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Co-Redeemers in Christ: the Church as Type of Mary Co-Redemptrix

Updated: May 29, 2020

I. The Nature of Typology and its Relation to Mary and the Church

The classic meaning of typology derives principally from its significance in scriptural exegesis and hermeneutics. Old Testament typology is essentially linked with its New Testament fulfillment. The meaning of “type” refers essentially to a person, place, thing, or event which signifies something greater than itself. It is metaphysically not so much a question of time, i.e., which came first, but of essence, i.e., which possesses the greater goodness, truth, or beauty.

As we know, the supernatural significance of Abraham, Moses, Joseph, or David, does not cease in these men themselves, regardless of how profound or supernatural their roles in covenantal salvation history, but can only be fully understood in light of their typological fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Both for the purpose of understanding the type itself, and in appreciating what the type ultimately signifies beyond itself, the typological fulfillment is what is required. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac (cf. Gen 22:1 ff); Joseph’s saving of his own brothers and people from starvation (cf. Gen 45:4-7); Moses’ outstretched arms in the battle against the Amalekites (cf. Ex 17:11); David’s slaying of Goliath (cf. 1 Sam 17:1 ff.) all point to (and can only be fully understood in relation to) that which is greater than themselves and their actions: the universal Redemption of humanity by Jesus Christ.

Simply stated: the type is essentially secondary and subordinate in nature and significance to the person, thing, or event which it signifies beyond itself. For example, we do not say the Ark of the Covenant-divinely designed, set in gold, and possessing within itself the rod of Aaron, the fragments of the Commandments, and the Manna-holds greater prominence or significance than the Immaculate Mother of God, which the Ark of the Covenant typifies who, after her consent, held within herself Jesus, the High Priest; Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law; Jesus, the Eucharist.

Without question, there is a legitimate diversity of how the term, type, has and can be used within the theological tradition. One perfectly valid use of the term, type, refers to something that can serve as a model of imitation for another. We see this, for example, in the well-known Ambrosian patristic reference to Mary as “type of the Church” as referred to at the Council (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 63). The Immaculate Mother of God is the perfect model for the People of God to imitate as she is, at once, mysteriously, both Mother and pre-eminent member of the Church.

At the same time, if we follow the logic of biblical typology and the classic biblical-exegetical understanding of type, it seems most accurate and precise to use the term to refer to something which points to and signifies something ontologically beyond and greater than itself.

If we then apply this primary scriptural understanding of typology to the relationship between Mary and the Church, we are bound by Revelation and consistency to state the following: In its most accurate formulation, it is most appropriate to say that Mary is not, in the first sense, a type of the Church, but rather the Church is a type of Mary. Mary, in virtue of her Immaculate Conception, divine Maternity, Coredemption, Queenship, Mediation, and advocacy, possesses an intrinsic and qualitative participation in divine goodness, truth, and beauty which exceeds any member and all members of the People of God combined. Which member or groups of members of Christ s Body would position themselves as immaculate, as giving flesh to the Word, as suffering with Him on Golgotha and thus uniquely contributing to the Redemption of the entire world? As we shall see, the papal texts based on Scripture will testify that the Mother of Jesus gives both mystical birth to the Church as spiritual Mother and, at the same time, is mysteriously the Body’s greatest Member.

Hence, while we can say, as does St. Ambrose when quoted by the Council, that Mary is a type of the Church{footnote}Cf. LG 63.{/footnote} insofar as Mary becomes the perfect model of what the Church should be in the order of faith, hope, and charity, this should not be construed as placing Mary in a position of inferiority to the Church which she anticipates as its Mother-a Mother who spiritually conceives the People of God; a Mother who suffers in an unprecedented way in saving the People of God; and a Mother who distributes the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the graces of Christ’s Redemption to the People of God.{footnote}Cf. LG 58, 61, 62.{/footnote} Perhaps it is most accurate to say that Mary is a type for, and not of, the Church.

In the natural order, the infant is not put before its mother, who conceives, nurtures, and forms her offspring from the womb. The Church, the People of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, which is mystically brought forth, as St. Pius X profoundly states, “from the womb of Mary”{footnote}Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical, Ad diem ilium, 10; cf. St. AUGUSTINE, De S.Virginitate, 6, 6.{/footnote} should not be placed in superiority before its Immaculate Mother, but seen as the greatest fruit of that womb after its first divine-human fruit, the Redeemer of all and the Head of the People of God in its quintessentially mystical dimension.

Moreover, we will find in the major magisterial writings on ecclesiology of the past two centuries, that a defining element of the Church as a People of God and as a Mystical Body, is the presence of the Holy Spirit as its “soul.” This pneumatological soul also comes to the Church through the intercession of Mary its Mother, who is made Immaculate by the Spirit; is overshadowed by the Spirit at the Annunciation where the People of God are first mystically united to their Physical and divine Head; at Calvary where the New Adam and New Eve pay the price for the Spirit’s later descent; and at Pentecost, where the Spirit is brought definitively to the People of God through the intercession of his Immaculate human spouse.

II. Ecclesiology Leading Up to and Including Lumen Gentium: Mystical People of God

We are all aware of the richness of the Council’s ecclesiological development in its inspired articulation of the Church as the “People of God” contained in Lumen Gentium, for example the new emphases of the universal call to holiness and the Church’s ad extra evangelical mission to bring Christ to the world. But in keeping with the appropriate method of understanding the Council via a hermeneutics of continuity,{footnote} insegnamenti di Benedetto XVII (2005) 1023-1031{/footnote} it is helpful to understand the People of God ecclesiology in light of the two principal magisterial documents on the Church which preceded the Council.

What is arguably the most pervasive model of the Church as found in Pope Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitumt Not surprisingly, it is the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, with a particular emphasis on “the Body”:

For this reason the Church is so often called in Holy Writ a body, and even the body of Christ. “Now you are the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27) and precisely because it is a body: is the Church visible; and because it is the body of Christ:

is it living and energizing because, by the infusion of His power, Christ guards and sustains it, just as the vine gives nourishment and renders fruitful the branches united to it. And, as in animals, the vital principle is unseen and invisible, and is evidenced and manifested by the movements and action of the members, so the principle of supernatural life in the Church is clearly shown in that which is done by it.

The Church is not something dead: it is the body of Christ endowed with supernatural life. As Christ, the Head and Exemplar, is not wholly in His visible human nature, which Photinians and Nestorians assert, nor wholly in the invisible divine nature, as the Monophysites hold, but is one, from and in both natures, visible and invisible; so the Mystical Body of Christ is the true Church, only because its visible parts draw life and power from the supernatural gifts and other things whence spring their very nature and essence. But since the Church is such by divine will and constitution, such it must uniformly remain to the end of time.

{footnote}Satis Cognitum, 3{/footnote}

Leo XIII further emphasizes the “Body” dimension of the Church as revelation and protection of its unity:

Furthermore, the Son of God decreed that the Church should be His mystical body, with which He should be united as the Head, after the manner of the human body which He assumed, to which the natural head is physiologically united. As He took to Himself a mortal body, which He gave to suffering and death in order to pay the price of man’s redemption, so also He has one mystical body in which and through which He renders men partakers of holiness and of eternal salvation. God “hath made Him (Christ) head over all the Church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22-23). Scattered and separated members cannot possibly cohere with the head so as to make one body. But St. Paul says: All members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor 12:12). Wherefore this mystical body, he declares, is “compacted and fitly jointed together.” The head, Christ: from whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly jointed together, by what every joint supplieth according to the operation in the measure of every part” (Eph 4:15-16).{footnote} Ibid., 5{/footnote}

Pope Leo goes on to quote St. Augustine’s use of the body analogy for the Church’s nature and unity against division:

Another head like to Christ must be invented—that is, another Christ—if besides the one Church, which is His body, men wish to set up another. “See what you must beware of—see what you must avoid—see what you must dread. It happens that, as in the human body, some member may be cut off—a hand, a finger, a foot. Does the soul follow the amputated member? As long as it was in the body, it lived; separated, it forfeits its life. So the Christian is a Catholic as long as he lives in the body: cut off from it he becomes a heretic—the life of the spirit follows not the amputated member.”{footnote} Ibid.; cf. St. Augustine, Sermo 267, n. 4.{/footnote}

While Leo’s principal concern seems the defense of the Church against separation via the rejection of the papacy, his reliance on the Mystical Body, as his principal model of the Church, is foundationally present throughout the document. We will see Pius XII’s expansion on the Mystical Body as ecclesiological model to include greater emphasis on the mystical relationship between the members themselves united to Christ the Head in the order of suffering and merit, accompanied by a direct teaching on the primordial role of Mary as the universal, spiritual Mother of the entire Mystical Body.

From the outset of Pius XII’s historic document, Mystici Corporis Christi, he establishes that to conceive the Church as a Mystical Body, spiritually united to Christ the Head, is an ecclesiology revealed directly by the divine Redeemer:

The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, was first taught by the Redeemer himself. Illustrating as it does, the great and inestimable privilege of our intimate union with so exalted a Head, this doctrine, by its sublime dignity, invites all those who are drawn by the Holy Spirit to study it, and gives them, of the truths of which it proposes to the mind, a strong incentive of performance of such good works as are conformable to its teaching.{footnote} Mystici Corporis Christ!, n. 1.{/footnote}

Later in the document, Pius XII asserts the best, most “divine” definition of the one true Church of Christ to be none other than in the term and concept of the Mystical Body:

If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ—which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church—we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression “the Mystical Body of Christ”—an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Fathers.{footnote} Ibid., 13.{/footnote}

The Christology of Pius XII in this document is immediately linked with redemption and human cooperation in the work of Redemption in connection with the Mystical Body doctrine. It was the direct intention of the Redeemer, not through divine necessity but rather through divine disposition, to distribute His graces of Redemption through the members of His Body mystically united to Him. This refers to the direct, active role of all Christians to participate in a form of Christian coredemption in the order of the grace distribution:

As He hung upon the Cross, Christ Jesus not only appeased the justice of the Eternal Father which had been violated, but He also won for us, His brethren, an ineffable flow of graces. It was possible for Him of Himself to impart these graces to mankind directly; but He willed to do so only through a visible Church made up of men so that, through her, all might cooperate with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption. As the Word of God willed to make use of our nature when, in excruciating agony, He would redeem mankind, so in the same way throughout the centuries, He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure.{footnote} ibid., 12.{/footnote}

After substantiating the Church as a Mystical Body in the teachings of St. Paul,{footnote} Cf. ibid., 14.{/footnote} Pius XII refers again to the essential unity and purpose of suffering in the Body. We as members of the Mystical Body do not live for ourselves alone, but must work in unison as spiritual collaborators for the common good of the Church (and, by extension, all humanity):

But a body calls also for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. And as in the body when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the assistance of the ailing, so in the Church, the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body.{footnote} ibid., 15{/footnote}

At the end of the encyclical, the Pontiff provides a profound mariological-ecclesiological instruction. Mary is clearly the perfect member of the Mystical Body, but she is also something more—the Mother of the Mystical Body, which ontologically and temporally precedes all other members and the most significant moments of the Church. Mary cooperates with the Redeemer in the Incarnation and the Redemption, and she calls down the Spirit for the Church’s definitive birth at Pentecost—all actions in accord with the Heavenly Father’s perfect providential plan or events which, by their nature, exceed in excellence and merit all other members individually and collectively:

Venerable Brethren, may the Virgin Mother of God hear the prayers of Our paternal heart—which are yours also—and obtain for all a true love of the Church—she whose sinless soul was filled with the divine spirit of Jesus Christ above all other created souls, who “in the name of the whole human race” gave her consent “for a spiritual marriage between the Son of God and human nature.” Within her virginal womb, Christ our Lord already bore the exalted title of Head of the Church; in a marvelous birth, she brought Him forth as the source of all supernatural life, and presented Him newly born, as Prophet, King, and Priest to those who, from among Jews and Gentiles, were the first to come to adore Him. Furthermore, her only Son, condescending to His mother’s prayer in “Cana of Galilee,” performed the miracle by which “his disciples believed in Him.” It was she, the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam, sin-stained by his unhappy fall, and her mother’s rights and her mother’s love were included in the holocaust. Thus she who, according to the flesh, was the mother of our Head, through the added title of pain and glory became, according to the Spirit, the mother of all His members. She it was who, through her powerful prayers, obtained that the spirit of our divine Redeemer, already given on the Cross, should be bestowed, accompanied by miraculous gifts, on the newly founded Church at Pentecost; and finally bearing, with courage and confidence, the tremendous burden of her sorrows and desolation, she, truly the Queen of Martyrs, more than all the faithful “filled up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ… for His Body, which is the Church”; and she continues to have, for the Mystical Body of Christ born of the pierced Heart of the Savior, the same motherly care and ardent love with which she cherished and fed the Infant Jesus in the crib.

May she, then, the most holy Mother of all the members of Christ, to whose Immaculate Heart We have trustfully consecrated all mankind, and who now reigns in heaven her Son, her body and soul refulgent with heavenly glory—may she never cease to beg from Him that copious streams of grace may flow from its exalted Head into all the members of the Mystical Body (MCC, 110-111).

Mary is “filled with the divine Spirit above all other created souls.” She conceives and bears in her womb the Head of the Mystical Body, the source of all supernatural life for all later members of the Body. She, as the coredemptive New Eve, offers the Redeemer on Golgotha for the Redemption of the world. Her prayers of advocacy for the divine Advocate to descend at Pentecost, uniquely contribute to the ultimate birth of the Body. She is the Mother of all the members, who brings to us the copious streams of redemptive grace.

In sum, the Mystical Body ecclesiology and Our Lady’s role as mystical, but true Mother of the entire Mystical Body, which is the Church, both of which constitute the authoritative teachings of the Magisterium, makes evident the superiority and pre-eminence which the Immaculate Theotokos ontologically possesses in relation to the People of God. This relation of supernatural and metaphysical primary is also organically contained{footnote} Pope PAUL VI, Mary, Mother of the Church Declaration, Second Vatican Council, November 21, 1964{/footnote} in the solemn declaration by Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council that Mary is truly the “Mother of the Church.”

Yes, in all these ways we, as a Mystical Body and as a People of God, are called to acknowledge ourselves as a pilgrim type of her—that from the greatest and most sublime acts, just as in those never performed by any of us members, we can see her as what we ourselves must strive to become; while at the same time, in humility, clearly acknowledge that we can never fully arrive at what she uniquely and irrevocably is and always will be.

III Co-redeemers in Christ: Type of Mary Co-redemptrix

Perhaps a contemporary understanding of and reference to the Church as a Mystical People of God—an ecclesiology which accentuates both the quintessential characteristic of the Church as mystically united to Christ the Head and possessing the Holy Spirit as its soul, as well as highlighting the important ecclesiological advances of the Second Vatican Council—would serve to keep in mind and heart these two critical dimensions of ecclesiological revelation and life. This mystical, salvific, and evangelical understanding of the Church also provides an optimum foundation for witnessing to the Christian truth that each member of the Church is likewise called to be a “co-redeemer” with Christ.{footnote} Cf. Pius XI, Papal Allocution at Vicenza, Nov. 30, 1933.{/footnote} John Paul II’s call for all those baptized in Christ to be “co-redeemers,”{footnote} Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Address to the sick at the Hospital of the Brothers of St. whn of God (Fatebenefratelli) on Rome’s Tiber Island on April 5, 1981, LOsservatore Romano, English edition, April 13, 1981, p. 6); Address to •j1® sick after a general audience given January 13, 1982, Inseg., V/l, 1982, c ” Address to the Bishops of Uruguay gathered in Montevideo concerning dndidates for the priesthood, May 8, 1988, L’Osservatore Romano, English ed’tion, May 30, 1988, p. 4).{/footnote} finds its foundation in Scripture, in the form of a profound mystical participation with Jesus the Redeemer and Mary the Co-redemptrixin the mysterious release of the graces of Redemption.

St. Paul’s teaching of Colossians 1:24 reveals the role of each Christian, in imitation of the Apostle, to “rejoice” in our sufferings and to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church (Col 1:24).” John Paul II’s commentary on this key passage provides ample explanation that, while the sufferings of Jesus are superabundant in the order of objective redemption, nonetheless it was the desire or the Redeemer that we, through our own patient endurance of suffering, participate in the subjective and personal release of redemptive graces for humanity:

Those who share in the sufferings of Christ preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s Redemption, and can share this treasure with others.{footnote} Pope JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, n. 27.{/footnote}

For, whoever suffers in union with Christ … not only receives from Christ that strength already referred to, but also “completes” by his suffering “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” This evangelical outlook especially highlights the truth concerning the creative character of suffering. The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption.

This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His Body, Christ has in a sense opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings—in any part of the world and at any time in history—to that extent he, in his own way, completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.

Does this mean that the Redemption achieved by Christ is not complete? No. It only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering.{footnote} JOHN PAUL II, Salvifici Doloris, n. 24.{/footnote}

Participation in Redemption is one of the greatest privileges the Redeemer grants to the human person. While limited to distribution and not the acquisition of redemptive grace (the role reserved to the New Adam-Redeemer and the New Eve-Co-redemptrix), it is still typical of the infinite love of Jesus to allow His Mystical People to participate with Him and her in the actual “buying back” of other humans from Satan through the release of grace in virtue of our uniting of our sufferings with those of Christ and His Mother. St. Paul’s reference to the universal Christian responsibility to be “co-workers” with God (1 Cor 3:9) further confirms this supernatural reality of the Christian person’s participation in the divine work of salvation.

The Christian responsibility and privilege for the Mystical People of God to be co-redeemers in Christ is a type which finds its obvious fulfillment and perfection in the person and doctrine Of Mary Co-redemptrix.

The entirely unique role of the Immaculate Mother of God in Jesus’ work of Redemption is a Christian revelation explicit in the Word of God, both written and traditional. Scripture prophesies the Immaculate Co-redemptrix in Genesis 3:15, the future woman, in absolute enmity with Satan and his seed, who experiences a parallel opposition to sin as does her future Savior-Son, the Seed of victory, and who cooperates in the crushing of the head of the serpent-devil. The fiat (Lk. 1:38) of the new Ark of the Covenant leads Mary into a uniquely immediate, personal, active, physical, and moral participation into the heart of the work of Redemption, by providing the Redeemer with the very instrument of Redemption, His Body (cf. Heb 10:10). The Holy Spirit, through the prophet Simeon, explicitly reveals Mary’s unique role to suffer with the Redeemer in His mission of Redemption (Lk 2:35) and which continues uninterruptedly until the redemptive crucifixion of her Son (Jn 19:25-27). Even the Cana exchange between the Son and the Mother “what is this to you and to me” (Gk: ti emoi kai soi Vulg.: quid mihi et tibi) (Jn 2:4) makes clear that two people are aware of the mission, freely consent to the mission, and initiate a miracle at Cana that will project the New Adam and the New Eve into a public ministry that can only end at Calvary, the climax of the redemptive mission.

The Tradition of Mary Co-redemptrix, as essentially contained in the New Eve doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, experiences lts gradual development which gives way to certain highpoints. I he tenth century brings with it the teachings of John the Geometer1{footnote} JOHN THE GEOMETER, Sermon on the Annunciation, PG 106, 846 A; Life of Mary as found in A. Wenger, AA, “L’Assomption,” Etudes Mariales, BSFEM,3> 1966, 66, as’quoted in English by M. CARROLL, CSSp, Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Michael Glazier, 1982, p. 204. {/footnote} regarding Mary’s direct experience of redemptive suffering in complete union with her redeeming Son at Calvary, and reference to Mary as the “Redemptrix” as found in a French Psalter.{footnote} Litanies des saints, in a Psalter of French origin preserved in the chapter library of the Cathedral of Salisbury, Parchment 173, fol. in double columns,0.39×0.32 m. Manuscript number 180, fol. 171 v., b, Edited by RE. Warren,”An Unedited Monument of Celtic Liturgy” in Celtic Review, 9, 1888, pp. 88-96.{/footnote}9 St. Bernard and Arnold of Chartres in the twelfth century, firm up the theological understanding of Mary’s unique suffering with Jesus at Calvary as well as the introduction of the mariological “co” terminology (Mary is “co-crucified” with Jesus and “co-dies” with Him at Golgotha).{footnote} Cf. St. BERNARD; PL 183, 83 C, 430C-D, 438 A; Arnold of Chartres, Tractatus de septem verbis Domini in cruce; tr. 3; PL 189, 1694, 1695 A, 1693 B.{/footnote} St. Bonaventure and the Franciscan school teach of Eve who “sold” humanity and Mary who “bought us back,” (mindful of the fact that “to redeem” is essentially to “buy back,” redimere). Fourteenth century mystics like St. Catherine of Siena call her the “Redemptrix” and St. Bridget of Sweden received the words directly from Our Lady: “My son and I redeemed the world together as with one heart.”{footnote} St. BRIDGET, Revelationes, L. I, c. 35, p. 56b.{/footnote} The explicit use of the title of Co-redemptrix dates back to the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries.{footnote} Orat. ms S. Petri Salisburgens., saec. XV; Codex Petrin. a, III, 20 and Orat ms S. Petri saec. XIV, XV; Codex Petrin. a, I, 20, quoted by G. M.

Dreves, Analecta hymnica medii aevi, Leipzig, Reisland, t. 46, 1905, p.

126, n. 79. The original Latin is as follows:

20. Pia dulcis et benigna 21. Tune non tantum condolere

Nullo prorsus luctu digna Moestae matri se debere

Si fletum hinc eligeres Me cerno grates solvere

Ut compassa redemptori Tibi meae redemptrici

Captivato transgressor! Quae de manu inimici

Tu corredemptrix fieres Dignatur me evolvere{/footnote}Tridentine Jesuit theologian, Alphonsus Salmeron repeatedly defends the titles Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate in the sixteenth century;{footnote} Cf. ALPHONSUS SALMERON, Commentarii in Evangel., tr. 5, Opera, Cologne, ed.,

Hierat, 1604, t. Ill, pp. 37b-38a; Commentarii, vol. 3, 51, 426a, 424a, 429

b; vol. 10, tr. 41, p. 359b; vol. 10, 51, 426a; vol. 11, 38, 311b-312a.{/footnote} and the seventeenth century “Golden Age of Marian Coredemption” makes over 300 references to the Co-redemptrixtitle and doctrine.{footnote} Cf. MIRAVALLE, With Jesus: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix, Goleta, CA:Queenship, 2003, pp. 113-129.{/footnote} Newman defends the Co-redemptrix title to Pusey in the nineteenth century,{footnote} Ven. JOHN CARDINAL NEWMAN, Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic

Teaching Considered, vol. 2, In a Letter Addressed to the Rev. E. B. Pusey,

DD, On Occasion of His Eirenicon of 1864, Longman’s, Green and Co.,

1891, vol. 2, p. 78.{/footnote} during which Faber proclaims it to the common faithful of Europe.{footnote} Cf. F.W. FABER, The Foot of the Cross or the Sorrows of Mary, Peter Reilly,1956 (originally published in 1858); cf. also CALKINS, “Mary the Coredemptrix in the Writings of Frederick William Faber (1814-1863),” Mary at the Foot of the Cross: Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption,

Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, 2001, pp. 317-344.{/footnote}The popes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries make both doctrine and title an irreplaceable part of the teachings of the ordinary Magisterium. The doctrine of Marys unique cooperation in the Redemption is explicitly taught by Leo XIII and St. Pius X.{footnote} For example, LEO XIII, ASS 28, 1895-1896, pp. 130-131; St. Pius X,Encyclical Ad Diem Ilium; ASS 36, p. 453. A number of citations have been found in the more extensive work by Msgr. ARTHUR B. CALKINS, “The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium,” Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issue Today, Queenship, 2002, pp. 25-92.{/footnote} The Magisterium of St. Pius X, in particular the Holy Office and the Congregation of Rites, used and approved the Co-redemptrix title.{footnote} AAS 1, 1908, p. 409; AAS 5, 1913, p. 364; AAS 6, 1914, p. 108.{/footnote} Pius XI used the Co-redemptrix title in three papal addresses,{footnote} Cf. Pius XI, LVsservatore Romano, December 1, 1933, p. 1; Lvsservatore Romano, March 25, 1934, p. 1; LVsservatore Romano, April 29-30, 1935, p. 1.{/footnote} and explicitly provides a theological rationale as to why the Mother of Jesus rightly merits the title of Co-redemptrix.{footnote} Pius XI, LVsservatore Romano, December 1, 1933, p. 1.{/footnote} The Second Vatican Council repeatedly teaches the doctrine of Marian Coredemption (even though the title was removed from an earlier schema by a theological commission, based on their concerns for potential ecumenical difficulties).{footnote} Acta Synodalia Concilii, vol. 1. pt. 4; cf. Besutti, Lo Schema Mariano, p.41. Original Latin from Praenotanda reads: “Omissae sunt expressiones et

vocabula quaedam a Summis Pontificibus adhibita, quae, licet in se verissima,

possent difficilius intelligi a fratribus separatis (in casu protestantibus).

Inter alia vocabula adnumerari queunt sequential ‘Corredemptrix humani

generis’ (S. Pius X, Pius XI) … .”{/footnote} John Paul II, as is well known, used the Co-redemptrix title on at least six occasions.{footnote}For an extended treatment, cf. CALKINS, “Pope John Paul II’s Teaching on Marian Coredemption,” in Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical, Queenship, 1996, pp. 113-147; also “The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium,” Doctrinal Issues, pp. 41-47.{/footnote} and taught the Co-redemptrix doctrine ubiquitously throughout his pontificate.{footnote}Cf, CALKINS, “The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium/’pp. 25-92.{/footnote}

Pope Benedict continues the unbroken, contemporary, ordinary teachings of the Magisterium on Marian Coredemption, as evidenced in his February 11, 2008 address for the World Day of the Sick;{footnote}Pope BENEDICT XVI, Message for Sixteenth World Day of Sick, February H/ 2008.{/footnote} his prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan for the Chinese Church;{footnote}Prayer of the Pope to Our Lady of Sheshan, Vatican Information Services, May 16, 2008.{/footnote} and his April 8, 2009 Wednesday audience, where he explicates that Mary “silently followed her Son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with deep sorrow in His sacrifice and thus cooperating in the mystery of the Redemption and becoming Mother of all believers (cf. Jn 19:25-27).”{footnote}Pope BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, April 8, 2009.{/footnote}

It must be emphasized once again that the universal call for all Christians to participate in the work of the divine Redeemer as co-redeemers differs both in nature and degree from the unique participation enacted by the Immaculate Co-redemptrix. In virtue of her Immaculate Conception and her divine Motherhood, Mary co-operates with Jesus in the historic acquisition of graces that alone contributes to the Redemption of the world. John Pauls teaching from Salvifici Doloris confirms this critical distinction:

[A]fter the events of her Son’s hidden and public life, events which she must have shared with acute sensitivity, it was on Calvary that Marys suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world.

Her ascent to Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross, together with the Beloved Disciple, were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. And the words which she heard from his lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.

By her presence as a witness to her Son’s Passion, and by her compassion as a sharer in it, and as a sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering by embodying, in anticipation, the expression of Saint Paul which was quoted at the beginning. She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she “completes in her flesh”—as already in her heart—”what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”{footnote} i Doloris, n. 25.{/footnote}

Who of the People of God would dare presume, individually or collectively, that their suffering could ever amount to, or surpass in quality or merit, the perfect human sufferings of the Sorrowful Mother and Queen of Martyrs, whose Immaculate Heart was inseparably united in suffering with the Heart of Jesus during the climax of Redemption on Golgotha? The Council indicates that Mary, in a singular fashion, “persevered in union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood in keeping with the divine command, enduring with her only begotten son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim who was born of her” (Lumen Gentium 58).

Any form of authentic Christian ecclesiological Coredemption must be seen in proper subordination to the perfect human Co-redemption achieved by the Immaculate one who was providentially predestined by the Father to be the stainless covenantal Cooperator with the Redeemer. Still, the dignified call of each Christian, through the offering of their suffering in union with Christ and Mary, to play a true role in the release °l those historic graces obtained at Calvary, should never be underestimated in supernatural importance and efficacy as it is likewise a designated part of the redemptive plan eternally predestined by God the Father of all mankind.

The Church is called to imitate Mary in her perfected roles as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces. In the Holy See’s confirmation of this, the Congregation for Education under John Paul II’s pontificate explicitly referred to the Church’s mission to be a “co-redemptrix” (corredentrice) and the “dispensatrix of salvation” (dispensatrice di salvezza) in its 1988 document on the Role of the Virgin Mary in the Spiritual and Intellectual Formation of Life.{footnote} Via via che la Chiesa nel corso della sua storia prende meglio coscienza

dei doni che ha ricevuto da Dio—santita, missione corredentrice e

dispensatrice di salvezza, destine glorioso che trascina nella sua scia

tutta la creazione—entra anche, per una specie di passaggio al limite, in

una migliore comprensione dei doni corrispondenti riversati con pienezza

dalla grazia nella persona della Vergine Maria, cosicche il progresso della

dottrina mariana puo essere ritenuto correlative alia conoscenza concrete

del suo proprio mistero, che la Chiesa acquisisce poco a poco sotto la guida

dello Spirito Santo, che I’anima e la illumina. Congregation for Catholic

Education, The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, March

25, 1988, n. 2.{/footnote}

The intimate unity of co-redeemers in Christ, with their typical fulfillment in Mary Co-redemptrix, can be seen in Pope Benedict’s words to the sick, when the Holy Father refers to the mystical unity between all who suffer and the Mother who suffers with them:

Associated with the Sacrifice of Christ, Mary, Mater Dolorosa, who at the foot of the Cross suffers with her divine Son, is felt to be especially near by the Christian community, which gathers around its suffering members who bear the signs of the passion of the Lord. Mary suffers with those who are in affliction; with them she hopes, and she is their comfort, supporting them with her maternal help.{footnote} Message for Sixteenth World Day of Sick, February 11, 2008{/footnote}

It is also significant that Pope Benedict chose to emphasize Our Lady’s coredemptive role in his prayer for the Chinese Church as solace and intercession in the midst of their continued, extraordinary sufferings and persecution under Communist regime:

When you obediently said “yes” in the house at Nazareth, you allowed God s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously cooperated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter. Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.{footnote}Prayer to Our Lady ofSheshan, May 16, 2008{/footnote}

IV. Ecclesiological Fruits of a Solemn Definition of Mary Co-redemptrix

How would the People of God benefit from a solemn definition of the truth and life of Mary Co-redemptrix?

The more clearly and emphatically Our Lady Co-redemptrix is brought before the mind and conscience of the People of God as a concrete example of the perfection of what it means to be a human co-redeemer in union with Jesus Christ, the more we know what we are to strive for as a pilgrim Church and as a Church suffering. There is no substitute for concrete Christian witness, and the solemn papal highlighting of Mary Co-redemptrix for mystical Church, also called to bear its providential crosses in faith and hope for the salvation of others, would constitute an invaluable and timely gift for a mystical People called to redeem daily.

Further, the seemingly unprecedented sufferings of the Church and the world today provide a global atmosphere for the greatest possible appreciation and incorporation of the Christian reality that “suffering is redemptive.” For the Vicar of Christ to solemnly present to the world the example of Mary Co-redemptrix for a contemporary society that feels the weight of the cross perhaps like never before, such a papal witness would translate into newfound grace and courage for the human family in the face of so many temptations towards discouragement and despair.

Moreover, the infallible papal witness to the Co-redemptrix would bring a new awareness into the moral-medical-ethical arena that human suffering is not an evil that justifies radical acts seeking to relieve pain at all costs, i.e., in situations presently leading to euthanasia and abortion. On the contrary, the witness of Marian Coredemption conveys that human suffering has a supernaturally fruitful character that ultimately will protect the dignity of the human person, both at the beginning and end of the human life experience.

Ultimately, since most every domain of human experience has the possibility of human suffering with it, the papal definition of the love and efficacy of the Co-redemptrix has the capacity to positively and supernaturally transform most every conceivable dimension of human existence, leading to inestimable graces of Christian co-redemption and merit for the good of the Church and of the world; and this, coupled with a renewed Christian witness, in the face of new levels of Christian persecution which are rapidly on the rise in both East and West.

We are, as Church, a type of Mary Co-redemptrix. The more we see and understand the perfection of Marian Coredemption, the more we can fulfill our responsibility as Christian co-redeemers to the benefit of the Church, the world, and our own sanctification, an invaluable and timely gift for a mystical People called to redeem daily.

Further, the seemingly unprecedented sufferings of the Church and the world today provide a global atmosphere for the greatest possible appreciation and incorporation of the Christian reality that “suffering is redemptive.” For the Vicar of Christ to solemnly present to the world the example of Mary Co-redemptrix for a contemporary society that feels the weight of the cross perhaps like never before, such a papal witness would translate into newfound grace and courage for the human family in the face of so many temptations towards discouragement and despair.

Moreover, the infallible papal witness to the Co-redemptrix would bring a new awareness into the moral-medical-ethical arena that human suffering is not an evil that justifies radical acts seeking to relieve pain at all costs, i.e., in situations presently leading to euthanasia and abortion. On the contrary, the witness of Marian Coredemption conveys that human suffering has a supernaturally fruitful character that ultimately will protect the dignity of the human person, both at the beginning and end of the human life experience.

Ultimately, since most every domain of human experience has the possibility of human suffering with it, the papal definition of the love and efficacy of the Co-redemptrix has the capacity to positively and supernaturally transform most every conceivable dimension of human existence, leading to inestimable graces of Christian co-redemption and merit for the good of the Church and of the world; and this, coupled with a renewed Christian witness, in the face of new levels of Christian persecution which are rapidly on the rise in both East and West.

We are, as Church, a type of Mary Co-redemptrix. The more we see and understand the perfection of Marian Coredemption, the more we can fulfill our responsibility as Christian co-redeemers to the benefit of the Church, the world, and our own sanctification.

Her joys and glories have already been dogmatically crowned; but not yet her sorrows.

May the Holy Father soon, solemnly proclaim who and what the suffering Mother already is, not only for her own sake, (however appropriate and justifiable as this would be) but, in the final analysis, for ours.

Dr. Mark Miravalle

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