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Co-redemptrix at the Cross

The following excerpt is from Adrienne von Speyr’s Mary in the Redemption (Ignatius Press). Von Speyr was a visionary who was the close collaborator to the famous Swiss theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthazar, who once commented, “To find my best theological contribution, look to the writings of Adrienne van Speyr.” Von Speyr reports to have received the following insights regarding Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix as a direct mystical dictation from Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. -Ed.

At the Cross, Mary receives a new role through the Son’s suffering. She is not only a regular mother who is losing her human son and standing by him in his hour of death. In addition to this, she is standing here in faith and in obedience to her Son, who is God, in obedience to his will and in supernatural solidarity with his suffering. However, this solidarity now expresses itself precisely in the fact that the Son is unapproachable to the Mother in his dereliction. She must therefore endure something that at first seems hopeless, even though it springs from the mystery of the Son. It could be compared to suffering in purgatory where a soul has to get to know the power of sin but meanwhile does not get to quibble over its personal involvement. It is a purifying suffering, under the weight of sin and the recognition associated with it.

Mary is also placed in the middle of this fire that guts the sin of the world. She experiences it in her soul, and she sees it made concrete, so to speak, in a different way in her dying Son. She is drawn into this fire into which the Son will later draw others, sinners. But in contrast to all the others who will come later and go through the purifying fire, she has committed no sin and suffers in complete simultaneity with the Lord. The effect of the fire of redemption has for the first time been tried out on her by the Son, who, as he himself suffers, confronts what is happening in her with apparent indifference. But because she is without sin and the burning fire within her still has the strength of a fire of purification, from the outset it burns within her for others. Right now she sees nothing of this strength and will not see it until the Son becomes visible to her at Easter.

A purification without personal guilt has to be a purification for God to dispose of as he desires. In this Mary becomes Co-Redemptrix. This is not because she had to earn the grace of being the one who is pre-redeemed at the Cross. Her suffering is not used for that. It is free from the outset. She does not become the one who is pre-redeemed through the co-redemption, but rather she becomes Co-Redemptrix through the pre-redemption. The pre-redemption is a completely free gift of grace from God that serves as the prerequisite for everything else. In contrast, she must now merit her further inclusion, and she does so on two fronts. She must merit it within her relationship to the Son without there being any visible effect of this merit. The Son, as it were, consumes everything that is hers in his all-consuming fire. He carelessly burns her to a cinder in a complete humiliation. But another part of this burning runs parallel to the Son’s handing over of the Spirit to God: it is a voluntary offering up of all she possesses, though the sacrifice she makes is entirely dependent on grace. She is impoverished beyond all bounds of poverty. At the Annunciation she had to give herself up in order to become a Mother. There was a fruit to be seen. Now, by way of contrast, she makes a pure sacrifice, which far exceeds everything that seemed to be demanded of her when she gave her Yes. Yet it is a sacrifice that would not have been possible without her Yes.

At one time she physically formed and gave birth from her life to the Son’s humanity. Now she will die from his death. There are no further human parallels for this. The Son does not become his Mother’s murderer, but he does take her into his death. This takes place outside all human lawfulness. A lover can kill his bride and then kill himself: this is a human occurrence that might, perhaps, indicate a certain greatness. The inclusion of the Mother in the death of the Son, however, is a form of security deposit for the Father. There is no purely human path leading to it. Later, the martyrs, too, will be included in the death of the Son, and they, too, will affirm their death. But theirs will be a physical death. In contrast, Mary’s is a spiritual death, the co-experienced end of all that is his and everything that was in him. And he is not merely a man who has been humiliated and had to give up an unfulfilled life, works, and plans to suffer the death of a criminal. He is God, and his death is the death of him who is at once God and apparently forfeits his mission in his death, of him whose words and teachings no longer make sense because he is dying. The Mother is taken into this “more than human” event, even though it is totally obscured and she herself cannot grasp it.

The Father and the Holy Spirit alone see what is occurring. The Holy Spirit, who is given back to the Father by the Son, carries Mary’s co-redemption to the Father just as he carried the seed of God to Mary. It is an event in darkness, just as the overshadowing was an event in darkness. There was already a lot that remained mysterious even in Mary’s Yes. But everything, the difficult and the beautiful alike, was interwoven in the beautiful mystery of her being allowed to give to the world its Messiah. Now, in contrast, everything is being interwoven into the dreadful mystery of her having to lose her only Son, who is God. And it is happening in this present moment that engulfs everything without pity—future and past—and permits of no other meaning than this loss. It is a human loss, but one within a Yes given to God and, therefore, in a breath of divine sublimity to which there is access only in prayer, but a Yes that has been returned to heaven with the Holy Spirit. And yet this has happened in a posture preconditioned through prayer and through contact with the Son, through her Yes and through the pre-redemption. It is through things pre-conditioned by gifts from God alone that Mary is made free for the co-redemption. The power that comes into being here does not remain bound to Mary personally or humanly but, with every possible consequence of her gift of self, returns immediately and uninterruptedly to God, who finds her included in the Son’s gift of himself and intertwined in the work he accomplishes. The parallel to the nativity now becomes visible: Mary gave birth to the Son into his redeeming, and the Son now bears her into her co-redemption. It is like a returned favor.

The Mother is present, and she has not failed. Had she failed at some time or other, the Son could perhaps have left her behind. But she went with him, step for step, as his Mother. She is his Mother through the Holy Spirit and therefore remains thus through the same Spirit, so that she has neither distanced nor detached herself from his divine-human being. She is consequently bound up with his situation, with the situation of his death; not primarily with his work, but with his being. His work springs from his being. From the outset, her motherhood is spiritual and physical and is initiated through the supernatural appearance of an angel. Only those who fall from their mission lose the grace of being accompanied right from the supernatural start of their mission. Since the Son chose her as his Mother, she will remain his Mother even in his death. He has chosen her for everything, and her co-redemption was already planned and contained in her pre-redemption. She was, therefore, Co-Redemptrix when she gave birth to him. Her giving birth was an act dedicated to the Son so that he might fulfill his mission, an act whose meaning is contained in his divine-human mission. And this meaning is not lost on Mary. She remains his Mother whether he is in her, whether he has gone forth from her, or whether he hangs on the Cross.

Co-redemption with Sinners

Mary’s Immaculate Conception can be called a gift of the Father to the Son. Nonetheless, Mary is redeemed naturally, that is to say, she is redeemed through the Son. But within this resides something similar to the Father accompanying the Son’s work; a proof before the proof; an assurance, given to the Son en route by the Father, that everything will go according to plan. The effects of original sin have the distinctive characteristic of calling us to new sin. In her Immaculate Conception, Mary has the distinctive characteristic of heralding the coming of the even greater purity of the Son and his divinity. She is like a wedding ring that the Father gives to the Son as a deposit to show that the work of redemption will succeed. The Father’s gift gushes forth through the Cross, but does so like a special rivulet that flows from the Father into the Mother.

The Father gives the redemption of the world to the Son, and the Son accomplishes it. Both are one in their will to redeem, but not in a simple identity of will, insofar as the Son has a human will and suffers. It is therefore possible to make something of a distinction.

On the Cross, the Son redeems the Mother, and he does so by rejecting her. In that moment, inasmuch as it concerns the redemption, he regards her as one who is not redeemed. He must make her anonymous; he must restore her to the world and to the mass of those who are to be redeemed in order that she can become the mediatrix of all graces and co-redeem. She is the Immaculate on the grounds of the Son’s pre-merit, which the Father recognizes and considers as something that has already been accomplished. At the Cross, however, she is not redeemed as one who has not sinned; she has to lose her sinless face in order for the redemption to take effect on her here as it does on everyone else, albeit with the advantage of the merit of co-redemption because she, like the Son, “takes on sin.”

It cannot in any way be said that she redeems herself. In this moment, she deposits her privileges in the Spirit of the Son, who is giving back his Spirit. She gives back to the Son the Spirit whom she has received and who plays such a great role in the Immaculate Conception. In doing so, she steps into the ranks of sinners, and only once the redemption has happened does she step forward and regain her privilege. Ultimately, she does not become Co-Redemptrix by having herself placed in the ranks of sinners; she does not draw herself into the redemption by this, but rather she draws everyone else. For their sake, she lets herself expropriate her rights to the Son. What follows is like the erasure of all her distinguishing characteristics and, as a result, a kind of exchange: in that moment, the others stand in the place where she has stood.

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