Calvary is the summit of human history, where the drama of God’s salvation of man reaches its climax. Every human experience and expression, every action, every thought, every exercise of free will, finds its meaning and fulfillment only through the Cross.
It is at Calvary that we see enacted the fulfillment of the Mother Co-redemptrix, but in a category of human experience that transcends the dignity and efficacy of any other human vocation. At Calvary, the Mother partakes in the very act of Redemption, which in turn gives Christian meaning, purpose, and value to every other human act throughout the course of history. For it is by the objective measure of salvation, according to the ultimate meaning of love and truth, that all acts will be weighed.
Jn. 19:25-27: “Woman, behold, your son! . . . Behold , your mother”
Here, the prophecy of Simeon is fulfilled by a sword of sorrow so painful that no other human heart could bear it and live. Only the Immaculate Heart is granted the graces by the Eternal Father to endure the immolation of her Son as Victim for her other spiritual sons and daughters to-be. “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother . . . When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (Jn. 19:25-27).
Jesus, Mary, the tree of the Cross. How entirely supernatural is the Heavenly Father’s reversal of Satan’s initial victory in the original fall of man (Gen. 3:1-6). At Eden, the original human sin is committed by the First Adam through the intercession of the First Eve at the tree of the forbidden fruit. At Calvary, the original human sin is reversed and redeemed by Jesus, the New Adam (1) through the intercession of Mary, the New Eve at the tree of the Cross. The prophecy of Genesis 3:15 is supernaturally fulfilled at Calvary with the “Woman” and her “seed of victory” crushing the head of Satan and his seed of sin.
This is why the Church’s Liturgy sings to God the Father the praises of the New Eve in the mission of the Redemption:
In your divine wisdom, you planned the Redemption of the human race and decreed that the new Eve should stand by the cross of the new Adam: as she became his mother by the power of the Holy Spirit, so, by a new gift of your love, she was to be a partner in his passion, and she who had given him birth without the pains of childbirth was to endure the greatest of pains in bringing forth to new life the family of your Church. (2)
“Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn. 19:26). Woman of Genesis, Woman of Cana, and now, near the end of your maternal crucifixion of heart, you, Woman of Calvary, behold, your son. And behold as well your universal office as Spiritual Mother to all those redeemed here at Calvary, represented by your “new son,” the beloved disciple. For you, Mary Co-redemptrix, have suffered “with Jesus” for their ransom, and therefore you shall spiritually nourish and protect them with Jesus, the Redeemer of all peoples, as the new Mother of all peoples.
John Paul II eloquently notes of the Mother’s share in the “redemptive love” of her Son and its universal, spiritual fecundity for humanity:
The Mother of Christ, who stands at the very center of this mystery—a mystery which embraces each individual and all humanity—is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind. The man at the foot of the Cross is John, “the disciple whom he loved.” But it is not he alone. Following tradition, the Council does not hesitate to call Mary “the Mother of Christ and mother of mankind”: since she “belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all human beings . . . Indeed she is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ . . . since she cooperated out of love so that there might be born in the Church the faithful.'”
And so this “new motherhood of Mary,” generated by faith, is the fruit of the “new” love which came to definitive maturity in her at the foot of the Cross, through her sharing in the redemptive love of her Son. (3)
But what was the actual price of suffering for Mary Co-redemptrix in order to partake “with Jesus” in the Redemption of the human race and, as a result, to become the spiritual Mother of all peoples?
No human mind or heart can fully comprehend the depth and breadth of this suffering. Popes and poets, musicians and artists have sought to convey the Mother’s pain in various creative mediums, from the Stabat Mater to the Pieta. But all human efforts fail, and the humble are quick to acknowledge the inability to grasp fully the genus of suffering “with Jesus” experienced by Our Lady of Sorrows in order to buy back an entire human race.
The Mother stands near the cross of Jesus amidst the litanies of blasphemies intoned by the onlookers, some recited by the ecclesiastically trained who have condemned him by using a rationalistic exegesis of the Father’s Law. Other blasphemies are hurled by common people who ignorantly follow their misguided shepherds. Still more contempt is heaped on her son by those who habitually condemn because of their own fallenness. The Mother hears each and every insult individually. She receives her own direct insults as the condemned’s mother, as is still the practice today when someone seeks to inflict pain by directing their insult at a person’s mother. Such blasphemies are unintended testimonies to the Co-redemptrix’s unity of mission with Jesus.
On the cross Jesus bleeds, but his Mother cannot stop his bleeding and care for his wounds. On the cross, Jesus cannot find a place to rest his head due to the crown of thorns, but his Mother cannot direct his head. On the cross, Jesus “thirsts” (Jn. 19:28), but the Mother cannot give him drink. On the cross, Jesus confesses in human kenosis, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34), but the Mother cannot console her Son.
The Mother shares in the Heart of her Son when he utters from the new tree of the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). The Mother also forgives and joins in the petition for the Father’s forgiveness, as such is the very purpose of Redemption and Coredemption. And the Mother finds a drop of consolation amidst the ocean of desolation (and a confirmation of their redeeming mission) when she hears the Son declaring to the good thief: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43).
Finally, with a paradoxical bittersweetness of heart, the Mother hears the words of the Son that he is now departing. He is at the moment of death. He will be taken from her, but their lifelong mission of Redemption has been eternally successful in buying back humanity: “It is consummated” (Jn. 19:30). It is not only finished but fulfilled.
John Paul II describes the intensity of the Immaculate Mother’s suffering at this moment as “unimaginable”:
In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith, but also a contribution to the Redemption of all . . . .It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached such an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view, but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of 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. (4)
Rev. 12 : The Woman Clothed “With the Sun” (5) and the Dragon
A final scriptural revelation of the Co-redemptrix is given in the mystical language of the Apocalypse.
The vision of the “woman clothed with the sun” of Revelation 12:1 is introduced by the vision of the Ark of the Covenant within the Temple in Revelation 11:19: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple . . . And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1).
Mary is the New Ark who bears within herself Jesus the Redeemer, who is the New Covenant between divinity and humanity. (6) It is of utmost significance that the Marian image of the New Ark ushers in the last great revelation of the Woman of Scripture in all her glory. She is the Woman of solar and celestial brightness, the Woman who is clothed “with the Sun” in brilliant light and surrounded “with Jesus,” the true Son and Light of the world.
The Fathers of the Church and later ecclesiastical writers (7) taught that the Woman of Revelation 12 depicts both Mary and the Church in various ways. But in its first sense, the Woman of Revelation 12 must reveal Mary, for the Immaculate Virgin of Nazareth “brings forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with an iron rod” (Rev. 12:5). Jesus is that ruler and Mary alone is his true and natural mother.
The Immaculate alone is the Woman placed in enmity with the serpent in the great parallel texts of Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12, an enmity that leads to and culminates in the cosmic battle for souls depicted in Revelation 12: 13, 17: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had born the male child . . . then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.” The spiritual battle between God’s greatest creature and his most evil creature comprises the “bookends” of Sacred Scripture, and depicts a struggle for souls that not only extends through the breadth of the Written Word of God but also the entire course of human history, inclusive of our present hour.
The Co-redemptrix, “with Jesus,” battles against the Dragon who wars upon the rest of the Woman’s offspring, which is redeemed humanity. With his seed of sin in all its forms, including its contemporary manifestations of abortion, communism, pornography, freemasonry, materialism, secularism, cloning, nuclear war and the like, the Dragon seeks to lure her offspring eternally away from the Woman and her Seed of victory.
The Woman of Revelation 12 is, in diverse though complementary ways, both a “Woman of glory” and a “Woman of suffering.” (8) She is a woman of glory in so far as she is the woman clothed with the sun and crowned by twelve stars (v. 1), who gives birth to the male-child, ruler of all nations (v. 5). She is a woman of suffering in so far as she is the woman with child that “cries out in the pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (v. 2) and is at war with the Dragon for “the rest of her offspring” (v. 17).
Both the Woman of glory and the Woman of suffering are in the first sense a revelation of Mary Co-redemptrix. The Virgin Mary is the Woman of glory, clothed with the fullness of grace coming from the Son; crowned with twelve stars as Queen of the Apostles and all creation; and who alone gives birth to Jesus, the male-child, King of all nations. She is also the Woman of Suffering, who on Calvary “cries out in the pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” in giving mystical birth to us all as spiritual “sons” (Jn. 19:25-27). Her glorification in heaven is not merely a decorative honor in acknowledgment of her human role as the mother of the Savior. It is the fruit of her lifelong sharing in his saving mission, her partaking in his suffering, for glory and suffering are inextricably united in the mission of Redemption (Jn. 13:3).
Mary Co-redemptrix continues to this day to battle the Dragon for souls, a mystical battle that sometimes causes her to weep (9) over the loss of so many of her offspring in our times. She is the Woman of Revelation who “cries out in the pangs of birth, in anguish of delivery” and the Woman of Calvary called to “behold, your son.” Both passages are parallel revelations of the same co-redeeming Mother who continues to suffer intensely in order to bring forth disciples in Christ Jesus. (10)
When we scripturally examine the Mother’s participation in the accomplishment of Redemption by Jesus Christ, the Word of God elicits a simple and obvious conclusion: the Woman and Mother “with Jesus” from the Annunciation to Calvary uniquely shares in the work of Redemption through which the salvation of the human family is obtained, and at the price of the greatest human suffering imaginable.
The Immaculate Mother, in a way that is shared by no other creature, participates in the “Redemption accomplished” as the Co-redemptrix, and therefore becomes the Mediatrix of all graces, (11) in the order of the “Redemption received.” (12) Her acquisition of grace leads to her distribution of grace—from the “Mother to us in the order of grace” (Lumen Gentium, 61).
The Testaments of Scripture, Old and New, reveal that a man and a woman “sold” humanity to Satan through sin, and a Man and a Woman “bought back” humanity through suffering. The price paid by the Woman “with Jesus” for our eternal ransom is perhaps best poetically conveyed in the classic verses of the Stabat Mater:
At the Cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.
O how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole-begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of His own nation
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His spirit forth He sent.
O sweet Mother! Font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.
Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.
Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.
Let me share with you His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the Cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.
Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.
Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.
Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In His very Blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful judgment day.
Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia.) (13)
The above article is from the fourth chapter of “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix, Queenship Publications, 2003.
(1) Cf. 1 Cor. 15:22, 45.
(2) Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin, vol. 1, Sacramentary, Catholic Book Publishing, 1992, p. 117; original Latin text in Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine I, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987, p. 49.
(3) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 23.
(4) John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, 25.
(5) For an extended commentary on Mary as the Woman of Revelation 12, cf. Matthias J. Scheeben, Mariology, Herders, 1947, vol. 1, p. 15; Bernard Le Frois, The Woman Clothed With The Sun: Individual or Collective, Orbis Catholicus, Rome, 1954; Pope Paul VI, Signum Magnum.
(6) Cf. Chapter II, “Co-redemptrix Foretold.”
(7) Cf. Le Frois, The Woman Clothed with the Sun, ch. 1, arts. 1, 2, 3; de La Potterie, Maria nel mistero dell’ Alleanza, p. 258.
(8) Manelli, Mary Coredemptrix In Sacred Scripture, p. 99.
(9) For example, the documented weeping Madonna statue at the Church approved apparitions of Our Lady of Akita in Japan, where a wooden statue carved in the image of the Lady of All Nations from Amsterdam wept lacrimations on one hundred and one occasions, cf. T. Yasuda, “The Message of Mary Coredemptrix at Akita and Its Complementarity with the Dogma Movement,” Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma, Queenship, 2000, pp. 235-249.
(10) Cf. R. Laurentin, La Vergine Maria, Rome, 1984, pp. 51-52.
(11) For references to Our Lady’s title and function as Mediatrix of all graces, cf. Pius VII, Ampliatio privilegiorum ecclesiae B.M. Virginis ab agnelo salutatae in coenobio Fratrum Ordinis Servorum B.M.V., Florentiae, A.D., 1806 in J. Bourasse, Summa aurea . . . , vol. 7, Paris, 1862, col. 546; Pius IX, Encyclical Ubi Primum, 1849; Leo XIII, Supremi Apostolatus, 1883 and Octobri Mense, 1891; St. Pius X, Ad Diem Illum; Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Inter Sodalicia, March 22, 1918, AAS 10, 1918, and Mass and Office of Mediatrix of all Graces approved in 1921; Pius XI, Apostolic Letter Cognitum Sane, AAS 18, p. 213 and Encyclical Ingravescentibus Malis, AAS 29, 1937, p. 380; Pope Pius XII, Superiore Anno, AAS 32, 1940, p. 145; Pius XII, cf. AAS 45, 1953 and Mediator Dei, 1947; John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, ch. 3, “Maternal Mediation” and in a Papal Address, Rome, October 1, 1997, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, October 8, 1997, p. 11; cf. also A. Robichaud, S.M., “Mary, Dispensatrix of all Graces,” Mariology, vol. 2, pp. 426-460 and Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Still Mediatress of All Graces?,” Miles Immaculatæ vol. 24, 1988, pp. 121-122. Usages of the Mediatrix of all graces title during the pontificate of John Paul II number seven and are here included (courtesy of the research of Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins):
1. December 1, 1978, Address to the General Council, Provincial Superiors and Directors of the Italian Institutes of the Congregation of St. Joseph (Giuseppini of St. Leonard Murialdo), n. 3:
We cannot conclude without addressing the Blessed Virgin, so loved and venerated by Murialdo, who had recourse to her as the Universal Mediatrix of all grace. The thought of Mary returned continually in his letters. In them he inculcated the recitation of the rosary, entrusted his sons with spreading devotion to the Holy Virgin, and stated: “If one wishes to do a little good among the young, one must instill love for Mary in them.” The beneficial work carried out by your Founder is the best confirmation of this. So follow his example in this matter too (Inseg I (1978) 250; Talks 370).
2. August 30, 1980, Address to Young People at Our Lady’s Shrine on Mount Roio, n. 3:
I conclude by entrusting you to the Virgin Mary, to whom St. Bernardine was extremely devoted and whom, it can be said, he went proclaiming all over Italy every day. Having lost his own mother, he chose Our Lady as his mother and always lavished his affection on her and trusted completely in her. He became the singer of Mary’s beauty, it can be affirmed, and preaching her mediation with inspired love, he was not afraid to state: “Every grace that is given to men proceeds from a triple ordained cause: from God it passes to Christ, from Christ it passes to the Virgin, from the Virgin it is given to us.”
Turn to her every day with confidence and with love, and ask her for the grace of the beauty of your soul and of your life, of what alone can make you happy (Inseg III/2 (1980) 495; ORE 648:3).
3. January 17, 1988, Angelus Address, n. 2:
Another center of Marian devotion worthy of mention is the Church dedicated to Our Lady in Meadi, on the outskirts of Cairo, on the banks of the Nile. The Church seems to have been built in the fifth century, even if, in the course of the centuries and in modern times, it has been modified and restored. It is entrusted to the Coptic-Orthodox Christians, and many pilgrims continuously come to this sanctuary to entrust their intentions to the Mediatrix of all graces (Inseg XI/1 (1988) 119; ORE 1023:5).
4. April 10, 1988, Homily for Octave of Easter in the Roman parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, n. 7:
In this Marian Year, your parish, which is placed under the patronage of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Redemptoris Mater, has an extra reason for renewing and strengthening its own devotion towards her, the Mediatrix of all graces, our Advocate with her Son Jesus and the Help of Christians. Call upon her, honor her, draw close to her. She will hear you and will obtain for you whatever good you desire (Inseg XI/1 (1988) 863; ORE 1036:11).
5. July 2, 1990, Reflection Made at the Shrine of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento, n. 1:
With loving intuition from ancient times you have been able to grasp the mystery of Mary, as Mediatrix of all graces, because she is the Mother of the very Author of Grace, Jesus Christ. That is why the people of Benevento throughout the ages have turned and continue to turn to her, invoking her not only as “Our Lady of Graces,” but often also as “Our Lady of Grace” (Inseg XIII/2 (1990) 17; ORE 1148:2).
6. September 18, 1994, Angelus Address in Lecce, nn. 1, 3:
From the city of Lecce, honored by the name of Civitas mariana, I raise my prayer to you today, Most Holy Virgin. I do so among this beloved people of Apulia, who venerate you with deep devotion and hail you as the Mother of all Graces. You who go before us on the pilgrimage of faith, accompany the Successor of Peter on today’s visit, which is a further step in the “Great Prayer for Italy . . . .”
Watch over each with assiduous care, and pour an abundance of your gifts on all, O Queen without the stain of sin, O Mother of all Graces, O Virgin Mary! (Inseg XVII/2 (1994) 344-345; ORE 1358:8-9).
7. June 28, 1996, Address to the General Chapter of the Mercedarian Sisters of Charity, n. 4:
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, invoked with the title “de las Mercedes,” assist you and lead you to frequent encounters with her divine Son in the Eucharistic mystery. May she, true Ark of the New Covenant and Mediatrix of all graces, teach you to love him as she loved him. May she also support you with her intercession in the various apostolic works in which you are involved. (Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 1638; ORE 1451:5).
(12) Theologians seek to categorize both the nature of the Redemption and the precise nature of the Mother’s participation in the Redemption with terms such as Redemption “in actu primo” or participation in “objective redemption,” which refer to the obtaining of the graces of Redemption. This is distinguished from Redemption “in actu secundo” or “subjective redemption,” which identifies the distribution of the graces of Redemption to humanity.
And yet both the historical act of Redemption by Jesus and Mary at Calvary is an “objective” event, and also the reception of these redemptive graces by members of the human family is likewise “objective,” in the sense that it is free from a merely relativistic concept of personal Redemption. Perhaps more true to classical terminology of in actu primo and in actu secundo and yet more compatible for contemporary understanding would be the terms of “Redemption accomplished” to designate the historical acquisition of grace by Christ and Mary, and “Redemption received” to designate its personal salvific reception by the human family.
(13) Roman Missal, Lectionary for Mass, Catholic Book Publishing, 1970, pp. 801-802.