First of all, let me say it is a great joy for this paper to be presented at the site of Our Lady’s apparitions to St. Bernadette in 1858, wherein she revealed herself to be the Immaculate Conception. It is especially fitting since the basic premise of this paper on Our Lady’s coredemption in the three apparitions of Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima is that these apparitions reveal that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Motherhood of God the Son, and of us, is not meant to be construed by us as a mere sentimental abstraction. Rather, heaven wishes to convey to us in these apparitions that Mary’s Motherhood of God and her spiritual Motherhood of us are at the very heart of the Blessed Trinity’s work of redemption of the entire created order. In other words, the Divine Maternity of God the Son and the spiritual maternity of you and me are, in their very nature and essence, coredemptive. Our Lady is Co-redemptrix because she is Mother of God the Son, the Divine Redeemer of the entire created order. She is likewise Co-redemptrix because she is the true Mother of all the living because Jesus Christ, her Divine Son, is Life himself and the Divine Savior of all humanity.

Let us begin by considering what is now commonly meant among orthodox Catholics by Marian coredemption and the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Co-redemptrix. The literal meaning of the word coredemption is that there is redeeming activity at work "alongside" or "with" that of the Redeemer in the mystery of our redemption. The title, Co-redemptrix, specifically signifies that the one operating alongside the Redeemer is a woman. We know from Gen. 3:15 that this woman is the promised Woman whose seed will crush Satan and his effects in the created order. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (1). The woman whose seed was destined to crush the head of Satan from all eternity can be none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, the very Mother who conceived and gave birth to God the Son as Incarnate, virginally.

Theologically speaking, the terms Marian coredemption and Co-redemptrix refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s active, cooperative role alongside and with Jesus Christ in both the objective and subjective redemption of the entire created order. "Objective redemption refers to what has been traditionally called the acquisition of the grace of redemption that happens once and for all in the entire Event of God the Son’s becoming enfleshed from the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Power of the Holy Spirit¾from the moment of his virginal conception, his birth in Bethlehem, his hidden life in Nazareth, his Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. Subjective redemption refers to what has traditionally been called the distribution of the grace of the objective redemption to everyone and everything awaiting redemption, throughout the whole of salvation history, a distribution that will be ongoing for all eternity, even beyond the end of this world and time as we know them" (2).

When we speak of the Blessed Virgin’s coredemptive role in the mystery of salvation, we are affirming that she is no mere passive instrument in either her Motherhood of God the Son or of us, as some incorrectly speak about. Rather, she actively cooperates through her yes, "let it be done unto me according to your Word," (Luke 1:38), and by the gift of her own virginal flesh, which is, perpetually, the very substance of the Sacred Humanity of God the Son. Additionally, because the angel Gabriel reveals to the Blessed Virgin that her Son will be the long-awaited Messiah and son of David as prophesied in Jewish tradition, Our Lady’s yes to the Incarnation was also necessarily a full consent to and union with all the moments of the Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, from the actual moment of the Incarnation itself and throughout his self-immolation on the Cross as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world for our behalf, even though she did not know all the details that this consent would involve. In fact, because she did not know all these details, her consent was all the more a free, active, total and self-emptying self-offering, in love, to her Divine Son in his mission as Messiah and Redeemer. Furthermore, it is her active and free yes, her full consent, united with the divine condescension of God the Son to become incarnate in the first place, that actually reverses the no of the first Adam and Eve. This truth is specifically written about by St. Irenaeus of Lyons in his treatise entitled, Against Heresies, written between 182 and 188 A.D. Consequently, sacred tradition often refers to the Blessed Virgin as the Second Eve while her Divine Son is often called the Second Adam.

Just as both a man and woman cooperated with one another in rejecting the Trinitarian God’s self-offer in love in the beginning by abusing their freedom in the first creation, both a female and a male cooperate with one another and accept the Trinitarian God’s self-offer, in love, by uniting their human freedom with the divine will in the second or new creation. In fact, one could argue, that given the divine plan of creation and what happened at the fall, it is entirely necessary that both a male and a female humanity be involved, alongside each other, in the redemption. The difference is that while the female humanity in the second creation is indeed a human woman and human being, the male humanity in the second creation is not that of a human being or human person. It must be constantly reiterated, especially in our times when the errors of too much Christology from below have plagued us, that the Second Adam has as the one, personal subject of his Being and, therefore, his humanity, God the Son! In other words, while there is a true, male human body and soul that gives the Trinitarian God a perfect yes in the Second Adam, who is Jesus Christ, this male human body and soul are united "hypostatically" to the Person of God the Son. Consequently, the one personal subject of the Second Adam is no mere human being but rather the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son. It is because of this truth of the divine condescension of God the Son, who does not merely grasp his divine nature as something to clung to – aloof from the creation made from nothing by him in union with the entire Blessed Trinity – that both the yes of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the yes of the human will of the Second Adam are redemptive in the first and final place (Phil 2:6-9).

In other words, it is the divine yes of God the Son, united with the fully human yes of the Blessed Virgin, that ultimately makes their united and collective yes redemptive and, therefore her human yes, coredemptive. Nonetheless, both a male and a female humanity must be involved and cooperate with the divine plan, alongside each other, in the redemption because both were disobedient to the divine plan, alongside each other, in the fall.

This fact that the male humanity of the Second Adam is the Sacred Humanity of God the Son is often spoken of as the Blessed Virgin’s subordination to the Son in the mystery of redemption and her coredemption. Here it is important to affirm that the Blessed Virgin’s subordination to the Son is solely because he is God and she is a human being. It has nothing to do with the Second Adam’s having a male humanity and the Blessed Virgin’s being a woman. In fact, in the second creation, the sin of male domination of woman, which Genesis 3:16 reveals to be a consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve, is completely reversed by the condescension of God the Son, who takes his Sacred Humanity entirely from the Second Eve, whose humanity precedes his in time and upon whom he waits upon and depends for her fully human yes (3).

Some General Comments about the Significance of Approved Marian Apparitions and Marian Coredemption

While the case can be made that even approved Marian apparitions are not part of the deposit of the faith and that they are merely private revelations, another case can be made that the major Vatican approved Marian apparitions such as those at Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima reveal and shed further light upon the meaning of the deposit of the faith. In other words, the gift of these apparitions is heaven’s way of drawing specific attention to aspects of the deposit of the faith that heaven desires to help us understand at a deeper level, at a particular time in salvation history.

Many have called our age a "Marian Age," a time during which the Holy Spirit is helping us understand at a deeper level the truth about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s role in redemption, a role that has been a reality all along, but one that we have not understood fully. It is my belief that this is indeed the age we are living through and that the apparitions of Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima are heaven’s way of revealing to us the deeper meaning and significance of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s role in salvation history, a role that is a reality from the beginning. This deeper meaning is not so a new doctrine but rather an authentic development of doctrine, in which the change is not in the doctrine itself, but in our limited human understanding of it, over time. It is in this light, that the three apparitions of Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima will be considered. In other words, these three apparitions will be looked at to see what they help us realize about the central Marian mystery as revealed in scripture, sacred tradition and salvation history itself. This mystery is, namely, as we have discussed above, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s virginal Motherhood of God the Son Incarnate and her consequent spiritual motherhood of all humanity in the work of redemption, both of which are, by there very nature and divine design, coredemptive.

Confirmation of Marian Coredemption in the Apparitions of Our Lady at Guadalupe

The apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe occurred between December 9 and December 12, 1531, at Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City, Mexico. A significant aspect of these apparitions is the miraculous portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe captured on the tilma of St. Juan Diego as proof of the authenticity of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to him. In this famous image (4), the Blessed Virgin is pregnant, standing on a cloud with a crescent moon under her feet, cloaked with a turquoise star-studded mantle, and completely surrounded by the brilliant light of golden rays¾a portrait that is clearly reminiscent of Rev. 12:1-2. "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child …" The image of St. Juan Diego’s tilma was progressively revealed to Bishop Zumárraga of Mexico City on December 12, 1531 as the tilma was unfurled in the Bishop’s presence, after the Bishop had requested proof of Our Lady’s apparitions to Juan Diego. As the image was revealed, the visionary recognized it immediately to be the portrait of the same woman who had appeared to him from December 9 to December 12 (5).

During her initial apparitions to Juan on December 9, the Blessed Virgin Mary had spoken of herself by saying: "Know for certain, dearest of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things, who is Master of heaven and earth. … I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me …" (6). And, similarly on December 12, she said to Juan: "Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?" (7)

We hear so clearly in these words of the Blessed Virgin herself that she is the Mother of God, our merciful Mother and the very fountain of Life himself. Furthermore, the witness of the miracles that have resulted from these apparitions and the veneration of the miraculous image she left on the tilma, including and especially the conversion of over 9,000,000 Aztecs (8), are heaven’s way of revealing to us that Our Lady mediates the grace of her Divine Son’s redemption as Co-redemptrix. A case could easily be made for the fact that the entire course of history for both North and South America would have turned out very differently if the Aztecs had not been converted to Christianity and their diabolical cult had not been wiped out by Our Lady’s mediation of the grace of salvation as Co-redemptrix!

"And yet, perhaps the most stunning characteristic of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s self-portrait in this image, known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the depth of her charity and the sincerity of her humility. Her head is gently tilted to the right and lowered in a posture of acknowledgement of Someone greater than herself. Her eyes are partially closed as if in deep prayer. Her hands are folded and pointing toward heaven. There is a profound silence and reverence about her person. She shows herself in this self-portrait to be none other than loving adoration personified, as she bears the Divine Redeemer in her very womb along with the redemption of all born from the Savior" (9). We see from this, Our Lady’s humble acknowledgement that while she is Co-redemptrix, all of her power and authority over evil come from the fact of her being the most holy ever-Virgin Mother of God. She is never confused "about who she is and to whom she owes everything. She knows that the Triune God, alone, is the real source of all her brilliance. She knows that her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, whom she bears is not only the Savior of the whole world but her Savior as well. It is his victory that her whole being so radiantly magnifies and perfectly manifests. Yet, neither is she hesitant to show us by this pregnant self-portrait that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have lifted up her lowliness and uniquely united her to their very Being in inviting her to be the very Mother of God the Son¾Incarnate both in time and in eternity¾and thereby the Mother of redemption and even all humankind" (10).

Not surprisingly, the popular understanding of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is that the rays surrounding the Virgin depict, and therefore represent, the same rays the Aztecs used in the idol image of their pagan sun god, Huitzilopochtli. "When a temple was built and inaugurated to this leading Aztec deity in 1487, it is recorded that at least 20,000 people were slaughtered on the temple’s altars as commanded by the Aztec Emperor, Auitzotl. This human sacrifice was offered to appease this monstrous pagan sun god" (11).

With this popular understanding in mind, it is not difficult to see revealed in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that the Blessed Virgin is the woman who is simultaneously filled and pregnant with the true Son and is, therefore, the one who brings the true Son to all humankind and mediates his salvific power and grace. It is this Son, the living and true God, Jesus Christ, who conquers all false gods/goddesses and demonic spirits in order to end their enslaving hold on human persons. Both the apparitions themselves and the fruit of these apparitions reveal that "the True Son and Living God chooses to come to us and conquer all that is opposed to God only through, with, and in Mary" (12) as Co-redemptrix.


Confirmation of Marian Coredemption in the Apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes

While there is certainly much that can be said about Our Lady’s mediation of her Son’s grace in the many miracles that have occurred in the wake of the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions at Lourdes, perhaps the most significant aspect of these apparitions as regards Marian coredemption is the revelation of Our Lady’s name to St. Bernadette on March 25, 1858. After asking the Lady numerous times who she was, since the first apparition on February 11, "the young Lady in white slowly spread her hands and turned them toward the ground. In the musical dialect of Lourdes, she said: "Que soy era Immaculada Counceptiou" (13). Translated into English, this means, literally, "I am the Immaculate Conception." Our Lady’s words were heaven’s confirmation of the papal bull issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, Ineffabilis Deus. This bull proclaimed that "the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God" (14).

This papal bull by no means indicated that the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception was a new teaching, doctrine or dogma. Rather, the bull proclaimed that the Catholic Church was now formally recognizing something that had been true all along. Namely, as Genesis 3:15 prophesized, the Blessed Trinity had intended from the beginning to send another woman, the long-promised Woman, who is at enmity with the devil and, therefore, a woman whom the Blessed Trinity would keep from ever knowing the effects of the devil’s deception and attack on Adam and Eve and the whole human race. This promised Woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was conceived exempt from all the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve by being preservatively redeemed by the Grace of Jesus Christ, the Divine Savior of the entire human race, and her own Son, due to a singular grace and privilege given only to her – from the very moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne.

And, why was this singular grace and privilege given to the Blessed Virgin Mary? There is but one answer. The promised Woman is the Second Eve. She and her Divine Son, who is the Second Adam, are charged with the work of redeeming the entire human race, as discussed above. Her Immaculate Conception proclaims that she is not the Divine Savior but she is, however, Co-redemptrix because she is the Woman prophesied by Genesis 3:15. She is preservatively redeemed from the moment of her conception because she is sent to crush the head of Satan, and redeem humanity from all the devil’s effects, by the divine grace mediated to the human race only by the Sacred Humanity of her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. And, that Sacred Humanity is taken entirely from her virginal flesh only after she has given her full and active consent.

The grace of the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception set her freedom free to offer the Blessed Trinity that long awaited "yes" in response to their asking her if she would be the virginal Mother of God the Son. Free from the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve, the Blessed Virgin could truly offer a recapitulating and fully human yes to the divine plan of salvation and join in the re-heading of the human race, alongside her Divine Son.

The apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes, therefore, revealed to the world, that not only is she Mother of God and our Mother too, in the order of grace, as revealed at Guadalupe, but that she is also, destined with her Divine Son, to set us free from the effects of the fall and the ‘snake bite’ of Satan in the work of redemption. Her being the Immaculate Conception tells us that she is indeed the woman whom the Blessed Trinity has put at total enmity with the devil. She is, consequently, the one who takes our part in our battle with the devil in the work of our redemption. In other words, not only does she mediate the grace of redemption to us by being Mother of God the Son. She is also the promised Woman chosen to cut off the head of our enemy, the devil, as prefigured in the Old Testament by Judith, another woman who serves the Lord God, by cutting off the head of Nebuchadnezzar’s general Holofernes to deliver her people (Jud 13:8).

Confirmation of Marian Coredemption in the Apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima

On June 13, 1917, during Our Lady’s second apparition at Fatima, Portugal, the Blessed Virgin Mary said to Lucia: "God wishes you to remain in the world for some time because he wants you to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart, for the Heart of Jesus wants my Immaculate Heart to be venerated alongside his Heart (literally by his side). I promise salvation to those who embrace it, i.e., (this veneration of my Immaculate Heart) and their souls will be loved by God as the flowers placed by myself adorning his throne" (15).

This revelation from heaven, announcing that Jesus Christ himself wants his Mother’s Immaculate Heart to be venerated alongside his Sacred Heart, confirms par excellance the key meaning of Marian coredemption as we have been discussing it. In this June 13, 1917, message of Our Lady at Fatima, we are being told that the Blessed Virgin Mary is no mere intercessor in the communion of saints, no mere good example for us, and no mere perfect disciple. While none of these things are untrue about Our Lady, they are simply incomplete. They fail to recognize and comply with the most important truth about the Blessed Virgin Mary, namely, that she is intimately and ontologically involved, alongside her Divine Son, in the work of redemption as Co-redemptrix. Fatima is heaven’s declaration that both the entire work and all the graces of the redemption flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary as from one single and total principle of salvation, just as Eve was in fact associated with Adam, as one single and total principle of the fall.

In other words, in the Blessed Virgin’s telling both Sister Lucia and all of us that the Lord himself wants us to venerate his Mother’s Heart alongside his own Sacred Heart, heaven is opening up for us through the events and messages of Fatima the deeper meaning of the prophecy of Simeon to Our Lady, recorded in Luke 2:35. In this verse, it is revealed by Simeon to Our Lady that her soul¾here the Greek means literally her soul, or her person or her life, or perhaps all three in the case of Our Lady¾would be pierced by a sword also. This means that the very same sign of contradiction that Simeon prophesied would characterize her Son, namely the Cross, will likewise mark Mary’s soul and her entire being as well.

"If we hear the word Heart as it is used throughout the Fatima messages in the biblical sense, it represents the very center and essence of one’s personal and moral being, i.e., one’s soul, as Simeon says. Consequently, our being told to venerate the pierced Immaculate Heart of Mary alongside the pierced Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals that Our Lord’s Heart, now opened since the Passion and the literal gateway to heaven, is in reality a double-sided gate. His Mother’s Heart, in a very real sense, is also a gateway to heaven. While so many souls have experienced this truth over the course of salvation history, Fatima tells us that this truth is being made more explicit in our times. This means that all of us pass by way of the Immaculate Heart of Mary along our journey to heaven, whether we know it or not. This double-sided gate is an ontological reality in God and, like so many others, exists whether we comprehend it or ratify it – or not. On the other hand, heaven’s admonition for us to venerate and thus correspond to the truth of this double-sided gateway to eternal life seems to take on urgency in the messages of Fatima. Perhaps this urgency is due either to the condition in which the world finds itself or to the lateness of the hour in salvation history¾or to both" (16).

Conclusion

As an Anglican Catholic Christian who is completely convinced that the Blessed Virgin Mary is both my own personal Co-redemptrix, alongside Jesus Christ, and the Co-redemptrix of all creation, I want to close by saying that I firmly believe that it is long past time for all of Our Lady’s children, regardless of their church affiliation, to recognize and live into the truth of Our Lady’s coredemption, with heartfelt joy and gratitude! It is no secret that many of our houses are now in ruin because of the deceit and attack of the devil in our times, especially through the lies of relativism. All Christians, and indeed all the peoples of the world, desperately need the successor of St. Peter to find a way, soon and very soon, to declare the truth of Our Lady’s coredemption to be an infallible dogma of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, elevating it to the same level as the truth of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. Such a declaration will require that all Christians reckon with and respond to it. I, therefore, humbly call upon the Bishop of Rome to safeguard us through this definition so that a definitive human yes might be given to Our Lady’s working in the world and the universal Mystical Body of Christ as Co-redemptrix, alongside her Divine Son. As with all sacred truth, the more we correspond to it, the greater will be its power to claim and transform all of our lives. O Mary, Co-redemptrix of all humanity, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

The preceding article was presented September 4, 2008, in Lourdes, France, by the Rev. Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D. at the Pontifical International Marian Academy. It is being printed here with the author’s permission. Dr. Gentle is an ordained minister in the Anglican Communion.

Notes

(1) It is important to note that the English translation of the Hebrew text offered by the Revised Standard Version specifically uses the term "seed," saying that the woman not only has a seed but that it is her seed that will give human flesh to the Messiah, Who is later revealed to be none other than God, GodSelf, in the Person of God the Son. Herein the virgin birth of the Messiah from the flesh of the woman is prophesied and announced. Regrettably, not all English translations have kept the term seed. Some have preferred to use the term "offspring," cf. New American Bible.

(2) Rev. Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D., "’The Lord has created a new thing on the earth: the Woman must encompass the Man’ (Jer. 31:32): The Relationship of Jesus and Mary as an Event of Redemption and Divine Revelation," ms., delivered at the First International Congress, ESBVM-USA, Pittsburgh, PA, August 11-13, 2008.

(3) For more on this topic see Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D., "Our Lady’s Role in Redemption According to St. Louis-Marie De Montfort: ‘And a Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul Also,’" Spiritualità Monfortana 7 (Roma 2006).

(4) See Thomas Sennot, Not Made by Hands (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998) regarding the authenticity of the image left on St. Juan Diego’s tilma.

(5) Francis Johnston, The Wonder of Guadalupe (Rockford, IL: Tan, 1981) 24-49.

(6) Johnston 26.

(7) Johnston 33.

(8) Johnston 56.

(9) Rev. Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D., Jesus Redeeming in Mary (Bay Shore, NY: 2003) 225-6. See also Johnson 13, 28.

(10) Gentle, Jesus Redeeming in Mary 226.

(11) Gentle, Jesus Redeeming in Mary, see footnote number 457.

(12) Gentle, Jesus Redeeming in Mary, see footnote number 457.

(13) Magnificat, The Wonders of Lourdes, ed. Gerald Korson (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat USA LLC, 2008) 69.

(14) Magnificat 71.

(15) http://www.clairval.com/lettres/en/2006/08/20/2230806.htm

(16) Rev. Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D., The Significance of the Apparitions of Fatima – 90 Years Later, ms., delivered at fall 2007 meeting of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary – USA, October 13, 2007, in Pittsburgh, PA.