The following presentation was given at the Inside the Vatican Day of Dialog on the Feast of the Annunciation. –Asst. Ed.
Archbishop A. M. Chinnappa DD, SDB
Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, India
25. 03. 2010
Feast of Annunciation, Rome
1. Why this is precisely the appropriate time to solemnly declare the fifth Marian Dogma?
The development of the doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Spiritual Mother of all humanity has its origins in Scripture and in the ancient Church. At Calvary with the words of the crucified Saviour to Mary and to John, “Woman, behold your Son… Behold your Mother” (Jn 19: 26-27), Jesus gives all humanity his mother to be, as the Second Vatican Council clearly teaches, “a mother to us in the order of grace” (Lumen Gentium, 61). The early Church saw the Mother of the Lord as the “New Eve”, the woman who uniquely cooperated with Jesus in the work of Salvation. By the second century, St. Ireneaus declared of Our Lady that through her obedience, she became “the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race” (Ad. Haer. III).
The co-redemptrix doctrine continues to develop with major contributions from the Byzantine monk, John the Geometer (10th Century) and St. Bernard of Clairvaux and his disciple Arnold of Chartres (12th Century) with the understanding of Mary “co-dying” and being “co-crucified” with Jesus, and the inseparability of Son and Mother in the work of Redemption. By the 14th century, the term “co-redemptrix” is being used to express the unique though entire secondary and subordinate participation of Mary with Jesus in his historic work of redemption. Even the great Tridentine theologian, Alphonsus Salmeron defended the Marian titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate back in 16th Century. The general role of “Spiritual Mother” and the specific titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate constitute authentically Catholic titles that are undeniable part of our rich Catholic Tradition.
The Second Vatican Council explicitly and clearly taught the doctrinal role of Marian Coredemption, Mediation, and Advocasy in Lumen Gentium, nembers 58, 61 and 62. Lumen Gentium 58 identifies her unique coredemptive role with Jesus at Calvary, stating that she “lovingly consented to the immolation of the victim born of her”, and Lumen Gentium 62 rightly recognizes the titles, “mediatrix” and “Advocate”, as “taken up into heaven, she did not lay aside her saving office”… “but by her manifold intercession continues to intercede for the gifts of eternal life” (LG62).
John Paul II was a true champion of Marian Coredemption, having used the title “co-redemptrix” on six occasions and having taught the doctrine of coredemption on numerous occasions. His homily in Ecuador in 1985 profoundly summarizes his teaching when he states that Mary was “crucified spiritually with her crucified son” and that “her role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her son” (Guayaquil, Jan 31, 1985). Pope Benedict has likewise taught the Coredemption doctrine, particularly in his World Day of the Sick Address of 2008 and in other addresses, where he unequivocally states Mary’s unique sharing in Christ’s redemptive suffering.
2. Why do I believe now is the right time to have a papal definition of this Marian truths?
First of all, I see a Papal definition as a great aid to ecumenism. A Papal definition will make clear once for all that Catholics do not adore Mary, but venerate in light of her unique cooperation with the Lord. This will greatly clarify the ecumenical dialogue regarding her subordinate but exalted role with Jesus, once it is stated by the Church’s highest authority, the Vicar of Christ.
Secondly, the number of petitions that has been sent to the Holy See over the over 90 year history of this Church call for the fifth Marian dogma has totaled well over 800 Cardinals and Bishops petition since the time of the originator of the petition, the late Cardinal Mercier of Belgium, and over 7 million petitions from the faithful ranging from 170 countries. This manifestation of the sensus fidelium is reminiscent of the many petitions warmly accepted by Bl. Pius IX and Pius XII for the respective Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.
Thirdly, and quite simply, the world today is in desperate need of a Mother! This Papal definition, with a new and a profound acknowledgement of Our Lady’s maternal roles, will allow for a new and extraordinary intercession on her behalf for the many many troubles facing the Church and the world at this time. We must be humble in acknowledging that we cannot solve the many problems facing humanity today without the assistance of our heavenly Mother, the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate! The time, therefore, is now for the fifth Marian Dogma.
3. Indian Church Context
This will be fitting for Indian context and more people will come to know Christ through Mary and they will live like her proclaiming the Gospel values in their situations. So here I would like to present the historical background of India.
India is a part of Asia. Asia consists of India, China Tibet and Japan and other islands in this part. The main four lands are influenced mutually and India has influenced other nations with its religions and philosophies and that is why it is known for its religiosity and family values. The whole world is now looking for inspiration from this great country. India is known for many religions. In all these religions we see the traces of mother worship or devotion to Sakti. This is explicit in its social setup also.
The family is the most fundamental social institution and is an integral part of the Hindu society.
Hindu tradition has generally respected womanhood. The husband and the wife constituted an indivisible unit in society. Women played an important role in religious life too. A man could not become a spiritual whole unless he was accompanied by his wife. Such was the importance that Hindu religion gives to a woman. This woman through her marriage becomes mother and as a mother she plays a vital role in the personal social and religious life of the children that she brings forth to the world. In any family where the role of mother is lacking that family is not much valued in the society. The Mother is the one who establishes relationships among the people. She is a teacher, life giver, and facilitator of relationship and one who imparts all types of knowledge.
What we have stated above is because of our earlier history of this land and its Mother cult that they had in their religious practices. Hereby I would like to give a short history of this cult in Hinduism and how the Christian missionaries have taken this and try to inculturate it in Christianity without going against the already existing dogmas of the Church.
4. Mother-cult in Hinduism:
The mother Goddess in Hinduism is seen as one with many forms combining both the fertility and nurturing image as well as a dynamic virgin warrior against evil. In the Vedic texts Rig, Yajur, Sama Vedas (approximately 7th cent. BC), though not directly the mention of Goddess is there, in the Epic Mahabarata Durga Devi is mentioned in Arjuna’s hymn. Yudishtra invokes her as the Mahisasura Mardini with 4 arms and 4 faces holding a noose, bow and arrow and a disc. In Ramayana, before starting for his battle with Ravana, Rama wanted the blessings of Devi Durga. He came to know that the Goddess would be pleased only if she is worshipped with one hundred ‘Neel Kamal’ or blue lotuses. Rama, after traveling the whole world, could gather only ninety nine of them. He finally decided to offer one of his eyes, which resembled blue lotuses. Durga, being pleased with the devotion of Rama, appeared before him and blessed him.
In the Puranas she now evolved into two forms:
1. Mahisasura Mardini – the virgin warrior
2. Uma / Sakti / Paarvati / Hemavati -the fertile – the fertile nurturing forms of the goddess – the devoted wife of Shiva.
In Markandaya Purana, in Vamana Purana, in Devi Dhagwat Purana, in Siva Purana, in Skanda Purana, in Varaha Purana and in Chandi Mahatyama we find details of mother Goddess.
This cult in different forms disappears by the 11th century AD absorbed by the growing worship of Sakti- as one deity. As Kali she saved the world from the giant demon Raktabija. She later became Gauri – the radiant mother. We call the earth -the Mother earth. In India, all the rivers are named after women based on the mother cult.
In the state of TamilNadu great importance is given to Mother deity – cult. That is why proverbs and sayings speak of the mother as the first known god before one’s father, one’s teacher or god himself. The rain is worshiped as goddess Maari. The medicinal neem tree is worshiped as Amman. Lakshmi is worshiped as goddess of wealth. Sarasvathi is worshiped as goddess of education (knowledge). Paarvathi is worshiped as goddess of bravery.
One of the famous Tamil epics- Silappathikaram speaks of kannagi the heroin who was known for her purity and chastity. In Kodungalur she is depicted as Bhagavati Amman later and given a terrifying look. Periyapuranam shows that Karaikkal Ammaiyar after her husband left her took the form of a Satan but she is venerated as a holy person. But mother Mary is depicted as an affectionate mother with all divinely qualities. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi, a Jesuit poet in one of his minor literature works calls her as virgin Mother Goddess comparing her to virgin conch-shell in which rain drops turn into pearl symbolizing the virgin mother Mary conceiving through the power of the Holy Spirit and without the bodily human union. In Saivism literature Thirumanthiram goddess Paarvathi is said to be the mother, daughter and consort of Shiva. Fr. Beschi in his literature stated above, adds these aspects of mother, daughter to Mother Mary.
The Catholic Church has upheld the devotion to Mother Mary as she herself said “henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for He who is Mighty has done great things for me (Luke 1:48b-49a). Mary the mother of Jesus together with other women and the Apostles was in the upper room to pray (Acts of the Apostles 1:13- 14). And from that time when Mary accepted the plan of God to be the mother of Jesus till this day the virgin mother actively involved in the redemptive work of her Son as co-redeemer, as a mediator and as an advocate. Our blessed mother Mary is venerated in India with all devotion. In order to state the devotion to Mother Mary, hereby the ‘Mother Cult’ in Hinduism (India) is given as the background.
5. Mother-cult in Christianity (In the State of Tamilnadu – India)
Mother Mary is known as Thiru Kalyana Matha -Mary -Mother of prosperity; Selvanayagi Matha – wealthy heroic mother and so on .Thus Mother cult has strong roots in India from time immemorial and our Christian Missionaries spread the faith in Jesus with the background of the Mother – cult. Tamil Christian literary works have been written with the mother-cult sentiments. Shrines and Churches have been built in honour of Mother Mary. Fr. Beschi built a shrine of our Mother of Refugee in Elakkurichi, 12 kilometers from Thanjavur, because of the persecution of Christians at that period of time. In Konankuppam Periya Nayagi Matha (Great Heroic Mother) Shrine was established. In Palayamkottai diocese at Kamanayakkanpatti Shrine of our Mother and Queen was established. Our Lady of Lourdes’ churches are found in many places of TamilNadu. Vailankanni and Poondi are some specific places of the Mother-cult. Fr. Beschi well known as Veeramamunivar in Tamil world says the following about the motherhood of the Virgin Mother:
“The Formless when He wanted a form as a human being O Virgin Mother you contained Him in your womb, something that is impossible.”
From the above we can understand how the mother Goddess cult is intermingled in Indian Christianity. Having this background the converts Christianity and the first missionaries looked at Mary as a woman who establishes relationship between people and missionaries and between God and themselves. Seeing this attitude and culture of people towards Mother of Jesus Christ we would like to propose to the Holy Father for the 5th Dogma on Mary as Coredemptrix, Advocate and Mediatrix. This will not add another person to the Trinity, or reduce the Value of the Mediator, the Christ, and will not be a stumbling block for the ecumenical dialogue of the Church but it will favour inter religious dialogue and healthy evangelization. In India the devotion to Mary is par excellence and people from all walks of life would show Mary their love. This we see also in Islam.
6. Mother- cult in Islam:
Though the position of women in Islam is theoretically rather subordinate yet there are some Islamic sects which raise the cult of Fatima, the beloved daughter of the Prophet Mohamed. She was first venerated under the name albatul, “the virgin” for it was as a virgin she married her cousin Ali .The greeting by which she is addressed in prayer is ” Welcome art thou, O Mother of your Father “. The Shiite cult of Fatima is not based on her human fertility but rather on her beneficent grace. In the Koran this demonstrated by the name Fatir instead of her female name Fatima. Fatir is a masculine divine epithet that which signifies in the Koran as ‘Creator’.
Fatir (creatrix) the mysterious name of Fatima was probably chosen because the numerical values of the letters which form the name produce the same total as the numerical value of the name Mary (Maryam).
7. Mary Co-redemptrix – facilitates Inter-Religious Dialogue
In the world of today, which is characterized by rapid communication, mobility of people and interdependence there is a new awareness of the fact of religious plurality. Religions do not merely exist or simply survive. In some cases, they give a clear evidence of a revival. They continue to inspire and influence the lives of millions of their adherents. In the present context of religious plurality, the important role played by religious traditions cannot be over looked.
Proclamation and dialogue are thus both viewed, each in its own place as complement elements and authentic forms of the one evangelizing mission of the Church. They are both oriented toward the communication of salvific truth.
Dialogue can be understood in different ways. 1. Reciprocal communication, leading to a common goal or, at a deeper level, to inter personal communion. 2. As an attitude of respect and friendship which should permeate all these activities constituting the evangelizing mission of the Church. 3. In the context of plurality dialogue means “all positive and constructive inter religious relations with individuals and communities of other faiths which are directed at mutual understanding and enrichment in obedience to truth and respect for freedom. It includes both witness and exploration of respective religious convictions.
From its origin, the Church has encountered many levels of the question of the plurality of religions. Even today Christians constitute only about one-third of the world population. Moreover, they must live in a world which expresses a growing sympathy for pluralism in religious matters. So in the 5th Marian Dogma we would like to propose Mary as Coredemptrix, Advocate and Mediatrix. We see that these titles of Mary are referring to some dignity, honor, distinction, or preeminence attached to her by reason of rank, office, precedent, privilege, or attainment. In short, each of Mary’s titles in the Liturgy and in piety ultimately emphasizes some aspect of her relationship to God or to us. These titles also will help people understand different models of Marian way of life, e.g. the discipleship, mission, and service. And these tiles can be understood easily by any one and it will also help us as an instrument for our evangelization.
8. Coredemptrix – In India and in special way in Tamil context it can be termed as Responsible Mother
In Indian context we have seen how a man could not become a spiritual whole unless he was accompanied by his wife. Such was the importance that Hindu religion gives to a woman. In their search for God they have to be male and female and only then they become complete. We cannot apply this to Jesus and Mary but we, in our evangelization process, can instruct people who come to the shrines of Mary the Mother of Jesus played a vital role in the salvific plan of God. As a human person she freely cooperated with Jesus obeying God the Father not only in the infancy and the public life of Jesus but also at the foot of the cross, the critical moment of the eternal and supreme sacrifice. It is an eye opener for the people of other religions to show how a person is called by God to reestablish the kingdom of God. In the families we see that the life the Mother has a vital role to play and thus the above said idea will be easily understood by the people.
9. Advocate of Grace – Caring Mother
In today’s world we could see people flocking to many places worship, in a special way to the places where female deities or sakti temples are found. For them God is Supreme Being. Human beings recognize in him the majesty of God, since he is God and because they fear his Divine Majesty it was necessary to assign an Advocate to whom we can approach with less fear. When you want to offer something to God, and that to be accepted by him, make sure to offer it through the worthy Mother (St. Bernard).
The family affairs are done by the mother and the mother is the one who mediates between father and child and with other relatives and all things pass through mothers. This concept is easy to understand and this may attract people to come more close to Mary and to Christ.
For most of us, Mary is the Advocate with her son; she is regarded as the best kind, the one who knows our lives through and through. Even though we believe in Jesus, as human beings we are also attached to Mary strongly as we do with our earthly mothers.
10. Mediatrix – Loving Mother
1. Between God and people
2. Together with Christ under; under him cooperated in the reconciliation of God and humankind on earth
3. She distributes the graces of God to his children
Christian churches (the Parish Churches, Shrines etc.,) in India, at least in TamilNadu, are known as Mathakoil which means the Church dedicated to Mother Mary. People identify Christians like this. The Mathakoil, that is, the churches dedicated to our Mother Mary and the Shrines are attracting thousands and millions of people every year with out any distinction of colour, caste, religion, high or low or rich and poor. This is what we find in the Sakti Cult at earlier times and even at present. In the ritual proper of Sakti there are no caste differences and in Sakti worship all castes as well as the sexes are equal. More honour is paid to woman in Sakti worship. In some places of worship where only certain type of people, congregations, groups, castes are allowed to enter but in the shrines like our Lady of Vailankanni, any one can enter and venerate Mother Mary. Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and others do visit this Shrine as tourists but as religious persons making God experience through our Mother Mary after which they begin to live a new life.
Devotion to Mary is very much felt in India, throughout the year. People go as pilgrims to Vailankanni hoping that Mother Mary, our Lady of Good Health will stand by them in their problems and take care of their needs throughout their life.