In 1728, Benedict XIII (Pietro Francesco Orsini), a Dominican known both as a follower of St. Thomas and of St. Augustine,1{footnote}Cf. G. Cardill o, Benedetto XIII e il giansenismo, in Memorie domenicane 58 (1941) 217-222, and 59 (1942) 38-43; G. Vignato, Storia di Benedetto XIII, 7 vols., Milan 1953-1972; R. Laurentin, Le titre de Corèdemptrice. Etude historique, Rome-Paris 1951: here p. 48 where Laurentin quotes these words of thanks of Benedict XIII: “gratitudine non meno verso il nostro amatissimo Redentore, che verso la nostra anche amantissima Corredentrice,” taken from a work of Pope Benedict XIII, Sermoni sopra la vita della gloriosissima Vergine, Benevento-Florence 1728, p. 368.  {/footnote}  with his authority as theologian and Pope, set on an identical level “our most beloved Redeemer” and “also our most beloved Coredemptrix.” The text has a relevance of its own within the historical study of the title Coredemptrix, but here I recall it in view of the coupling of Mary with Christ, both “most beloved” because of their work: in the case of Christ the redemption; in the case of Mary the coredemption. It is obvious, indeed obligatory, that one search out the theological reasons for the aforementioned coupling. Are there any? And what are they?

 There is more than one reason, not the least being the insistence of the Church’s Magisterium on yoking Mary with Christ as His “generosa socia” [generous companion: cf. Gen. 2: 18] in the work of redemption. {footnote}By way of example: Leo XIII, Iucunda semper, ASS 27 (1894-95) 178: “… iam tunc consors cum Eo exstitit laboriosae pro humano genere expiationis”; St. Pius X, Ad diem illum, ASS 36 (1903-04) 453: “… pro ea quam diximus dolorum atque aerumnarum Matris cum Filio communione…Matris et Filii numquam dissociata consuetudo vitae et laborum”; Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, AAS 42 (1950) 768-769: “Idcirco modo coniuncta, immaculata in suo conceptu, in divina maternitate sua integerrima virgo, generosa Divini Redemptoris socia… plenum de peccato eiusque consectariis deportavit triumphum”; Idem, Ad caeli Reginam, AAS 46 (1954) 635: “… utpote Christi Dei Mater, socia in divini Redemptoris opera,… Ex hac enim cum Christo Rege coniunctione splendorem celsitudinemque attingit.”; John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, in Dehoniana, Bologna 1987, p. 38: “… Madre del Figlio consostanziale al Padre e generosa compagna nell’opera della redenzione.”{/footnote} This coupling brings to  the theologian’s attention Mary’s cooperation in an identical work of redemption. And with the reminder of the Church’s Magisterium, it is just as obviously obligatory to insist on said cooperation.

1. The saving merit of Mary – By reason of thematic links, the idea of cooperation must, above all, be examined in relation to the structure of merit. Cooperation, in fact, has theological relevance in direct proportion to the degree it is the bearer of, indeed, the generator of merit. {footnote}St. Thomas, ST, 1-II, 114, 1, defines merit as “id quod alicui recompensatur pro retributione operis vel laboris, quasi quoddam pretium ipsius.”{/footnote}

 1.1. It is a commonplace of theology that one may merit “de condigno” and “de congruo,” that is to say, either on the basis of strict justice, or on the basis of some other moral consideration. {footnote}St. Thomas, ST, 1-II, 114, 3: “Opus hominis iusti… gratia procedit (et ideo) vitae aeternae meritorum est ex condigno; non autem de condigno meretur ut a libero arbitrio procedit, propter maximam inaequalitatem, licet congruum sit ut homini secundum suam virtutem operanti Deus secundum virtutis suae excellentiam recompenset”; cf. ST III, 48, 1 in c.; II Sent 27, 3, 5 in c.; De potentia 6, 29, 7; De veritate 22, 6, 29; Contra Gentiles III, 149.{/footnote} The question whether Mary cooperated, in what sense and in what measure, with her Redeemer Son in the salvation of the human race, finds its resolution only in the answer to a question about the reality, nature, and extension of her saving merit. That question may also be formulated in a different way, by asking in what way and in what measure Mary merited, not only for herself, but also for all mankind, so as to produce a contribution to the salvation of all uniquely her own.  It is accepted doctrine, not subject to any reasonable doubt, that one may merit on the premise of a prior divine ordination and insofar as the meritorious act is elicited in the state of grace. On the basis of such teaching one merits: “de condign,” not grace, but its increase, together with everlasting life and its conferral; “de congruo,” actual graces (after the first) and habitual grace.

Mary, without doubt, acted in full correspondence with the divine counsels, and acted in the state of grace, of which she possessed the fullness (Lk 1: 28).

1.2.She was, in fact, “termine fisso d’eterno consiglo” {footnote}Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia, Paradise, XXXIII, 3{/footnote}[preestablished goal of eternal counsels]. She was foreseen, willed, realized, and formed in virtue of God’s eternal decree, whereby she was enabled to make her personal contribution to the salvation of each one of us. God, then, designed her as a hinge in his arrangements, revealed in his saving designs, for whose accomplishment he willed Mary’s contribution. In relation to these arrangements Mary was:


  • a. the Immaculate, the only one among all women exempt from the universal inheritance of original sin;


  • b. the Mother of God, for which she made available her own humanity (Lk 1: 38), because, through her availability and interaction with her personal contribution, He could become incarnate as Man-God and Redeemer of the human race;


  • c. c. the Mother of the Church and of all mankind, having begotten all in her Son, Head and “firstborn of a multitude of brothers” (Rom 8: 29), by whom she was consigned to us as our most beloved Mother, as a testament of love in His final moment (Jn 19:27);


  • d. d. the Virgin Assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven, because involved in the mystery of Christ as His “socia” [helpmate], his “adjutrix” [assistant], and above all Queen-Mother (the gebirah of Jer 13: 18. 22. 26; II Kgs 10: 30);


  • e. the Advocate [Paraclete Queen] of sinful humanity, for the sake of whom the Savior mediated and brought under His saving work her children, begotten in the Son. {footnote}John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, cit., pp. 41-47.{/footnote} These she uninterruptedly sustains with her Mother’s love, by her powerful intercession, by her solicitous protection. {footnote}Lumen Gentium 62; EV 1:436.{/footnote}


A theologian, attentively considering these titles, will easily grasp the complexus of motives involving Mary in the divine designs and so constituting her a subject, this special subject, capable of merit.


1.3. As regards her state of grace, it seems almost superfluous to introduce the subject: her immunization “to any stain of original sin from the first moment of her existence in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race”; {footnote}Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, in DS 2803.{/footnote} and further, her permeation by the power of the Holy Spirit in being placed under the shadow of the power of the Most High (Lk 1: 35), lend unambiguous meaning to the angelic salutation where she is greeted as kecharitomene, “gratia plena,” full of grace.  {footnote}Cf. Blass-De Brunner-Rehkoff , Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch, Göttingen 1976, p. 86; M. Jugie, L’Immaculée Conception dans l’Ecriture Sainte et la Tradition Orientale, Rome 1952, 48; J. Fantini, Kecharitomene (Lc 1, 28): Interpretación filológica, in Salmantic., 1 (1954) 760-703; B. Gherardini, La Madre: Mari in una sintesi storico-teologica, Frigento 1989, pp. 153-159.{/footnote}Not only was she blessed with sanctifying grace; she was also elevated to levels of supernatural life never attained by other members of the human race. In virtue of the divine maternity, she was inserted into the very order of the hypostatic union of her Son. For “both the act whereby she was begotten and the person of Mary herself  are intrinsically ordered to the Word made flesh and therefore are intrinsically part of the order of the hypostatic union.” {footnote}S. M. Ragazzini, La Divina Maternità di Maria nel suo concetto teologico integrale, Rome-Longiano 1948, p. 226; cf. ibid., 214-238. On Mary’s fullness of grace, never equaled by anyone, see also Pius XI, Letter 23, Jan., 1933, in AAS 25 (1933) 80.{/footnote}


 1.4. The principle, then, once established, that the possibility of merit depends both on the relevance and fidelity of the meritorious action to the divine predispositions, and on the state of grace in which the action is performed, it follows that no one was ever more in condition to merit as was Mary, and never did, in fact, merit more than Mary.


Nonetheless, in speaking of merit, the relative concept must be purified even of the slightest allusion to an acquired right of man before God such as to condition, on the level of justice, the absolute divine liberty. This is no mere question of vocabulary, although that too has its importance. R. Laurentin  {footnote}R. Laurentin, La Vergine Maria. Mariologia postconciliare, Rome 1973, p. 234, n. 4 [Eng. Tr.: A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, Washington NJ 1991].{/footnote}rightly notes how a frequent “slippage in the verbal clutch” controlling the use of words has come to make merit suggest “heterodox theories,” and above all induces forgetfulness of the Augustinian teaching,  {footnote}St. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 83, 16: PL 37, 1068; De gratia et libero arbitrio, 8, 20: PL 44, 892; S. Guelfenbit. 23, 5, in Augustinus Magister I, 520; Enchiridion 197: PL 40, 282; Epistula 194, 5: PL 33, 880; Epistula 217, 4: PL 33, 970; and elsewhere.{/footnote}according to which God himself gives the power to merit and then rewards the merits. This slippage, so often affecting the meaning of legitimate terms, is perfectly evident in the case of merit when, from the Augustinian usage linking merit to grace, the term begins to accent a right and an exigency. Once one speaks of merit on these suppositions, not only is contact with supernatural reality lost, but theological discourse on the subject is itself derailed. Merit is reduced almost exclusively, either to a question of “juridical equality,” or to an identification with its meaning in common parlance. To say, for instance, that merit is the “merces” (the merchandise, recompense), changes  the root meaning. The goodness of the action comes to include a moral right to remuneration, and ends confusing merit with remuneration itself in an exclusively commercial context where the Creator is put on the same level as the creature. On the other hand, from a common sense perspective, merit and compensation (merchandise, retribution, remuneration, crown) are undeniably correlative concepts. If theological discussion of the subject does not distance itself, on the basis of Augustine’s concept of merit, from such presuppositions, it will always risk the “slippage” lamented by Laurentin.


The thomistic notion of merit also reveals its Augustinian provenance, precisely in the dependence of merit on grace and in their reciprocal distinction within the supernatural framework to which they are referred. Merit, in reality, is grace and recompense: it is grace in relation to the supernatural principle making it possible for the human subject to elicit supernaturally meritorious acts; it is recompense in relation to divine justice which gives to each his own. And this, God accredits to his subject, on the basis of the freedom whereby the act was performed. Such a person also becomes God’s subject by virtue of the meritorious act stemming from grace.{footnote}A very clear explanation has been articulated by one of the greatest Augustinians, augustinian both by religious profession and by theological conviction: J. L. Berti, De theologicis disciplinis libri 37, Venice 1776, vol. I-2, 1. 12, c. 6, 164.{/footnote}


This notion, viz., that in merit, grace and recompense are harmoniously integrated, enables us to grasp the impossibility on man’s part of meriting before God according to the canons of rigorous justice: the infinite qualitative difference between God and man impedes this. Yet in view of the divine provenance of all goods received by man, merit too, is but a grace: the grace to merit what God is graciously disposed to reward. And God rewards what conforms with divine dispositions and is realized in the state of grace.{footnote}See also the Council of Trent, session VI, c. 16 (DS 1848. 1852).{/footnote}   1.5. From this perspective, one understands perfectly what Bl. Pius IX {footnote}Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (DS 2800): “Illam longe ante omnes Angelicos Spiritus cunctosque Sanctos caelestium omnium charismatum copia de thesauro divinitatis deprompta ita mirifice cumulavit, ut… eam innocentiae et sanctitatis plenitudinem prae se ferret, qua maior sub Deo nullatenus intelligitur et quam praeter Deum nemo assequi cogitando potest”; cf. Pius X, Ad diem illum, AAS 36 (1903-04) 454: “… universis sanctitate praestat coniunctioneneque cum Christo”; Pius XII, Ad caeli Reginam, AAS 46 (1954).{/footnote}declared concerning the insuperable excellence and pre-eminence of the Virgin Mother: that no one is at her level; nor was it ever possible, or will it ever be possible, for a human creature to equal, even faintly, the perfection of Mary. Hence, no one can equal her in merit. Quite correctly, Vatican II links this perfection with “the divine pleasure” and assigns its origin to the “superabundance of Christ’s merits.”{footnote}Lumen Gentium 60a: “Omnis enim salutaris Beatae Virginis influxus in homines non ex aliqua rei necessitate, sed ex beneplacito divino exoritur et ex superabundantia meritorum Christi profluit.”{/footnote}


Indeed, anyone who would doubt the merit of Mary, would call into question not only her role as “socia” (companion) and of “adjutrix” (helpmate), not only her exceptional participation in the mystery of salvation, but would question that very mystery, of which she is a part, and to which she is witness at the same time.


The Benedictine of Canterbury, Eadmer († 1124), disciple of St. Anselm, a marian theologian like his master, took note of this. Eadmer was the first to make recourse to the concept of merit in order to indicate the prime modality of Mary’s cooperation in the work of salvation. {footnote}Eadmer, De excellentia Virginis, VIII, 11: PL 159, 573c. 578.b. Cf. also John Tauler (c. 1300-1361) and Ambrose Catharinus (Lancellot Politi, 1484-1553), both along the lines of Eadmer.{/footnote}The phrase recurring in the Fathers and in the liturgy: “meruit portare Christum Dominum” [she merited to bear Christ the Lord] and “quem meruisti portare” [whom thou merited to bear], a phrase arousing the timorous caution of R. Laurentin, is also frequent in the works of the great theologians, and Aquinas is the most prestigious witness  for this. {footnote}St. Thomas, ST III, 2, 11, ad 3: “Beata Virgo dicitur meruisse portare Dominum omnium, non quia meruit ipsum incarnari, sed quia meruit ex gratia sibi data illum puritatis et sanctitatis gradum, ut congrue posset esse mater Dei.”{/footnote}On the other hand, nor are the Pontiffs few, who have employed it: e.g., Leo XIII, who set in relief the singular merit of Mary by her presence and participation as Mother in the redemptive work of her Son.{footnote}Leo XIII, Parta humano generi, ASS 34 (1901-02) 194 f.: “Mysterium redemptionis… non adfuit tantum sed interfuit.”{/footnote}


 If Mary was capable of merit, she merited for herself and for others.


1.6. Without a doubt, Mary merited for herself-just as any of the redeemed-the increase of sanctifying grace, of personal sanctity, of everlasting life and of glory.2{footnote}Council of Trent, Session VI, c. 32 (DS 1582): “Si quis dixerit, hominis iustificati bona opera ita esse dona Dei, ut non sint etiam bona ipsium iustificati merita, aut ipsum iustificatum bonis operibus, quae ab eo per Dei gratiam et Iesu Christi meritum (cuius vivum membrum est) fiunt, non vere mereri augmentum gratiae, vitam aeteram et ipsius vitae aeternae (si tamen in gratia decesserit) consecutionem, atque etaim gloriae augmentum, a.s.” Cf. St. Thomas, ST III, 7, 11-12.{/footnote}  That the roots of Mary’s personal merit are located in her fullness of grace, in her divine Maternity and in the virtuous habits of her existence,{footnote}St. Thomas, ST III 27, 5, ad 2: “In beata Virgine fuit triplex perfectio gratiae. Prima quidem quasi dispositiva, per quam reddebatur ideonea ad hoc quod esset mater Christi; et haec fuit perfectio sanctificationis. Secunda autem perfectio gratiae fuit in beata Virgine ex praesentia Filii Dei in eius utero incarnati. Tertia autem est perfectio finis, quam habet in gloria.”{/footnote} is beyond question. That Mary also merited “de condigno” what any Christian in the state of grace can so merit, is also beyond question. That Mary also merited for others is the teaching of the Church. But as to the nature of this last object of Mary’s merit, even though the vast majority of theologians opt for merit “de congruo,” there are not lacking those who hold a so-called “merit de condigno,” as it were a kind of inner, undeniable exigence for a remuneration, as though in the realm of the supernatural there could exist an a pari equality between action and recompense, which St. Thomas recognizes as characteristic of merit as such, particularly where he declares expressly that “meritum importat  aequalitatem iustitiae” [merit implies the equity of justice].{footnote}St. Thomas, ST III, 49, 6, in c.{/footnote} There are also theologians who seek a middle way between these two extremes and speak of “a most congruent merit,” of “merit de digno,” “worthy merit,” “super-worthy merit,” “less than condign merit”; and there is even one opinion suggesting “merit of excellence.”


There is nigh unanimous agreement today about the need to get beyond the uncertainty produced by so many and vastly diverging views. To that end, the Angelic Doctor offers a reasonable and persuasive analysis of merit. His solution takes its point of departure from the solidarity of nature and natural congruence between the Most Holy Virgin and every other human creature qua human. Notwithstanding the supernatural preeminence of Mary over every other descendant of Adam, an a pari exists in the sense that there can be nothing lacking in her and common to all. Hence, as no one can merit grace for himself “de condigno,” {footnote}St. Thomas, 1-II, 114, 5; 2-II, 177, 1, ad 3; III 2, 11 in c.{/footnote}so neither is Mary able to merit it. St. Thomas, however, opens his analysis to vaster horizons, showing how everyone, if in the state of grace, merits for himself eternal life “de condigno” by reason of grace itself, and “de congruo” by reason of free will. {footnote}St. ST I, 95, 1 ad 4, & ad 6; 1-II, 114, 5; III, 48, 1 in c.{/footnote}Obviously Mary is no exception.


Finally, we should remark that according to the Angelic Doctor, every act informed by grace is meritorious.  {footnote}ST 2-II, 2, 9 in c. Here Aquinas limits himself to the discussion of the intellectual act of believing, insofar as moved by grace, but what is characteristic of this analysis applies to every act elicited in the state of grace and informed by grace. Cf. ST 1-II, 114, 4 ad 3; 2-II, 2, 9 ad 1; 2-II, 83, 13. 15 in c.; 2-II, 124, 1 ad 2.{/footnote} Consequently, Mary’s singularity in possessing the fullness of all that grace, makes her a subject supremely capable of meritorious acts. But just here arises a difficulty: if grace, insofar as it is the fontal principle of merit, does not fall within the power of merit, {footnote}ST III, 2, 11 in c.: “Gratia non potest cadere sub merito, principium enim meriti non cadit sub merito, et ideo nec ipsa gratia, quia est merendi principium… Est falsum, quod sub merito cadit omne illud sine quo praemium esse non potest. Quaedam enim (sunt) quae non solum requiruntur ad praemium, sed etiam praeexiguntur ad meritum, sicut divina bonitas, et eius gratia, et hominis natura… Beata Virgo dicitur meruisse portare Dominum omnium non quia meruit ipsum incarnari, sed quia meruit ex gratia sibi data illum puritatis et sanctitatis gradum, ut congrue posset esse mater Dei.”{/footnote}  how can it be said that Mary merited it, even “de congruo“?  This is one of the major objections to the doctrine of marian coredemption, but, from a thomistic perspective, the possibility of an exhaustive reply is not wanting. Grace, it is true, does not fall under merit, but merit sinks its roots in the theological ground of “charity,” to which the merit of everlasting life and the increase of grace pertain. {footnote}ST 1-II, 57, 1 in c.; 1-II, 114, 7 ad 3. 8 ad 3; I, 62, 5 in c.; 2-II, 24, 6 ad 1.{/footnote} Primacy always belongs to grace, grace being the act of that God whom it pleases to determine the objective conditions of merit and reward for this merit after having instigated it. If then it is true-as in fact it is true-that in the order of execution grace does not fall under merit, in the order of intention God himself disposes grace, either as an effect of the merit he intends to reward, or as its crown.


 Above all, this particular difficulty regards marian cooperation in the redemptive work of her Son. Hence we will return to this at the appropriate moment. Consideration of what Mary merited, however, serves to introduce it.


 1.7. Mary merited for others. It should be said immediately, however, that Christ alone merits “de condigno” for others; everyone else merits for other persons only “de congruo.” Even if Mary belongs to the order of the hypostatic union of her Son, she is a human creature and only qua human creature merits. Hence she merits for others only “de congruo.” On the other hand, it is of fundamental importance that the sublime dignity of her merit be acknowledged, a dignity stemming from her unique relationship with Christ. It is the merit of the most worthy and most noble member of the Church, the merit of the “singularis prae aliis generosa socia Christi” [generous associate  of Christ, unique among all others]{footnote}Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, AAS 42 (1950) 768; cf. the proemium of Ineffabilis Deus of Bl. Pius IX (DS 2800) and Lumen Gentium, 61.{/footnote} in His role as Savior, the merit of the Mother “compassionate” with her Son at the foot of the Cross. It may be said that the whole of Tradition sets in relief the contribution of an obedient faith and of a martyred love, whereby Mary merited for the human race, and which the great theologians illustrate in their “Summae.” In note 26, by way of exemplification, I have already cited the thought of the Angelic Doctor. Now, I add that of St. Bonaventure, who summarizes the testimony of the great marian antiphons and of the liturgy itself: “Ipsa enim reconciliationem toti generi humano promeruit” [for She merited the reconciliation of the entire human race].{footnote}St. Bonaventure, III Sent., 4, 3, 3; Eadmer, De excellentia Virginis VIII 9: PL 159, 573d, writes: “Promeruit ut reparatrix perditi orbis dignissime fieret”; Ps.-Augustine, St. Bernard, Ps.-Albert repeat this. Denis the Carthusian, De dignitate et laudibus B. Mariae Virginis, 2, 23: Opera Omnia, Tourney 1908, XXXVI, specifies in detail: “Virgo purissima Redemptorem nobis produxit: immo et suae merito sanctitatis de congruo nobis promeruit Redemptoris adventum. Quod enim est causa causae, dicitur esse causa causati.” A bit further on, while insisting on the notion of “compassion” he salutes Mary as “salvatrix mundi” [savioress of the world] by reason of the “eminentia, virtuositas et meritum suae passionis” [eminence, efficacy and merit of her suffering] whereby “excellenter promeruit ut per ipsam, hoc est per preces eius et merita, virtus et meritum Christi communicentur hominibus” [she merited in an eminent way that through her, that is through her prayers and merits, the power and merit of Christ might be communicated to men].{/footnote}


 The reason is clearly underscored by St. Pius X: {footnote}Pius X, Ad diem illum, ASS 36 (1903-04) 454.{/footnote}”she merited for us de congruo, as they say, what Christ merited for us de condigno.” Before him Leo XIII had already maintained, by way of a homogeneous series of papal acts, that Mary was not only actively associated in a sacrificial way with Christ in the mystery of the Redemption but, in being united to Christ, also acquired redemptive merit. {footnote}For Leo XIII see: Iucunda Semper, ASS 27 (1894-95) 178; Adiutricem populi, ASS 28 (1895-96) 130; Diuturni temporis spatium, ASS 31 (1898- 99) 146; Parta humano generi, ASS 34 (1901-02) 192-195.{/footnote}  The successor of both, Benedict XV,{footnote}Benedict XV, Inter sodalitia, AAS 10 (1918) 182: “Cum Filio patiente et moriente passa est et pene commortua.”{/footnote}  did not hesitate to consider the aforesaid merit as coredemptive. Pontiffs like Pius XI and Pius XII on more than one occasion spoke of the “fruits” of marian participation in the redemption  of the human race. {footnote}Cf. Pius XI, in L’Osservatore Romano, 1 Dec., 1933; 25 March, 1934; and 30 April, 1935; Pius XII, Haurietis aquas, AAS 48 (1956) 352.{/footnote} But these fruits were always understood as “de congruo,” not “de condigno.


This, by no means, prohibits us from affirming that insofar as Mary is “the generous companion of Christ,” she may be and must be confessed Advocate, Treasurer, and Administrator of saving grace, as in wondrous competition, doctrine and devotion have ever done. Here again, the problem of grace surfaces: grace as principle and foundation of merit cannot be merited. Evidently, if by grace one means the very redemptive work of Christ on behalf of all, Mary included, such grace precedes and determines the eventual merit of the redeemed, not excluding that of Mary. And should there be no other explanation, the difficulty just mentioned would seem to deny Mary the title of Coredemptrix, because showing her incapable of any redemptive merit. But I ask: is there not another explanation?


The aforementioned, intentional priority of marian cooperation in the redemption of Christ, when carefully considered, is also a priority of fact, at least in the sense that her “yes” to the divine plan of salvation preceded the Incarnation of the Word. There is no doubt that her “yes” was already a highly meritorious act, in the sense that she consented to the event of Christ, chief foundation and beginning of human salvation. Certainly Christ is the Redeemer of all, including His beloved and most worthy Mother. She has been placed in a condition where she is able to pronounce her meritorious “yes” not only in virtue of her free will, but also, and above all, in virtue of the infinite merits of her Son. In consideration of her assent, but also, and above all, in virtue of the infinite merits of her Son, and in virtue of the effects of both, Mary was preredeemed. In fact, that divine project associating Mary with Christ, as the New Eve with the New Adam, in the absolutely simple moment of divine Wisdom, places the event in a sole decree: universal salvation. This is true, even if activating this sole decree takes  the form of successive events. If, therefore, one considers the redemption in an objective sense, there is connoted both the work whereby Christ ransoms the entire human race, including the Most Holy Virgin, and her meritorious presence as Mother of the Redeemer. {footnote}A good synthesis of the foregoing can be found in J. Stöhr, Verdienst Marias, in Marienlexikon, ed. Bäumer-Scheffczyk, vol. VI, St. Ottilien 1994, pp. 593-596, with select bibliography. Cf. also the ever valuable, but at times exaggerated views, of G. Alastruey, Tratado de la Virgen Santísima, Madrid 1956, pp. 582-584.{/footnote}


 Under a sole decree, I said. Here, we clearly recognize the echo of the “uno eodemque decreto” [one and the same decree] on which depends, according to Bl. Pius IX, not only the Incarnation of the Word, but also the existence of her who was the free and responsible instrument of that Incarnation.{footnote}Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, in H. du Manoir, ed., Maria. Etudes sur la Sainte Vierge, III, Paris 1954, p. 752. As can be seen from note 2 above, Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, AAS 42 (1950) 769, also speaks of “uno eodemque decreto.”{/footnote}


2. The Coredemptrix – I have no precise idea what those, who are convinced they cannot ascribe the title Cordemptrix to Mary, might think about the merit of Mary if, in fact, they have ever thought about it. They do not think Mary can be given that title, because one alone is Redeemer; because Mary is among the number of the redeemed; because to pair her with the Redeemer as Cordedemptrix would be to suspect either a salvific insufficiency in the Redeemer himself, or with her present, a useless and counterproductive extra, indeed derogation from the one Savior of the human race; because the mere thought of marian coredemption is enough to block ecumenical dialogue, evidently more important than Christian truth itself; because, if Mary were Coredemptrix, she would possess the grace which does not fall under merit. I will stop listing all the reasons adduced, lest I, too, become a counterproductive extra. Nor do I intend to subject these reasons to an objective critique, because I want to avoid giving them-by the mere fact of replying to them-a theological weight which they simply do not possess, even minimally.  2.1. For the rest, this omission is obligatory. Otherwise, I would give the impression of banalizing those few basic objections which must be treated explicitly. The uniqueness and universality of the Redeemer, if not properly framed within a coherent, articulated, dogmatic discourse, more exactly christological and soteriological, raises an insurmountable barrier to any association of “coredeemers” alongside Him. I acknowledge, then, the seriousness of that kind of objection, as well as the seriousness of those theologians, some truly prestigious luminaries of the sacred sciences, who sincerely and responsibly have opted to be proponents of such objections. The definition of Mary by the ecclesiastical Magisterium as “having been redeemed in a more sublime way,” appeared to the great J. Rivière, a more than convincing reason to slam the door shut on the title Coredemptrix. {footnote}J. Rivière, Marie “corédemptrice”?, in Revue des Sciences Religieuses, 20 (1940) 123-131.{/footnote} The most determined opponent of the title, H. Lennerz, argued his point with such surety as to leave any interlocutor breathless, who might have thought differently than Lennerz. His strong point was the certainty of faith and doctrine that the objective redemption was definitively and perfectly accomplished by Christ alone. On that premise, addition of personal participation on the part of the Mother to the objective redemption of the Son, led Lennerz to the conclusion that there was a void or insufficiency, or an inefficacy in the saving work of Christ. In virtue of a possible coredemption the very work of salvation, in the very moment of its consummation, would reveal itself in need of perfection, and so reveal itself not definitive. But if that work is not yet perfect, it could hardly gratify Mary with those saving fruits, sole basis of her ability to posit actions objectively coredemptive. All things considered, then, the concept of coredemption, which the learned Jesuit constantly and precisely opposed, is a contradiction in terms.{footnote}H. Lennerz, De beata Virgine. Tractatus dogmaticus, Rome 1939 (3rd ed.; 1st ed. 1932), p. 232 ff.; Idem, Constitutiones de doctrina redemptionis, in Gregorianum 19 (1938) 420-444; Idem, De redemptione et cooperatione in opere redemptionis, in Gregorianum 22 (1941) 301-324, in particular pp. 314-318. 322; Idem, De cooperatione B. Virginis in ipso opere redemptionis in Gregorianum 28 (1947) 574-597, and 29 (1948) 118-141. His De beata Virgine was republished in 1957.{/footnote}  

 And with similar arguments W. Goossens,  {footnote}W. Goossens, Estne Mater Redemptoris immediate cooperata ad redemptionem obiectivam, seu ad acquisitionem gratiarum?, in Collationes Gandavenses 24 (1937) 187-202. 270-285; 25 (1938) 5-15. 86-97. 146-168. A collected edition of all these articles was published under the title: De cooperatione immediata Matris Redemptoris ad redemptionem obiectivam. Quaestiones controversae perpensatio, Paris 1939.{/footnote} G. D. Smith, {footnote}G. D. Smith, Mary’s Part in our Redemption, London 1938.{/footnote} and L. Billot, {footnote}L. Billot, in Preface to R. M. de la Broise-J. V. Bainvel, Marie Mère de la Grâce, Paris 1921, p. vi: “If, then, by this title of coredemption, which some modern writers do not fear to ascribe to her [Mary], one means any contribution made by her to the price of the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, this can be excused as an example of pious excess; but it still remains, objectively speaking, no less true that the title formally clashes with the most certain data of Catholic dogma.”{/footnote} the last named generally recognized as one of the great dogmaticians of his day, all opposed the very notion of coredemption.


2.2   All things considered, we are dealing here with the only valid objection to Mary as Coredemptrix. Hence, it is not permissible to ignore it, or to pretend it does not exist. It is an objection born not only of a concern to guard the uniqueness and universal saving superabundance {footnote}Cf. Rom 5: 20: “Ubi abundavit delictum, superabundavit (uperprepisseusen) gratia”; Eph 1: 8; I Tim 1: 14.{/footnote} of Christ, but also of a lack of sound exegetical analysis of the biblical sources in support of the redemptive fact; and of that conceptual slippage which, even with the best of intentions, transfers critical attention, appropriate to one issue, to another where it is inappropriate. It was not mere chance which led me first to deal with the merit of Mary. Discussion of her merit is carried on within another bearing on the merit of Christ, with whom by divine disposition Mary is entirely one. Of Christ it is affirmed that with His Incarnation, with the activity of His hidden and public life, with the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross, and finally with His Resurrection and Ascension to the glory of the Father, He acquired a superabundance of merits on the level of satisfaction for, and redemption of, the human race. This is to say, moreover, that such an acquisition of satisfactory and redemptive merit  implies, postulates, and testifies to how the salvific work of Christ was really accomplished. In the discussion of its reality and efficacy, however, it has come about that almost without noticing, theologians have slipped away from any consideration of “acquisition of merits” to a discussion of “objective redemption”: a genuine conceptual skid.


 2.3. Was this a case of theological progress, or perhaps its contrary? To my way of thinking, there were two ways equally valid for expressing the same reality: the redemption. Whereas “acquisition” accented the action of the subject acting, “redemption” indicates both the action of the one redeeming, and the state consequent on it. To focus interest chiefly (even if not exclusively) on the action of the one redeeming and in the very moment of redeeming, “objective”{footnote}Architect of this “skid” was H. Lennerz, De Beata Virgine, cit., n. 219, p.163, but he was in the 19th century partly anticipated by the great M. J. Scheeben, Handbuch der Dogmatik, III, Freiburg in Br. 1882, libr. V, n. 1330 [Eng. Tr. of this section of the Handbuch: Mariology, 2 vols., St. Louis MO 1946-47].{/footnote} was added to “redemption.” Thus attention was called to the entire series of actions truly meritorious, therefore satisfactory and redemptive, accomplished by the Lord Jesus during His natural life. “Objective redemption,” then, was in itself a happy formula, perhaps indeed an example of theological progress. In the process of time, it lost contact with its exact connotation and, when it is now used, any effort to clarify its precise meaning is absent, resulting in the misunderstandings and diatribes.


 All this, above all, at the expense of Mary. It not merely seemed strange, but downright impossible, that the objectively saving activity of the Word Incarnate-efficacious far beyond the minimum needed for this in virtue of the divine Person of the Savior-should require, in order to be complete, a subordinate “acquisition of merits,” or a supportive “objective redemption” of an integrative value. Hence, we need not marvel over the consequent adoption of anti-coredemptive positions. The error is found in the foundations. No consideration was given the most  intimate relationship, not merely natural, but supernatural, in which the divine design of universal salvation had placed Mary and Christ. Or where it may have been considered, not all the right conclusions were drawn. And the consequence of the missing consequences was that, on the level of “objective redemption,” Mary appeared as an encumbrance, a contradiction, a barrier to the uniqueness of the Savior. But is this a correct estimate of the real situation?


2.4. No one with a minimum of theological sensitivity and accustomed to move easily in the culture of his day, ever dreamed of supporting a coredemptive thesis even faintly suggesting an affront to the uniqueness of the Savior. The Savior is Christ, only Christ. Divine revelation on this point is unequivocal: “Una enim oblatione (mia gar prosphora) consummavit (teteleioken, perfect tense to indicate what happened is once for all) in sempiternum sanctificatos” [For by one and the same offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified] (Heb 10: 14). This is the message which resounds, with various nuances, but always the same content, in other parts of the New Testament. “Unus enim Deus, unus et mediator (mesites, the one who conjoins, unites extremes) Dei et hominum, homo Christus Jesus” [For there is one God, one Mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus] (I Tim 2: 5). “Cum inimici essemus, reconciliati smus (katellagemen, once again, perfect tense) Deo per mortem filii eius” [For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…] (Rom 5: 10). “Nunc autem reconciliavit in corpore eius post mortem, exhibere vos sanctos et immaculatos et irreprehensibiles coram ipso” [But now he has reconciled you in his body of flesh through his death, to present you holy and undefiled and irreproachable before him] (Col 1: 22). I seem to perceive a profound synthesis of the preceding texts and many others not cited here in the stupendous passage of Eph 2: 4-6: “Deus … dives in misericordia, propter nimiam caritatem suam.. cum essemus mortui peccatis, convivificavit (sunezoopoiesen) nos in Christo, cuius gratia estis salvati” [But God…rich in mercy, by reason of his very great love..when we were dead by reason of our  sins, brought us to life in Christ by whose grace you are saved], and in that no less stupendous passage of Col. 1: 12-20: “…in quo habemus redemptionem per sanguinem eius, remissionem peccatorum… quia in ipso complacuit omnem plenitudinem inhabitare et per eum reconciliare omnia in ipsum, pacificans per sanguinem crucis eius sive quae in terris sive quae in caelis sunt” […in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the remission of our sins…For it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell, and that through him he should reconcile to himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens…].


Everything here moves within the perspective of the redemption and of the one Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom God “misit in mundum non ut judicet mundum, sed ut salvetur mundus per ipsum” [For God did not send his Son into the world in order to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him] (Jn 3: 17). All Scripture, then proclaims that the Savior is Christ, Christ is the Mediator between God and men, Christ has offered himself to the Father on the altar of the Cross for the salvation of all.


2.5. From this it does not follow that aside Him as only Mediator there is no room at various levels for cooperators: some following upon His work, or dependently upon it, others preparing the way for it, others to spread the message of the salvation accomplished. None of these overshadow Christ; rather all are authenticated in Him and through Him, each carrying out a more or less clearly marked cooperative duty, however secondary. “There was a man, one sent from God, whose name was John” (Jn 1: 6): he was sent by God, with the responsibility of announcing the imminent arrival of the Son and, to prepare his way (Lk 7: 27; Jn 3: 28). Gabriel, in his turn, was sent by God to  Zachary (Lk 1: 19), and then to the espoused bride of Joseph to announce to her the plan of Redemption, together with the part she would have in this, and to ask her personal collaboration as woman and mother (Lk 1: 27). Of the Twelve, all personally chosen by Christ and called to follow Him, Christ testifies that the Father had sent them into the world as he had sent Him (Jn 17: 18): for the salvation of the world. The commission to save was repeated in the same terms after the Resurrection of Christ (Jn 20: 21); and in practice, it is the first link in a successive chain legitimating all apostolic activity of the Church. As we can see, Revelation itself foresees and organizes about the Redeemer a notable series of collaborators in subordination: they depend on Christ, yet concur in determining the conditions opportune for the efficacious impact of the work and figure of Christ on the man of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Why could not, or must not, Mary be placed at least on a par with them?


 2.6. I say at least, because it remains a doctrinally acquired certainty that no one has ever worked on the level of Mary, alone predestined to the divine Maternity, she alone the Mother of the Word Incarnate, she alone inserted into the order of the hypostatic union of her Son. The doctrine of marian coredemption sinks its roots in that uniqueness, arises out of her most personal condition of life, is the specific function to which Mary was called and which she has faithfully carried out.


It is not my intention, at the moment, to engage in the umpteenth theological demonstration of the coredemption. {footnote}I have treated this often; here I refer especially to my study: La Corredentrice nel mistero di Cristo e della Chiesa, Rome 1998, but also to dozens of articles and reviews in which among other points I have demonstrated that marian coredemption is already a doctrine of the Church, “definitive tenenda” [definitely to be held], even if “non definitorio modo” [though not yet in definitive form]. Cf. my article: The Coredemption of Mary: Doctrine of the Church, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross II, New Bedford MA 2002, pp. 37-48.{/footnote} I would only repeat what on other occasions I have already said, and what others, more or less better than I, have been able to explain. Here I limit myself to setting in relief, via the teaching of Vatican II, that “maternum munus erga homines” [motherly role on behalf of men], {footnote}Lumen Gentium, 60.{/footnote} wherewith Mary cooperated with her Redeemer Son for the salvation of the world.

  Mere acknowledgment of said “motherly role” does not bring the coredemption immediately to light. Nonetheless, this leaps, as it were, into the light as soon as we consider how that “role” came to be actuated by Mary.


Lumen Gentium 60 reaffirms the uniqueness of the Redemption and of the Redeemer, but also affirms the existence of the aforesaid “motherly role” on behalf of men and declares that it is not in competition with that of Christ. It speaks as well of “a saving influence of Mary on men,” acknowledging, then, that for men Mary, too, acts in a saving capacity. Because such an influence “arises not out of necessity, but from the good pleasure of God and flows out of the superabundance of Christ’s merits,” it does not follow that it does not exist, but that “it depends absolutely” on the mediation of the Redeemer, from which “it draws all its efficacy.”


Next, Lumen Gentium 61 contemplates the Holy Virgin in that “uno eodemque decreto,” here called also “divinae Providentiae consilio” [counsel of divine Providence], which predestined her to the closest of unions with the Word Incarnate, viz., as “dear Mother of the Redeemer, among all collaborators of the Redeemer, the exceptional, generous companion and humble handmaid of the Lord.” Lest anyone think this a pious exaggeration, the text descends to details Mary the Mother, the Associate, the Handmaid: “with the conception of her Son, begetting Him, nourishing Him, presenting Him to the Father in the Temple and suffering with Him as He died on the Cross, she cooperated with her obedience, her faith, her hope and ardent charity in an absolutely unique way in the work of the Savior for the restoration of supernatural life in souls. For this reason she has become our Mother in the order of grace.” What the text intends us to understand is evident: Mary comes from God gratified by exceptional gifts, both because she would be their only possessor, and because absolutely beyond the exigencies of nature. God filled her with these, not only for her own sake, but for the sake of others, “to restore their supernatural life.”

  How she might have accomplished the latter without her own personal contribution to the saving work of her Son, remains absolutely impossible to explain.


But Lumen Gentium 62a has no difficulty providing the desired explanation by coordinating Mary with Christ in the economy of salvation. Before all else, the Council underscores the continuity of that “munus maternum” which began with “her consent faithfully given” at the moment “of the Annunciation and was maintained without hesitation beneath the Cross, until the everlasting crowning of all the elect.” Here the text makes reference in the explanation to the powerful intercession of Mary assumed into the glory of heaven as Queen Mother, who “continues to obtain the graces of eternal salvation for us, still in pilgrimage and placed amid danger and tribulation.” In that “multiple intercession” the text also recognizes the motive for which the Church invokes Mary as “Advocate, Helper, Consoler, Mediatrix.” In the successive paragraphs (62b.c), the contribution of Mary is cited in proof that the “one mediation of the Redeemer,” as it were refracted in her, arouses “in creatures various forms of cooperation, all participations of a single source.” Thus it comes about that the Church “openly and continuously recognizes” the subordinate role of the Virgin, intimately conjoined with that of the Mediator and Savior” as an instrument of salvation.


In regard to that instrumentality, Lumen Gentium 56 cites the thought of the Holy Fathers, according to whom “Mary was not merely a passive instrument in the hands of God, but cooperated in the salvation of man by a faith and obedience engaging her freedom.” Immediately after (LG 57 and 58), her cooperation by faith and obedience “in the work of Redemption” came to be extended to her entire life: “from the moment of the virginal conception of Christ until His death.” In particular, the active instrumentality of the Virgin Mother comes to be specified in the Visitation, when she brought the Savior, just conceived, to His future Precursor and to that Precursor’s holy mother; “at His

  birth when the happy Mother of God showed to the shepherds and to the Magi her firstborn Son;… when she presented Him to the Lord in the Temple” and the old Simeon announced to her “that her Son would be a sign of contradiction and that a sword would transpierce her soul”; and finally when, on finding the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple after a loss of three days, “His Mother kept all these things in her heart, pondering them” (cf. Lk 2: 19. 51). With still greater clarity, the aforementioned instrumentality of Mary is revealed as active during the public life of Jesus: at the wedding feast of Cana, when “she induced Jesus by her intercession to initiate His miracles” (Jn 2: 1-11); “during His preaching,” when she made a treasury of His words (Lk 11: 28; cf. 2: 19. 41-51) and put them into practice. First among all believers in faith and charity, in her watchful, maternal availability, Mary never drew back “in the face of the Cross from that union with her Son, … suffering profoundly with her Only begotten” every phase of His passion and death, “with a Mother’s heart associating herself in His sacrifice, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the Victim she had begotten”; and finally when “she was given by Jesus dying on the Cross as Mother of all mankind represented by the beloved disciple” (Jn 19: 26-27).


Nor should we forget what Lumen Gentium 59 declares in regard to the maternal role which Mary occupies in the history of the Church after the Ascension of the Lord.


2.7. From all this, taken as a whole, the following conclusion easily emerges, easily because it imposes itself on our attention: Mary was always at the side of the Redeemer as His active collaborator. Reflecting then on her collaboration, no one may dare deny that


– as a consequence of her assimilation into the order of the hypostatic union of her Son, Mary, in her cooperation, by far transcends that which every baptized person can and must offer to the Lord;

  • – her cooperation is one directly ordained to the redemptive work of her Son;


  • – from these two considerations which are conditions of her merit, the cooperation of Mary in the redemptive work of her Son drew its finalization and its efficacy as meritorious cooperation in the salvific sense;


  • – her cooperation, therefore, is immediate and objective, singularly linked to the merit of Christ and dependent on the latter;


  • – hence, her cooperation finds appropriate expression in the term coredemption.


3.Marian Coredemption contextualized by the faith: Analogia Fidei – Among the various rationalizations of the anticoredemptionists there is one which claims that coredemption, were it true, would be like a sore thumb within Christian doctrine, indeed within mariology itself. Hence, say our adversaries, the recent papal documents favorable to it are hardly compelling; none are dogmatic, all being either more devotional than doctrinal, or else uttered during the course of other discussions, with little doctrinal importance. One might reply to the defenders of this last observation that they betray their lack of an even minimally good theology of the “ordinary Magisterium.” But it is not this that I wish to speak of. My question bears on the collocation and linkage of marian coredemption with other mysteries within the deposit of faith.


3.1. The point of departure is the Creed and its division into three articles. The entire first part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is de facto structured in conformity with the tripartite character of all catechisms since 1500. This triple division, viewed as a whole, constitutes an act of faith in the Most Holy Trinity, but also presents, in orderly succession, an article on the Father, another on the Word Incarnate and finally one on the

 Holy Spirit. {footnote}Thus the Catechismus Romanus ad Parochos [Roman Catechism for Parish Priests], pars I, 4: “Nam, ut maiores nostri, qui in hoc argumento pie et accurate versati sunt, observarunt, in tres potissimum partes ita distributum, videtur, ut in una, divinae naturae prima Persona et mirum Creationis opus describatur; in altera, secunda Persona et humanae Redemptionis mysterium; in tertia, tertia item Persona, caput et fons sanctitatis nostrae, variis et aptissimis sententiis concludatur. Eas autem sententias, similitudine quadam a Patribus nostris frequenter usurpata, Articulos appellamus.”{/footnote} Implicitly or explicitly, Mary is present in each one of these articles. And she is always present under the profile of her mission “from eternity,” providentially entrusted to her for the completion of the divine plan of salvation.


Implicitly: as for example in the profession of faith in the creative omnipotence of the Father. Creation is the foundation of all the saving projects of God and the beginning of the history of salvation. {footnote}Congregation for the Clergy, General Catechetical Directory, 51, cited by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 280 [hereafter abbreviated CCC].{/footnote}  Indeed, in creation one perceives the complexus of lines which lead to Christ, to that which, according to the Apostle (Rom 8: 18-23) will be “the new creation”; hence also to her who, cooperating with the Father, concurs in actuating the project so that the “new creation” might open on “the new heavens and new earth” of Isaiah 65: 17.


The third article on the Holy Spirit, as well, contains an implicit reference to Mary or, more precisely, to her active presence in subordination to Christ and as His most special instrument. In effect, “the Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the initiation to the consummation of the design of our salvation,” {footnote}CCC, 686.{/footnote} a design which in its historicalrealization would not be realized without the actual, immediate, involvement of the Virgin Mary.


Reference to Mary is not merely implicit and tacit, but explicit and exact in the second article of the Creed, and precisely in the words which proclaim faith in the redemptive Incarnation of the Word: “And in Jesus Christ, his Son, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered

  under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died and was buried.” The first reference recalls the miraculous conception of the Redeemer by the work of the Holy Spirit and of the free, responsible, meritorious consent of the Most Holy Virgin. As a consequence of her yes, the Holy Spirit placed the Word in her immaculate womb, thus initiating the ransom of the human race. Next, the Word “was born,” receiving from her immaculate flesh, the most pure blood and the entire complex of elements constitutive of human nature. The truth of these elements, thanks to which it was possible in Him “to contemplate the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth,” was also the definitive proof of His true Incarnation, witnessed by John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1: 14). Here is a complexus of dates and facts, from which Mary emerges in all her dignity as Mother of the Word and in her role as cooperator in the saving work of her Son.


3.2. From what has just been expounded, one can easily grasp why marian coredemption enjoys considerably more than a superficial contextualization in relation to the various truths of faith. Nor is the demonstration of this an impossible task.


From within the complexus of Mariological truths identified as objects of Catholic belief via specific ecclesiastical definitions, it is easy to indicate the strict nexus linking them with marian  coredemption. Let us consider the divine Maternity of Mary. It is a truth which has the role-or can enjoy the role-of “first principle” of mariology and unify its various parts, organizing them as though radiations from itself and simultaneously finalizing them in illustration of its saving goals. {footnote}Cf. Gherardini, La Madre, cit., p. 32.{/footnote} Mary, in fact, is Mother of God with the role of actualizing the saving project of the Father who, in that project, foresaw her as Mother of the Word Incarnate. Evidently, we are not dealing here with a gratuitous gesture. To be Mother of the Word Incarnate not only serves as counterpoint in the development of the divine plan, but makes clearly evident both its saving goals and the Savior who is

  to realize them. More exactly, the moral and supernatural linking of the Mother of the Savior and the Son who saves, rather than the physical, is first made evident. The Mother, divinely foreseen and willed from the “eternal ages,” is not just any woman, but specifically Mary, because she and no other is in a condition to be the true Mother of God, just as she, qua Mother of God, and no other has been coordinated with Christ within the parameters of a saving maternity: the maternity of the Word Incarnate for the redemption of the human race.


3.3. Such a coordination is attested by the single prerogatives which specifically and distinctly characterize the Mother of God. Let us consider the Immaculate Conception. The nexus between the Immaculate Conception and the divine Maternity of the Virgin, biblically speaking, beyond question also implies as an inescapable consequence, a nexus between the Immaculate Conception and the Coredemption; {footnote}Without in any way minimizing such greats of the past as St. Bonaventure, it has been the merit especially of Fr. Stefano Manelli to have drawn the theological world’s attention to the correlation between the Immaculate Conception and the Coredemption, speaking of Mary concretely as the Immaculate Coredemptrix. He has expounded his thought in numerous essays, with a synthesis to be found in his All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed. Biblical Mariology, New Bedford MA 2005, 2nd ed., pp. 415-424. Here is the progression of his thought: Mary is “the Woman” (Gen 3: 15; Apoc 12: 1), “the Woman Virgin” (Gen 3: 15: Is 7: 14; Mic 5: 2), “the Woman Mother” (Mt 2: 11. 13. 20; Mk 3: 31-35; Lk 1: 42-43; Jn 2: 1-3), “the Woman Spouse” (Mt 1: 18; Lk 1: 27. 35), “the Woman Immaculate” (Lk 1: 28), “the Woman Coredemptrix” (Jn 19: 25-26), “the Woman Mediatrix” (Lk 1: 39; Jn 2: 1-11; Acts 1: 14), “the Woman Queen” (Apoc 12: 2); “the Woman Blessed” (Apoc 12: 1 ff.). Another Manelli, Fr. Settimio, has further developed this aspect of mariology: “E una spada trapasserà anche la tua stessa anima” (Lc 2, 35). Esegesi del versetto e suo sviluppo dottrinale in riferimento alla cooperazione di Maria all’opera salvifica di Gesù, in Maria Corredentrice VI, Frigento 2003; Idem, Gen. 3: 15 and the Immaculate Coredemptrix, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross V, New Bedford MA 2005, pp. 263-322.{/footnote}  and although I have also devoted a bit of attention to this theme, {footnote}B. Gherardini, L’Immacolata Corredentrice, in Immaculata Mediatrix 4 (2004) 159-179, in particular pp. 170-175.{/footnote} I am hardly the one to have discovered it. In reality, according to the saving plan of God, Mary, from her own flesh, would clothe the Word with His humanity. For that purpose she came to be included in the


predestination of her Son as His Mother, and so to be elevated to His supernatural order.


God willed her not only as Mother of the Word Incarnate, but also as adequate Mother in this unheardof dignity. He endowed her with unrepeatable qualities, as unrepeatable as the scope of her inclusion in the very predestination of Christ. She would have to provide for the Word an immaculate flesh; and God decided on the immaculateness of the Mother from eternity. She would have to concur with her Son in the ransom of the human race; and God decided to join her to Him as Mother and as Associate. She would have to beget from her very womb “the lily of the valleys” (Cant 2: 1), and God decided that as virgin she would conceive and give birth to the Emmanuel (Mt 1: 23). She would have to give Him a flesh not destined to the corruption of the tomb; and God decided that she as well, the Mother, would be exalted body and soul to the glory of heaven, united with her Son. {footnote}Ibid., p. 170.{/footnote}


 By way of summary, the person and function of Mary, by divine disposition, is so joined to the person and role of the Word Incarnate, that neither can be understood except in terms of their reciprocal relations. Consequently, the conclusion drawn by M. M. Zangheratti is exact: “The Virgin Mary, qua Immaculate, fully co-suffers with her Son, becoming thereby co-principle of the new mankind: in other words the Coredemptrix.”{footnote}M. M. Zangheratti, Il Mistero di Maria Corredentrice nel messaggio dell’Addolorata di Castelpetroso, in Maria Corredentrice III, Frigento 2000, p. 314.{/footnote}



 3.4. The theological elaboration of the divine Maternity of Mary, which recalls and postulates, as we have seen, all the other marian prerogatives, is not only the functional axis of mariology, introducing mariology into the vaster context of the dogmatic theology of the Catholic Church; but “ratione Filii” [by reason

 of the Son] is also the key to all Catholic dogma. Just as, toward the end of the 40’s of the last century, E. Mersch elaborated a meticulous synthesis of all dogmatic theology, including even moral theology, under the common denominator of the Mystical Body,  {footnote}E. Mersch, La Théologie du Corps Mystique, 2 vols, Paris-Brussels 1949 [English version: The Theology of the Mystical Body, St. Louis 1955]; Idem, Le Corps Mystique du Christ. Etudes de théologie historique, 2 vols., Brussels 1936; Idem, Morale et Corps Mystique, Brussels 1941, 2nd ed.{/footnote}so every dogmatic theologian should attempt the same kind of unitary elaboration from a Mariological viewpoint. There is not a single treatise exempt from the logic of such a standpoint, for the simple reason that no treatise escapes the determining presence of Christ. And since Mary is inseparable from Christ, consideration of the prerogatives of the Son evoke, presuppose, and postulate those of the Mother in the same manner that the considerations bearing on those of the Mother evoke, presuppose and postulate those of her Son. Mariology would indeed be that “tumor to be excised at its root,” as Karl Barth not very elegantly once said, {footnote}K. Barth, Die kirchliche Dogmatik, 1/2, Zollikon-Zürich 1948, 2nd ed., p.153.{/footnote}  were it truly a substitution for Christology, in making Mary a substitution for Christ. The hypothesis, in addition to being blasphemous, is as far from reality as nothing from being.


The aforementioned inseparability, decreed “from eternity” sets in relief the fact that without the Woman foreseen, willed, and prepared by God, Christ would not have been a flower from the human stem, would not have become our brother according to the flesh, would not have been able to recapitulate a fallen mankind so as to heal it. {footnote}Cf. St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, III, 21, 10: PG 7, 955: III, 19: PG 7, 941.{/footnote} From this it follows that the centrality of Mary is also set in relief, indeed in subordination to, but also in continuity with the centrality of Christ and sharer in it, by virtue of the association of Son and Mother. So, too, is set in relief the role assigned to Mary as a radiation from that assigned to Christ. So too, therefore, all Christ’s saving activity throughout His life is set in relief, never apart from that of Mary. Now, if the


  Incarnation of the Word and His redemptive mission carried out from the first moment of His conception to the “emisit spiritum” [gave up His spirit] of Mt 27: 50 and the “elevatus est” [He was lifted up] of Acts 1: 9, constitute the matrix of Christianity, this means that the figure and mission of Mary, as Mother and generous Associate of her Son, Christ, exercises with Him a fontal influence on Christianity itself. In brief, Mary says Christ; so much so, that if Mary is cancelled out, so too is Christ, and if Christ is cancelled out, “vain is your faith and you are still in your sins” (I Cor 15: 17).


3.5. In consequence of this, mariology, particularly its theses on the divine Maternity of the Virgin, on her Immaculate Conception, and on her cooperation in the work of universal salvation, nestles in each of these tracts, so effecting a global elaboration of theology. For each of these tracts, it establishes a correct relation to that Woman whose assent to the Incarnation made the Redemption possible. But simultaneously, for this very reason, there exists the perfection of a restored “societas” [konoinia, friendship] between God and man: a new religion based on the Man-God begotten by Mary, the only one to join the extremes of divinity and humanity in itself, as deriving from the redemptive work of her Son. Under whatever aspects these extremes are studied, they never appear separable from her who concurred in their determination, so rendering them operable. Hence the presence of a mariological modality throughout the entire complexus of Christian truths, as well as throughout their scientific analysis (theology): from fundamental theology to the tract “de Deo uno et trino,” from the tract “de Deo creante et elevante” to Christology and soteriology, from “de Ecclesia Christi” to “de Novissimis,” is ubiquitous, directly or otherwise, but always in function of the link with the God made flesh in and by the Virgin Mary.


She is, in fact, not extraneous to fundamental theology, because she is not extraneous to the idea of a possible divine, transcendent, free revelation, and still less is she extraneous to

 the fact of the redemptive revelation which took place and to its scientific study. Further, she contributes essential content to supernatural anthropology, not as a mere chapter, and even less as a marian “icing on the cake,” but as a basic value, united to Christ and only as united to Christ, shaping the entire treatment. With her fullness of grace and working exclusively in the state of grace, she participates in the life of the Blessed Trinity and reveals how every human being can, with her and like her, share it. She enters fully and rightly into the treatise on original sin, as the only person exempt from its devastating presence and as the one who, at the highest and most efficacious level, collaborates with her Redeemer Son in the victory over sin itself. Insofar as she belongs to the order of the hypostatic union of her Son, she cannot be ignored in Christology and has her own personal relevance as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix in the acquisition of saving merit and, therefore, of Redemption. A particular relevance is to be assigned her eternal predestination, not merely that of juxtapositioning, but of participating in the very saving mysteries of Christ, making herself available for this by her freely given yes and with her admirable service of the divine good pleasure. Nor may a theology of the Cross ignore her; indeed, it foresees her and contemplates her as the “compatiens et pene commortua” [compassionate, nearly co-dying] with her crucified Son. In ecclesiology, she appears not only as the prefiguration, but also as arch-type of the Church, and indeed as “the Church in its perfection” because of her immunity from sin, because of her universal saving role, because of her mediation of all grace. In the order of Christian perfection, she is resplendent as its “form” on which all must model themselves, of which all must vest. On the eschatological level, she is the emblem of that to which man is called: an eternal face-to-face with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in perfect communion with the heavenly Queen.


3.6. This, too, is “mediation”: mediation in theology based on ontological mediation-Mary’s insertion into the order of the hypostatic union of her Son-a mediation meriting both the grace of redemption, and the application of the merits of

 the Redeemer together with the graces which, from the glory of heaven, there enthroned as Queen, she uninterruptedly dispenses for the benefit of her children. This mediation, in the realm of theology, is also recognized in its activation as the necessary, inevitable and ever-present obverse of the mediation which, in respect to the whole of theology, the person and work of Christ is acknowledged to effect. As she lives the tension which makes of Christ the focal point of every theological consideration and of every specific aspect of theology, so this very tension in Mary is not one among her many other aspects, but entails both the continuity and proximity of two subjects, one principal (Christ), the other secondary (Mary).


Nor should we think that the secondary subject, because functional, and therefore instrumental, does not have in this instance exceptional relevance, and that qua instrumental, is not a necessary object of theological analysis. Theology might opt to ignore all this, or treat it merely in passing, only if all this did not possess exceptional relevance and necessary links to every point of the theological compass. Instead, the relevance and the links really are exceptional and necessary: Mother of God, Immaculate, ever-Virgin, immediately and objectively involved in the work of the Savior. Even should he want to, confronted with a reality like this, the theologian should never close his eyes, nor can he ever, “pondere rerum” [given the imposing features of this reality], succeed in escaping from the duty of cultivating at the very core of his analyses, these relevancies and couplings within the context of the complex character of theology.


3.7. At the center of this picture stands what the Creed calls “the communion of saints”: a convergence in Christ of the entire Church: militant, suffering and triumphant. It is no pious exaggeration to affirm that the determining factor of this communion in Christ is the role of His Mother, the Immaculate Coredemptrix. The very communion of life, of gifts, and of saving merits between Mother and Son reverberates without, through the Mother, on all her children.

  3.8. It is obvious, in virtue of what has just been said, that marian, specifically coredemptive contextuality, is found not only generically within the field of theology, but above all, in the Christological and soteriological areas.


This is the contextuality, first of the Christ foretold, then of the Christ come, and finally of the Christ to come at the eschatological moment of His parousia (Mt 24: 3. 27; I Cor 15: 23; I Thess 2: 19; 3: 13; 4: 15; 5: 23, and elsewhere). Such a contextuality is postulated by the already stressed connection of Mother with Son, indeed by their inseparability “during the long preparation beginning with His (Christ’s) coming and during the long continuation whereby their linking is prolonged within Christianity.”{footnote}Mersch, La Théologie du Corps Mystique, cit., p. 217{/footnote}


As we know, the preliminary of Mary’s connection with the mystery of Christ is her presence in the eternal decree regarding the universal ransom which the Father, from eternity, linked with the Incarnation of the Word. In this pre-temporal presence the theologian, reflecting “in lumine fidei et sub Ecclesiae Magisterii ductu” [in the light of faith and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church],{footnote}Optatum totius, 16a.{/footnote}  recognizes the aforesaid connection as an effect of the saving will of the Father preordaining the Christ Event. He links it with the Maternity of the Virgin and extends this to the entire articulation of the “mysterium salutis” [mystery of salvation]:


a. to the entire time of its long awaiting during the centuries from the fall of our first parents (Gen 3: 1-24) to the annunciation of the Angel Gabriel (Lk 1: 26-38);


b. to the entire time of the joyous presence of the Bridegroom (cf. Mt 9: 15) until the tragic finale of the “consummatum est” [it is consummated] (Jn 19: 30);


c.  to the entire time outside of time, from the exaltation of

 the Son to the right hand of the Father until His return in glory to judge the living and the dead (II Tim 4: 1; I Petr 4: 5).

In particular, the linkage is shown in the concreteness of the flesh of Christ and of His work. But this linkage is not merely to the flesh. For that would be a mortification of the Motherhood, limited not merely to the generation of a body, but relative to the whole Christ, who shares all with His Mother and, as I have already said, makes Himself one with her in all. The consequence is that the theologian, studying the “Born of the Virgin,” principal cause and exemplar of justification and sanctification, is drawn toward Mary by virtue of the attraction she exercises within the sphere of her Son, a formal action, not a simple predisposition, but a causal influence (redemptive and sanctifying) on each of the baptized and on the entire Church.


3.9. There are also other features of the relation Jesus-Mary, which the theologian cannot afford to overlook. For example, that of the role of sanctification, which the Church exercises within the economy of grace and of the Sacraments: an economy strictly joined to the entire humanity subsisting in the Word. {footnote}In this regard see St. Thomas, ST 1-II 108, 1 in c.; De veritate 27, 4 in c.: “Humanitas Christi est instrumentalis causa iustificationis, quae quidem causa nobis applicatur per fidem et corporaliter per sacramenta; quia humanitas Christi et spiritus et corpus est, ad hoc scilicet ut effectum sanctificationis, quae est Christi, percipiamus.” The same teaching echoes in ST III, 42, 5 in c.: “Principalis autem causa efficiens gratiae est ipse Deus, ad quem comparatur humanitas Christi, sicut instrumentum coniunctum, sacramentum autem sicut instrumentum separatum; ideo oportet quod virtue salutifera a divinitate Christi per eius humanitatem in ipsa sacramenta derivatur”; cf. ST III, 40, 6 in c.; III, 42, 3 in c.; 1-II, 104, 1 ad 1 & 2.{/footnote} Such an economy constitutes for the history of a renewed mankind, an efflorescence of grace. The entire history of the Church should be only the history of this efflorescence. It would be unjust, even before it be considered contradictory, merely to think such an efflorescence might occur and be spread throughout mankind, at the very core of its history, without Mary. It would, in fact, be

  culpable forgetfulness both of the Mediatrix of all graces and of the reasons for which she exercises such a mediation.


The theology of merit also leads to analogous conclusions. We have already seen how merit is a unique and identical intervention of God which gives rise to another, moral occasion of merit, grants the grace to this merit, and rewards what God himself has given. All this is present in the merit of the Virgin Mary, who has providentially been placed in condition to merit, has been given the grace to merit, and has been rewarded because of this. She is, in fact, at the center of the eternal project of salvation, foreseen and realized as Mother of the Word Incarnate, hence rewarded, i.e., constituted Coredemptrix by virtue of her participation in the merit of the Redeemer with the totality of her merits as personal collaborator of the Redeemer Himself. If justification and sanctification are, in the present economy of salvation, the subjective application of the merits of Christ, they are also present with those of His Mother, united to Him by irrepressible, natural and supernatural bonds.


Finally, but not because there is nothing else to observe, I make an observation bearing in the last analysis on one of the essential points of all Christian reality: the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the souls of the just, in the life of the Church, in the innermost region of the Mystical Body. The theologian, analyzing such a presence and such an action, discovers otherwise unsuspected connections between pneumatology and mariology. The interior principle, whereby each single person in the Church, the Mystical Body, lives the life of grace, is the Holy Spirit. Analogically, he is compared to the soul in relation to the body, as well as to the soul’s formal action on the body. I say analogically, and certainly not because the Holy Spirit has an organic relationship with each single person and with Christian society. His relation is that of a dynamism [power], of an interior strength, which is the very power of God, able to turn situations about and to realize in them, as the chant goes, “new heavens and a new earth.” Such a relation provides the occasion for a

 second analogy: that with the Virgin Mother. Thanks also to this relation we are face-to-face with effects which divinize, which entail-certainly in the relative sense-a “fullness”: the fullness of the Holy Spirit.


Of the Spirit the Lord Jesus was full (Lk 4: 18) “beyond any measure” (Jn 3: 34); of him also His Mother was full (Lk 1: 35); so also is the Church full of him in virtue of the sanctifying action of the humanity of Christ and of the Sacraments which bind that humanity to the Church; full also-insofar as a finite subject can be-is the soul of the justified person, sanctified precisely by the presence and by the action of the Holy Spirit. In this miracle of grace, Mary as well, together with her Son, is involved in the relevant action. The merit she applies, in union with Christ, is “rewarded” by the gift of the Holy Spirit which, in relation to the Redeemer, is the gift of “His” Spirit, and in relation to Mary, is the gift of the theotokos, the Mother of God.


Everything I have been saying demonstrates that one can treat neither mariology nor any of its single parts, e.g., marian coredemption, separately from the whole. It also demonstrates that it is quite inadequate to structure mariology analogically along the lines of the treatise “De Verbo Incarnato,” as some do: the highly regarded Alastruey is one of these. {footnote}G. Alastruey, Tratado, cit., p. 3: “In the treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary, or mariology, one should follow the same order of theses as found in the treatise de Verbo Incarnato, on the Word made man.”{/footnote} For the rest, we know that St. Thomas himself inserts mariology within the context of his teaching on Christology, {footnote}St. Thomas, ST III, especially questions 27-37.{/footnote} as does Bl. John Duns Scotus. The choice between a christo-typical or an ecclesiotypical mariology, more or less de rigeur after the Council, hardly convinces. Reference to Christ is inescapable and no mariology could claim authenticity were it to prescind systematically from such a reference; the same must be said in connection with an attempt to prescind from the relation between Mary and the Church. I am convinced, however, that the context of mariology and of its single parts is to be established via

  relation with “the mysteries” of Christ, on the basis of biblical, patristic, magisterial, historico-dogmatic testimonies: from a fundamentally supernatural perspective to a typically theo-centric perspective and, therefore, to a perspective more directly christocentric, ecclesiological, anthropological, ethical, historical. The single aspects and privileges of the great Mother of God emerge in such wise from the entire context of Catholic theology. So also emerges, as I believe I have shown in this essay, the aspect and privilege known as marian coredemption, a coredemption finding its immense significance, together with its limits, in the prefix which properly is its own. Coredemption is something, it is that grand, inestimable something which it is in virtue of its prefix “co-.” Once its relation with Christ and its dependence on Him has been determined, mariology, through Christ, touches the very mystery of God in himself, in the continuous, ineffable circumincession of his inner-trinitarian life, as well as that relation of love which God entertains with his creatures. The coredemption then appears as the instrument whereby that ineffable love reaches creatures, gratifies them by pardon and grace, viz., sanctifies them and sets them within the realm of God. In reality, Mary’s mediation from heavenly glory is the continuation of her service to her Redeemer Son, is her ecclesial integration into Christ’s length and breadth, her maternal solicitude in awaiting the moment in which God-to whom Christ, not without marian coredemption, shall have already “subjected all things-will be All in All” (I Cor 15: 28).

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