Ecumenism is the Issue: On Declaring the Dogma of Our Lady as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Grace, and Advocate Forthwith!
In chapter seven of Pope John Paul II’s, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the Holy Father addresses the question of why the Holy Spirit has permitted so many divisions and enmities among those who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ. (1) In his answer, Pope John Paul II offers a profound way of viewing things and presents us with a challenge and a hope.
While the historical reasons for our divisions are well known, the Holy Father says we need to ask ourselves if there is what we might call “a metahistorical reason.” (2) He explains that from a negative view, this would lead us to see our divisions as the “bitter fruit of sins committed by Christians.” (3) However, if we search for a positive view, we will come to see things quite differently.
By trusting in the God Who brings good out of evil and human weakness, we might come to see these divisions as the very path through which “the untold wealth contained in Christ’s Gospel and in redemption itself” is being discovered. (4) The Holy Father goes on to explain his meaning here:
More generally, we can affirm that for human knowledge and action a certain dialectic is present…. It is necessary for humanity to achieve unity through plurality, to learn to come together in the one Church, even while presenting a plurality of ways of thinking and acting, of cultures and civilizations. Wouldn’t such a way of looking at things be, in a certain sense, more consonant with the wisdom of God, with His goodness and providence? (5)
The Holy Father goes on to say, however, that this cannot be a justification for our divisions to deepen. When he wrote this over fifteen years ago in 1994, the Holy Father said that many believe it is now time for “the love that unites us to be manifested!”
In 2010, these words of Pope John Paul II seem all the more appropriate, prophetic and urgent. The crisis of truth, especially in the West, the all-pervasiveness of moral relativism, and the deepening crisis of Faith in every branch of the universal Church have proliferated to the point of threatening the stability and even the continued existence of many of the institutions that have built what we once referred to as Christian civilization. Historians tell us that we are now living in a period that is best characterized as post-Christian and even neo-pagan. It is now more urgent than ever that we, who are baptized into Christ Jesus, put aside centuries of animosity and allow ourselves to undergo that purification of heart, conscience and memory that Pope John Paul II challenged us to during the Great Jubilee. The world is in desperate need of our common witness to Jesus Christ, which must be manifested through our love for one another. For only if we love one another, will the world believe that the Trinitarian God abides in us (1John 4:12) and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true!
Additionally, we who are baptized into Christ Jesus need to find a way to build bridges to one another, not only for the sake of the world but also for the health of our various households of Faith. So many of our internal problems could be helped through a respectful and honest exchange of the variety of gifts that the Holy Spirit has developed in each of our households during these years of division, as pointed out by the Pope John Paul II in the quote cited above. Additionally, our enduring divisions are a scandal and hindrance to evangelizing the next generation, a generation whom so many polls tell us is increasingly skeptical about the trustworthiness of any religious institution, while at the same time longing for a connection with the transcendent. Our divisions and failure to forgive one another speak so loudly that the young cannot hear the Gospel we proclaim with our lips about the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, given to us so that we might be forgiven, healed from sin by Divine Mercy HimSelf, and brought into communion with the Blessed Trinity.
This brings me to the subject matter of our gathering today, the timeliness and even the urgency of the Successor of St. Peter’s declaring the Dogma of Our Lady’s Coredemption.
If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we must admit that our mere human efforts at undergoing the spiritual purification Pope John Paul II has rightly said will be necessary for our reunion and actually living together as one Body in Christ have not worked! We seem to take one step backwards for every step forward. To say that we are in need of divine intervention for the reunion of Christians is an understatement. I have come to believe that our Divine Savior has already pointed out and appointed for us the only means through which we will receive the Grace of being brought into a unity that is the image of, and indeed a participation in, the very union that He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a “perichoretic” union of the Three Persons wherein the Three distinct Persons of the Godhead have been described theologically, with our mere human words, as mutually co-inhering without coalescence.(6)
As with everything else that Our Savior offers us, the union of Christians will have to be “born from above.” And, in the words of St. Louis de Montfort, “just as in natural and bodily generation there is a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation [of being born from above] there is a father who is God and a mother who is Mary. (7) This is why the Lord’s final words addressed directly to all of us, immediately before He died, as recorded in St. John’s Gospel, were: “Behold, your Mother”(John 19:27). These words are addressed to us not merely as a suggestion but rather with the weight of a final directive and even a command for us to obey, if we are to be recipients of the new Life of Grace He offers us. If we look carefully at the wording of chapter 19 in the Gospel of St. John, we notice that only after having given us this directive, through the proxy of the Beloved Disciple, does Our Divine Savior say: “It is finished” (John 19:30). We must take from this that it is only in our full compliance with His directive to “Behold our Mother,” that the work of the Redemption itself can and will be finished.
And surely, my brothers and sisters, the completion of the work of Redemption will and must include nothing less than the reconciliation and unity of Christians, a reconciliation and unity that our Divine Savior prayed for the night before He died (John 17:20-21) and even a reconciliation that will be required for the full number of Gentiles to brought into the New Covenant of Grace, so that Israel itself will be saved by being grafted back into their own olive tree, as St. Paul tells us (Rom. 11:25-29). And how could we ever imagine or propose that any of these miraculous events would happen unless we truly follow the Savior’s command to “Behold our Mother?” In fact, these events simply will not happen otherwise. Let us explore why this is true.
It is none other than the ontological Reality of Grace indwelling our souls that makes us truly adopted sons and daughters of God, as well as brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of the Incarnation, all human persons are now united with God the Son through the natural bonds of our common humanity that God the Son has united to His Divine Person. Confessing Christians are united to Him even more profoundly through the supernatural Life of the Divine Indwelling that we have traditionally called Sanctifying Grace. Furthermore, all Christians, regardless of which household of faith they live in, have received this totally free and undeserved Gift of Divine Mercy and Grace in Jesus Christ by one means and one means only. It is mediated to us through the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, i.e., through the material means of a human nature united to the Divine Person of God the Son. In Jesus Christ, the material reality of our very human flesh and blood, united to His Divine Person, becomes divinized in the fullest sense and provides us with the only way to union with the entire Trinity, and one another, in this life and the next. That is exactly why He tells us in John 6:53, “unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have Life within you.”
And, this Sacred Humanity has only one ontological source, by Divine Design. It is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, who gives God the Son flesh and blood, by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, this sublime gift on the part of our Mother occurs only with her free and full consent, a consent that the entire Blessed Trinity and heaven itself sought and waited upon. It is in the Mystery of the Divine Maternity and the very Incarnation of God the Son from her own humanity that the Blessed Virgin’s Maternal role in salvation history as Coredemptrix and our consequent communion with one another, as her spiritual children, are rooted.
The more we “Behold” the Mystery of Our Lady’s Divine Maternity of God the Son and ponder its meaning, the more we come to understand that the Blessed Virgin is Mother to all who are brothers and sisters “in Christ,” by virtue of His Divine Life in our souls, mediated to us only by His Sacred Humanity taken from her. She is also the Mother of all people because humanity itself, through the Second Adam’s Incarnation from her “side,” has now been brought into a mysterious union with the Triune God. In short, just as Jesus directed us to say, “Our Father,” He is also directing and even commanding us to say, “Our Mother,” as the decisive act on our part that is required for His work of Redemption to be “finished” (John 19:30).
And, here’s the clincher. Because of the ontological Reality of Grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our common Mother, whether we understand each other or not, whether we completely agree with each other in all the fine details of theology or not, and even whether we like each other or not. And, we are, consequently, really and truly, brother and sister to one another, which is what makes our divisions so scandalous!
On the natural level, it is usually the mother that enables siblings who would rather disagree and wrangle with each other to come together, in love, to form a family. It is also usually the mother who helps the children of a family learn mutual respect for one another because they come to see their mother’s love for a brother or a sister and model it.
If we take the basic rationale of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body a step further, we have to say that mothers are able to work such miracles in the family because, biologically and physiologically speaking, it is the role of the mother to bring unity out of diversity. In the very act of procreation, the womb of the mother is where the diverse realities of sperm and ovum become an entirely new and single person. If these things are true in the natural order, how much more true they are on the higher levels of grace and even glory!
If it was the Blessed Virgin’s Role in the economy of salvation to effect the union of Divinity and humanity in the Incarnation of God the Son, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, during her earthly life, how certain we can be that in her life of glory it is the Blessed Virgin’s prerogative and divinely ordained role to reconcile all her spiritual children into one body and bring us together in the fullness of Grace and Truth, a fullness that is her Divine Son, Himself. It is only through, with and in the Blessed Virgin, who is not only “Our Mother” but also the Mother of the Redemption itself, that we will be given the Grace to forgive, perceive and love one another with the mutual respect that an authentic ecumenism will require. And, let us not fear that our justifiable theological concerns and debates with one another will cease to be a concern in such a reunion. Afterall, Our Mother is the woman whom God has put at enmity with the devil (Gen. 3:15)! Thus, it is also her role to defend and protect her children against all lies and heresy even in bringing us together.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is the hope and prayer of this Anglican that the Successor of St. Peter will soon find a defining way to speak about and “Behold” Our Mother’s Role in Redemption as Coredemptrix. The dogmatic declaration of the Mystery of Our Mother’s Coredemption is nothing less than the necessary instrumental cause needed to unite Christians, rather than as some fear, divide us. Furthermore, because the Bishop of Rome is the Successor of St. Peter, even in our separated condition, we need the Bishop of Rome to define and declare the dogma on Our Mother’s Coredemption on behalf of all Christians and even on behalf of all people everywhere.
Such a dogmatic definition will be our human way of giving a public and formal fiat to the Mystery of Our Mother’s work in Redemption, as Coredemptrix, so that the Power of our Mother’s role in Redemption might be unlocked among us by this formal and public correspondence of our minds and hearts on earth, to what is already true in heaven, and, therefore, in Reality.
In this time of great moral laxness, when so many Christians in all of our households of Faith have disregarded their Baptismal promises and completely lost their way, we need nothing less than the intervention and mediation of the Immaculate Conception Herself, the only one who can receive Jesus Christ, the Divine Redeemer, into and on behalf of all humanity, perfectly.
The declaration of the dogma is needed now, even if all Christians don’t yet understand the meaning or significance of the dogma and even if some within the household of the Roman Catholic Church itself do not understand the dogma’s necessity.
The dogmatic declaration of Our Lady’s Coredemption, which is what Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood is all about, will affirm that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not just a disciple, a model, a subject of religious piety, or even a type of the Church, as she has sometimes been incorrectly reduced to, by both Catholic and Protestant Christians alike, and, sadly, even by many theologians in our day. The dogma will allow us to reiterate, definitively, with St. Irenaeus, and centuries of saints, doctors, fathers and mothers of the Faith, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a co-cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race, alongside her Divine Son. (8) The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The loss of sanctifying grace and spiritual death that the virgin Eve had condemned us to through unbelief, the Blessed Virgin Mary has set us free from, through her faith (9) and cooperation with her Divine Son in the work of Redemption, “in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve [and her offspring]. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued (salvatur) by the means of a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.” (10)
The Blessed Virgin Mary is nothing less than the Mother of the Redeemer, the Mother of Grace, and the Mother of Redemption itself. We are redeemed by the Pierced Hearts of both Jesus and Mary in an ineffable Union that we mere humans will be spending all eternity contemplating. In the words of St. Louis de Montfort, “[t]he salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished.” (11)
Is it any wonder, my friends, that the Blessed Virgin Mary told the three children of Fatima, Portugal, during her apparition on July 13, 1917, in speaking about the Blessed Trinity’s desire to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart at this point in salvation history, that “only She can help you”? (12) Let us pray and work that the Blessed Trinity’s desire in this regard will soon be fulfilled through the declaration of the Dogma that the Mother of God is the Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Grace and Advocate.
Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D.
March 25, 2010
Feast of the Annunciation to Mary and the Incarnation of God the Son from Mary
Inside the Vatican Day of Dialogue on the Proclamation of the Fifth Dogma
(1) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, ed. Vitorrio Messori, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994) 152.
(2) John Paul II 153
(3) John Paul II 153.
(4) John Paul II 153
(5) John Paul II 153
(6) John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 1979) 186
(7) St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin 30
(8) St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk 3, ch 22, para 4
(9) St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk 3, ch 22, para 4.
(10) St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk 5, ch 19, para 1
(11) St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin 49
(12) Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, ed. Fr. Louis Kondor, S.V.D., trans. Dominican Nuns of Perpetual Rosary, 11th edition (Fatima: Secretariado Dos Pastorihnos, 2000) 168