposal on God's part, to which Mary is invited to give explicit agreement.

In this regard, in fact, Dupont has written that

"the comparison of this account of the message with the other two which frame it underscores its specific character which might be termed dialogic. Mary is not merely the passive recipient of a revelation regarding her Son. Hers is an active role of partnership: in the immediate context, partner of the Angel of the Lord, but in reality partner of God himself, who willed that the realization of his project should depend on the free consent which he sought from her faith."[41]

The consent given by Mary to the proposal of the Angel is a consent, therefore, given to the entire plan of God with a personal commitment immediately brought into harmony with that of the Word Incarnate himself. For the Blessed Virgin made her own the very expression with which the Prophet reveals the Messiah Redeemer, calling him the "servant" of Yahweh.

Mary, in fact, calls herself "servant" (handmaid), thus expressing her participation in the very mission of her Son. The Servant of Yahweh" (cf Is 52:1353:12) and the Handmaid (female slave) of the Lord are found united from the start in the work of universal redemption. [42]

"In Jesus who accomplishes the work of the Lord," writes De Martino, "and in his Mother, who is the Handmaid of the Lord, there is revealed a profound harmony of wills consummated in the Redemption of Christ and the Coredemption of Holy Mary."[43]

The consent of the Virgin Mary, therefore, began and accompanied the divine plan of the redemptive Incarnation, that is, the objective redemption, including the fully conscious faith of Mary in the mystery of the Father who sends his "Son," in the mystery of the Word, "the Son of God" who gives himself to her, in the mystery of the "Holy Spirit" who overshadows her with "his power," making her the Mother ever Virgin.[44]

The "fiat" of Mary constitutes "her consent in the proper sense," to quote Dupont again. [45] And it is a consent which embraces the entire plan of God, that is, the redemptive Incarnation of the Word made flesh, destined for crucifixion.

"Therefore," writes de La Potterie, "we can discern already present in the message of the Angel, at least along general lines, the future destiny of the Baby to be born. The reply of Mary in verse 38 is in reference, not only to the physical and imminent realities of the conception and birth (which regard her directly, given that she will be the Mother of that Son), but also to that which had been revealed to her concerning the future of the Baby."[46]

Hence, as K. H. Schelkle writes, "Mary according to the Gospels already begins her suffering at the moment her maternity begins" [47] while Ceuppens affirms that the Coredemption signals the start of the maternity of Mary. "Principium huius maternitatis est munus Coredemptricis" (the beginning of this maternity is the office of Coredemptrix)." [48] And Garofalo links the announcement to Mary at Nazareth with the passion of Christ in Jerusalem, stating that "the fiat of Nazareth sounds mysteriously like the fiat in the garden of Gethsemani."[49]

A detail to ponder is the use of the optative (ghenòito) in the answer of the Virgin Mary to the Angel. The optative, as is known, expresses a consent animated by hope, a desired consent bringing joy and delight. I. de La Potterie explains correctly:

Before all we observe that the "consent" of Mary is expressed in Greek with the optative mood: ghenòito moi...This does not manifest simple submission...and certainly even less passive resignation. Mary expresses here her joyous desire (hence the optative) to collaborate fully in the divine plan.[50]

Pietrafesa explains the reply of Mary given in the optative thus: "The reply of our Lady, typically Hebrew (cf. I Sam 25:41) indicates perfect, absolute dedication of one's whole self to the will of God and not a simple assent."[51]

The fiat of Mary, therefore, expresses the most generous and joyous "coredemptive obedience," as W.G. Most calls it [52] (in contrast with the ruinous "disobedience" of Eve) in her direct and immediate cooperation in the universal redemption. Cignelli explains it well, writing that the Bible

underlines on the one hand the demeritorious disobedience of Eve, on the other the meritorious obedience of Mary...Revelation, by inserting within the parameters of ruin and salvation the disobedience of Eve along that of Adam and the obedience of Mary aside that of Christ, wishes to affirm the coresponsibility of the woman in deciding human destinies.[53]




The prophecy of Simeon, "a just man fearing God" (Lk 2:25), at the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, Pope John Paul II writes, "appears as a kind of second announcement to Mary, because it indicates the concrete historical situation in which her Son will achieve his mission, namely, in incomprehension and in sorrow." And this "concrete historical situation" cannot not regard and involve Mary as well, united inseparably to her Son. "If such a message," continues the Pope, "on the one hand confirms her faith in the fulfillment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other it reveals also that she must live her obedience of faith by suffering aside her suffering Savior."[54]

The coredemptive maternity of Mary, entirely marked by "suffering aside her suffering Savior," as Pope John Paul II states, is brought by the holy man Simeon into close and natural relation to the very salvation of mankind. Here we see how before the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary the salvific plan of God is clarified more precisely in the progressive revelation of details of its development and of its concrete modalities. The sign of contradiction and the sword transfixing are shared by Son and the Mother in the fulfillment of the universal mission of salvation.

In the Presentation, considered in its entirety as a single event, the soteriological dimension of the salvific plan entrusted to the new Adam (Jesus) and to the new Eve (Mary) can clearly be discerned. The presentation in the Temple, in fact "has an apocalyptic and theophanic character. He who bears the divine names: Holy, Lord, Son of God, visits the Temple as a poor Child. But he is recognized by witnesses as the 'Salvation' (soterion: 2:22), the 'Glory' (2:32), and the 'Redemption' (lytrosis: 2:38) of Israel." So writes Laurentin, [55] who then discusses "transpositions" effected by St. Luke by means of which "the ransom of the firstborn, meaningless in the case of the Redeemer and Savior, is transposed onto Jerusalem in Lk 2:38; the purification (2:22), which makes no sense in relation to this Virgin, is likewise transposed to the people. Luke sees the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachy 3 in the eschatological entrance of the Lord into his temple: 'He will purify the sons of Levi'. The context brings this prophecy into relation with the purification of all the people."[56]

Leonardi also underscores the soteriological aspect of the event of the Presentation in the Temple, observing precisely how

the Evangelist says that the parents 'present' Jesus to the Lord. The word 'present' (v. 22: 'paristanai') is used in the Old Testament with priests and levites who 'stand in the sanctuary'; in addition it was said that the victim also is 'presented' (cf. Rom 12:1); therefore Jesus is described as priest and victim offered by Mary and Joseph to God.[57]

To speak of purification, of ransom, of the Temple, of victim, of priest, clearly means to speak of elements characteristic of the work of Redemption. Already, in this event at the beginning of Jesus' life, it is revealed in all its drama via a personal revelation of the holy man Simeon to include the Mother jointly with and ever united to her Redeemer Son in a "close and indissoluble bond" (LG 53).[58]

And in this event our eyes immediately catch the active and primary presence of Mary, the Mother of the Child who is "salvation for all the peoples, a light of the nations and the glory of Israel" (Lk 2:31-32). The Mother carries the Savior. The Mother offers the Redeemer. The Mother now is protagonist of the mission of the Child whom she is nourishing and preparing for the work of universal Redemption. This page of St. Luke, with the words of Simeon, throws light from on high on the mystery of salvation intended to bring all men to the light and to the glory. This is the mystery of the Redemption which reveals united and inseparable in the Temple the new Adam and the new Eve.

In particular, then, we want to note how the words spoken by Simeon to Mary seem to state the Marian Coredemption in definite, deft and tragic terms: "And your soul a sword shall pierce" (Lk 2:35). The Navarre Bible, in fact, remarks that

the words addressed to the Virgin announce that Mary will be intimately associated in the redemptive work of her Son. The sword of which Simeon speaks expresses the participation of Mary in the suffering of her Son: it is an unspeakable pain which pierces her soul. The Lord suffers upon the cross for our sins; such are the sins of each of us as also to have forged a sword of sorrow to pierce the heart of our Mother.[59]

The "sword" which pierces the soul of Mary is the sword of immense pain linked both to the passion and death of her Son and to the loss of "many" who will resist her Son.[60] "It seems conformable to the very nature of the facts," writes Laurentin, "and to the tradition of the Fathers that Mary was afflicted both by the sufferings of Christ and by the division of the people."[61]

One might say, without any exaggeration, that this "sword" is the symbol most expressive of the "Marian Coredemption": a concrete symbol, most significative in the brutality of its action which cuts and passes through, lacerating and devastating the soul in its every fiber. Hence, it is expressive of the Coredemption. With this "sword" in her soul Mary is the Coredemptrix, just as Jesus on the cross is precisely the Redeemer.

The "sword" of Simeon," writes K. H. Schelkle, expresses "the pain which Mary will suffer observing the disbelief and enmity directed against Jesus" by the "many" who will go to ruin, and on account of this very sword she is linked "to Him as Mother and Coredemptrix." [62] And Fr. Testa, rejecting the opinion of those who understand "sword" in the sense of a "doubt" entertained by Mary on Calvary, says that at the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, at the words of prophecy of Simeon about the "sword" which would pierce her soul, Mary Most Holy accepted that "sword," thus becoming Coredemptrix with the Redeemer. [63]

We can rightly conclude, at this point, that the event of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, and in particular the words of the holy man Simeon addressed to Mary, constitute a well founded and suggestive chapter on Marian Coredemption, a prophetic chapter on the coredemptive Maternity of Mary who offers her Son and is offered with her Son at his immolation for the universal redemption. The "sword" of immolation is there, ready, and already in action, for her to cooperate at once and directly in the work of salvation awaited by all the nations. And the immense sufferings of our Lady are not, therefore, external to her, provoked only by eternal causes, but "are intrinsic to the very mission of Coredemptrix," Pietrafesa rightly affirms, "which she officially initiates with the Annunciation, continues during the period of tribulations of her spouse, St. Joseph, at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and throughout the entire course of her life. Simeon sheds light on our Lady 's sorrowful mission in so far as she is Mother of the One Contradicted in every stage of his earthly life."[64]




John the Evangelist tells us of the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Calvary, at the foot of the cross, in the supreme hour of the passion and death of her divine Son.

"There stood near the cross of Jesus his Mother" (Jn 19:25).[65] This verse recalls most directly and profoundly the text of Genesis 3:15: a reminder, then, of the first Adam, the first Eve and the tree involved in the sin of our first parents. In Eden, in fact, at the dawn of mankind, the two ancestors of the human family, Adam and Eve, consummated the ruin of mankind near the tree of the forbidden fruit (cf. Gen 3:1-6). Here, on Calvary, instead, the two progenitors of the new people of God, Jesus and Mary, the new Adam and the new Eve, have consummated the redemption of mankind near the tree of the cross with the immolation of Jesus and the co-immolation of Mary.[66]

This retrospective biblical reminder not only is relevant, but necessary, because Eden, profaned by original sin is precisely rescued and restored by Calvary on which is raised the cross which saves. The prophecy of Gen 3:15 finds here, in fact, its fulfillment in the so-called "vindication" or "recirculation" against the "ancient serpent" (Apoc 12:9), who had conquered our first parents Adam and Eve, seducing them and drawing them into his plan that they rebelled against God, to make them fall "into darkness and into the shadow of death" (Lk 1:79).

The grand hope of a "restoration" contained in the prophecy of Gen 3:15, sustained over millennia of awaiting and of prayer, now becomes a reality of grace on Calvary, via the passion of the new Adam, Jesus the Redeemer, and the compassion of the new Eve, Mary Coredemptrix.

The defeat of Adam and Eve, with their fall into sin and the consequent ruin of all their descendants condemned to be "children of wrath" (Eph 2:3) are here on Calvary reversed by the new Adam and the new Eve, united in the same "enmity" against the infernal serpent whose head they crush.[67] "We find ourselves here," states Pope John Paul II, "at the very center of the fulfillment of the promise contained in the Protoevangelium: 'the Offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent'".[68]

The presence of Mary on Calvary cannot be explained, "except in the context of a divine plan," as Lumen Gentium (53) tells us, with reason, because Mary is inseparable from her Son, being predestined "uno eodemque decreto" (by one and the same decree) with her Son, as Ineffabilis Deus teaches, being linked to Him "by one and the same indissoluble bond," as Lumen Gentium (ibid) teaches, which makes her share the entire redemptive mission of her Son with victory over the serpent through universal salvation.

Hence, as Pietrafesa writes briefly, but with an exegesis as lucid as it is profound:

the presence of our Lady was, according to the divine decrees, necessary, indispensable on Calvary. The appointment of Mary under the cross is the culminating point in her mission, already foretold in the earthly paradise (Gen 3:15) to the first parents of the human family. From the cross Mary had to be proclaimed Coredemptrix of the human race, the new Eve, the victrix of the infernal serpent.

As for Jesus the apparent defeat on the cross would in reality signal his triumph and the success of his redemptive mission, so for Mary that presence and that unspeakable sorrow at the foot of the cross would constitute the triumph of her mission as Coredemptrix.[69]

In fact, the concrete achievement of universal salvation on the part of Christ on the cross was realized in unity with the universal coredemption on the part of Mary who is there with "soul transfixed" (cf. Lk 2:35) at the foot of the cross. Here we encounter the objective "establishment" of the universal redemption "in actu primo." The crucified Redeemer and the Coredemptrix with soul transpierced are the new Adam and the new Eve who repair the ruin of original sin by acquiring the grace which regenerates dead souls. The nails and the blood, the wounds and the thorns which lacerated the divine body of Jesus form a single unity with the unspeakable sufferings of his Mother, the fiber of whose soul was devastated piece by piece by the sword prophesized by Simeon. [70] "Mary Coredemptrix," writes Cantinant, "is the Mother of sorrows celebrated in the Liturgy and in song by Jacopone da Todi in the 13th century with his Stabat Mater dolorosa."[71]

The mystery of the suffering of Mary forms a unity, a perfect synergy with the mystery of the suffering of Christ. Redeemer and Coredemptrix are both marked by living sorrow which rescues from sin and from death. "We have been begotten on Calvary," says F. Asensio, "with the blood of the Son and the tears of his Mother, 'fed on bitter sorrow with wormwood in her drink." [72] Only with suffering is redemption possible, we know: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22), and so Jesus "gave himself a ransom for all" (I Tim 2:6). So, too, "Mary, though conceived and born without stain of sin," Pope John Paul II has written clearly and forcefully, "has participated in a wonderful way in the sufferings of her divine Son, to be Coredemptrix of mankind."[73] Ruotolo seems to reach the very inmost of the afflicted soul of the Woman of sorrow, writing that "Mary Most Holy was there and prayed for the souls of all the ages, uniting herself to the sacrifice of her Son. She was Coredemptrix and fulfilled this noble office imploring mercy for sinners."[74]

At this point, to go further in depth, it is helpful to meditate also on one detail of great importance for the exegesis of the Johannine text 19:25: the term Woman adopted by Jesus from the heights of the cross to address his Mother and say to her: "Woman, behold your son."

The most important biblical references in both Testaments to the term Woman as applied to Mary are the Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15), the Wedding Feast of Cana (Jn 2:4); the Woman of the Apocalypse (Apoc 12:1). These are three references to events linked to one another and of exceptional import in the divine plan, and in each of them there is a clearly evident soteriological dimension, and therefore a reference to the coredemptive mission of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We have already discussed the Protoevangelium and we will shortly take up in detail the passage of the Apocalypse. Here we want only to treat the Wedding Feast at Cana, where Jesus worked his first public miracle in the natural order, viz., the transformation of water into wine, to come to the aid and meet the need of a newly wed couple.

Let us recall, before all else, that the term Woman is to be framed here in the context of the gospel episode of the Wedding Feast of Cana with its very important significance. We know, in fact, that the Protoevangelium presents us with the drama of our first parents and the great promise of God regarding a Woman victorious with her Son over the serpent deceiver. Calvary presents us with the fulfillment of the promise in the form of universal Redemption "in actu primo" worked by the man-God, Christ Jesus, and by the Woman, Mother of God and of men. The Woman of the Apocalypse presents us the Woman in a final summary of the grand salvific design of God. Let us now see how with the marriage feast at Cana it introduces the public redemptive mission of Christ for the salvation of the entire human family (symbolized by the newly wed), in need above all of the blood which redeems (symbolized by the wine, which recalls the eucharistic Blood), to be poured out in the "hour" determined (the Hour of Calvary, with the foundation of the Church and of the Sacraments).[75]

The term Woman found in these four fundamental biblical texts indicates and confirms what the Church has defined in the dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus on the predestination of Mary "uno eodemque decreto" with her Son, and in Lumen Gentium (53) where she presents our Lady linked to her Son by "a close and indissoluble bond." Mary, then, is always present as a unique figure actively and immediately associated with her Son; she is always the "adjutorium simile sibi" (companion similar to him) (Gen 2:21) of the new Adam, Christ, man-God Savior.

With the phrase "Woman, behold your son," Jesus proclaims the spiritual and universal Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, revealing at the same time the maternal aspect of the Redemption as well, as reflected in the face and person of Mary, the Virgin Mother.[76] Here we discover the Maternity of Mary as a salvific Maternity, coredemptive. The Blessed Virgin Mary has become our Mother as Coredemptrix, because she offered her Son for immolation and willed "to suffer with her Son dying on the cross...to restore supernatural life to souls" (Lumen Gentium, n. 61). To offer her Son and herself to God to obtain the grace of rebirth for mankind in every age: there is a dynamic interchange here between maternity and coredemption in Mary, in this sense, that in the designs of God the one is not without the other, and this from the start, that is, from the Annunciation. Pietrafesa summarizes this point clearly, writing that Mary

there, at the foot of the cross offers with a mother's authority her only Son as victim to the heavenly Father and in this manner, by special title, becomes Mother Coredemptrix of mankind. As Jesus immolates himself for men whom he adopts as brothers, so Mary offers her Son and herself to the Father of heaven to become universal Mother of all the redeemed. The 'fiat' of Calvary completes that of the Annunciation.[77]

A consideration, finally, of the specific value of the motherhood of Mary—a virginal, divine, coredemptive maternity—in the salvific plan of God must not be omitted. That value is particularly eminent for its anthropological implications, for it places womanhood in its proper place in relation to the womb, with a formulation most exalted and fruitful, the maternal, never separating the mulier (woman) from the vir (man) for whom she was made to be "adjutorium simile sibi" (Gen 2:18).

"In the revealed soteriological context," writes Cignelli, "the promise and the realization of messianic salvation are practically linked to the woman mother." [79] The Protoevangelium in Gen 3:15, Mary on Calvary in Jn 19:25-26, the Woman clothed with the sun in Apoc 12:1, show us always the woman mother as the woman, salvation of mankind.

And with this divine and coredemptive Maternity of Mary we have the Church, the family of the redeemed, it is also a reality divine and human, personal and social, of which Mary Most Holy is the prototype or exemplary cause, and is the Mother or efficient cause. She is the exemplary cause of the Church, because "she precedes in time," as Cignelli explains, "and transcends it in perfection, realizing in herself the ideal and perfect image of a redeemed mankind. As Coredemptrix she is instead co-cause and mother of the Church, wholly dependent on God, one and triune, and on Christ, the new Adam. She coredeems and regenerates a fallen mankind, giving it her own likeness and making it sharer in her saving and maternal mission. Hence, the Church depends on Mary and is as it were an emanation from her and a prolongation of her on the ontological and operative level."[80]

The motherhood of Mary is coredemptiveit is well to note this here—because it concerns not only the distribution of the grace which saves and sanctifies the members of the Church, but is involved "by the divine will," as Bertetto explains so well, "in the very fulfillment of the objective and acquisitive redemption, and therefore in the very constitution of the Church, fruit of the redemptive suffering of Jesus and the coredemptive suffering of Mary."[81]

And we may conclude, now, with the clear teaching of Pope John Paul II who links the two maternities, that of Mary and that of the Church, from within:

The words which Jesus spoke from the heights of the cross signify that the maternity of his Mother finds a "new" continuation in the Church and through the Church, symbolized and represented by John. In this way, she who, as "the Full of grace," has been introduced into the mystery of Christ to be his Mother, namely, the Holy Mother of God, by means of the Church continues in that mystery as the "woman" indicated in the book of Genesis (3:15) at the beginning, and in the Apocalypse (12:1) at the end of the history of salvation. According to the eternal design of Providence the divine maternity of Mary must overflow into the Church, as so many affirmations of Tradition indicate, for which the maternity of Mary in respect to the Church is the reflection and prolongation of her maternity in regard to the Son of God.[82]




The twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, immediately in its first verse, presents the "Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet and a crown of twelve stars" (Apoc 12:1). This is a short, rapid description of the greatest and most wonderful "Woman" spoken of in the Bible, who impersonates in Mary Most Holy the Queen of the universe and in the figure of the Church is the "Mother of all believers."[83]

At once in the next verse, however, this same exalted figure of the solar, regal Woman is shown as a Mother subject to the suffering specific to parturition. In fact "she was with child and cried out in her travail and was in anguish of delivery" (12:2).

Hence, any discussion of the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse cannot but be a discourse about the Mother who is at once Woman of glory and of sorrow. The Woman of glory is the Woman clothed with the sun and crowned by the stars. The Woman of sorrow is the Woman who cries out in her travail and is in anguish of delivery.

Now, the Virgin Mary in herself impersonates this "Woman" in her double character of glory and of suffering: "Woman of glory" as Mother of Christ the man-God (the "male child": 12:5), and "Woman of suffering" as Mother of the redeemed (the "rest of her offspring": 12:17). the Blessed Virgin Mary, in fact, is Mother of Christ and of Christians, is Mother of the Mystical Body, or Mother of the Head who is Christ, the man-God, and Mother of Christians who form "the Body of Christ which is the Church" (Col 1:24).

We know already that the maternity of Mary in regard to Christ was a motherhood of hidden joys and of ineffable happiness, for which Mary is the "Cause of our joy," as she is invoked by the Church in the Litany of Loreto. And we know that the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem constituted a theophany of "superabundant joy" (Jn 15:11); and the birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary on the holy night was a miraculous birth because virginal, [84] was a true birth of "great joy" (Lk 2:10), a birth of glory, of that same "Glory to God in the Highest" chanted by the Angels in the heavens over Bethlehem (Lk 2:14), [85] because truly he had come "from on high, the sun which rises, to visit us, to rescue those who stand in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Lk 1:78-79).[86]

Here we discover the "Woman clothed with the sun," or the Woman clothed with that divine Maternity which is a solar, regal vestment of ineffable beauty and holiness, all joy and brightness which has no equal in creation, neither on earth nor in heaven.

As "Mother of the redeemed," instead, Mary is the "Woman...with child who cries out in her travail and is in anguish of delivery" (Apoc 12:2). This text refers precisely to Calvary, or to the Woman who "stands near the cross of Jesus" (Jn 19:25), to her who on Golgotha was constituted "truly Mother of the members of Jesus Christ," to use the expression of St. Augustine quoted also by Lumen Gentium (53).

"Woman, behold your son" and "the Woman who cries out in travail and is in anguish of delivery" are mutually related texts and when thus read form a unit revealing the mystery of Mary Coredemptrix. "Jn 19 and Apoc 12," writes Laurentin, "match each other precisely. In the two texts the maternity of Mary in relation to the disciples is permeated by the context of suffering."[87]

Without hesitation we can say that according to a biblical-theological exegesis of Apoc 12:1 we find described in plain language the direct and immediate coredemptive suffering of Mary who gives birth to each of us as her "son." Each is already represented on Calvary by St. John the Evangelist, according to the words of Jesus twice pronounced. For he turned from the heights of the cross both to Mary ("behold your son") and to St. John ("behold your Mother").

Effectively, therefore, in the text of Apocalypse 12:1-2 we can find the revelation of the double maternity of Mary: her natural motherhood of the physical Christ, joyous and miraculous at Bethlehem, and her spiritual motherhood of the mystical body of Christ, in suffering and travail on Calvary. As one of many exegetes affirms, Squillaci, to our Lady "must be ascribed a double childbirth: one natural and virginal, by which without suffering and lesion of any kind she begot the Son of God, the physical Christ; the other spiritual by which on Calvary, uniting her sorrows to those of the Redeemer she begot the Mystical Body of Christ."[88]

The text of Apocalypse 12, therefore, reveals the divine Mother of Christ and the Coredemptrix Mother of men. In the first two verses we seem to be able to perceive, even at first glance, the joy of the Incarnation which clothes Mary with solar and regal splendor of the divine Maternity, and the suffering of the Coredemption which clothes Mary with the most bitter suffering of the universal, spiritual Maternity. Ruotolo writes in this regard quite succinctly and correctly:

The virginal birth of the Redeemer did not cost the Virgin Most Holy any suffering; rather this was accomplished with the most ineffable joy. But begetting the Mystical Body of the Lord on Calvary cost her unspeakable suffering, because she was Coredemptrix of the human race.[89]

The "male child"(Apoc 12:5), born and immediately removed from reach of the homicidal fury of the "dragon" from hell (vv 3-4), is the child of the divine Maternity of the Virgin Mary, solar and regal Woman. The "rest of her offspring" (Apoc 12:17), instead, we are, the redeemed, children of the Woman in the travail of childbirth, still subject to the attacks of the "dragon," horrible (v 3) and powerful (v 4), needful, therefore, of her who is the maternal Mediatrix of every grace which sustains, saves and sanctifies.

Coredemption and Mediation, in this sense, mutually postulate each other in the complete picture of the Maternity of Mary. Just this is proper to the mother, in fact to every mother, before all else, to carry her embryo through a laborious gestation to term, so begetting a child in the travail of delivery (and this corresponds to the Coredemption), and then to feed, nourish and make this child grow to adulthood (and this corresponds to the maternal Mediation). One can say that from Genesis 3:15 to Apocalypse 12, the Virgin Mary impersonates in herself this salvific Maternity in her fullness of grace: hers is the Maternity of our Lady of Sorrows, as the People of God, with the sensus fidei, affectionately address her.




Mother Coredemptrix and Mediatrix: so the figure of Mary is portrayed by biblical revelation via her historic mission of Coredemptrix linked to the event of the objective Redemption, "in actu primo," concluded on Calvary, and ordered to the acquisition of the grace which redeems all creation; and via her extratemporal mission of Mediatrix of grace whose aim is to assist all her children, to care for the salvation of the redeemed "to the final crowning of the elect," as Lumen Gentium (62) teaches.[90]

And precisely in view of this maternal, salvific mission, which continues to the end of time, Mary Most Holy is the dispensatrix of all graces, she is the "Advocate of grace" for her children in need of help along their path of salvation and sanctification. She , as we may conclude with Lumen Gentium:

though assumed into heaven has not ceased to exercise this salvific role, but with much intercession continues to obtain the graces of eternal salvation. With her motherly charity she cares for the brethren of her Son still in pilgrimage and in the midst of dangers and trials, until they are brought to blessedness in heaven. For this reason the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church with the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Comforter, Mediatrix (Lumen Gentium, n. 62).


33. I. de La Potterie, Maria nel mistero dell'Alleanza, Genoa 1988, p. 176 [Eng. tr.: Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, NewYork 1992].

34.  L. Cignelli, op. cit., p. 245: In support of his position the author cites studies of Feuillet, Galot, Durrwell, Nicolas (Ibid., notes 2 & 3).

35. Roschini correctly explains that here "the term of the maternity proposed to Mary was a double one: the divine person of the Word made man (for which that maternity was elevated to the divine level) and the mission of Savior of mankind (for which that maternity was elevated to a salvific level)." G. Roschini, "Il mistero della salvezza e Maria Mater Salvatoris," in Miles Immaculatae 10 (1974) p. 222, note 2.

36. P. Pietrafesa, La Madonna nella Rivelazione, Naples 1970, p. 137.

37. A. Feuillet, "L'incarnation rédemptrice dans les écrits johanniques," in Introduction à la Bible, Tournai 1959, pp. 890-914

38. Lumen Gentium, n. 62.

39. It goes without saying here that the exegesis which strives to present the angelic message as incomprehensible and in fact not understood in its substance by the Blessed Virgin is simply inadmissible. In such speculation the Virgin would have understood and accepted only a miraculous conception of an extraordinary man (the Messiah), remaining ignorant entirely of the Incarnation of the Word and of the divine Maternity. But what remains of the angelic message, once the Incarnation of the "Son of God" and the divine Maternity of the Virgin are eliminated? If Mary did not understand the content of the angelic message, we would have the redemptive Incarnation of the Word and the divine Maternity without any effective consent and consciousness on the part of Mary Most Holy, without any act of faith of the Virgin of Nazareth precisely in the two sublime mysteries which engage her personally and immediately, or: the redemptive Incarnation of the Word "Son of God," and the redemptive divine Maternity. And what faith would, then, have inspired her cousin Elizabeth to cry out "in a loud voice" (Lk 1:42) at her meeting with Mary at Ein-Karin? "The Doctors of the Church," Unger states, "are morally unanimous in holding that Mary at the Annunciation knew she would conceive the Son of God. They explicitly or implicitly maintain that Mary gave a full assent of faith to the message." D. Unger, "Utrum secundum doctores Ecclesiae Virgo Maria, filium suum Dei Filium esse nuntio angelico cognoverit," in Maria in Sacra Scriptura IV, Rome 1967, p. 415. See also A. Apollonio, Maria modello di fede?, Castelpetroso 1995.

40. Lumen Gentium, n. 57.

41. J. Dupont,"L'Annuncio a Maria (Lk 1:26-38)," in Theotokos 3(1995) 328-329.

42.  Pope Pius IX, in the dogmatic Bull Ineffabilis Deus, affirms that already ab aeterno the Mother and the Son are predestined "uno eodemque decreto" to the redemptive Incarnation for the salvation of the human race. As one can see, Mother and Son are always found united, both at the level of being and of operation, even if the Mother is in subordination to the Son.

43. U. de Martino, "Ancilla Domini. Perché servire, in Studi Cattolici 29 (1995) p. 690.

44. One should note that the question posed by Mary to the Angel, in order to safeguard her proposal of virginity as an offering to God ("How is this possible, for I know not man?" Lk 1:34), reveals the basic role of virginity in the work of the redemptive Incarnation, carefully noted and set in relief by the Holy Fathers. Hence, Cignelli can write that "the theme of "salus ex virgine" (salvation from a virgin) permeates the entire patristic age. L. Cignelli, Maria Nuova Eva, Assisi 1966, p. 24.

45. J. Dupont, art. cit., p. 331.

46. I. de La Potterie, op. cit., p. 188.

47. K.H. Schelkle, La Madre del Salvatore. La figura di Maria nel Nuovo Testamento, Rome 1985, p. 68.

48. F Ceuppens, De Mariologia Biblica, Rome 1951, p. 201.

49. S. Garofalo, La parole di Maria, Rome 1963, p. 38.

50.  I. de la Potterie, op. cit., p. 185.

51. P. Pietrafesa, op. cit., p. 155.

52. W G. Most, "Mary Corredemptrix in Scripture: Cooperation in Redemption," in Mary Corredemptrix Mediatrix Advocate. Theological Foundations, Santa Barbara 1995, p. 160.

53. L. Cignelli, op. cit., p. 25.

54. Redemptoris Mater, n. 16.

55. R. Laurentin, I Vangeli dell'infanzia di Cristo, Turin 1985, pp. 140-141 [Eng. tr.: The Truth of Christmas beyond the Myths, Petersham (MA) 1986].

56. Op. cit., p. 108. See also C. Ghidelli, Luca, Rome 1981, p. 95. Cf. J. Leal, Vangelo secondo Luca, Rome 1972, p. 147; E Ceuppens, op. cit., pp. 157-158; M.Varon Varon, Maria en la Sagrada Escritura, Monachil 1978, p. 104; M. Galizzi, La scelta dei poveri. Vangelo secondo Luca, Turin 1985, pp. 65-66; J. Ernst, II Vangelo secondo Luca, Brescia 1985, I, p. 154.

57. G. Leonardi, L'infanzia di Gesu nei vangeli di Matteo e di Luca, Padua 1975, p. 225

58. K.H. Schelkle underscores, rightly, that the redemptive dimension of the plan of God is actuated from the very beginning of the life of the Redeemer: "Above all Matthew, in his account of the infancy, plainly establishes at the start the fact that the baby will bring suffering and sorrow, first of all to Mary and Joseph, who endure many troubles because of their extreme want, thereafter the mothers of Bethlehem. The parents of Jesus were forced to flee to a strange country." Op. cit., p. 538.

59. Bibbia di Navarra. I quattro Vangeli, Milan 1988, p. 538 [Eng. tr.:The Navarre Bible, Dublin 1985 ss].

60. On the meaning and on the reality of the "sword" see S. Garofalo, "Tuam ipsius animam pertransibitgladius (Lc 2,35)," in Maria in Sacra Scriptura, IV, Rome 1967, pp 175-181. In more detail, see P Benoit,"Et toi même, un glaive to transpercera l'âme (Lc 2,35)," in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 25 (1963) 251-267: the author sees in the "sword" that which divides the people into saved and non-saved; A. Feuillet, "Le jugement messianque et la Vierge Marie daps la prophetie de Siméon (Lc 2,35)," in Studia Medievalia, Rome 1971, pp. 423-447: the author sees the sword as suffering on account of the passion and death of Jesus.

61. R. Laurentin, op. cit., p. 281. The suffering over the loss of Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:48) with three days of anxious search can also be brought into relation with the three days of the passion, death and burial of Jesus. Mary, the Coredemptrix, is always present and active. Cf. J. Ernst, 1l Vangelo secondo Luca, Brescia 1985, 1. pp. 160-161.

62. K.H. Schellde, op. cit., pp. 69.70.

63 E. Testa, Maria Terra Vergine, Jerusalem 1985, p. 35.

64. P Pietrafesa, La Madonna nella Rivelazione, Naples 1970, p. 234.

65. On the presence of Mary at the foot of the cross see R.S.Hakel,"Quae sola perfecte stetit," in Maria in Sacra Scriptura, V, Roma 1967, pp. 225-233. Serra remarks that the pleonastic construction "near the cross of Jesus" is intentional, so as "to make evident the communion of Mary, of the holy women and of the disciple, more with the Crucified than with the cross": A. Serra, Maria a Cana e presso la Croce, Rome 1991, p. 94, note 25.

66. Most instructive is the reflection of Pius XII in speaking of Calvary where are found "the new Adam and the new Eve, whom the tree of the Cross unite in suffering and love to make reparation for the sin of our first parents in Eden."

67. On this important and suggestive theme, confirmed in the retrospective light which the Old Testament sheds on the new Adam and new Eve, consult the studies of FM.Braun, La Mère des fideles, Tournai 1954, pp. 77 ss [Eng. tr.: Mother of God's People, New York 1967]; P. Kearney, "gen 3:15 and Johannine Theology," in Marian Studies 27 (1976) 99-109; M. Varon Varon, Maria en la Sagrada Escritura, Monachil 1978, p. 171.

68. Redemptoris Mater, n. 23.

69. P. Pietrafesa, La Madonna nella Rivelazione, Naples 1970, pp. 308-309.

70. Garofalo writes convincingly that at the foot of the cross "the sword prophesized by Simeon forty days after the birth of Jesus devastated the heart of Mary without a single fiber being overlooked": S.Garofalo, La Madonna della Bibbia, Milan 1958, p. 66.

71. J. Cantinant, La Madonna nella Bibbia, Bari 1970, p. 214.

72. F Asensio, Maria nella Bibbia, Rome 1967, p. 229.

73. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V/3,Vatican City 1982, p. 424.

74. D. Ruotolo, La Sacra Scrittura.Vangelo secondo Giovanni, Naples 1989, p. 404.

75. On these and other exegetical opinions consult the synthesis in S.M.Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed. Biblical Mariology, New Bedford 1995, pp. 325 ss., with ample bibliographical references. On the intimate relation between the presence of Mary at Cana and at the foot of the Cross see the aforecited work of A. Serra, pp. 84-85: the author concludes his examination by affirming that both scenes "treat of universal salvation" (p. 85).

76.  It has been well written that "on the Cross Jesus brings to completion the work of saving the human family, entrusting us to Mary and giving Mary to us. The presence of Mary on Calvary reveals the entire maternal dimension of the Redemption. Her Heart pierced by the sword, united to the Heart of Jesus pierced by the lance, shows the infinite love of Jesus and Mary for mankind in need of a Redemption via bitter suffering": Sr. M. Francesca dell'Immacolata, SFI, Conosci la Madonna? Piccola Mariologia Biblica, Castelpetroso 1996, p. 138

77. P. Pietrafesa, op. cit., pp. 314-315. The author also cites F Prat and J. Leal, ibid., note 9.

78. "It is significant," writes Pope John Paul II,"that in addressing his Mother from the heights of the Cross, He calls her `woman' and says: `Woman, behold your son'... How can one doubt that particularly at this moment, on Golgotha, this phrase indicates in depth the mystery of Mary, and that unique place which she occupies in the entire economy of salvation?": Redemptoris Mater, 23.

79. L. Cignelli, Maria Nuova Eva, Assisi 1966, p. 226. The author cites in support studies of M. Cazelles, "Genèse 3:15: Exégèse contemporaine," in Etudes Mariales 14 (1956) 96-99, and A. Feuillet, "De fundamento Mariologiae in prophetiis messianicis Veteris Testamenti," in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, Rome 1962, pp 33-48.

80. Op. cit., p. 254.

81. D. Bertetto, Maria la Serva del Signore, Naples 1988, p. 502

82. Redemptoris Mater, n. 24.

83. On the mariological and ecclesiological interpretation of the "Woman" see the summary in S.M.Manelli, "All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed." Biblical Mariology, pp. 351 ss, keeping in mind that throughout Tradition there is noted "a pendular movement," as I. de La Potterie calls it, by reason of which neither of the two aspects can be totally excluded from the interpretation of this mysterious symbol": I de La Potterie, Maria nel mistero dell'Alleanza, Genoa 1988, p. 258 [Eng. tr.: Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, New York 1992]. We believe, in any case, that the mariological interpretation is the primary one.

84. A birth which not only conserves intact the virginal integrity of the body, in the passage of the Word Incarnate who was being born, but who "consecrated" her: cf. Lumen Gentium 57.

85. Ernst comments thus: "For the Hebrew mind this connotes Angels who belong to the divine court. They are at this moment participants in a heavenly liturgy celebrating the entrance of Jesus the Messiah into the world (Heb 1,16)": op. cit., p. 147.

86. For Mary `the birth was pure joy," writes Garofalo, La Madonna della Bibbia, Milan 1958, p. 62. See also M.VaronVaron, op. cit., p. 92; R. Laurentin, op. cit., p. 247; G. Ferraro, op. cit., p. 109.

87. R. Laurentin, La Vergine Maria, Rome 1984, pp. 51-52.

88. D. Squillaci,"Maria nella Donna dell'Apocalisse," in Miles Immaculatae 5 (1969) 151. We have in this a very clear and instructive example of what is termed by biblicists the "law of two phases" in the single prophetic perspective of the joyous virginal birth of Christ the Head at Bethlehem and the sorrowful spiritual birth of the members on Calvary. Its explanation derives from the fact of inclusion, in the organic plan of Redemption, of the coredemptive sufferings of Mary in direct and immediate association with her Son in the work of ransoming mankind. See also J. M. Salgado, "Apoc. xii à la lumière des procédés littéraires de St. Jean," in Maria in Sacra Scriptura V, Rome 1967, p. 347: the author cites the biblicists Allo, LeFrois, Feuillet, Romeo.

89. D. Ruotolo, La Sacra Scrittura. L'Apocalisse, Naples 1974, p. 340. See also A. Feuillet, "Le Messie et sa Mère d'après le chapitre XII de l'Apocalypse," in Revue Biblique 66 (1959) 55-86.

90. Pietrafaesa explains quite well the double mission of Mary Coredemptrix of salvation and of Mediatrix or Dispensatrix of all graces, when he writes that "her cooperation in the Redemption has two phases: one earthly and the other heavenly. During the earthly phase she cooperated in the acquisition of grace; in the heavenly she cooperates in their distribution. On earth her intimate union with her Son is manifested `from the moment of the virginal conception of Christ to that of His death' (LG 57). Her spiritual maternity 'perdures without interruption from the consent faithfully given at the Annunciation, without wavering upheld under the cross, unto the everlasting crowning of all the elect' (LG 62). As terms for the double cooperation of the Virgin Mary, a cooperation willed by God, it is proper to speak of objective coredemption (acquisition of graces for salvation) and subjective (Marian mediation in the distribution of said graces)." Op. cit. p. 399.

The above paper first appeared in Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997)

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