Introduction

The concept of redemption in the Franciscan school, above all in the form given it by Bl. John Duns Scotus, cannot be grasped apart from the Scotistic thesis concerning the absolute primacy of the Word Incarnate and His Virgin Mother, jointly predestined in one and the same decree absolutely: this means prior to any consideration of creation or of redemption, not relative to or consequent on creation or on redemption. It is important to note that the Scotistic form of this thesis is not only opposed to the position of those who hold that the Incarnation was willed by God only consequently on the divine prevision of Adam’s sin, but also to the naturalist or Pelagian school (especially in its evolutionary version as promoted by many calling themselves “transcendental Thomists”), who hold that the Incarnation was willed consequently on creation as its perfection, rather than creation for the glory of Jesus and Mary.{footnote}On this point cf. St. Bonaventure, III Sent., d. 1, a. 2, q. 2.{/footnote}

In this scenario, so neatly outlined by Scotus, the predestination of the Word Incarnate to be Head and Savior of all the elect, angels and men, is pure grace or gift of the Father to his Son, for whom qua predestined the world was created. All the elect are predestined in Him (cf. Eph 1: 3), not as pure gift, but in view of and through the merits of Christ, Head and Savior of His body, the Church. Therefore, His predestination to be Incarnate Word is basis of His role as Mediator. His mediation is primarily a work of salvation of the elect: from absence of blessedness to the sharing in His blessedness as Word made flesh, this via cooperation in the work of salvation.

Scotus’ argumentation is both simple and profound: the lesser good, redemption, is ordered to the higher and absolutely perfect good, the salvation and enjoyment of the supreme Good in Christ qua Incarnate, according to Bonaventure and Thomas a “quasi-infinite,” greater than which nothing is possible in the order of divine works ad extra.{footnote}Summa Th., I, q. 25, a. 4.{/footnote} A perfect Creator is perfectly rational in his choices, and the basis of all rational willing is the principle that the lesser is for the sake of the higher, and higher for the sake of the highest, in Bonaventurian terms “hierarchization” or sacred ordering.{footnote}Scotus, Ordinatio, III Sent., d. 7, q. 3. For a very readable overview of Scotus’ teaching on the absolute primacy of Jesus, see M. Dean, A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ, New Bedford MA 2006. For Bonaventure on supreme hierarchization of Mary as intrinsic part of the order of the hypostatic union see II Sent., d. 9, q. 7. For commentary, see P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, Pneumatologist. His Theology of the Holy Spirit, New Bedford MA 2004, pp. 70-74.{/footnote}

This “being saved” of all the elect by the merits of Christ, so as to be included with Christ in His predestination, also includes the Virgin Mary. “Being saved” through the merits of Christ the Head, means both being saved from the absence of perfect felicity unto perfect felicity as members of Christ. This is the root of elevating grace in the actual economy of salvation, both before as well as after original sin, for the angels as well as for mankind.

It is also the root of the possibility of perfect redemption after sin, liberating in the children of Adam because, in one of his children, it is preservative redemption. In the economy of salvation as willed by the Father, without preservative redemption there would be no liberative redemption for the family of Adam. The redemption of Mary is preservative because, within this global inclusion, this daughter of Adam, Mary Immaculate, enjoys a unique relation to the primacy of Christ, to the order of the hypostatic union. Yet, in belonging to the order of the hypostatic union as no other of the elect, She does not cease to be included with the rest of the elect, before any consideration of sin.

She is, thereby, key to that order among all the signs or instances of the divine, salvific will. Mary Immaculate, and She alone, is Christ’s real Mother, uniquely included, therefore, in the same first sign (signum) of the divine, salvific will or decree of Christ’s predestination and, hence, though saved through His merits, Mary is also included with Him in one and the same decree (to quote Bl. Pius IX) by which Christ is predestined to be Head and Mediator before any consideration of creation. Hence, She is at once saved as one of the elect, yet also actively involved as Mediatrix, viz., Virgin Mother of the Head and Savior of His body in its saving, hence Salvatrix. This unique grace, merited for Her by Christ, is essentially what we know as the Immaculate Conception, a justice incomparably greater than the original justice, not only of Adam and Eve, but of the angels. The original justice of the angels and of Adam and Eve only vaguely reflects the holiness of Jesus and of Mary, to which their original holiness was ordered.{footnote}R. Rosini, Mariologia de beato Giovanni Duns Scoto, Castelpetroso 1994, pp. 18 ff. Also A. Equiluz, Presupuestos metafísicos de la teología de la preservación en Juan Duns Escoto, in Juan Duns Escoto en el centenario de su nacimiento, Madrid 1966, pp. 169-214.{/footnote}

Some would argue that to be redeemed one must, in some way, be marked by sin: either committed or obliged to contract. The Scotistic school would distinguish: true in relation to some imperfect form of redemption; false in relation to perfect redemption where liberation is predicated on preservation of one of the saved. In this case, our liberation enjoys a perfection it otherwise would not have had. In this scenario, to be redeemed, it is enough to be saved by the Redeemer so as to be his Coredemptrix, viz., via preservation. In the actual economy of salvation, preservative redemption would not be mentioned, except by reason of the sin of Adam. But what is called preservative redemption is that which, even apart from the sin of Adam, viz., the Immaculate Conception in virtue of the sacrificial merit of Jesus are, historically, de facto redemptive merits. These merits, then, are redemptive, not univocally, but analogically or in a twofold manner in relation to Adam and his offspring: one in terms of preservation from committing sin, and one in terms of liberation from sin committed or contracted. In the first, there is no liberation from a debt to sin, because the nature of preservation is the Immaculate Conception, of belonging to the order of the hypostatic union, basis of the redeeming act. In the second, to be numbered among the redeemed, there must be some actual involvement in sin, either committed, contracted, or with a debt to contract.

Like Christ, then, under and in Him, Mary enjoys a dual relation to Adam. Christ is a descendant of Adam (cf. Lk 3: 38), but He is also Adam’s Head, not only as God, but as Incarnate, in virtue of the hypostatic union. Mary is not only daughter of Adam, but also his Mother, typified in the virgin earth from which Adam was formed directly by the Creator, this in virtue of the grace of the Immaculate Conception. This is not a hypothesis, but a revealed fact which conditions a priori the concept of redemption and which requires that preservative redemption not be viewed as an exception within the category of liberative redemption, but in terms of which liberative redemption is defined and shown to be intelligible against all objections, either from the monophysite or from the Pelagian extreme. Mary is not first a daughter of Adam, then after sin, chosen to be Mother of the Redeemer. Rather She is, first, the Immaculate Mother of God, chosen also to be a daughter of Adam to make possible our redemption to share Her glory. She is truly redeemed because daughter of Adam, but She is redeemed preservatively because, as Immaculate, She is preserved from being under Adam’s moral headship; just as if Adam had not sinned, She would have been saved “preservatively”; whereas Adam and the rest of his offspring would have been saved liberatively, viz., freed from the limitations of a less perfect order of justice.

In fact, Adam and Eve sinned. With the fall of our first parents and in view of our solidarity with them in original sin, salvation of the elect, including the angels, becomes intertwined with redemption from sin. For the angels, this redemption is merely preventive of sinning. For Adam and his children, except for Christ, redemption is liberative. Christ alone is Redeemer (and not redeemed), because He is a divine Person, who is like us in all things but sin, therefore, impeccable as man.

But there is also an exception for His Mother, also a daughter of Adam, precisely because Mary is His Mother, therefore, preserved from any taint of original sin, able also to be actively associated with Her Son in the liberation of the family of Adam from original and personal sin.

Here, we must make note of an important distinction between salvation and redemption. Salvation would have been worked by Christ, Head and Mediator, even if redemption had not been necessary to achieve it. Salvation, in this case, would have been from the nothingness of existence and of well-being or supernatural happiness in existing. Redemption is from sin, but only in view of salvation or elevation to the highest possible order of participation in divine life, foreordained before the fall and independently of it. Hence, redemption is relative to salvation, sin to the good for its own sake. Christ is first Savior who becomes Redeemer. So, too, Mary as saved and saving, also becomes redeemed and redeeming.

This poses a key problem. If redemption is salvation via liberation from sin contracted and/or committed by Adam and his offspring, how can one of his offspring be at once redeemed and redeeming?{footnote}This is sometimes known as the objection of St. Bernard: see in this volume T. Noone, The Singular Participation of Mary Immaculate in the Merits of Christ, Her Son and Redeemer, according to Scotus: Continued Reflections on a Theological Breakthrough.{/footnote} Either one has no relation to sin at all, or one is not redeemed. The Immaculate Conception seems to preclude this. Or if Mary is redeemed, She cannot be Immaculate. This is the major objection to Marian coredemption. It is also, implicitly, a major objection to the divine Maternity understood as active cooperation in effecting the Incarnation on the part of a creature who is in need of liberation from sin. Hence, among some who claim to be Catholic, the increasing denial today of the dogma of the Theotokos. But hence, also, the paradoxical mystery of the Theotokos, who is both daughter of Adam; yet, as “Virgin earth” from whom the first Adam is formed directly by the Creator, She is also, prior to the old Adam, as Mother. She is Mother of the first Adam, because as Mother of the new Adam, the one who preexisted His ancestor, She precedes the old Adam; that is, Adam as head of the moral order depends on Mary Immaculate.{footnote}On the typology of “Virgin earth,” see P. Fehlner, Immaculata Mediatrix- Toward a Dogmatic Definition of the Coredemption, in Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundations II, Santa Barbara CA 1997, pp. 259-329, here pp. 291-293; Idem, Redemption, Metaphysics and the Immaculate Conception, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross V, New Bedford MA 2005, pp. 186-262, here 229-239; S. Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed. Biblical Mariology, New Bedford MA, 2nd ed. 2005, pp. 85-86.{/footnote}

Goal of our exposition is not an exhaustive exposition of Scotistic soteriology, but an illustration of how some of its characteristic features reflect the resolution of this problem via the concept of perfect redemption in virtue of the absolute primacy of the Incarnation, whose distinctive coefficient is Marian, viz., coredemption on grounds of the Immaculate Conception, or “preservative redemption.” We have divided it into three parts: the notion of perfect redemption and the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary; the analogical concept of redemption as predicated in relation to Christ, Mary Immaculate, and the Church; some distinctive characteristics of Scotistic soteriology.

Our exposition is not a claim that each of these points can be found expressly formulated by Scotus. It reflects, instead, the elaboration of principles formulated by Scotus about the absolute primacy of Christ, the distinction of salvation and redemption and that between preservative and liberative redemption, basis of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and coredemption-mediation of the Mother of God.

I. The Absolute Primacy of Jesus and Mary and Salvation

1.1 Everyone is familiar with the notion of “perfect redemption” by a “perfect Redeemer” as this appears in Bl. John Duns Scotus’ classic proof of the Immaculate Conception.{footnote}For additional texts and detailed exposition, cf. in this volume the study of T. Noone, The Singular Participation…, cit.{/footnote} Not many, however, even among the theological elite, remark how this argument for the Immaculate Conception posits in the redemption as a work of the Virgin’s Son, above all, a Marian coefficient at its highest point which, as in the case of the Incarnation itself, both conditions the character of the redemptive sacrifice and is the great sign whereby we are not only able to recognize the mystery, but the means by which we also may begin to actively cooperate in the completion of the Savior’s work in the Church from Pentecost to the Parousia.


Perhaps, among modern writers, only Newman, in his Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception,{footnote}J.H. Newman, Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception, in Meditations and Devotions, London 1903, pp. 79-86. Cf. P. Fehlner, Mary and Theology. Scotus Revisited, Rensselaer NY 1978, pp. 41-45.{/footnote}8 fully caught the importance of Scotus’ insight: neither sin, original and personal, nor redemption or liberation from original sin and its consequences, can be grasped unless we first reflect on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception as prior to original justice and original sin in the saving counsels of the Father; and that it is far easier, along the lines of Scotus, to grasp both the mercy and justice of the Father, and so to appreciate the perfection of our redemption.

This coefficient, of course, is the coredemption, as it has been commonly designated by theologians since the early seventeenth century. Among the major promoters of this doctrine, especially since the tragic errors of the Protestant reform concerning Marian mediation and the Church, the disciples of Scotus were particularly influential in the theological world between the Council of Trent and the French revolution.{footnote}Scoti schola numerosior est omnibus aliis scholiis: A saying commonly attributed to J. Caramuel y Lobkovitz, O. Cist.{/footnote} Curiously, Scotus does not, even once, directly discuss the doctrine of Marian coredemption, although he quite clearly deals with all the primary truths underlying that concept, among them the Immaculate Conception or preservative redemption, as well as the unique manner in which Mary, in virtue of Her office of Coredemptrix, actively cooperated with Her Redeemer Son on Calvary so as to be the major Dispensatrix of all the fruits of the redemptive sacrifice.{footnote}Rosini, Mariologia…, cit., pp. 139 ff.; Idem, Il pensiero del Beato Giovanni Duns Scoto sulla Corredenzione, in Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia, vol. II, Frigento 1999, pp. 93-168; P. Fehlner, Immaculata Mediatrix…, cit., pp. 317-321.{/footnote}

1.2 Above all, in the light of the primary argument to establish the truth of the Immaculate Conception and correctly define it, we can be sure that Scotus was quite aware of the doctrine of perfect redemption with a Marian coefficient, most likely in the form in which it appears in the sixth collation of St. Bonaventure’s Collationes in septem donis Spiritus Sancti.{footnote}Cf. P. Fehlner, Il mistero della Corredenzione secondo il Dottore Serafico San Bonaventura, in Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia, vol. 2, Frigento 1999, pp. 11-91.{/footnote} There, in a conference delivered on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1268-part of a series dealing with key aspects of the life of grace and of the heresies contrary to this mystery-the Seraphic Doctor, as it were, theologically interpreting the mind of St. Francis on Marian mediation, very clearly and precisely outlined the three main phases of Mary’s role as maternal Mediatrix. Doing so, he gave a Marian coloratio [coloring] to the work of redemption and to the person of the Redeemer qua Redeemer. These three phases are: the virginal conception and birth of Christ, the sacrifice of the Cross, and the distribution of all graces in the Church.

According to the Seraphic Doctor, Mary begot at Bethlehem: progenuit, Mary paid on Calvary: persolvit, Mary possesses in the Church (and hence, is dispenser of all the treasures of grace won on Calvary by Christ): possidet, the price of our redemption. Redemption means, according to St. Bonaventure, paying a price for someone’s ransom from enslavement. That price for our ransom from imprisonment or state of sin, at every key juncture, is only available through the active cooperation of the All Holy Virgin Mother, the Panhaghia, precisely because All Holy. Bonaventure clearly posits an “All-Holiness” in Mary at the Incarnation, at the Sacrifice on Calvary, and in the Church, implicitly an Immaculate Conception; otherwise, such holiness enabling Her to actively redeem would be unthinkable and impossible. This is what Scotus understands concretely by perfect redemption, as it is also what St. Thomas means concretely by our salvation as one of the three “quasi-infinites.” It is perfect because it involves Mary and, through Her, involves all the redeemed, even angels, in various degrees and ways (our cooperation, synthesized in one word: merit). Without Her, it would not be the most perfect. The liturgical backdrop for this conference could not have been better chosen: feast of the Annunciation, during the season of Lent, close to the celebration of Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost.

1.3 Scotus’ contribution here is to explain why perfect redemption is perfect. His answer: the absolute primacy of Christ, predestined to be Head of the elect antecedently to any consideration of creation, much less redemption from sin, viz., ante constitutionem mundi. Both creation and, in particular, redemption are motivated by the Incarnation, not vice versa. This is why redemption is qualified by the adjective perfect. Its character is primarily determined, not by a relation to sin, but by a relation to the Goodness, Mercy and Justice of the Father who, by pure grace, so predestined his Son to be Head and Savior of the elect-saved.

This point cannot be overstressed in order to see the differences between the two basic approaches to the definition of redemption.

The one based on the premise that the Incarnation was willed primarily as a remedy for original and personal sin, must begin with a consideration of sin, since original justice and sanctifying grace were initially conferred on the angels and our first parents without reference to the mediation of a Savior. Thus, it assumes no redemption has occurred unless a liberation from sin or from a need to contract sin has been effected, such as the debitum peccati originalis. Redemption is so defined that, in the proper sense, there is no such thing as preservative redemption that is not, in some way, a liberation from the moral ruin affecting all who sinned in Adam or should have sinned in him. Thus, in the proper sense, there is no possibility of crushing the head of the serpent on the part of one who needs liberation from sin or the debt to contract sin, for such a person is under the power of Satan.

In this scenario, Christ alone is active Redeemer in the order of objective redemption, (and in an extreme version, the Protestant, in the order of subjective redemption as well). And in this scenario, it is difficult to explain how a mere creature might be actively involved in the objective redemption as Mother of God and Coredemptrix, precisely because it is difficult to show how preservative redemption, or Immaculate Conception, is anything more than a special form of liberation from original sin, viz., from the debt of original sin. The difficulty is quite real, crucial indeed because, as Bonaventure and the entire patristic tradition before him held, Mary is indeed Mother of God, Coredemptrix (under other titles) and Mediatrix of all grace in the Church, this from the first moment of the Incarnation. How can She actively be Mother of the Incarnate Word anymore than Coredemptrix on Calvary and Mediatrix of all grace in the Church, if She must be freed from some debt to contract sin?

The opposite approach, the one taken by Scotus, builds on a very traditional thesis concerning the absolute primacy of Jesus, particularly as this is set forth by St. Paul and St. Irenaeus. Here, the goal of the Incarnation is not primarily redemption from sin, but the highest glory of God and enjoyment of him by man, precisely via recapitulation of all creation under the Headship of Christ. Scotus distinguishes salvation from redemption on these grounds. Even had there been no sin on the part of the elect, angels and mankind, the elect would have come to glory by being saved through the mediation of the Incarnate Word, their Head qua Incarnate. Redemption, on the other hand, is a subordinate aspect of salvation in relation to a negative contingency, the obstruction of salvation by sin.

But on this premise, instead of contextualizing the mercy and justice of God in relation to sin (which then takes on a relatively infinite character), Scotus first contextualizes sin and redemption from sin, in the context of the absolute primacy of Jesus, thus setting limits on the degree to which sin, original included, can by itself, totally corrupt the work of God. Concretely such limits are met, not in those under the moral headship of the first Adam, but in the person of the new Adam, the primary Head of the saved. Here, human nature, indeed the created, is seen in all its perfection, including that of being able to remedy the obstacle to recapitulation of all creation in the Word Incarnate qua Incarnate posed by original sin. Hence, what is commonly called the order of the hypostatic union entails a relation to sin- specifically, original sin; not that relation which is postulated by liberation from sin by a sinless Redeemer, but a relation which is the basis of perfect redemption.

In Christ, this relation arises from the final goal of the Incarnation, to be achieved in the case of sin, by a work of liberative redemption on His part. In Mary, this relation arises from Her being jointly predestined with Her Son as His Mother, this in view of His merit, but also predestined as daughter of Adam, that She might also be His mother, and our Mediatrix and Advocate. And in Mary, daughter of the first Adam and first Eve, but also their mother qua “Virgin Earth,” we find the divine motive for redeeming our human family, rather than dismissing it, as might have happened in the great flood. Mary was predestined Immaculate to be Mother of God prior to Adam; without a redemption of the family of Adam, the original recapitulation decreed, would absolutely not have been realized.

The difference between Christ and Mary is that Christ is not saved, but saves-redeems. Whereas Mary is saved-redeemed by His merits, viz., preservatively redeemed, in order to cooperate as Mediatrix in the redemptive liberation of all others (in the case of the angels, preventive redemption). Her mediation is included in that of Christ as Head, precisely because both are predestined by one and the same decree. Adam and Eve would have been saved by Christ and Mary, even if Adam had not sinned. After original sin, Adam’s salvation is still the work of Jesus and Mary, but is now, redemptive. Just as Christ, after the tragedy of sin, becomes Savior-Redeemer, so Mary is saved preservatively, viz., redeemed after original sin, to cooperate in the work of salvation as Coredemptrix. Or, with St. Paul we might say, the difference between the abounding of sin and the superabounding of grace is the Immaculate Conception.

Preservative redemption, therefore, is not a special case of liberative redemption; it is part of the foundation, within the order of the hypostatic union, for the realization of liberative redemption in the actual economy of salvation, a realization made possible by the fact that the Mediatrix, so preserved, is not outside, but part of the family of Adam. There is, then, not a single, univocal way of defining the need of redemption, viz., a relation to sin in the proper sense. Rather, there are two related ways: one in respect to the Mother of God, who is redeemed in respect to Christ, but redeeming in respect to the fallen; and another in respect to those under the moral headship of the first Adam. Mary is redeemed, not by being freed from original sin or the need to contract it, but because She is preserved from such as the Immaculate and so makes liberation in others possible. It is this approach which is particularly useful in avoiding two contrary, but related heresies: that of affirming a corruption of human nature by sin, so great as to render impossible any human cooperation in the work of redemption; the other one which views the Immaculate Conception as a pure, private privilege of every newly conceived child, without any relation to original sin or to its effects.


Though Bonaventure did not actually subscribe to the absolute primacy of Jesus “ante constitutionem mundi,” nonetheless his presentation of “coredemption” a parte rei radically subordinates redemption to the Incarnation willed for its own sake, and implies in the Virgin Mother a unique sanctity enabling Her to act as Coredemptrix in the “objective redemption,” or “redemptio ad sufficientiam.” Her redemption, contrasted with ours, is simply preservative, and is the key to defining redemption as liberative. It is the sanctity of God revealed in Christ and Mary, not sin, which is the starting point for defining what is the Redemption which actually took place, and why preservative redemption is intrinsically related to our solidarity with Adam, for better (original justice) or worse (original sin). Even if Adam had not sinned, our justice and sanctity would have been mediated by Mary as our Mediatrix with the “new Adam.” She is Mediatrix because Virgin Earth or Immaculate,{footnote}On virgin earth see note 6, above.{/footnote} just as Her Son is first Mediator because absolutely predestined, and Redeemer only secondarily.

Very briefly put: the means of our liberation from sin by Christ is Mary’s mediation as Coredemptrix. Her redemption, therefore, cannot merely be an exceptional form of liberation: not from sin, but only from the debitum peccati. Her redemption is preservative prior to any consideration of “deliverance from moral servitude,” or there is no redemption or liberation for anyone at all. Hence, Her perfect redemption must not first be defined in reference to Adam’s moral headship, but only to that of Christ as in the eternal counsels of God. Mary, in this sense, is a daughter of Adam, yet in the moral order, Adam (and all his children) are dependent on Mary and, through Her, on Christ. This is the truest form of redemption and hence, the basis for the most perfect redemption from sin in everyone else redeemed. For this reason, Immaculate Conception is intrinsically related to original sin, not because as Immaculate She still, in some way, comes under the debitum peccati, having sinned in Adam, but because Her justice, as Immaculate, transcends the original justice of Adam and so is basis for both the original justice of Adam and Eve and for the liberation of the rest of their children from the state of original sin and slavery.

Redemption, therefore, is not fully defined as liberation from sin or the debt to contract original sin and from its consequences, such as slavery, death, etc., but liberation from sin by Christ through the preservation of His Mother from being included under the headship of Adam. Such preservation, through the foreseen merits of Her Son and Savior, is the antecedent elevation of Mary from creaturely nothingness, to the most exalted holiness possible to a created person, prior to any consideration of Her dependence on Adam. This preservation is indeed an exemption from being included under the moral headship of Adam and, for this, Mary is more indebted to Christ than any other creature. This is the “lowliness” (cf. Lk 1: 48) so pleasing to the divine Persons, more than sufficient to account for Her “subordination” to Her Son and Savior and for His willingness to be dependent on Her. But the exemption in question is not an exception from contracting, but the consequence of a more perfect moral state which may be said to define Her entire person, and not merely the first moment of Her existence.

The Immaculate Conception cannot be understood apart from this reference-as it is in all theories which are tinged by the views of Pelagius-for it is intrinsic to Her person as solely under the headship of Christ, potentially or actually perfect Redeemer. Hence, like Adam and Eve, Christ and Mary are totally public persons in the economy of salvation, in the words of St. Bonaventure, sharing the patriarchatus or headship lost by the first couple.{footnote}Cf. St. Bonaventure, Sermo III de Assumptione, toward the middle; cf. Fehlner, Il mistero della Corredenzione…, cit., pp. 37-38. There is an interesting precedent for the opinion common in the Franciscan Order of referring to Mary as “Co-Head” of the saints or elect or members of Christ, recorded by Thomas of Celano in his Vita secunda S. Francisci, part I, ch. 12, n. 18. Speaking of the Portiuncula, or the Church of St. Mary Queen of the Angels, he records that “for her incomparable humility Mary merited to be elevated, after her Son, to the dignity of Head [caput or capo] of the elect” (sometimes translated as Sovereign of the saints, or Queen of the saints). On the thesis that St. Francis anticipated the views of Scotus on the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary, see J. Schneider, Virgo Ecclesia Facta. The Presence of Mary in the Crucifix of San Damiano and in the Office of the Passion of St. Francis of Assisi, New Bedford MA 2004, pp. 180-184.{/footnote} In the view of Scotus, all others depend on Christ and Mary in that perfect economy of salvation, both before, as well as after the fall. For the economy, based on original justice, was subordinate qua type to that based on the order of the hypostatic union, viz., on the justice proper to the grace of the hypostatic union and to the grace of the Immaculate Conception.

1.4 This is a very important point, unfortunately obscured by two superficial objections: therefore, Christ’s work as Redeemer would not have been 1) all sufficient without Mary, nor 2) would He have been universal Redeemer.

The first is the basis of the Protestant solus Christus unus Mediator, to which the door is opened when, in spite of the Immaculate Conception, a “debt to sin” is ascribed to the Virgin Mother. Were we to pursue the logic of the objection, the Creator in creating would have revealed his imperfection and radical insufficiency. In fact, whatever world God creates, however limited, the Creator remains all good and all sufficient. So the love of the Incarnate Savior, as such, does not increase by suffering, or by working the most perfect redemption.

As to the second, the universality of redemption, it is a matter of question whether one may affirm it absolutely, and then immediately exclude the angels, who could only be redeemed preservatively. If it means anything at all, the decree of Trent, excluding Mary from the universality of original sin, surely relativizes this universality insofar as redemption is defined as liberation from original sin. As understood by the Scotistic theologians who contributed so much to the formulation of this “exemption,” it is a privilege, not to be understood as separating Mary from everyone else without any relation to being saved redemptively, but as a privilege guaranteeing Her unique solidarity with us in view of our perfect redemption, and radical goodness of God in creating man with the possibility of the catastrophe of original sin. This is how Scotus and Scotism differ from Pelagius and all his modern disciples, who hold that the Immaculate Conception is an irrelevant exception, or simply the symbol of the sinlessness of all mankind.

In the light of this consideration, a brief reference here, to the long disputed question about the debitum peccati originalis, is appropriate. From the point of view of those who hold redemption as the primary motive of the Incarnation, it is obvious that if preservative redemption is not a form of liberation from the need (however defined) on the part of Mary to contract original sin as a daughter of Adam, She has no relation to Christ as Redeemer and is in no way indebted to Him for Her salvation, a thesis contrary to faith. Redemption for Her requires an antecedent, potential subjection to the consequences of Adam’s sin for all his descendents. On this premise, however, does there remain any realistic difference between liberative and preservative redemption, except the accidental one that Mary did not actually contract original sin? On such grounds, the notion of redemption is strictly univocal, viz., liberation from sin or inclusion in an order of sin.

Scotus does, indeed, seem to refer to preservation from need to contract original sin as a way of relating the Immaculate Conception intrinsically to the work of redemption.{footnote}Scotus, Ordinatio, III Sent., d. 3, q. 1, n. 41-49.{/footnote} But what is rarely noted, even by Scotistic commentators, is that Mary’s indebtedness to Christ as Her Savior – “His looking on Her lowliness” or Her debitum, is not primarily defined in relation to a daughter of Adam who, in some way, is included in that “sinning of all in Adam,” but as a daughter of Adam who, in some real sense, even if not historical, preexisted Adam as the “Virgin Earth” out of which the Creator directly made Adam and then, Eve from Adam-preexisted Adam and Eve in the first decree of God’s saving will, predestining Christ and Mary absolutely. Mary’s debt to Christ for Her innocence-realized historically by a preservative redemption effecting that paradox which is one person both “mother” and “daughter” of Adam (Daughter of Zion), one person both Mother and daughter of Her divine Son (filia Filii)-is the point of reference for defining redemption: first in terms of preservation and then, analogically, in relation to this preservation as liberative; the first, realizing in the “Full of Grace” what is most perfectly participated in by those freed via the maternal mediation of the Immaculate Coredemptrix qua Immaculate. Mary, in fact, contracts neither the debitum peccati originalis, nor original sin, because She is Immaculate, in a state of justice more perfect than original justice and the holiness of which original justice is an adumbration.

That this explanation of references to a debitum in Scotus corresponds to the thrust of Scotus’ logic, is clear from his explanations of how, in fact, original sin is actually contracted.{footnote}Equiluz, Presupuestos metafísicos…, cit. Cf. P. Fehlner, Mary and Theology. Scotus Revisited, Rensselaer NY (privately printed) 1978, pp. 32-41.{/footnote} Geneological descent is a condition, not cause of contraction. Contraction of original sin occurs instead, because the human nature now begotten in each of the offspring of Adam is lacking an element, according to God’s will, indispensable for the infusion of sanctifying grace, viz., original justice, and not merely the natural innocence of the will (as Pelagians, paleo and neo– both claim). In Mary, in virtue of the Immaculate Conception, there is already at conception a higher justice, that of the fullness of grace, of holiness, greater than which none can be conceived, and which God alone can grasp:{footnote}Cf. Bl. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, adapting a famous line of St. Anselm.{/footnote} a holiness which makes Mary not only daughter, but Salvatrix of Adam and Eve. The Immaculate Conception pertains not simply to the first moment of Her existence, as it were, not simply an exception in the normal course of conception after original sin; but it is that which defines Her personhood, both in relation to Christ and to Christians, even apart from any consideration of original and personal sin. With this, the analogical character of the notion of redemption as a possibility in the economy of salvation-and as, in fact, it has occurred-becomes plain, provided one accepts the basic thesis, the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary as motive of the Incarnation.

1.5 The problem, then, is to determine concretely in what way “being redeemed” in Mary includes a relation to sin, without reducing the Immaculate Conception to a merely special case of liberative redemption, so undermining the basis of co-redemption and so perfect redemption. How can Mary be redeemed without some relation to the state of fallen nature? And how can She truly be Immaculate Coredemptrix if She contracts original sin or is subject to the debt of contracting it? Evidently there is no satisfactory way out of the dilemma without acceptance of the Scotistic thesis on the primary motive of the Incarnation, where redemption is a sub-category of salvation, when it involves all players, in one way or another, in redemption: Redeemer, Coredemptrix, redeemed collaborators. Redemption from sin is subordinated to collaboration in the work of recapitulation of all things under Christ.

Evidently, Christ alone, as man only, redeems and saves and is not redeemed or saved. Those who have sinned, either in Adam or personally, are saved in being redeemed. They cannot take active part in the objective redemption. Mary, however, is unique. Insofar as She is predestined jointly with Christ in virtue of His merits, She is saved and redeemed. But insofar as that redemption is preservative, She cooperates under Christ in the work of objective redemption, or is a cause of our liberative redemption; and insofar as we are in Her as Her children, we can cooperate in the subjective redemption. Her position as our Mediatrix with Christ is unique: both redeemed and redeeming; hence, the basis of Her mediation is Her preservative redemption or Immaculate Conception: not an exception within the definition of redemption as primarily liberative, but an indication of the basic means by which the Redeemer, in fact, effects that liberation.

Mark well: to be under the headship of Adam, a type of that of Christ, no collaboration is necessary on the part of those included. Contrariwise, to be fully recapitulated in Christ requires not only the distinctive work of Christ, and then of Mary, but also our cooperation which, after original and personal sin, requires redemption: liberative dependent on preservative. Only on this basis can we have a balanced view of redemptive mediation: in Christ a pure gift of being predestined absolute Head of creation; in Mary a gift also, but via the satisfactory merits of Christ. To redeem perfectly, one must first be Mediator, and such mediation de facto also includes Mary. Whence Her redemptive preservation through the merits of Christ on the Cross independently of any inclusion under the law of transmission of original sin. Neither is Her immaculate justice dependent on original justice; rather original justice is but a weak reflection of the holiness of the Immaculate Conception.


1.6 At an opposite extreme is a current objection to the Scotistic thesis on the absolute predestination of Christ: without the fall of Adam, the salvation won for us by Christ would not be so perfect, because without the element of mercy, the love of God for us would have been less.{footnote}This is, unfortunately, the position of some neoscotists as well as transcendental Thomists, e.g., J.-Fr. Bonnefoy: cf. K. Lynch, The Predestination of Our Lady in the Franciscan School-A Survey, in Franciscan Educational Conference 38 (1957) 77-165. After the Council, under the influence of Teilhard de Chardin, F.S. Pancheri supported evolutionary interpretations of Scotus, in fact, totally alien to his theological metaphysics.{/footnote} Whereas the previous objection claims that if there is a Mediator, he can only be one, because God is one (and so logically eliminates any formal role for the humanity of Christ, including his mystical members), this objection, typical of our contemporary neopatripassians, claims the exact contradictory: for God to be truly good and merciful, there must be, as it were, a sin on man’s part so that there can be a merciful mediation on the part of God. So it seems, when we look at the redemption from a merely historical perspective. This is, above all, the evolutionary point of view.

The error can only be corrected when we begin our reflection from a metaphysical standpoint, that is, from within the divine counsels of salvation. There, we realize the concept of redemptive liberation from sin depends on a prior positive, that of the joint mediation of Jesus and Mary, principally in Jesus, subordinately in Mary in virtue of a unique preservative redemption. We might say that from the point of view of those who hold, as primary motive for the Incarnation, redemption from sin, any definition of the Immaculate Conception must depend on a prior definition of redemption in terms of sin. From the point of view of those who affirm the absolute primacy of the Incarnation “before the foundation of the world,” any definition of liberative redemption from sin must depend on a prior definition of the Immaculate Conception in terms of the absolute predestination of Christ, prior to any consideration of sin. It is the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, or preservative redemption which, from within, makes plain the full mystery of redemption and of mercy which is not supremely great because of the accident of sin, but whose greatness, in the context of sin, is made plain to us by the mystery of the Immaculate. This is the link of the Immaculate with original sin.

This is a curious objection to Scotus and the great tradition to which he gave birth, for it illustrates exactly what is wrongheaded in making redemption the primary motive of the Incarnation and the ratio of its excellence in the practical order. Sin, in this scenario, is not merely permitted in view of the Incarnation, but is an indispensable means to a greater glory of God, as though avoiding sin would conclude in a lesser glory. This, according to Scotus, is irrational; yet, it is one of the major factors fueling revolutionary revisions of the concept of redemption, e.g., in circles around Teilhard de Chardin and K. Rahner, where the fundamental thrust of Christology is adoptionist (from below, rather than from above, in terms of the preexistence and prior predestination of Christ) and evolutionary (the perfection of the Incarnation is not at the virginal conception, but only at the term of the evolutionary process).{footnote}An excellent summary of these positions with bibliographical references can be found in the study of Don Ferrer Arellano in this volume: Mystery of Iniquity and Mystery of Godliness. Two Modern Sophisims: Redemption without Justice and the Immaculate Conception without Reference to Original Sin.{/footnote}

1.7 These two ways of approaching the redemption- seemingly from opposite directions, yet both involving radical, pantheistic or dualistic errors concerning the first article of the Creed-are at the root of the two major misconceptions of the redemption in modern times. The first is the Protestant, in particular Calvinist viewpoint, which does not so much reject the fact of a redemption, but conceives it in such wise as to exclude our cooperation or mediation as a derogation from that of the “one Mediator.” The attack is directly on the Catholic concept of subjective redemption by way of a theory of faith alone, but which indirectly leads to a rejection of vicarious redemption in favor of “substitutionism.” Not even Christ merits or satisfies actively as man; He merely endures pain that should have been ours.

The second is the modern Pelagian view that redemption, strictly speaking, involves no questions of satisfaction, justice and injustice, merit and satisfaction as the preliminaries for elevation to the order of grace, but only an example of how each can make a fundamental option to be honest and sincere, the fides qua of the anonymous Christian, or the fundamental option under grace. Curiously, both approaches, however different, converge on a very similar notion of faith without doctrinal content. Scotus rejects both, precisely on the basis of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Without this, the redemptive work, culminating on Calvary, would be missing its Marian coefficient, hence, not perfect redemption-subject, indeed, to radical misrepresentation like the Incarnation. Let us now first see how Scotus goes about this, and how the theological tradition initiated by him further articulates this definition of redemption in underscoring the distinctive place of the Immaculate Mother therein.

II. Defining Perfect Redemption with Scotus “Analogically”

2. When we say redemption is to be defined in the proper sense analogically, we mean that it is not to be defined primarily and, as it were, exclusively in terms of a reference to liberation from sin, or ransom, but rather in terms of reference to the holiness of the divine Redeemer and Immaculate Coredemptrix. That holiness is without blemish in both, but according to a certain proportion: in Christ absolutely, in Mary in virtue of Her salvation-redemption by Christ. We say further that Christ is the One Mediator, not to the exclusion of activity by others, but as He is the one who makes this possible in others: first in Mary, and then through Her, our cooperation in being freed from sin. Mary’s salvation, prior to the formation of Adam and Eve, includes a reference to redemption, because she is predestined to be a daughter of Adam, so that the Son of God might be the “Son of man,” viz., of Adam. Hence, without anyway being under the moral headship of the first Adam, Mary nonetheless is part of the human family and so when preserved, in effect, redeemed, in such wise that our liberation from sin (including Adam and Eve) is, in fact, effected by Her maternal mediation.

2.1 For Scotus, perfect redemption with a Marian coefficient does not mean Christ would be an imperfect Mediator had He not redeemed us in this way, nor does it accept the Pelagian, evolutionary Christology which radically eliminates the need of a Redeemer to merit for us before we can cooperate. Rather, it means He would not have bestowed on us so perfect a salvation, had He not done so in a Marian way, just as the Incarnation would not have been so perfectly accomplished, had it not had its Marian coefficient in the person of the Virgin Mother. The unique role of Mary, both in respect to the Head of the Church, and to the Church as Body of the Head, hinges on Her sanctity or blessedness: greater than which none can be conceived and only God can understand, that of the Panhaghia, of the Virgo virginum.{footnote}The classic Cur Deus Homo of St. Anselm as reformulated by Scotus and which is a reply to the other way of asking the question: cur homo Deus?, should be examined in the context of the Monoslogion and Proslogion and of the De conceptu Virginis, where the proof for God’s existence and the incomparable purity of the Mother of God in the hands of Scotus converge on the thesis concerning the absolute primacy of Christ.{/footnote} This is true, in respect to both the Protestant, in particular Calvinist error, that no human nature is sufficiently holy to satisfy for injustice, and in respect to the Pelagian, that all are so holy that no mediation-satisfaction is absolutely necessary, viz., that salvation (whatever it is) is available independently of Christ.

2.2 The theological proof for the Immaculate Conception in “our theology” depends, via the analogia fidei, on the prior truth of redemption being perfect because with a Marian coefficient- above all at its center and consummation, the sacrifice of Calvary, prolonged in the Mass. At the same time the truth, so demonstrated, reveals the premise making possible both the divine Maternity, the Coredemption and the maternal Mediation or spiritual Maternity of Mary in the economy of salvation. So seen, the Protoevangelium, Gen. 3: 15, is a marvelous, condensed synthesis of all that the concept of “perfect redemption” means in the Franciscan school.{footnote}Cf. Fehlner, Redemption, Metaphysics and the Immaculate Conception, cit., pp. 329-339.{/footnote}

This form of argumentation is not a feature of the Franciscan perspective only; it is a truism of the history of theology, as the history of Spanish Mariology in particular clearly and decisively demonstrates.{footnote}Cf. E. Llamas, Venerable Mother Agreda and the Mariology of Vatican II, New Bedford MA 2006, where further bibliographical references can be found in the notes.{/footnote} It is the merit of the Franciscan school, however, to have first formulated the truth about perfect redemption, therefore revealing the correct notion of redemption as it was, in fact, accomplished by Christ for the Church in terms of the holiness of Mary: viz., of Her belonging, within the economy of salvation, to the order of the hypostatic union antecedently to being a daughter of Adam, but at the same time being a daughter of Adam because She was first predestined to be Mother of God, not merely new Eve, but the Virgin Earth. Hence, She belongs not to the order of fallen nature, yet is “our fallen nature’s solitary boast” (Wordsworth). Precisely because of the Immaculate Conception our personal, active cooperation in “filling up what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ in the Church” (cf. Col 1: 24) is not only made possible in fact, but is also an aspect, insofar as it passes through the mediation of Mary, of the superabundance of Christ’s saving work in contrast with the relative universality of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin touches all in his seed (except Mary) without their personal cooperation; whereas all predestined and redeemed in Christ share the blessings of redemption through their active cooperation, either personally or vicariously (as with babies). The latter is more perfect than the former. On this point Scotus and Scotism insist mightily.

The Immaculate Conception, therefore, has a double sense: negative, as preservation in fact from contracting any taint of original sin, including the debitum; and positive as belonging to the order of the hypostatic union, above the angels as Bonaventure observes and so, their Mediatrix. In virtue of the redemptive work of Christ, the good angels were preserved from sinning, but unlike the Virgin Mother they do not, as the rest of mankind does not, pertain to the order of the hypostatic union. Or we may formulate the point thus: historically, in the order of execution, in fact, preservative redemption initially denotes some relation with the order consequent on original sin; metaphysically, or in relation to the order of divine intentions and to the mystery of the triune Godhead, preservative redemption in Mary entails a mystery prior to the fall.{footnote}For a sympathetic exposition in agreement with the Scotistic view from a Thomist viewpoint, cf. J. Ferrer Arellano, The Immaculate Conception as the Condition for the Possibility of the Coredemption, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross V, New Bedford MA 2005, pp. 74-185.{/footnote}

2.3 The contribution of Scotus was above all, that of establishing, the basis of Mary’s holiness qua Immaculate, for realizing our perfect redemption as had been planned in the eternal counsels of salvation. Within the ongoing Marian movement, inaugurated by St. Francis of Assisi, centered on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception as basis of our perfect conformation to Christ crucified and ground for the “immaculatizing” of the Church (cf. Eph 5:27), Scotus’ work gave rise to a Mariological school renowned for the promotion of the Immaculate Conception, the Coredemption, and the Assumption-Queenship-Mediation of the Virgin Mother.

2.4 The key word here is “perfect” as qualifier of redemption. Our redemption from sin might have occurred in many ways, indeed be variously defined in abstracto. In fact, the redemptive salvation wrought could not be more perfect and, hence, cannot be correctly defined except in reference to this Marian coefficient of the Incarnation, as John Paul II points out in Redemptoris Mater, explaining the Marian sense of Eph 1: 6, in relation to Luke 1: 28 (to the praise of the glory of his grace by which he has gratified us; full of grace). Perhaps not intended, the papal exegesis is also a comment on the three quasiinfinites of St. Thomas: the Incarnation, divine Maternity, and our salvation, which the Creator could not make more perfect in any possibly more perfect world and so, in effect, a comment on perfect redemption according to Scotus.


Conversely, without considering this Marian element inseparably bound up with every feature of the order of the hypostatic union, redemption will tend to be radically misdefined, as we can see very easily both in the case of the first Protestant reformers with their rejection of Marian mediation in the Church, and with their radical opponents on the unitarian-pelagian side (e.g., Rahner: evolutionary adoptionism) who have simply erased from the notion of redemption, any essential reference to the injustice of sin, above all original sin, and the satisfaction and reparation owing God on account of sin, before salvation and recapitulation can be accomplished as originally projected in the divine counsels. In both, but in different ways, justice and mercy, cooperation and passive dependence are separated in principle within the definition of redemption. Their integration, most perfectly in the Immaculate, is the key to a correct definition and linking of the Redeemer, redemption, and the redeemed. Mary Immaculate is at once on the side of Christ and on our side in virtue of the Immaculate Conception, viz., She is our Mediatrix with Christ as He is our Mediator with the Father.

Perfection here, does not mean that the Redemption is more perfect than the Incarnation and divine Maternity; rather, it means in a Catholic context that the ne plus ultra of the Incarnation, found also in the divine Maternity, touches the consummation of this double mystery as well: the joint work of Son and Mother for and in the Church, viz., objective and subjective redemption, or Redemption in brief, a work ordered ultimately to the prior goal of the Incarnation, the maximal glory and enjoyment of God in creation.

The perfection of our Redemption is a premise of our theology commonly admitted not only by the Franciscan, but by all schools of theology, including that of St. Thomas. The medieval context of this ancient, Christian conviction was set by St. Anselm in his discussion of our knowledge of God, the very heart of theology, as centering on the Ego sum qui sum of Sinai, spoken from the burning bush (figure of the Virgin Mother), and in his discussion of the conception of Mary.{footnote}Cf. above, n. 18.{/footnote} In the case of God, we begin with an idea of being greater than which none can be conceived and whose non-existence cannot be thought; in the case of Mary, we begin with a holiness greater than which none is possible in any possible world (that of the Panhaghia). The Incarnation and Redemption begin in the juncture of the divine goodness and Marian purity, viz., the union of perfect divine and perfect created love. To be the Panhaghia which is condition of the divine Maternity, Mary must be the Immaculate Conception, or the divine Maternity is meaningless.

2.5 On what presupposition does this premise, common teaching of the Church, rest? Scotistic soteriology is characterized by the effort to explain why redemption, in the sketch of Anselm, could not be more perfect than, in fact, it is. On what grounds does this premise, common teaching of the Church, rest? For Scotus, these grounds are found in the joint predestination of all the elect or saved with and in Christ as Head. Hence, the work of salvation, first by the Head, and then together with the saved as collaborators, is that of mediation or recapitulation of the elect as members of Christ’s body, the Church. Evidently, many passages of Scripture can be cited in support of this great thesis but, in particular, the Letter to the Ephesians, chapters one and five, together with the Letter to the Romans, chapters five and eight, are especially important to grasp Scotus’ view on the absolute predestination of Jesus to be Head and Savior of the Church (and subordinately Redeemer) and why the work of Christ superabounds over that of Adam (cf. Rom 5: 12-21).

Two things must be noted: 1) joint predestination in the first instance includes all the elect; and 2) redemption as a concrete, historical reality, is conditioned on a prior decree concerning salvation, and the concrete order whereby the saved realize their cooperation in the work of salvation. The defense of the Immaculate Conception on the basis of a perfect redemption, implicitly indicates that order. The salvation of Mary to be Mother of God is willed prior to and, in this sense, independently of that of the rest of the elect. In the general joint predestination of all in Christ as Head, Mary is jointly predestined in a restricted sense, inseparably from the Incarnation. Hence, as St. Bonaventure says, She alone, of all the angels and saints, belongs to a hierarchy far surpassing that of any other creature saved. Later, Scotists will call this the “order of the hypostatic union.” For this She must be the Panhaghia. Only if She is the Immaculate Conception can She belong intrinsically to this order: not only preserved from personal sin like the good angels, but from original as well.

2.6 Why is the possibility of preservative redemption, as actively entailing compassion with the Redeemer, predicated on the absolute primacy of Christ and Mary? Scotus’ thesis concerning the nature of person and the possibility of a hypostatic assumption of a complete, singular, human nature by the Word, contains the key.{footnote}P. Migliori, La teoria scotista della dipendenza ipostatica, Rome 1950. On the extension of this approach to the divine inhabitation by grace, see Fehlner, St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, Pneumatologist, cit., pp. 74-92.{/footnote} Such an assumption includes negation of actual independence normally consequent on the existence of a complete human nature, a nature then terminated hypostatically not within itself, but in dependence on a preexisting divine Person. We may call this the radical, rather than glorious, basis for the Incarnation in a kenotic or passible condition, even though the radical glory of this new, human condition can be glimpsed through the eyes of faith.

Analogously, and in a subordinated manner, the grace of the Immaculate Conception realizes something similar in the Mother of the God to become Redeemer from the first moment of His conception, the moment of His “Ecce venio” (cf. Heb 10: 7). In the order of personal action, Mary is so permeated by the presence of the indwelling Spirit that She belongs only to the Savior, not simply as His handmaid, but as His Mother and associate in the work of salvation-redemption. Sacrifice of Her independence to act autonomously is to enter a kenotic or passible condition rather than glorious. As in the case of Her Son, such mortification of personal independence of God in the order of acting, constitutes an intrinsic relationship to the order of perfect redemption. It is the refusal of such mortification by Adam and Eve, as well as by the fallen angels, which represents failure to pass the test for entry into the heavenly paradise, viz., refusal to accept the Incarnation and divine Maternity. The suffering and death of the All Holy: viz., the Incarnate Word and His Immaculate Mother, made possible by this radical mortification, is what redresses original and actual sin in the human race. That of the Mother, in virtue of the merits of Her Redeemer Son, is truly a form of redemption, the prerequisite for liberative redemption as willed by the Father.

2.7 How, then, does Mary come to need redemption historically? A better way to formulate the question is to ask: How is it that foreseeing the sin of Adam, God the Father willed the redemption of the human family, but not the fallen angels? Many answers can be given, based mostly on psychology of the created will, and some on the mystery of the divine. But the best answer is that of the Scotistic tradition, implicit in Scotus: Mary was predestined as daughter of Adam to be Mother of God, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and firstborn Daughter of the Father prior to any prevision of the fall, this absolutely. This is why the concrete content of the temptation or proving of the angels, like that of Adam and Eve, included a direct reference to Mary Immaculate, the Woman, the Mother of the Incarnate Savior of all-angels and men. Hence, for this to come about as predestined after the fall of Adam and Eve, the primary salvation of Mary had to be a redemption, not liberative, but preservative, such that, in fact, She would not be tainted by incurring the debitum peccati originalis. But it also means that Her preservation is the means of our liberation, both objectively and subjectively, and that without explicitly defining this factor, we will not have an accurate notion of redemption; or, if we do, we will either make incorrect use of it, or fail to contribute, as we should, to the spotlessness of the Church in making up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the Church (in the order of subjective redemption).

2.8 For Scotus, the perfection of the redemptive work of Christ and, therefore, the incomparable all-sufficiency of the Redeemer Himself, is revealed in the Immaculate Conception of His Mother, therefore in the real distinction of a liberative and preservative mode of redeeming and the presence of both in the one work, the liberative mode being conditioned on, and realized through, the preservative. Thus, the factual link between our liberation and cooperation in the work of redemption, passes through the Mother of God because She is so incomparably holy, so incomparably holy because jointly predestined from eternity to realize the recapitulation of all creation-in particular, fallen creation in Adam (man). The Immaculate Conception is, therefore, the coefficient of the Incarnation in the eternal counsels of the Father, jointly and therefore absolutely predestined with Her Son before the foundation of the world. It is, therefore, a mystery embracing not only the first moment of Mary’s existence, but defining Her person totally in relation to Christ, Head of all creation and Mediator, as privileged instrument of the Holy Spirit in the realization of the Incarnation: divine Mother; of the redemption: Maternal Coredemptrix; and of the consummation of the Kingdom: Queen and Mediatrix of all graces in creation. Hence, in virtue of the Immaculate Conception She is Mediatrix with, and in, the Mediator.

2.9 Those familiar with the Marian soteriology of St. Bonaventure will recognize the provenance of most of these elements, either explicit or implicit in the Scotistic synthesis, left partially incomplete at his early death. Within a generation or so, before the end of the fourteenth century, the blanks were filled in by his first disciples, e.g., Bartholomew of Pisa, in respect to the predestination of the Immaculate jointly with Christ, in the elaboration of the notion of an “order of the hypostatic union,” a concept derived from that formulated by Bonaventure in describing the Virgin Mother as belonging to a “hierarchy” above all others, incomparably perfect, viz., as Mother of the Word Incarnate, and Mediatrix like Him as Mediator because absolutely predestined together.{footnote}St. Bonaventure, II Sent., d. 9, q. 7.{/footnote} Thus, later Scotists will define the work of recapitulation as precisely that of mediation. Since Mary qua person is totally preserved from any stain of original sin, even the debitum, She is, as Mediatrix, called co-caput by some Scotists (Angelo Vulpes, Carlos del Moral),{footnote}See note 13, above.{/footnote} as She was called before Scotus by St. Bonaventure because, with Her Son, She is part of the joint patriarchatus lost by Adam and Eve.

2.10 But we may codify the Marian character of Catholic soteriology even more exactly with Scotus. The perfection of our redemptive salvation is inseparable from the Marian coefficient in the act by which it is achieved, viz., the sacrificial merit or satisfaction of the Redeemer. In defining the perfection of our actual redemption-objective and subjective-in terms of the preservative redemption of the Immaculate, Scotus also indicates the manner whereby the execution of the divine counsels of salvation are concretely carried out, both in regard to the Head of the Church and the Body of the Church, through the mediation of the Immaculate Virgin. Hence, every distinctive feature of the concept of objective and subjective redemption as explained by Scotus, has a built-in Marian coefficient, without which entails, at least implicitly, a false notion in its exposition of redemption or its orientation.

The implications of this principle, although not fully articulated by Scotus, were not lost on his immediate disciples. Within a generation or two of his death (1308), the well-known Franciscan Bartholomew of Pisa had systematically developed, on the basis of Scotus’ teaching, the doctrine of Mary’s absolute predestination as Immaculate to be the Mother of God, jointly with the predestination of the Word to be Incarnate.{footnote}Bartholomew of Pisa, De vita et laudibus beatae Mariae Virginis (perhaps written in 1382), and partially printed once:Venice 1596.{/footnote} From this stems the anti-debitist thesis of the vast majority of Scotists since, including some well known saints such as Maximilian M. Kolbe.{footnote}J.B. Carol, Why Jesus Christ, Manasses VA 1986; Idem, A History of the Controversy over the “Debitum Peccati.” A Bibliographical Consensus, St. Bonaventure NY 1978; St. Maximilian M. Kolb e, Scritti, Rome 2nd ed., 1997, no. 1305, 1318, 1326.{/footnote} Almost simultaneously, the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation of grace, at the heart of the subjective order of redemption, was cultivated by figures of renown, such as St. Bernardine of Siena; and even if without the name, the reality of Marian coredemption was also underscored. Indeed, that doctrine in counter-reformation Scotism, e.g., Vulpes, Morales, etc., would come to be seen as the crucial link in any explanation of St. Francis’ perfect conformation to Christ crucified for the rebuilding of the Church, immaculate and without wrinkle, like her Mother. We may say that the Scotistic theological synthesis is the intellectual explanation of the most fundamental principle of the spirituality of St. Francis: Mary is our Mediatrix with Christ and Christ is our Mediator with the Father. To the degree that we belong to Mary Mediatrix as Her instruments, Her mediation or mission is extended to others. This is the secret of Franciscan missionary effort and the reason it is an intrinsic part of a radically contemplative spirituality, in fact, a Marian adaptation of “ora et labora” of St. Benedict.


2.11 We may, therefore, elaborate the premises of Scotus’ soteriology as follows, even if he did not fully elucidate each of the points: All the saved, including Mary, were jointly predestined with Christ as Head of the new creation-this, prior to any consideration of the fall of Adam. Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have been saved by Christ. Adam’s grace is the grace of Christ, the Savior. Mary, however, is saved uniquely, being predestined jointly with Christ as part of the order of the hypostatic union, viz., to be the Mother of God and Mediatrix of all grace, as Her Son, in being predestined as Head of creation, is universal Mediator. To accomplish that salvation and recapitulation in the face of sin means that the Savior is also Redeemer, and the unique salvation of the Mother of God as the Immaculate, becomes a preservative redemption, and Her mediation, a work of coredemption, the proximate point of reference for understanding liberative redemption and the cooperation of those so redeemed in the subjective redemption.

In order to realize the need for the redemption of the family of Adam, this fact does not arise from any limitation on the power of God to begin all over again, but from the fact that a daughter of Adam had been uniquely and absolutely predestined in Christ as His Immaculate Mother, with the maximal sanctity requisite for acting as Mediatrix in the Mediator, in the recapitulation of all creation. Thus, Mary as daughter of Adam, evidently cannot be preserved from all taint of original sin unless She is redeemed, included within the only sacrificial work whereby She can become Immaculate. Thus, Her preservation by way of the merits and satisfaction of Christ is, at once, negative: preservation from contracting original sin; and positive: constitution in the order of the hypostatic union, so as to be Mother of God and of the Church, to the greatest glory of God and maximal blessings to the family of Adam. It is no contradiction that Mary should be a daughter of Adam, yet never under the first Adam’s moral headship. Her preservative redemption is surely one of the greatest tributes to the saving wisdom of the Almighty: our fallen nature’s solitary boast: Tu honorificentia populi nostri.

2.12 The redemptive theory of Scotus and his disciples might also be called a theory of recapitulation via the cooperation of all the elect with Christ.{footnote}Ordinatio, III Sent. d. 17 (on two wills in Christ); Lectura, III Sent., d. 18 and 19 (Christ’s merit for himself and others); d. 20 (on the necessity of a redemption via suffering): all these themes show how cooperation with the will of God in the work of salvation is central to Catholic soteriology, whether this is the cooperation of the Head or of the members of the Body of Christ. Hence, the importance of the absolute predestination of Christ as Head and of the elect as His members.{/footnote} Originally decreed independently of original and personal sin, this now includes a redemptive dimension because, without it, the original plan of recapitulation, based on the cooperation of the family of Adam through the Immaculate Daughter of Zion, cannot be realized. Therefore, in the final analysis, redemption from sin is not first defined in relation to sin-a negative, but in relation to something positive-viz., our cooperation with Christ the Head, in the work of sanctification and recapitulation which, under Adam, was only partial. Now let us see what are the distinctive features of this vision made explicit, or particularly stressed, by the disciples of Scotus and which, in fact, illustrate the Marian coefficient of redemption as actually willed in the saving counsels of the Father.

We may conclude with St. Maximilian M. Kolbe: The Father and Son willed our liberative redemption because they had first willed a daughter of Adam to be Mother of God, All Holy because Immaculate before the foundation of the world; and to have Her as daughter of Adam historically, so that the Word might be Son of man, it was necessary to deliver the entire human family from the slavery of sin.

III. Articulation of Redemption in the School of Scotus

Rather than a long and difficult-to-follow presentation of individual disciples of the subtle Doctor, we have decided to begin at the end and conclude with the beginning of the history of this theme in the school of Scotus. So proceeding, we shall rely mainly on the only complete manual of theology ad mentem Scoti composed since the eighteenth century, that of Fr. Parthenius Minges:{footnote}P. Minges, Compendium Theologiae Dogmaticae, Ratisbon 1921, pp. 304 ff. One can also consult Rosini, Mariologia…, cit., pp. 140-190.{/footnote} Compendium Theologiae Dogmaticae. Its content and organization reflect several of the great Scotistic manualists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: B. Mastrius (†1673), a disciple of A. Vulpes (†1649), Claudio Frassen († 1711), and Jerome of Montefortino (†1738). Vulpes is important as author of the first systematic Mariology based on Scotus wherein the doctrine of coredemption, under that title, is treated along lines of objective and subjective redemption, having since become classic in theology. This is another way of talking about the Marian character of perfect redemption. Frassen, a continuator of Mastrius in a sense, is surely one of the last, great codifiers of the theology of Scotus in modern terms, and has, in fact, for several centuries, represented a standard reference for a beginner’s introduction to Scotus’ positions on themes of dogmatic theology.

Following the outline of Minges and singling out the distinctive features of redemption in the Scotistic school, we will point out the Marian implications, not always expressly mentioned by every author, or even by Minges, in connection with each point selected for commentary. But if we keep in mind the point of departure governing the treatment of redemption in Scotus, viz., the absolute predestination of Jesus and the unique inclusion of Mary Immaculate qua Immaculate in the order of the hypostatic union as His Mother, we will have no difficulty in recognizing the presence of Mary as Coredemptrix, precisely because She did not, and could not, sin in Adam; and hence, the impossibility of original sin being a definitive victory for Satan over the plans of God, and how Her presence as Immaculate Coredemptrix guarantees a correct understanding of redemption as it actually took place, and not simply as some latter day theologian thinks it ought to have happened.

3. This point of departure requires a clear distinction between salvation and redemption. Salvation, in the context of the absolute predestination of Christ to be Savior, means sharing with Christ, on the part of those jointly predestined with Him, in the most perfect praise of God and enjoyment of the Father’s love on the part of the Son of man (Adam). Redemption means resolution of a contingent obstacle to that sharing, viz., original sin by way of a sacrificial mediation acceptable to, and accepted by, God the Father in satisfaction for the offense of sin, and consequently through the satisfactory merit of Christ, effecting the liberation of mankind from sin and its effects.

3.1 In fact, our salvation presently is via a redemption because of the tragedy of sin. It is this redemption, with its Marian coefficient, which converts a tragedy into a felix culpa. That phrase from the paschal Exsultet of the liturgy is often interpreted as proof that the Incarnation was only willed consequently on the sin of Adam. It can just as well, or better, on the basis of patristic tradition reaching back to the postapostolic period and on the basis of Scripture itself, be as proof that the actual redemption willed is most perfect only because it is consequent on the absolute predestination of Christ as the new or last Adam to be Head of this creation, to be realized via a work of mediation or recapitulation. Because the Headship-mediation originally includes the Immaculate as Mediatrix in the work effecting salvation, it also includes Her as Coredemptrix. This is what is meant by order of the hypostatic union within the general predestination of all in Christ.

3.2 Christ does not save Himself; His predestination is simply a gift of grace, grace par excellence, as in the invocation of the Litany: Mother of divine grace. But all others jointly predestined with Him, including Mary Immaculate, attain this via a salvific sacrifice of their Head. When that sacrificial work is willed as redemptive, then Mary, because antecedently to the redemptive character of the sacrifice, was willed as Immaculate Mediatrix, She is also willed as Immaculate Coredemptrix. But because her salvation is effected with that of all others to be saved-redeemed through the one mediation or sacrifice of Christ, She, too, in fact is redeemed, in such wise as to assist actively in the redemption of the others-angels as well as mankind. This means, that whereas all others are freed from the state of sin, She is preserved from contracting or committing sin, not simply from sinning, but in order to act in the order of the hypostatic union, viz., of headship and of “objective” mediation. In a word, she is truly redeemed, but She is also Coredemptrix because, were She not, our redemption would not be what it was planned to be: Marian, via the mediation of Mary, both in the sacrifice and in the application of the merits of Christ for the saved, in which She shares. Our liberation from sin (via satisfactory merit) is effected through Mary’s preservation to be Mother of the Savior, viz., with a Marian coefficient: at the Incarnation, on Calvary, and in the Church. The grace of Baptism, which is the initial foundation of our cooperation in the subjective redemption, a cooperation postulated by the saving counsels of the Father, is quintessentially a Marian grace, in order to be Christic.

3.3 Considered in this light, the radical basis of Scotistic soteriology is also the radical basis for the title of Lumen Gentium, ch. 8: the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. That title and the Marian ecclesiology implied, is best read in terms of the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary as summation of the whole of tradition. And it also makes crystal clear why salvation is first of all, something in praise of God in himself, for his own sake, because he is the supreme good to be loved as he loves himself, not for some other end, before it is considered in us. This is the point where Scotus and Scotism are most incompatible with transcendental Thomism. It is also the point where presence or absence of Mary, as an intrinsic component of soteriological theory, does make a crucial difference. Scotus accentuates the active involvement of Mary Immaculate entailed in preservative redemption; Rahner simply eliminates this in the notion of “perfectly redeemed” where perfectly redeemed simply means a most perfect finalization of the fundamental option, or most perfect liberation to be free.

3.4 This said, viz., that soteriology is the study of salvation, and salvation connotes something broader than redemption, Fr. Minges correctly divides a Scotistic treatment of redemption into two parts: redemption as our liberation from sin; and redemption as satisfaction in justice offered to God and accepted by Him as such. Here, too, a crucial difference can be observed between the neopelagian soteriology of transcendental Thomism, and that of Scotus. Redemption for Scotism or liberation from the state of sin, is contingent on the completion of a work of justice by atoning for original sin. For Rahner, the factor of justice, satisfaction, and reparation for sin addressed to the Father, is merely incidental to the experience of absolute salvation. Vicarious satisfaction and expiation is not the core element in redemption, hence the irrelevancy of disputes about mediation and merit.

3.5 Scotistic soteriology is not toto coelo different from Thomistic as articulated, above all, by St. Thomas, because both insist upon redemption as essentially defined and realized by a work of vicarious satisfaction: satisfaction because a reparation of an injustice to the Creator; vicarious because Christ qua our Head both does for us what we could not do for ourselves in the actual economy of salvation decreed by the Father and, by this vicarious sacrifice, makes possible for us to cooperate in the subjective redemption. Such a redemption is clearly not Protestant substitutionism; and above all, the reason it is not, is because of the role of the Coredemptrix, the Marian coefficient. Our collaboration in the order of subjective redemption is mediated by the coredemptive role played by the Immaculate in the order of objective redemption.

There are, however, a number of questions where Scotus and the Scotistic tradition in soteriology differ from the Thomistic tradition (transcendental Thomism is not Thomistic and takes the name of Thomas in vain). I have extracted four of these: the necessity of the Incarnation for redemption, on the assumption God has willed full satisfaction for original sin as its condition; the threefold dignity of Christ (and Mary) continued in the Church; the infinity of sin and of satisfaction for sin; condign satisfaction for others (vicarious) on the part of the Coredemptrix.

3.6 The thesis of St. Anselm. Scotus differs from both St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure on his interpretation or nuancing of the famous thesis of St. Anselm.{footnote}The main exposition of Scotus himself is in the Lectura, III Sent., d. 20. The differences should not be exaggerated. St. Thomas, in nuancing St. Anselm, stresses how Christ and the Church form “one mystical person,” hence laying emphasis on the divinity of Christ’s Person in the work of salvation, viz., replying to the question: Cur Deus homo. Scotus, on the other hand, seeks to stress the possibility of cooperation of others with Christ the man as the one Mediator of God and man, in particular the Immaculate Mother. This corresponds to his accent on the other form of the question concerning the motive of the Incarnation: cur homo Deus. Both share the same premise: our redemption is a work of vicarious satisfaction.{/footnote} The first two Doctors insist that only a divine person become man can achieve our salvation, if the condition is full or condign satisfaction for original sin. This reading is perfectly consistent with their conviction that the primary motive of the Incarnation is redemption from sin. This is why neither affirmed the Immaculate Conception, although Bonaventure clearly affirmed the Coredemption without the title. I would not say either was wrong but, rather, inconsistent. Scotus, with his thesis on the primary motive of the Incarnation, is in a position to insist on the need of the Incarnation, not for any kind of minimally sufficient redemption, but for a perfect redemption, defined as perfect in terms of an antecedently willed salvation (as above), with an intrinsic Marian coefficient. In this scenario, the need of the Incarnation, or of the one Mediator, does not exclude other mediators, even one who is Coredemptrix and capable of a certain relatively condign satisfaction, precisely because its character as vicarious, includes the Immaculate Coredemptrix. The difference here, is not between a soteriology in which the Incarnation is hypothetically necessary, and one where it is merely useful and/or fitting, but not necessary. Rather, it is between one where the Incarnation is necessary for any redemption by way of vicarious satisfaction for sin, and one where it is necessary qua perfect redemption, viz., with a Marian coefficient. The latter is not Pelagian (viz., where the Incarnation, like the grace which is fruit of the Incarnate Savior’s sacrifice, is merely useful for saving, meritorious acts), and has the advantage of more clearly securing the possibility of collaboration in the redemptive work, at the level of objective redemption as well as subjective.


3.7 Our second theme concerns the correlation between the redemptive work of Christ and his threefold Messianic dignity and role: prophetic (magisterial), sacerdotal, and royal, a dignity and role shared by His Mother, as part of the order of the hypostatic union. In the thrust he gives to the treatment of these three points, he is, in fact, continuing along St. Bonaventure’s line of thought in Mariology and ecclesiology.

3.7.1 In the thought of Bonaventure and, before him, St. Francis of Assisi, Mary Mediatrix, together with Christ, occupies a prophetic or magisterial role in relation to the apostles-a specifically mediatory role in the Church in the theological order, particularly evident in the Mystical City of God by the Venerable Mary of Agreda, which can be found at least implicitly in Vatican II, and quite explicitly in John Paul II and Benedict XVI. As in the public ministry of Christ, the exercise of His prophetic or magisterial ministry is a disposition of His listeners and potential believers for the great sacrifice of Calvary; so the prophetic mediation of Mary in the Church and in the hierarchy, first manifested visibly and is now mostly invisible, is a disposition of the entire Church for participating in the Eucharist and contributing to the realization of Christ’s kingly rule and the Kingdom of God. Like the royal dignity of Christ according to Scotus, the prophetic not only touches theology, but philosophy as well. Fully genuine philosophy is Christian, no more so than in metaphysics where the univocal structure of being in full flight from non-being (as a concept, not as a substitute for the analogia entis [analogy of being]) with two intrinsic modes (infinite and finite) reflects in some way the dogmatic formula for the hypostatic union: one person, two natures. Though Scotus seems to abandon Bonaventurian illuminationism he, in fact, subscribes to the essentials of that teaching with this coloratio [nuancing] in terms of the absolute primacy of Christ. And since that primacy includes the Immaculate, a basis is provided for Her role as philosopha [philosopher] and philosophia christiana [Christian philosophy].{footnote}Odo of Canterbury, Sermon on the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, in Luigi Gambero, ed., Testi Mariani del secondo millennio, vol. 3. Autori medievali dell’Occidente, sec. XI-XII, Roma 1996, pp. 489-490. The phrase “Mary philosophy of Christians” is found on p. 489.{/footnote}

3.7.2 The sacerdotal role of Christ (and Mary) is fulfilled on Calvary via the passion of Jesus and compassion of Mary. The complete success of this sacrifice perdures under the title of intercession in the Church: militant, suffering, and triumphant, in the form of the unbloody sacrifice-sacrament of the Eucharist, to which all the other sacraments are geared. In this, too, Mary enjoys with Christ a unique sacerdotal role, on which depends for its link with Christ the ministerial priesthood as well as royal priesthood of the faithful. There is no question here of a possible ordination of women. The sacerdotal (rather than priestly) dignity of Mary is unique, like her mediation, in relation to Christ and to the Church.

3.7.3 Finally, the royal dignity or role bears on the consequences of Christ’s victory (and Mary’s) to be realized in the glorification of the Church and preparations for a new heaven and a new earth. The Queenship of Mary is the Marian coefficient of Christ’s kingship. Like his, it touches not only the Church and apostles (with their successors) but all members and potential members, private as well as social lives of these persons in this time of pilgrimage. A fully humane, personal, and social order is one fully Christianized because fully Marianized.

3.8 A third point concerns the long-debated question between Thomists and Scotists concerning the infinite character of the offense given God by sin, whence the need of a reparation in human form infinite in dignity, therefore by a man who is a divine person. Both St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure maintain that the offense is not infinite, but quasi-infinite, and this not because the sinner is capable of an act in itself even quasi-infinite in value, but because sin has as its “passive” object, the divine Majesty and Goodness. By quasi-infinite is not meant something without limit at all, but that which could not be greater. Scotus does not disagree with the fact, but prefers not to use the term quasi-infinite. He prefers to substitute the term maximal for quasi-infinite.

Here are his reasons. Maximal makes clear that in no proper or quasi-proper sense of the term is sin infinite, as though on a par or quasi-par with God. Second, it avoids lending credence to the false deduction that a good work could be so good as to be quasi-infinite. His third consideration reflects an aspect of his reasoning concerning the absolute primacy of Christ. The lesser good cannot be the motive of the greater; hence, the redemption must be willed in view of the Incarnation, not vice-versa. So here, sanctity of itself, is higher than sin, and radically capable of undoing sin, provided it truly is, above all, sanctity. This is true in two cases alone: that of the hypostatic union and of the Immaculate Conception, of the Head and Savior, and of His Mother. Thus, the preference here of Scotus is not a logical quibble, but in view of the absolute primacy of Jesus and its Marian coefficient, a thesis which must account for the possibility of the Marian coefficient of the redemption, viz., the Coredemptrix.

The infinite dignity of Christ as a divine person surely has a role in explaining the perfection of the redemption wrought by Him. But if we were to specify the formal element which, from within, makes the redemptive sacrifice acceptable and pleasing, it is a maximal holiness in the man who is Victim, and in the Mother who supplies the Victim: both without blemish, without spot, to which the sacrifices under the old law allude in the requirement for perfect specimens of objects of sacrifice. And this immaculate character of the Body and Blood of Christ is that to which the Roman canon makes reference in commending our sacrifice to the Father for acceptance. The infinity of the Person is what makes the sanctity in the man: Priest and Victim, maximally perfect, and it is the Mother’s intrinsic pertinence to the order of the hypostatic union, in virtue of the Immaculate Conception, which enables Her unique sanctity to be one with Her Son’s as Priest and Victim. It is this sanctity, not infinity (which, strictly speaking, cannot be participated), which makes redemption in a Marian mode, formally possible. These two are holy as God is holy; therefore, their satisfaction for us is acceptable to, and accepted by, the Father. Whence the terminological preference, somewhat parallel to Scotus’ preference for “perfect redemption” rather than the “quasi-infinite work” of St. Thomas.

The further question touching the exact relation between holiness in the man and woman, and acceptance, is discussed by Scotus under the heading of merit. He will stress that in the final analysis, acceptance is at the basis of condign merit, and the rationale of this acceptance, viz., that it does not exclude the created graces of the hypostatic union and Immaculate Conception, yet as their root, is to be found in his thesis concerning the absolute primacy of Jesus (and implicitly the Immaculate).

3.9 The last distinctive feature touches the question of merit and satisfaction for others, once again involving the possibility of coredemption. Two other conferences at this symposium will deal with this question, perhaps the most controversial of all the questions surrounding the notion of redemption with a Marian coefficient.

At the Protestant-in particular Calvinist-extreme are those who hold that the Incarnation is simply for the sake of the redemption, that the redemptive sacrifice is only such because offered by a God who substituted His sufferings for ours, hence the Incarnation, not because He merited our redemption vicariously. Whence, neither the merits nor compassion of anyone else has any, or could have any, active role in the objective redemption or in the subjective redemption. At the other extreme is the Pelagian and neopelagian view that the merit of any man of good will is redemptive, or the fundamental option finalized in its Rahnerian form. Evidently, the role of Christ or of His Mother could, at best, be exemplary, a kind of extrinsic quasiformal causality.

The true concept of redemption entails merit, indeed, hinges on merit. All Catholics agree that Christ indeed merits de condigno for us, and that His merit is acceptable to, and accepted by, the Father. The Thomist tradition holds that the merit of the Coredemptrix is de congruo, whereas St. Bonaventure and his followers on this point today, e.g., Fr. G. Roschini, hold the Coredemptrix merits de digno. With the explicit adoption of the title, Coredemptrix, to connote the unique role of Mary on Calvary, most followers of Scotus claimed Mary merited on Calvary de condigno relative. The possibility of this is rooted in the concept of redemption in an economy of salvation predicated on the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary, and from many points of view, is best able to simultaneously make clear why neither the Protestant solus nor the Pelagian everybody are anything but radical perversions of the true dogma. As with the Incarnation, the Marian coefficient is the best guarantee for avoiding both Nestorianism and monophysitism.

Finally, the teaching of Scotus on merit underscores the importance of this theme in the quest for perfection and sanctity by the members of Christ. It is merit which is the key feature of this quest, of proximately salutary acts; it is merit, or lack thereof, which determines the presence and is proof of genuine sanctity in trial and, hence, constitutes the proximate preparation for the joys of the communion of saints. All this is intimately bound up with the maternal mediation of Mary, or with its refusal.

Conclusion

The early death of Scotus prevented him from articulating a complete soteriology. Nonetheless, his basic teaching on the predestination of Christ and of the elect provides a frame of reference for showing, as I have done, the interconnection between the joint predestination of Jesus and the Immaculate as Mother of God; the dependence of Mary on the mediation of Christ alone for Her unique sanctity and salvation; and the dependence on all others, angels included, on Christ through Mary. The notion of perfect redemption, perfect because endowed with a Marian coefficient, is the consequence of the absolute primacy of Christ and Mary, and reflects the perfect logic of this divine arrangement: the greater good is willed prior to the lesser, although the lesser, in the order of execution, may precede the realization of the greater. The Immaculate Conception or preservative redemption, or Her not being included under the headship of Adam, means that however successful Satan, either in tempting our first parents or, thereafter, in tempting each of his descendents, the success cannot be absolutely definitive. Whence Mary Immaculate: our life, our sweetness and our hope (cf. Salve Regina).

In any case, a correct understanding of redemption as it actually occurs whether in relation to the Head who recapitulates (mediating), or in relation to the members who are recapitulated with their cooperation-passes through the Immaculate Mediatrix. Hence, “our theology” is clearly nuanced from within by the presence and unique role of the Virgin in the mind of God “before the foundation of the world.” Such a theology is especially capable of resisting the errors of those who would so conceive the work of the One Mediator as excluding cooperation on principle, and that of those who would conceive that work merely as a paradigm for transcending the limits of finite existence. A theology claiming to be authentic, therefore a soteriology as well, but without its Marian coefficient, is not true theology or genuine soteriology.

Redemption, then, is not a univocal notion, predicated uniformly of all involved. Rather, it is one embracing Head and members in a certain order of operation and cooperation, whose nature is made plain by the mystery of the Immaculate Coredemptrix, jointly predestined with Christ: He as Head, She as Mother All Holy in virtue of His merits. The order characteristic of a redemption, based on this mystery of their absolute primacy, is as follows: Christ as Redeemer and not redeemed, those freed from sin as only redeemed and not redeeming; and Mary as Immaculate Coredemptrix, both redeemed preservative and redeeming those freed from sin to cooperate in the subjective redemption of others, precisely through and in Mary, our Mediatrix with Christ, as Christ is our Mediator with the Father (St. Francis and St. Bonaventure).

Is this analogical notion of redemption merely a theologoumenon postulated by a plausible hypothesis? Quite the contrary: it reflects the mystery of the Immaculate Coredemptrix, Marian coefficient of the redemptive Incarnation in the eternal counsels of salvation. The definition of redemption and the soteriological system within which it is found, must reflect the divine counsels where the Immaculate Conception is, prior to any consideration of sin or redemption.

This article was excerpted from Mary at the Foot of the Cross – VIII: Coredemption as Key to a Correct Understanding of Redemption, Academy of the Immaculate, 2008.