The following article is an excerpt from a chapter in the recently published Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book is now available from Queenship Publications. To obtain a copy, visit www.queenship.org.
Marian mediation and its foundations have been the subject of extensive study, easily available in the published acts of congresses (1), anthologies (2), collections (3), monographs (4), and articles (5). The theme has been analyzed along biblical, patristic, liturgical, magisterial and dogmatic lines. If every published study on Marian mediation over the past one hundred years were to be cited, the mere listing of titles would probably fill a large book. An adequate, clear grasp of the status quaestionis, however, can be had by consulting the references just listed. With a few important exceptions, post-conciliar studies generally give greater attention to the sources, while those prior to the Council, though not neglecting the sources, place greater emphasis on the speculative aspects of this question.
The goal of this study is to strike a happy balance between sources and reflection on the sources so as to arrive at a concise and correct understanding of Catholic doctrine on Marian mediation here and now in the economy of salvation. Our point of departure will be an elaboration of the problematic in the formularies whereby it has been handed on in the Church. Thereafter, via a reflection on the sources of this doctrine, both remote and proximate, we will point out in a brief, summary conclusion how the traditional speculative questions arise and what is their significance for theology and for the life of the Church (6).
Although, as Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy, often shrewdly repeats, a good theologian should strive to say new things, demonstrating that they are old. For us, however, who do not believe ourselves able to say new things, it is enough to explain the old things with order and clarity, so demonstrating them to be forever new. For the truth never grows old and never passes out of style. This is especially the case with such venerable terms as maternal and mediation, especially at a time when so many of the feminist persuasion (not all women, nor always women) want to erase them from the human vocabulary. Such a project, were it ever to be successful, would bear consequences of immeasurably tragic proportions for everyone. Between the human family and such success of the serpent-dragon there stands only one secure bulwark: the Woman, the maternal Mediatrix.
The Problematic of Marian Mediation
In theology, the term mediation is employed in a variety of senses to designate basic dimensions of the economy of salvation. These various senses, though clearly denoting distinct aspects of the work of salvation, are all interrelated, whether we are speaking of the mediation of Christ, and therefore of Christ as Mediator, or of the mediation of his Virgin Mother and therefore of Mary as Mediatrix, or of the mediation of the Church and therefore of that found in the sacramental-hierarchical order (ministerial graces linked to a stable office in the Church), or of the mediation of members of the Church and therefore of their active cooperation in the work of salvation via the ministerial charisms or graces of all kinds bestowed on them (gratiae gratis datae).
The reason for this is very simple: in the eternal counsels of the Father (cf. Eph 1:3ff.) all these various dimensions of a single economy of salvation were willed in correlation to one another within the unity of the predestination of Christ to be Head of the new creation, a creation to be realized concretely or in the execution of the divine counsels in history via what from the days of St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus of Lyons has been called “recapitulation.” The absolute predestination of Christ as incarnate Son of God, to be Head and Savior of his body, the Church and of all his members, constitutes what is commonly known as “the order of the hypostatic union.” To that order, in a special way, belongs one of the saved, the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Savior-Word incarnate, “pre-eminent member” of the Church according to Vatican II. This unique and non-repeatable relation to Christ as Head in the order of the hypostatic union arises from what is called by Bl. Pius IX and Pius XII “the joint predestination of the incarnate Word and Mother of God in one and the same decree” (7).
To understand Catholic doctrine on Marian mediation, it is necessary from the start to grasp this essential point: Mary, because Mother of God, belongs as no other creature to the order of the hypostatic union, foundation of all saving mediation, perfect or subordinate. Therefore, by the merits of Christ she is incomparably holy. Therefore, in a way unique to her (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56-58, 60-62) she is able to cooperate actively with Jesus, the one Mediator of God and man: as his Mother, as our Co-redemptrix, and as our Mediatrix and Advocate. Mary’s mediation is the divinely appointed means by which the whole of creation and in particular the human family is recapitulated in Christ the Head, and so enjoys the blessings willed by the Father and gained for us by Christ in his stupendous work consummated on Calvary. Or in the words of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, the mediation of Mary crystallized in her fiat is the high point where all the love of the Blessed Trinity appropriated to the Holy Spirit meets all the love of creation, a juncture which brings to pass the Incarnation and economy of salvation (8).
Evidently all these themes cannot be treated in a single chapter of a single volume devoted to the whole of Mariology. Nonetheless, to understand the specific theme of this chapter, one dealing with the maternal mediation of Mary here and now, a few general considerations are necessary. These bear on 1) Mary’s active role of intercession with Jesus (ascending mediation), and 2) her direct, active role in the distribution of all the graces of salvation (descending mediation). Both roles are extensions of her unique participation as Co-redemptrix in the sacrifice of Calvary in which she participated as Co-redemptrix, a sacrifice perpetuated in the mystery of the Eucharist (descending mediation). The first role is more properly called advocacy, and the second mediation in the restricted sense.
Sacred, Revealed Use of the Term
As a term with a very specific theological sense (and not merely ethical-political), mediator, or intermediary, is found five times in the New Testament, always in the Pauline corpus. These are the passages in question:
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one; but God is one (Gal 3:19-20).
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself up as a ransom for all (1 Tim 2:5-6).
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises (Heb 8:6).
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant (Heb 9:15).
… and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant … (Heb 12:24).
We may summarize the thought of St. Paul in these passages on the theological meaning of Mediator thus: It designates both 1) an office or responsibility rooted in and made possible by the Incarnation of the Son of God, not only in virtue of his divinity, but of his humanity as well (cf. 1 Tim 2:5), and 2) the major act of that office or ministry, viz., the redemptive sacrifice together with its fruit, the Church, the reconciliation of the saved with God in the one Body of Christ, the Head.
In all but one of these texts (Gal 3:19-20) the term mediator is ascribed expressly only to Christ. But in view of its ascription to Moses and to angels under the Old Covenant one can hardly affirm a priori that the presence of mediators other than Christ is excluded in affirming the unicity and sufficiency and excellence of the mediation of Christ, at least on biblical grounds. This is an observation crucial to any understanding of the traditional teaching of the Church on the mediation of Mary and of the Church itself. Deny the title Mediatrix to Mary as did Luther and the Protestant Reformation and nothing is left of the other mediations in the Church, that is, our active cooperation as “collaborators” in the distribution of the fruits of Christ’s sacrifice. Biblical grounds for the denial are claimed, but none are apparent, except on the assumption of extra-biblical premises of a theological or philosophical kind (individualism, combined with nominalism and voluntarism), not shared by the Tradition of the Church.
The texts just cited make clear that the title is that of an office, how the office is defined and what is the basis for the exercise of such an office in making one two who are not only separated, but in a condition of hostility (cf. Eph 2:11ff.). The creature alone, in particular man after the fall into original sin, cannot successfully resolve the problem of division between Creator and creation. But if the role of Mediator belongs radically to one all-sufficient person, this in itself is no necessary bar to the inclusion of others in a subordinate role, anymore than the existence of God excludes the possibility of a creation which does not compromise the all-sufficiency and transcendence of God.
At the level of theory the observation is perfectly valid. Unfortunately, it is not immediately effective in dealing with popular objections to the very concept of Marian mediation in theology, viz., that by definition participation in the one work of mediation compromises the uniqueness of Christ as one Mediator. Why this is so, but also what can be done to get beyond the impasse at the pastoral level, can be illustrated from a reflection on an analogy frequently used to justify the classic Protestant position: only Christ is Mediator in the proper sense. Mediation, in particular sacerdotal mediation, it is claimed, must be likened to bridge-building between earth and heaven. Indeed, the Latin version of Hebrews translates the Greek word for high priest (archiereus) as pontifex, or bridge builder. Perhaps a kindred Greek word, architect, or head builder, in addition to the title of the head priest: Pontifex, and also head-builder of bridges over the Tiber River in Rome, may have suggested the choice. In any case the objection to the Catholic doctrine about Mary goes like this: if two bridges are necessary to cross a stream, then neither by itself is sufficient. And if one is all-sufficient, then the second can hardly be described as functionally necessary to mediate the gap between the two sides of a single stream or abyss.
The answer very simply is to distinguish between two kinds of sharing in a single role or perfection: spiritual and material, qualitative and quantitative. It is perfectly true that sharing in a single patrimony by way of inheritance by several heirs requires a division of the patrimony with no one single heir being master of all. So, too, in the case of physical mediation represented by the example of the two bridges, neither bridge can be described as fully adequate, as Christ is described in the passage from 1 Timothy 2:5, if the work must be equally divided. Bridge building, political mediation, etc., because quantitative realities, cannot be absolutely perfect, shared or not shared.
Christ, on the other hand, is said to be perfect as one Mediator. This kind of unity is spiritual, and only spiritual mediation can reconcile God and man. The perfection of spiritual mediation, not being subject to division as in the case of sharing in a material good, is not affected by the number of other persons who participate in that perfection dependently on, or in subordination to, the one who possesses this absolutely. By way of example, neither the perfection of my thought nor that of my love is diminished by the fact that others share my thoughts and my love. And again, not every inheritance is material. The heavenly patrimony of those redeemed by Christ, is real, but spiritual, hence shared by many, yet not divided. Our Lord himself made this point in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard: the same denarius, God himself, undivided, is the wages of all. Failure to make this distinction is a sure sign of pride (cf. Mt 20:1-16). Why can there not be a “spiritual bridge,” viz., a mediation in which many are involved according to a certain order, yet leaving the mediation undivided?
There is a still more important observation crucial in the teaching of St. Paul: viz., that mediation involves not merely God, but someone who is also man, a creature. As St. Bonaventure so clearly saw (9), human nature by definition is mediatory, and hence that nature in its most perfect state, viz., in the God-man, is enhanced by the participation of others in this mediation, above all by Mary Immaculate. All this is foreshadowed by the formation of man as male and female. Human nature is first fully mediatory in Adam, and for that reason is also mediatory in Eve, who does not detract from, but underscores the nobility of God’s image (10).
Simply put, the reply to the objection drawn from the analogy of two bridges is simply to say that it is only a metaphor, and does not clarify the essential difference between Christ as one Mediator and those associated with him in the work of mediation. Each bridge is an insufficient means of mediating a distance before they are united as one. With Christ his mediation qua man is perfectly one before shared by others. With the participation of others there remains but one mediation, as the thought and love of Christ remain perfect, no matter how many share his thoughts and affection; but there are many persons active in that mediation according to a certain order in relation to Christ, the one Mediator. This is true of Mary in a unique and non-repeatable way because of her fullness of grace in view of the divine and spiritual maternity. And this is what Scotus means in calling Mary Immaculate qua Immaculate the most perfect fruit of the most perfect redemption by a most perfect Redeemer. Christ’s one mediation would not be perfect unless he could so save one of his members so as to cooperate actively in the work of salvation of all others, viz., as maternal Mediatrix (11).
The term mediator, like its cognate pontifex (Latin translation for Christ as high priest in Hebrews), is not exclusive to the Bible. In ancient times both terms enjoyed a distinctive meaning in a profane or secular context, in the case of mediator one still familiar to most Western societies. This usage was hardly unknown to St. Paul and without doubt had some influence in his choice of terms to describe systematically the distinctive, perfect, all sufficient and absolutely necessary role of Christ in our salvation.
The classic Latin Lexicon, edited by Forcellini, defines the term mediator in the following words: “One who interposes himself, as a mean or point of convergence (intermediary) between dissidents in order to settle disputes.” A similar definition is found in the Lexicon of Grimm: “One who intervenes between two (others) in order to procure peace, establish or re-establish friendship, form a pact (covenant, or federation) or sanction an alliance.” In common language, a mediator is a person who performs the distinctively moral action of pacification with regard to two parties in opposition to or apart from one another by providing a common focus (univocal) for the unity of two entities once simply different, but not joined or analogous to one another within a single pact.
It is not hard to see why such a term should be employed by the Apostle Paul to explain the work of salvation and redemption. Christ’s work as priest and victim of the New Covenant is like that of a mediator who, as the old Roman pontifex threw up bridges across the Tiber River to unite or make one the two separated shores, bridges the gap between creature and Creator, between sinner and the heavenly Father, effectively making it possible for the distant creature, for the alienated sinner, to find himself not only reconciled with God or on God’s side of the great abyss (cf. Lk 16:26), but become himself active in the process of salvation as a subordinate cooperator. This is because as a genuine mediator Christ shares something with both parties: the godhead with the Father and manhood with the family of Adam. Hence, he is the mean or common ground where the parties to be reconciled can meet as friends rather than enemies or mere servants (cf. Jn 15:15).
There are, however, evident differences between the sacred and profane uses of this term and the concept standing behind it. As noted above, mediation involves an office and its exercise, the ethical-social dimension, and ontological or non-ethical basis of this office, the so-called mean.
First, the office of mediator and its exercise. In the profane order of the ancient world, as in modern secularized societies, mediation was and is a highly sophisticated and relatively successful activity when only temporal discord is involved. But wherever profound ethical and religious issues are at stake, e.g., in marriage-family discord, or in discord over religious activities or basic principles of right and social-political-economic philosophy, mediation can often be a dismal failure, if permanent resolution of discord and establishment of harmony is any criterion (12). Whereas, the mediation of Christ Jesus, according to Hebrews, is a raging and permanent success, not only in relation to the pagan religions, but to that of the mediators of the Old Testament dispensation.
Second, the mean or ontological platform for the exercise of a mediatory office. In the case of mere human mediation in the profane order, there is nothing particularly unique about the mediator in relation to each of the parties in dispute. He is a man, and so are they. What the human mediator shares with one party rather than another pertains to personal character and ability to persuade both parties within an already existing social polity. Where such a pre-existing polity, wherein the contending parties are already united at least in principle, if not in practice, does not exist, and must therefore be established, as especially is the case of man in the state of fallen nature, then no mere man can succeed in mediating between an offended Creator and a sinful creation.
With this we can readily see what the Incarnation introduces into our fallen world: a new and adequate platform or “ontological mean” where the offended and offenders can be fully reconciled, a solid rock on which to establish an order of peace (cf. Mt 7:24-27, conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount). In a sense specifically theological, that of a foundation for the economy of salvation, this rock is the order of the hypostatic union.
St. Thomas, therefore, in his classic definition of theological or religious mediation, clearly indicates two elements: the office (in the ethical-social order) and the mean (or foundation in the ontological order): “Properly speaking, the office of Mediator is to join together and unite those between whom he mediates; for extremes are united in the mean” (13). The “mean” in this case is the hypostatic union of man with the divine person of the Son: because incarnate, therefore Mediator. Because Mary uniquely belongs to the order of the hypostatic union because she is Mother of this divine Person, she therefore shares the one office of redemptive Mediator with her Son. Because Mother, therefore Mediatrix. Like her Mediator Son, their one work of mediation is consummate in redemptive sacrifice. And through her the Church and her members in varying ways can also exercise a genuine part in the mediation of grace won by the merits of the one Mediator of all, the man Christ Jesus (cf. 1 Tim 2:5-6).
Mary Mediatrix in the Proper, Theological Sense of Mediation
In addition to the commonly cited profane examples, which only foreshadow the perfection or essence of mediation in Christ Jesus, there is another example of mediation in the natural order, all but forgotten in modern times, but expressly cited by such a great of theology as is the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure (14). This example is drawn more from a metaphysical consideration of human nature as uniquely formed by the Creator on the sixth day; hence, it is not an example bearing primarily on the social order, but on the very character of any mediation as such within the order of creation.
Among all the various creatures, and grades of perfection among them, there are two basic categories of creatures: those purely material and hence prope nihil (near nothing), and those purely spiritual like the angels, hence prope Deum (near God). That both dimensions of creation be not distant and in opposition, but united to form a single universe, ultimately to be recapitulated by the incarnate Word, the Creator personally formed (hence not by an evolutionary process) a creature, part spiritual and so near God and part corporal and so near the material creation, or near nothing. The saint expressly says that there is such a created being, by nature mediatory. This creature, by nature mediatory, is man, or human nature. Thus at the ontological level, prior to any activity, man or Adam (formed from the virgin earth) is a mediator: indeed within the universe, but nonetheless in a religious as well as merely juridical sense as in all the previous examples drawn from the social-political-economic spheres.
But this is not all the Seraphic Doctor tells us. The Creator made man male and female. Each shares in a distinct way, yet fully, in a single mediatory nature: first Adam and then under, but also with Adam, Eve. The mediation of Adam, not as private person but head, is in the public order, drawing all dimensions of the universe, but in particular the human, to the love and service of the Creator. Further, Adam mediates between the private realm of the family and person and the public context wherein the human family is situated, thus being true center of the universe. In this sense Adam is a type of Christ, like Noah, Melchizedek, Moses, and so many others after him, the family of Adam being intended by the Creator to foreshadow the Holy Family.
But Eve is also a mediatrix, a type of Mary as mother of the new humanity, for no being can call itself human unless descended from Adam and incorporated into the human family through the maternal mediation of a woman, a mediation unique to her, in no wise detracting from the primary mediation in Adam, even though absolutely necessary for Adam to realize his headship over the human family. Not only St. Bonaventure, but St. Thomas as well insist that the formation of Adam and Eve in view of the divine institution of the “mystery-sacrament” of marriage was for the sake of Christ and the Church, Christ and Mary, even before sin, a point quite explicit in St. Paul, Ephesians 5:32 (15). Christ mediates between the Creator-Father and his creation, whereas Mary, in subordination to him, mediates between the new Head of the human family and the members incorporated into him. With that it becomes clear why the one mediation of the one Mediator, the (new) man Christ Jesus (cf. 1 Tim 2:5) does not exclude, but according to the divine counsels of salvation must include in an altogether unique way that of the (new) Eve who is also the (new) virgin earth, from whom and by whom is also formed the new Adam-Mediator of the new and everlasting Covenant. Mary is our Mediatrix with Christ, because wonder of wonders she is Mother of God (16).
St. Bonaventure provides us one other observation helpful in understanding why the mediation involved in the new and everlasting Covenant involves a Mediator, and under him a Mediatrix. The divine nature, being perfectly one, is not mediatory (cf. Gal 3:19-20). But one divine person of the three stands in relation to the other two as a “middle person”: i.e., one of the personal characteristics of the Son is to be “mediatory” (17). Hence, it is altogether appropriate that if the Incarnation of a divine person is for the sake of mediation, the second person should become incarnate. St. Paul (Gal 3:20) also seems to allude to the non-mediatory character of the divine nature. Hence, if the Word is to mediate between God (the Father) and the masterpiece of his creation, man, and so with the rest of creation (cf. St. Paul, Rom 8:18-25), the hypostatic assumption of a human nature becomes imperative—so that a divine person can mediate in a human way. But the way of assuming such a nature hypostatically is through the mediation of a mother, the only way of being a man like us, because such is only possible via descent from Adam in being born of a Virgin Mother (cf. Lk 3:23-38). The virginal conception and birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mother, the “new virgin earth,” assures both the divinity and humanity of the Child, hence his office of Mediator in our history. In virtue of her holiness and of this contribution to effecting the economy of salvation, Mary also belongs to the order of the hypostatic union and ipso facto shares the mediation of Jesus, distinctly, subordinately, but also properly, as no other of the saved. Here lies the importance of the Eve-Mary typology for the doctrine of Marian mediation.
With this it also becomes clear why in the Franciscan school the maternal mediation of Mary is first considered in the broad sense: neither vague nor metaphorical, but truly proper, in the same sense as it is understood first in the God-man. As he is unique Mediator, first because the mediatory or middle person of the Trinity, and second because he is the new man or Adam, fully capable of doing what the first Adam alone could only indistinctly foreshadow, so Mary is the unique Mediatrix, because she can do what the first Eve could also only indistinctly foreshadow: truly unite, incorporate into the New Adam all the dispersed children of Israel. The particular or more specialized aspects of Mary’s mediation in the economy of salvation, either in the types foreshadowing her, or in herself historically, all depend on this primordial fact, her fullness of grace in Christ as the Immaculate Virgin Mother, as Christ’s mediation rests uniquely on the grace of the Incarnation. The mediation of Mary is not apart from, outside of or independent of Christ, because she is also saved by him, redeemed preservatively to be Immaculate from conception. That unique sanctity permits her, under him, but also with him, to participate as no other person can, in the work of mediation proper to Christ. Thereby a new platform or basis for the exercise of diverse salutary activities by the redeemed (all in one way or another collaboration in the work of mediation) within the New Covenant is secured. Mary’s precise position and role is to provide the basis for our link with the New Adam, or New Head, and so our cooperation with him in the communion of saints. Therefore she is called “our Mediatrix with Christ, as he is our Mediator with the Father” (St. Bonaventure, III Sent., d 3, p 1, a 1, q 2).
The Difference between Mediator and Mediatrix in the One Work of Mediation
In this integral, moral and theological sense cited above, Mary is the Mediatrix of all creatures, angels and men, because God, in Christ, has assigned this function to her in order to reunite all creatures, above all the rational and free creatures, to Christ. In and through Christ the saved, qua members of his body formed by Mary, are recapitulated and so united to the Father (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). The saved are members of Christ’s body in being born spiritually of the Woman, just as all men naturally have Adam as their head and the origin of their humanity through a woman, and not otherwise. In herself Mary, without sin, possesses the human nature of Adam that unites her to sinful humanity, the spirit that unites her to the angels, and the fullness of grace that brings her into union with the God-man and so brings him into union, not with a generic humanity, but with that precisely first headed by Adam. Through Mary, Christ descends from Adam as well as Abraham (cf. Christ’s genealogy recorded by Luke 3:23-38). Therefore, through Mary, he is our Savior and Mediator. We go to him in the same way he comes to us, viz., through Mary. By reason of the integrity of her human nature and the fullness of grace she is superior to all men. She is superior also to the angels by the sole reason of her fullness of grace. She is inferior to God because of the finite manner in which she possesses both this grace and this nature. This Mediatrix brings the grace of God, viz., that of the redemptive Incarnation, to men and angels, and she brings the redeemed natures of angel and man to the incarnate Mediator, who brings them to the Father.
As for man, he is not only separated from God, but is also inimical toward him by reason of original and actual sin, which is an affront to God. The mediation that reconstructs the unity between God and man must, therefore, also merit in order to obtain the remission of fault and satisfy in order to remit the punishment. The angel must also consider himself redeemed, though in a more sublime manner in a certain sense, because the good angels have been granted perseverance in grace and the grace of being preserved from sin in view of the merits of Christ and Mary.
Now, while the merit of Christ in the order of mediation is absolute, that of Mary is relative, because it originates in Christ and is exercised in conjunction with his.
In this broad, all-inclusive sense, the title of Mary Mediatrix includes the coredemption, the distribution of all graces, and her infallible intercession. This is the sense intended by those cardinals, bishops and theologians who, when they were assembled in Fatima in 2005, signed a petition to the Pope asking for the dogmatic definition of Mary Mediatrix, Co-redemptrix, Dispensatrix of all graces, and Advocate (18).
That Mary’s mediation is said to be derived by participation and by analogy from the mediation of Christ is a doctrine clearly taught by St. Paul in his epistles (19). Based on this conclusion it is evident that Christ’s mediation, when consummated on Calvary, involves two aspects, the first ascending and the second descending: 1) redemption, continued in his intercession during the time of the Church, above all in the Eucharistic mystery as sacrifice (cf. Heb 9:23ff.; 1 Jn 2:1); and 2) the acquisition of grace, succeeded by its distribution in the time of the Church, especially in the Eucharist as communion (cf. Heb 12:18ff.; 13:9-15). The two moments are strictly tied to each other, because redemption is the basis for intercession and the acquisition of grace for its distribution. The same is true, servatis servandis, for Mary’s mediation.
Also from St. Paul’s doctrine is derived the Christocentric vision of the universe, which becomes, as a logical consequence, also Mariocentric. “All things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16), but also through her and for her, as exemplary cause, because she is willed with Christ “uno eodemque decreto” by God (Bl. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus). If Christ and Mary are the center of creation, they are even more so in the order of grace that they have acquired through the work of the redemptive sacrifice. Therefore all creatures, both earthly and heavenly, have their raison d’être in Christ and Mary, and they receive their sanctifying grace and beatific glory from Christ through Mary.
Mediatrix in the Restricted Sense of Distributrix of Graces After Calvary
St. Bonaventure identifies three moments in the maternal mediation of Mary, taken in the broad sense: the moment of begetting the price of our salvation, the moment of paying that price on Calvary, and the moment of distributing the price of salvation which she possesses in the time of the Church (20). It is to this last phase of her mediation that the title “Mary, Mediatrix of all graces,” is commonly referred. When recent popes (like Benedict XVI in his homily for the Annunciation, March 25, 2006) (21) refer to the Marian principle at the heart of the Church, they refer precisely to this third aspect of Mary’s work as Mediatrix in the economy of salvation, one realizing the final phase of her maternal vocation, that of spiritual Mother of the redeemed and of the Church.
As immediately consequent on the coredemption, as it were its continuation, this mediation has two aspects. The first is one of intercession whose high point is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One need only reflect on the Communicantes prayer of the Roman canon to grasp that the intercession of all the saints united to that of Christ passes through and depends upon the unique intercession and presence of Mary in the sacrifice of Christ, as John Paul II makes so clear in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, under the heading “Woman of the Eucharist” (22). Mary, as Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit, is invoked in primis in every Eucharist, that is before and above all other saints, including the apostles. Because she is the Immaculate and so Spouse of the Holy Spirit, invoking her in this way is an aspect of the epiclesis of the Holy Spirit. Without Mary and the Holy Spirit, no Incarnation, and hence no Real Presence.
The other aspect is that of distribution of the graces acquired in the sacrifice of Calvary. This, too, has its highpoint in the Eucharist at Communion. In the worthy communicant is him who first dwelt in the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mother, so that like the Word incarnate the Christian might fully become a child of Mary and so child of the Father, on both counts perfectly conformed to Christ, perfectly incorporated into him. There is no grace, no charism, no aspect of sanctification which does not involve the maternal mediation of Mary here and now. This is perfectly logical when we recall that Mary is Spouse of the Holy Spirit at the Incarnation and at Pentecost, at the birth of the Savior and at the birth of the Church, that is, she is Spouse of him by whose working the whole Christ, Head and Body, comes to be. In other words she is Mediatrix par excellence.
Theological Meaning of the Title of Mediatrix: Sources of the Doctrine
The title of Mediatrix means that Mary possesses a dignity intermediate between that of all other creatures and that of the incarnate Son by reason of her fullness of grace. This intermediate dignity fits her to carry out the role of maternal intermediary entrusted to her by God the Father to reunite man to his Son, our Mediator with the Father, by means of the coredemption, the dispensation of all graces and intercession (23). Such mediation is carried out, not apart from, but in Christ, in dependence upon him. It is a necessary aspect of the economy of salvation, said to be hypothetical, not absolute necessity: necessary not because God could not have done otherwise, but because God has so willed, and has so willed because this is the most perfect, orderly or rational way to accomplish our salvation. It is this aspect of the saving counsels of God, implicitly present in such classic passages as Ephesians 1:3-14; Galatians 4:4-7; Philippians 2:5-10, and Hebrews 10:5-10, which is witnessed in Scripture without the title Mediatrix, and in Tradition with the title, and in modern times expressly incorporated into the ordinary magisterial teaching of the Church.
As has been already noted, Scripture never explicitly attributes the title of Mediatrix to Mary (24). That is not surprising, because neither does it ascribe to her the titles of Mother of God, Immaculate Conception, or ever-Virgin, nor does it attribute the Assumption to her, all of which titles are defined dogmas. Nor, moreover, does the word Trinity, the most important dogma of our faith, appear in Scripture; the term consubstantial, which forms part of the dogmatic definition of Nicaea, is absent; the same is true of hypostatic union, real presence, transubstantiation, pontifical infallibility, etc. If we had to delete all of the words and their related concepts that do not explicitly appear in Sacred Scripture from Catholic dogma, we would first have to annul 2,000 years of Church history. Why, therefore, has God not revealed everything in an explicit manner in Scripture? Bl. Duns Scotus responds:
I say that it is more pleasing to understand something if it is hidden under some literal sense rather than if it were stated expressly. … Moreover, Origen, in his Homily on Noah’s Ark, affirmed: “It seems that Sacred Scripture has maintained an appropriate silence regarding those things whose discovery reason would show as consequences of those truths (directly revealed in Scripture). Therefore many necessary truths are not explicitly related in Scripture, although they are contained there virtually, as conclusions within the principles; the work of the Doctors and commentators was useful for defining these conclusions” (Ordinatio. Prologus, n. 122-123).
The very clear, although implicit, biblical basis for the mediation of Mary beside her Son is found in the association of Mary with Christ, central theme of the history spanning both Old and New Testaments, from the Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15) to the book of Revelation (Rev 12).
Regarding mediation in the restricted sense of dispensation of all graces, the biblical passages in which theologians have discovered the basis for the doctrine are the following:
a) Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; she shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for her heel.
The woman is Mary, by exclusion and by identification. By exclusion, because it cannot be Eve, as she could never appear as a victorious enemy of the serpent, but instead as his victim, first in the fault and then in the punishment. By identification, because Mary is the only woman who fully realizes enmity and victory over the serpent. Enmity and victory over Satan always signifies the work of the redemption, accomplished by Mary and by Christ, the firstborn of her offspring. Associated with Christ in the redemption in the first phase, Mary is associated also in the redemption in the second phase, that is, in the distribution of the acquired graces.
b) 1 Kings 18:44: And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising out of the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’”
This is the cloud that Elijah caught sight of on Mount Carmel which brought rain after a long drought. Here the cloud has been viewed as a symbol of Mary and the rain as a symbol of the graces Mary brings.
c) Luke 1:28: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
If it is true that from his (Christ’s) fullness have we all received, grace upon grace (Jn 1:16), it is also true that we have received it by means of Mary’s fullness of grace. The passive participle kecharitomene (full of grace) is used to indicate a permanent fullness par excellence. This is what St. Francis had an intuition of when, in his Salute to the Virgin, he gave this description of her: “On you descended and in you still remains all the fullness of grace and every good.” Why has God filled the Virgin Mary with his grace if not in order for her to communicate this grace to others who, by their nature, are devoid of them?
d) Luke 1:38: And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
Mary’s fiat is her free and personal assent to the redemptive Incarnation, of which she is defined as the “handmaid,” and the fulfillment of which is realized in the regeneration of men into the life of grace. It matches the fiat of her Son: I come to do your will (cf. Heb 10:5-10). Both are efficacious as acts of mediation, because each, though distinctively, is contained within the order of the hypostatic union as willed by the Father as the radical foundation for saving mediation. Through her fiat, Mary mediates to the world Jesus Christ, the Mediator, and the Author of all grace. The title, “Mediatrix of all graces,” is rightly and uniquely ascribed to Mary in virtue of her mediation of the Savior alone.
e) Luke 1:43-44: And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.
Here Mary’s physical presence brings the grace of Christ’s presence to Elizabeth, who prophesies, and to the Baptist, who exults with joy in his mother’s womb. The joy consequent on Mary’s mediation, a joy which is a foretaste of that of heaven, contrasts sharply with the sadness consequent on the mediation of the first Eve and the expulsion from paradise. As Eve in fact mediated tragedy for the human family, Mary mediates the presence of the Savior and salvation, even to those such as John enclosed in his mother’s womb. It is she who mediates the working of the Holy Spirit, and therefore it is she who at the most intimate reaches of the human heart guarantees faith, as it is she who is the prime evangelist and sign of the presence of the invisible Savior-God, she who is Mother of “the Lord” or Yahweh, who spoke to Moses from the burning bush as Christ speaks to us from Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant. The importance of Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth in the revelation of the mystery of Marian mediation, specifically the distribution of all the blessings of salvation, cannot be underestimated.
Further, the mediation of Jesus and Mary, inseparable and related to one another according to a typology established by the Creator in the formation of the first man and woman, is also shown here in its anti-types. It is the mediation of Mary which brings the Mediator to us and enables us to be united to him and so enabled by him to return to the Father’s house. The basis for a Mediator and Mediatrix within a single work of mediation is also clear: what the theologians have come to call the order of the hypostatic union embracing the incarnate Word and the divine maternity. It is this order which defines concretely the basis of the work of mediation or salvation.
f) Luke 2:35: And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:22-40) further clarifies the bases of this mediation: not only Mary’s vocation as Mother of God, but her role as Co-redemptrix in the realization of the redemptive sacrifice which secures the “salvation of his people.” Mary’s role as Advocate (intercessor) and Mediatrix (distributrix of the blessings won on Calvary) is a continuation of her role as Co-redemptrix outlined in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: to the Father and to the Church (represented by Simeon and Anna).
g) John 2:3-5: When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Again Mary’s physical presence carries with it the physical presence of Christ with his divine power. The Lord’s words, which express a certain distance between him—who was about to perform an act as God—and his Mother (who always remained simply a creature), make us understand that, if it had not been for her, he would not have worked the miracle. Curiously, those who reject the concept of Marian mediation as revealed will affirm the difference between the Creator Son and created Mother. But they seemingly fail to realize that the difference and distance between the Word incarnate and the rest of us is even greater if Mary is not Mediatrix. From this comes the need of a Mediatrix between ourselves and our Savior, as well as a Mediator between ourselves and the Father. Mary by her physical presence as Mother of God enables us also to be present to him who is our Mediator with the Father. This is what is so clearly communicated by this event at the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry. He, the bridegroom, is Savior-Mediator of the Church, the bride represented by the newly wed couple. The role of his Mother at this marriage feast for the groom is that of one who arranges this great marriage covenant, that is to say, she is the Mediatrix. Cana reveals the Mother of Jesus as physical and moral (willed) Mediatrix between Jesus and humanity, in the midst of its wants and needs. As John Paul II explains, she acts as a “mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother” (25).
h) John 19:26-27: When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
John’s presence at the feet of the crucified Redeemer engages the mediation of the Mother, from whom John receives the fruit of the redemption. In the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucaristia, John Paul II teaches that in every Mass the reality of Marian mediation is re-presented for the benefit of believers, of beloved disciples who, like John, assist at the sacrifice of the Redeemer and Co-redemptrix.
The radical structure of Marian mediation observed in all the foregoing texts is here proclaimed by our Savior himself, revealing precisely its immediate grounds in the unique part Mary played as Mother and Co-redemptrix in the redemptive sacrifice of Calvary. In effect, Jesus reveals and proclaims his Mother as maternal Mediatrix between himself and us: both the entire Church and each disciple personified here in John, and in a special way those who are successors of the apostles and their immediate associates, the priests. And he insists that we make use of her mediation, because by his will it is a necessary aspect of Christian life. Hence, our first obligation as disciples is to take Mary into our homes. Mary is our Mother in the order of grace; her spiritual maternity is the fruit of her love and suffering on Calvary. What is said here in principle, is shown in the next text from Acts to be operative from day one of the Church, and in Revelation 12:1ff. to be a raging success, for as Co-redemptrix Mary merited to be assumed and gloriously crowned as Queen of heaven and earth, precisely to act efficaciously on earth as maternal Mediatrix. The Woman of Revelation 12:1ff., who is first of all the Mother of the victorious Savior Jesus, swept up to heaven, must be pondered in conjunction with Revelation 21:1-4, where the woman is the heavenly Jerusalem descending from heaven on earth. The Church is the new and glorious Jerusalem or Daughter Zion descending from heaven, because in some unique way Mary Immaculate is the Church as its “pre-eminent” member. Through the dynamic presence of the Immaculate Mediatrix, the Church becomes the Immaculate Bride of her Savior and Head (cf. Eph 5:21-32) (26).
i) Acts 1:14: All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Here Mary is Mother of the infant Church. In the Apostolic Church she was the Mother of Jesus, almost a living sacrament of his presence. The intercession of the Church rises to God through Mary’s prayer, and the grace of the Holy Spirit descends upon men because of this prayer and this intercession. The ancient Church Tradition clearly confirms this understanding of the central role of Mary in the Church: that of intercession (ascending mediation) and that of distribution of graces (descending mediation), particularly that of sustaining and quietly guiding all Christians in the understanding and living of their faith. “And they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread and in the prayers” (Acts 2:42), all this in the presence of Mary Mediatrix. For this is what above all the Pentecost scene illustrates: the permanent, “pre-eminent” place of Mary in the midst of the apostles and faithful as maternal Mediatrix.
From all these passages of Scripture there surfaces repeatedly a Marian mode according to which God works our redemption. St. Bonaventure tells us (Breviloquium, p. IV, ch. 3) that the mode of the Incarnation is Marian, viz., through the virginal maternity. The one whom Mary begets is our Mediator, the price of our ransom; hence the mode of our redemption is Marian. It is Mary, says the same Seraphic Doctor who begets that price in Nazareth, pays that price on Calvary, and now possesses that price as Mediatrix of all graces (cf. Collationes in septem donis Spiritus Sancti, c. 6). The two major features of this last, intercession or ascending mediation, and distribution of graces or descending mediation, are clearly indicated as fact, even if not expressly explained. Meditating on these passages, Bossuet rightly concludes that “Mary’s charity is the general instrument of the operations of grace” (27).
Teaching of the Church Fathers
The Eve-Mary parallelism, already put in evidence by St. Justin (+165), is the leitmotiv of patristic Mariology, as it developed during the course of the first eight centuries of the Christian era (28). Its foundation is in the economy of salvation established by God and implicitly revealed by him in Sacred Scripture. The first to single out the Marian characteristic of this salvific economy was St. Ignatius of Antioch (+110): “Our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God’s plan” (29). It is the first Marian fruit of patristic reflection on the biblical datum.
The Mariology of St. Irenaeus of Lyons (+202) is the wonderful result of the fruitful encounter between the Eastern tradition, from which he came, and that of the West, in which he exercised his episcopal ministry. He developed the antithetical Eve-Mary parallelism and was the first to attribute the title of “Eve’s advocate” to the Virgin (30). The concept of mediation is contained in the term Advocate because, according to St. Irenaeus, as Advocate, Mary performs the role of Mediatrix of reconciliation between the just divine Judge and the guilty Eve. The Devil, on the other hand, is the one who accuses Eve before God and requests her condemnation (31).
Origen (+254) interprets the episode of the Visitation as an example of the Virgin’s mediation. Her journey took place so “that she might communicate some of the power she derived from him (whom) she had conceived, to John, yet in his mother’s womb” (32). In a text attributed to Origen but not recognized as authentic by the critics, the title of Mediatrix appears for the first time: “All human creatures have been renewed through Mary … Mediatrix of life” (33).
The prayer Sub Tuum Praesidium, written in Egypt in the third century: “Under your mercy we take refuge, Mother of God, do not reject our supplications in necessity. But deliver us from danger. (You) alone chaste, alone blessed” (34). This ancient prayer, with minor variations, is found from time immemorial in the antiphonary of the Roman, Ambrosian, Byzantine and Coptic liturgies (35). The intercession ascending toward God (do not reject our supplications) and the descending mediation that brings God’s help to men (deliver us from danger) is clearly seen.
In the ancient Cimitero Maggiore (Main Cemetery) on the Via Nomantana in Rome, there is the depiction of the Virgin Mary in a position of prayer, of intercession, which dates back to the fourth century.
The doctrine of mediation recurs often in the authentic scripts of St. Ephraem (+373), the great Doctor of the Syriac Church, or in scripts simply attributed to him by tradition. He does not use the term itself, but equivalent expressions: “The human race … depends upon your patronage and has you alone as its refuge and defense. … Your prayer, in fact, is powerful with your Son” (36). She has received an unlimited power from God: “You are true Mother of God, and therefore you are powerful” (37).
In the celebrated hymn Akathistos, attributed to St. Romanos the Melodist (+560), Mary’s help is invoked in various ways: “By your invincible power, deliver me from every kind of danger” (38); “Deliver all from every evil, and save from future suffering all who cry to thee. Alleluia” (39).
Theoteknos, bishop of Livias (sixth century) is the first in the West to use the title Mediatrix: “She has departed for heaven as our Mediatrix … and because she is certainly accepted by God, she obtains spiritual graces for us. During her time on earth she watched over us; she was like a universal providence for all her subjects. Now in heaven, she remains an impregnable defense, interceding for us with her Son and God” (40). Except for the literature ascribed to pseudo-Ephraem, this is the first time that the title of Mediatrix is explicitly attributed to Mary in a text the author of which is known with certainty.
Patristic Mariology reached its zenith with the three great Eastern homilists of the eighth century. They are St. Germanus of Constantinople (+733), St. Andrew of Crete (+740), and St. John Damascene (+749). Besides using the term Mediatrix explicitly, they study the doctrine of her universal dispensation of graces in depth.
For St. Germanus the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is the “manifest Mediatrix of all goods” (41); “no one obtains a grace by mercy except through you, who were worthy to harbor God himself in your womb” (42). “You cannot not be answered from the time that it pleased God to dwell with you, like a son with his true and irreproachable Mother. … And because of this the Christian people, recognizing its miserable state, entrusts its prayers to you so that you may present them to God” (43).
St. Andrew of Crete appeals to Mary “Mediatrix of law and grace” (44). St. John Damascene illustrates the doctrine of Mary’s mediation with a splendid biblical image: “As Jacob saw the ladder uniting heaven to earth … so you also, fulfilling the role of mediatrix become a stairway for God who descends to us so that he might assume our weak nature and join and unite it to himself” (45); “You are the perennial source of the true light … the cause of all our goods … (from heaven) you bless the world, you sanctify the universe” (46).
Theological Development: Medieval, Post-Tridentine and Neo-Scholastic Epochs
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153) stands out among the large group of writers who in the twelfth century affirm Mary’s mediation. His doctrine is clear and precise: “God has willed that we should have nothing that would not pass through the hands of Mary. … Do you also desire someone to intercede for you with him? Run to Mary” (47). Mary is defined by the Mellifluous Doctor as the “aqueduct” through which all graces flow from God to men. The works of St. Bernard influenced the entire subsequent Mariology during the Middle Ages.
Pseudo-Albertus Magnus asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary “is numerically full of all graces, which, numerically, pass through her hands” (48).
St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (O.Min., +1274) writes explicitly that “every grace comes to us through Mary’s intervention” (49).
St. Bernardine of Siena (O.Min., +1444) affirms that “all gifts, virtues and graces of the same Holy Spirit are administered by her hands to whomever she desires, when, in what manner, and to what degree she wishes” (50).
The universal mediation of all graces is common doctrine among the post-tridentine theologians: Francisco Suárez (S.J., +1617), St. Robert Bellarmine (S.J., +1621), Ven. James Olier (+1657), St. John Eudes (+1680), Henry Boudon (+1702), Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (+1704), Pierre de Berulle (+1629), to mention only a few. It is one of the major themes of the golden age of Spanish Mariology, the seventeenth century, notable not only for works of theological erudition, but also for one of the greatest and most influential works of Mariology in a contemplative key, The Mystical City of God, by the Ven. Mary of Jesus of Agreda (+1665) (51). St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (+1716), with his timeless work, True Devotion to Mary, is another outstanding figure in the history of this doctrine. In the seventeenth century the Jansenistic influences gave rise to a certain diffidence toward the Marian cult and everything in Mariology which seems to, in their opinion, overly exalt the Virgin’s excellence. The first major representative of this minimizing current was the Rhinelander Adam Widenfeld, with his Monita salutaria (1673), whose publication gave rise to violent polemics. In Italy the authoritative spokesman of this critical current was the famous historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori. St. Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori (+1787) responded to his anti-Marian theses so effectively, above all with his superb book The Glories of Mary, that they were not given credence again until our days.
In the twentieth century the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation gained the universal consent of theologians. First-rate monographic studies demonstrate the inclusion of the doctrine on Mary’s mediation into the patrimony of Catholic faith and illustrate its wonderful conexio dogmatum. Among these the studies of Godts (52), Bittremieux (53) and Lepicier (54) stand out.
By initiative of Cardinal Desiré Mercier (+1926) (55), archbishop of Malines-Brussels, the international movement for the proclamation of the dogma of Mary Mediatrix of all graces was born. On January 12, 1922, in response to the Belgian Cardinal’s request, Benedict XV (+1922) granted to all dioceses of Belgium the Mass in honor of Mary Mediatrix of all graces, to be celebrated on May 31. In November 1922, Pius XI (+1939) instituted three commissions—one Roman, one Spanish and one Belgian—to study the definability of Marian mediation. The documents of the Spanish and Belgian commissions have been recently published in the periodical Marianum, both with a positive conclusion in support of the doctrine’s definability (56).
The final part of this article will appear in the next Mother of All Peoples Bi-Monthly Issue.
(1) Aa. Vv., Mary at the Foot of the Cross. Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, 6 vv., Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2001-2007. The six volumes (together, over 3,000 pages) report the acts of the symposia held in England annually from 2000 to 2005, thereafter in Fatima. A seventh volume is in the course of publication. The symposia and the publication of their acts are under the direction of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA). The unique role of Mary as maternal Mediatrix in the Church rests proximately on her position as Immaculate Co-redemptrix on Calvary; hence the importance of these studies for our theme.
There are, in addition, two other events of great importance regarding studies on Marian coredemption:
1) Il Simposio internazionale sul mistero di Maria Corredentrice, Shrine of Castelpetroso (Italy), September 8-12, 1996, promoted by his excellency Msgr. Ettore Di Filippo (+2006), archbishop of Campobasso-Boiano (Italy) and president of the Bishop’s Conference of Abruzzo-Molise.
2) Il Simposio sul Mistero della Corredenzione Mariana, held at Fatima May 3-7, 2005, promoted and directed by the following cardinals: Telesphore Toppo, Luis Aponte Martínez, Varkey Vithayathil, Edouard Gagnon, Ricardo Vidal, Ernesto Corripio Ahumada. Acts: Maria: “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione” – Mary: “Unique Cooperator in the Redemption,” Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2005, 583 pp.
(2) M. Miravalle:
1) Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara (CA) 1993, pp. 80;
2) Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations. Towards a Papal Definition?, Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara 1995, 325 pp.
3) Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations II. Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical, Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara 1997, 329 pp.
4) Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations III. Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma, Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara 2000, 272 pp.
Mark Miravalle, Professor of Mariology at the University of Steubenville (Ohio), has also edited the volume Aa. Vv., Mary Co-redemptrix. Doctrinal Issues Today, Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara 2002, 274 pp. In addition, he is the author of two excellent monographs on this subject: The Dogma and the Triumph, Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara 1998, 152 pp.; “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix, Queenship Publishing, Goleta, CA, 2003, 252 pp.
(3) Aa. Vv., Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia, CME, Frigento 1998-2005, 7 vv. Of particular interest is the study on our specific theme in M. Hauke, La mediazione materna di Maria secondo papa Giovanni Paolo II, in op. cit., vol. VII, 2005, pp. 35-158.
(4) For example, A. Escudero Cabello, S.D.B., La cuestión de la mediación en la preparación del Vaticano II, LAS, Rome 1997, 422 pp.; B. Gherardini, La Corredentrice, ed. Vivere, Rome 1998, 408 pp.; M. Hauke, Maria “Mediatrice di tutte le grazie.” La mediazione universale di Maria nell’opera teologica e pastorale del Cardinale Mercier, Eupress FTL (Faculty of Theology of Lugano)—Reggiani SpA (Varese), Lugano, Switzerland—Varese, Italy 2005, 212 pp.; D. Lacourture, Marie Médiatrice de toutes les grâces, ed. des Béatitudes, Saint-Amand (France) 1997, 324 pp.; J. Ferrer Arellano, La Mediación Materna de la Inmaculada. Esperanza Ecuménica de la Iglesia, ed. Arca de la Alianza, Madrid 2006, 318 pp.; J.D. Miller, Marian Mediation: Is it True to Say that Mary is Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate?, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2004, 168 pp; J. Schug, O.F.M. Cap., Mary, Mother, St. Francis Chapel Press, Springfield, MA, 1992.
(5) For example, J. Galot, S.J., Maria: mediatrice o madre universale?, in La Civilità Cattolica, 147/1 (1996) 213-225; J. Galot, La mediazione di Maria: natura e limiti, ibid., 148 (1997) 13-25; P. Siano, F.I., Uno studio su Maria Santissima ‘Mediatrice di tutte le Grazie’ nel magistero pontificio fino al pontificato di Giovanni Paolo II, Immaculata Mediatrix, 6 (2006) 299-356. See also the articles of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner in the periodical Immaculata Mediatrix for the years 2001-2003; J. Schug, O.F.M. Cap. and M. Miravalle, Mary Coredemptrix: The Significance of Her Title in the Magisterium of the Church, in M. Miravalle, ed., Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Foundations. Towards a Papal Definition?, op. cit., pp. 215-246.
(6) Historically, the mystery of Mary, in one way or another, is at the very heart of many theological controversies since the foundation of the Church. That this is so is no reason to question the certainty of that mystery as an article of faith, for we believe, as do the apostles and their successors, in the Christ, the Son of the living God, born of the Virgin Mary. Rather, division over this mystery arises from the centrality of Mary with Jesus in the mystery of salvation, and the on-going struggle between the Woman and the serpent-dragon (cf. Gen 3:15 and Rev 12:1ff.) which accounts for the violence of the controversy at times. Today the controversy continues about the question of the Woman’s active role in the work of redemption, viz., the maternal role of Mary qua Mediatrix. A good introduction to these controversies can be found in Miravalle, “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Coredemptrix, cit.; and to the type of atmosphere leading to denial of Marian mediation and the title Mediatrix cf. G. Morrissey, For the Love of Mary. Defending the Church from Anti-Marianism, Brooklyn NY 1999. On the historical background cf. M. Hauke, Mary, “Mediatress of Grace.” Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace in the Theological and Pastoral Works of Cardinal Mercier: Supplement to Mary at the Foot of the Cross IV, New Bedford, MA, 2004. For the bearing of the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater on the problematic cf. J.F. Bifet, La mediación maternal de Maria. Aspectos especificos de la enciclica “Redemptoris Mater,” in Ephemerides Mariologicae 39 (1989) 237-254; E. Llamas, La mediación maternal de Maria en la enciclica “Redemptoris Mater,” in Estudios Marianos 61 (1995) 149-180.
We can be quite sure of her triumph, precisely because as maternal mediatrix Christ entrusted, consecrated, the entire Church and each member to his Mother, the Woman foretold in Genesis 3:15 and revealed in glory in Revelation 12:1ff. But we cannot be sure of our share in that victory, unless we understand clearly and accept in practice the universal mediation of Mary in the Church and in the lives of each and every member, actual and potential. In practice, this means we must engage in true devotion to the Virgin, as St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort calls our basic response to the mystery of Marian mediation here and now, or live total consecration to the Immaculate, as St. Maximilian M. Kolbe defines the same basic response.
(7) Pius IX, Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854; Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, November 1, 1950, in AAS 42 (1950).
(8) St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, Scritti d Massimiliano Kolbe, Rome 1997, n. 1318. This profound essay, an example of contemplative theology of the highest order, was dictated by the saint only hours before his final arrest by Gestapo, Feb. 17, 1941. Unfortunately, there exists no satisfactory English translation to date.
(9) St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, p. II, in particular chapters 2 and 9.
(10) More technical discussion of this issue is carried out via use of the terms “transcendental” and “predicamental” participation, the first denoting sharing in a spiritual perfection, the second sharing in material goods. Mediation par excellence is a form of metaphysical analogy, in the first instance the reconciliation of like and unlike. Cf. J. Ferrer Arellano, Marian Coredemption in the Light of Christian Philosophy, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross II, New Bedford, MA, 2002, pp. 113-150. The effective recognition of the real difference between these two forms of predication requires a discussion of the relation between analogy and univocity in metaphysics, a point clearly recognized by Bl. John Duns Scotus, especially in regard to matters touching the will and the person, such as mediation. Analogy in order to mediate requires a mean or the “univocal.” Here are two key texts from his commentaries on Book I of the Sentences: “Teachers who speak of God and of God’s knowable attributes employ univocity in their manner of reasoning, even if they reject the word” (Rep. Par. I, d 3, q 1, n 7); and “Analogy would be useless if those truths that are evident in creatures were not attainable by the same reasoning as those which are attributed to God in an eminent degree” (Ord., d 8, p 1, q 3). Mediation is precisely one of these perfections classed by Scotus as “pure perfections” only accessible via “metaphysical univocity,” and therefore permitting participation without diminution of unity. On the difference between simple perfections and simply simple, or pure perfections cf. W. Hoeres, Die Wille als reine Vollkomenheit nach Duns Scotus, Munich 1962. Unfortunately there is nothing comparable in English. The classic Protestant position on Christ alone as Mediator rests on a wrongheaded denial of these basics of sound metaphysics, and leads straight to the monophysite theory of salvation excluding human cooperation in any form at any level, even of subordinate good works. Marian minimalism among Catholics in regard to the title universal Mediatrix heads in the same direction.
(11) For an introduction to the thought of Scotus on Marian mediation and its relation to the absolute predestination of Christ, cf. Maximilian M. Dean, F.I, A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ. Blessed John Duns Scotus and the Franciscan Thesis, New Bedford, MA, 2006.
(12) Witness the quasi-universal practice of divorce today, a moral-religious plague if ever there was one. Modern forms of mediation, e.g., psychological therapy-counseling in many cases, are about as successful as the ancient Roman pontifices as religious mediators. Their bridges over the Tiber were masterpieces of engineering; but neither ancient nor modern technique suffices to resolve the problem of sin, social discord, and death.
(13) Summa theologiae, III, q 26, a 1.
(14) Breviloquium, p. II, chapter 9. On the contributions of St. Bonaventure to an understanding of the concept of Marian mediation cf. P.D. Fehlner, Immaculata Mediatrix—Toward a Dogmatic Definition of the Coredemption, in Mary Corredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundations II, Santa Barbara, CA, 1997, pp. 259-329; Idem, Il Mistero della Corredenzione secondo il Dottore Serafico San Bonaventura, in Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia, vol. II, Frigento 1999, 11-91.
(15) St. Bonaventure, III Sent., d 1, a 2, q 2; II Sent., d 23, dub 4; for a parallel text in St. Thomas, Summa Th., II, II, q 2, a 7. Cf. P.D. Fehlner, Redemption, Metaphysics and the Immaculate Conception, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross V, New Bedford, MA, 2005, pp. 186-262, here p. 234.
(16) St. Bonaventure writes: “Whether we speak of the (Word) becoming man, or of the Woman becoming Mother of God, we are speaking of realities beyond what is due to or comprehensible by a mere creature” (III Sent., d 4, a 2, q 2). The same mysterious character belongs to the titles Mediator and Mediatrix.
(17) St. Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaemeron, col. 1, nn. 12-17. The middle position of the Word in the Trinity is the basis for his role in creation, and for the appropriateness of his Incarnation for the work of recreation and recapitulation, viz., a work of sacerdotal and sacrificial mediation. Inseparable from this at its every moment is the Virgin Mother Mediatrix. Cf. P.D. Fehlner, F.I., Immaculata Mediatrix—Toward a Dogmatic Definition of the Coredemption, in Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundations II, Santa Barbara, CA, 1997, pp. 259-329.
(18) Cf. Aa.Vv., Maria: “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione” – Mary: “Unique Cooperator in the Redemption,” New Bedford, MA, 2005.
(19) Cf. I. Bover, Pauli doctrina de Christi Mediatione Mariae mediationi applicata, in Marianum, 4 (1942) 81-90.
(20) St. Bonaventure, Collationes de septem Donis Spiritus Sancti, col. 6. Cf. P.D. Fehlner, Il mistero della Corredenzione secondo il Dottore Serafico San Bonaventura, in Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia II , Frigento 1999, pp. 11-92.
(21) Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, homily at the ordinary public consistory for the creation of new cardinals, March 25, 2006.
(22) Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Ecclessia de Eucharistia, April 17, 2003, chapter six.
(23) It is in this all-inclusive sense that the title of Mediatrix is taken in the petition that the cardinals and bishops united at Fatima in 2005 addressed to the Pope. Cf. Aa.Vv., Maria: “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione” – Mary: “Unique Cooperator in the Redemption,” op. cit. This delineation of the all-inclusive sense is essentially that of St. Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaemeron, col. 6.
(24) For the biblical foundation of all of dogmatic Mariology, including the doctrine on Marian mediation, see S.M. Manelli, F.I., All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2005, 442 pp.; I. De La Potterie, S.J., Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, New York, 1992; P.C. Landucci, Maria Santissima nel Vangelo, Ed. San Paolo, Rome 2000, 537 pp.
(25) Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, March 25, 1987, 21.
(26) On the patristic development of this point cf. H. Rahner, Our Lady and the Church, New York 1961. Within the context of a contemplative Mariology see Ven. Mary of Agreda, Mystical City of God, in particular The Coronation (part III, in the complete English version, vol. 4: a good introduction is available in E. Llamas, The Ven. Mary of Agreda and the Mariology of Vatican II, New Bedford, MA, 2006). The pattern of Marian mediation embedded in the Bible continues from the earliest days of the Church as a fixed context, within which from the sixth century the title Mediatrix will commonly be ascribed to the Virgin Mother. Further, the ecclesio-typical aspects of active Marian mediation are clearly shown to depend on the Christo-typical, in a proximate fashion on Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix.
(27) Bossuet, Homily III on the Conception of the Virgin.
(28) Cf. St. Justin, Dialogus cum Tryphone, n. 100, in PG 6, 709-711a. For the patristic foundation of Marian mediation, see L. Gambero, S.M., Maria nel pensiero dei Padri della Chiesa, Ed. Paoline, Alba (Cn) 1991 (English version: Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999); G. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza, vol. II, Ed. Pisani, Isola del Liri (Fr), pp. 171-179, 209-222; L. Cignelli, O.F.M., Maria Nuova Eva nella patristica greca, Assisi 1966; Testi mariani deli primo millennio, ed. G. Gharib, E. Toniolo, L. Gambero, G. Di Nola, Roma 1988-1993, 4 vv.
(29) St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians, 18, 2, cit. by W.A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville (Minn.) 1970, p. 18 (n. 42).
(30) St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus haereses, V, 19, 1; Demonstratio praedicationis apostolicae, 31, 33, cit. by B. de Margerie, Mary Coredemptrix in the Light of Patristics, in Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations, op. cit., p. 9.
(31) Cf. G. Jouassard, Le rôle des chrétiennes comme intercesseurs auprès de Dieu dans la chrétienté lyonnaise au second siècle, in Revue des sciences religieuses, 30 (1956) 217-229; M. Jourion, Aux origines de la prière d’intercession de Marie, in Etudes Mariales, 23 (1966) 37-42.
(32) Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 6, 49, in GCS, IV-57, p. 27. (English cit. in A. Menzies, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 9, 4th ed., 1897, p. 375.)
(33) Pseudo-Origen, in Florilegium casinense, 2, p. 154, 2c.
(34) Translation from the original Greek. The papyrus that relates this prayer is property of the John Rylands Library of Manchester (England). Published in the critical edition of M.C.H. Roberts, Catalogue of the Greek and Latin Papyri in the John Rylands Library Manchester, vol. III, Manchester 1938, p. 46. See also La mariologia dei Padri. Età pre nicena, LAS, Roma; G. Giamberardini, O.F.M., La mediazione di Maria nella Chiesa Egiziana, Cairo 1952, 124 pp.; G. Giamberardini, Il culto mariano in Egitto, 3 vv., Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem 1974-1978. English translation cit. by J.D. Miller, Marian Mediation: Is It True to say that Mary is Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate?, op. cit., p. 58; Maria Francesca Perilla, F.I., Sub Tuum Praesiduum. Incomparable Marian Praeconium, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross IV, New Bedford, MA, 2004, pp. 138-169.
(35) Cf. P.F. Mercernier, L’antienne mariale la plus ancienne, in Le Museon, 53 (1939) 229-233; Mercernier, La plus ancienne prière à la Sainte Vierge, in Les Questions Liturgiques et Paroissales, 25 (1940) 33-36.
(36) St. Ephraem, Opera, Ed. Assemani, vol. III, p. 532-533.
(37) Ibid, p. 526.
(38) Hymn Akathistos. Cf. The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. I, Robert Appleton Co., 1907.
(40) Theoteknos, Homily on the Assumption, n. 9, in A. Wenger, L’Assomption de la Très Sainte Vierge dans la Tradition Byzantine du VI au X siècle, Paris 1955, pp. 289, 291.
(41) St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily 2 on the Dormition, in PG 98, 357.
(42) Idem, Homily on the Dedication of the Virgin to the Temple, in PG 98, 380-381.
(43) Idem, Homily 2 on the Dormition, in PG 98, 352b.
(44) St. Andrew of Crete, Sermon 4 On the Birth of Mary, PG 97, 865A. English cit. in “Appendix IV: English Translation of Chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium,” Marian Studies, Vol. XXXVII (1986), p. 248, note 15.
(45) St. John Damascene, Homily 1 On the Dormition of the B.V. Mary, 8, PG 96, 712bc–713a. Cf. “Appendix IV: English Translation of Chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium,” art. cit.
(46) Ibid., 716c. 717a.
(47) St. Bernard, In Vigilia Navitatis Domini Sermo 3, in PL 183, 100. Cf. P. Haffner, The Mystery of Mary (Wiltshire, England: Anthony Rowe Ltd. 2004), p. 258.
(48) Pseudo Albertus Magnus, Mariale, p. 164.
(49) St. Bonaventure, Opera omnia, vol. IX, p. 641a. On Marian mediation in St. Bonaventure cf. L. Di Fonzo, Doctrina Sancti Bonaventurae de Universali Mediatione B. Virginia Mariae, Rome 1938; P.D. Fehlner, Il mistero della Corredenzione…, cit. St. Bonaventure is rightly considered the “Doctor of Marian Mediation,” so profound and so many are his insights, so systematically thought out. Alone among the great Doctors of the thirteenth century, his teaching is at once a witness to the riches of the preceding tradition and a key to the subsequent development of Mariology in the West, particularly with Scotus. For the clinching argument for the Immaculate Conception in Scotus (and in the Bull of definition, Ineffabilis Deus, of Bl. Pius IX) rests on the concept of a most perfect redemption by a most perfect Redeemer. What makes that redemption most perfect is clearly expounded by St. Bonaventure in terms of Marian mediation, whence the need of a unique sanctity or fullness of grace in Mary as the ontological “mean” of her office between Christ and us.
(50) St. Bernardine of Siena, Homily on the Nativity of the B.V. Mary, chapter 8, cit. by M.J. Scheeben, Mariology, vol. II (New York: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), p. 271. St. Bernardine is another great “Doctor of Marian Mediation,” particularly as a foundation of Catholic spirituality. The substance of his teaching is doubtless what Scotus might have written, had he not died so young.
(51) By way of introduction to the theological value of this work and the significance of the golden age of Spanish Mariology in particular cf. E. Llamas, The Ven. Mary of Agreda and the Mariology of Vatican II, New Bedford, MA, 2006.
(52) F.X. Godts, C.Ss.R., De definibilitate Mediationis universalis Deiprarae, Brussels 1904, 451 pp.
(53) J. Bittremieux J., De mediatione universali B.M. Virginis quoad gratis, Brugis 1926.
(54) A. Lépicier, O.S.M. (Card.), L’Immacolata Corredentrice Mediatrice, Rome 1928.
(55) Cf. M. Hauke, Maria “Mediatrice di tutte le grazie.” La mediazione universale di Maria nell’opera teologica e pastorale di cardinale Mercier, op. cit.
(56) G. Besutti, O.S.M., La mediazione di Maria secondo gli studi di due Commissioni istituite da Pio XI, with introduction by I.M. Calabuig, O.S.M., Marianum, 47 (1985) 37-174. Dr. Manfred Hauke is presently conducting detailed archival research seeking to locate the mysterious, elusive report of the Roman Commission.