It is one thing to define a term; it is quite another to believe it. That the Church defines the meaning of Co-redemptrix as Mary’s entirely unique sharing in the work of Redemption with Jesus is clear. But on what basis does she believe it to be true?
God’s perfect providence, dictated not by absolute necessity but by divine disposition, the Heart of God expressed to the heart of man, is revealed with a certain primacy through Sacred Scripture.
The Mother of Jesus is rightly understood not as a woman in Scripture, but as The Woman of Scripture. She is, as we shall see, the “woman” of Genesis (Gen. 3:15), the “woman” of Cana (Jn. 2:4), the “woman” of Calvary (Jn. 19:25), the “woman” of Revelation (Rev. 12:1), and the “woman” of Galatians (Gal. 4:4).
But here we must ponder the revelation of the Woman of Scripture specific to her role “with Jesus” in the work of Redemption. We commence with the ancient Covenant between God and man and its written Testament.
The Great Prophecy—Genesis 3:15 (1)
“I will put enmity between you and the woman”
We begin at the beginning, in the Book of Genesis with the protoevangelium, the “first gospel.” For the merciful love of the Father permits fallen humanity to be in despair without a redeemer for only a few verses.
After the human “sin of sins” takes place, God is quick to reveal his redemptive plan to reverse or “recapitulate,” as the early Fathers would say, the sin of Adam and Eve. The Creator in his omniscience makes known a plan to bring about the serpent’s complete defeat by using the same basic means, though in reverse, by which Satan effected the loss of grace for the human family. In doing so, God the Father of all mankind further reveals his omnipotent sovereignty over Satan.
God reveals his redemptive plan of a future woman and her future “seed” of victory: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he (she) shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his (her) heel (Gen. 3:15).”
In this greatest of Old Testament prophecies, we see a struggle between a woman and her offspring, or “seed,” against Satan and his seed of evil and sin. With the revelation of the battle is the revelation of the eventual victory of the woman and her seed in the crushing of Satan’s head.
The “seed” who is ultimately victorious over Satan and his seed can refer only to Jesus Christ. No one else may lay claim to the redemptive victory of the crucified and resurrected Redeemer. The “woman” of the seed of victory must then also refer to Mary in the most essential and ultimate sense, who is alone the true and natural mother of Jesus Christ. Eve does not give physical birth to the Redeemer, nor does Israel, nor does the Church. Only Mary the “New Eve” does.
This Genesis passage is quintessentially prophetic, foretelling a definitive victory over Satan to take place in the future—”I will put.” So, too, must the two persons of the victory be in the future, so that through a woman yet to be born and her victorious seed, the loss of the first woman would be vindicated.
God places “enmity” between the woman and the serpent and their respective “seeds.” “Enmity” in scripture refers to a complete and radical opposition, (2) and it is precisely this enmity which separates the woman and her seed (Mother and Son) from Satan and his seed. It is within this divinely-established enmity that the nature and role of Mary Co-redemptrix is first foretold.
The woman shares with her seed in the struggle against the serpent and his seed. In the full light of salvation history, we understand that this passage foreshadows Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, who intimately shares in the identical struggle against Satan and evil as does Jesus the Redeemer. The Woman “with Jesus” participates in the great battle for buying back humanity, which is revealed by the Heavenly Father immediately after the first woman participates in the loss of humanity “with Adam.” Eve becomes the “co-peccatrix”—”with the sinner”; Mary is prophesied as the “Co-redemptrix”—”with the redeemer.” (3)
The “enmity” between the woman and the serpent also foretells the “Immaculate One,” who is both free from sin and full of grace. Only a person in total and complete opposition to the Evil One could be entirely immaculate or “stainless,” (macula meaning stain). In its positive meaning, this Woman will be “full of grace” (Lk. 1:28), for she positively be