We call Mary our Mother by many different titles, all relating to some aspect of her holy Motherhood in relation to the most Holy Trinity. She is Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the Spouse of the Spirit, and the Daughter of the Father. We invoke her as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Grace, and Advocate. We address her as “Our Lady” in relation to the myriads of places that have been graced by her maternal presence. She is the perfect creation, the Crown of Creation, the Perpetual Virgin, and the one who was assumed body and soul into heaven.
The purpose of this present work is to explore her relationship with God the Father. The Father, who is the principle of creation, in a unique way, shares his creative power through his Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit with Mary. Just as spouses share in the creative power of God the Father, so too does Mary share in that power. By virtue of the fact that she is “full of grace,” the Immaculate Conception can even more rightly be called a co-creator. We will begin by looking at Mary, our Mother, in the new light of the Theology of the Body.
The Theology of the Body and Mary
Fr. Donald Calloway, M.I.C., in his essay in The Virgin Mary and Theology of the Body, said that Mary “is the very real and concrete creaturely embodiment of the content of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body” (1). He shows how the Theology of the Body is mirrored in the four Marion dogmas. In the Immaculate Conception, the concept of the body as a gift (2) is expressed. Mary, as the Immaculate Conception, perfectly lived (and now gloriously lives) her gift of femininity. In this we salute her as the Crown of Creation, the beloved one who was “courted” at the Annunciation, and who bore, as a true woman, the God-man.
Mary delights in her body, especially in its God-given sex: femininity. It is precisely in her gift of being a woman, that Mary was fashioned and called by God to be the Theotókos. The gift of her body is exactly what helps her to become the Theotókos (3).
The nuptial meaning of the body (4) is perfectly realized in the second Marian dogma, Mary’s Perpetual Virginity. In Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) he builds upon the phrase found in Gaudium et Spes that says, “Man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself” (5). Men and women were created “to exist mutually ‘one for the other’” (6), in a spousal way. There is no woman or man who can escape this reality. We were truly created for each other. A woman can live this “sincere gift of self” by giving herself completely to her spouse in marriage, or by giving herself completely to God, living as a virgin. “These two dimensions will find their loftiest expression at the ‘fullness of time’ in the ‘woman’ of Nazareth: the Virgin-Mother” (7).
By freely choosing virginity, women confirm themselves as persons, as beings whom the Creator from the beginning has willed for their own sake. At the same time they realize the personal value of their own femininity by becoming “a sincere gift” for God who has revealed himself in Christ, a gift for Christ, the Redeemer of humanity and the Spouse of souls: a “spousal” gift. One cannot correctly understand virginity—a woman’s consecration in virginity—without referring to spousal love. It is through this kind of love that a person becomes a gift for the other (8).
Father Calloway compares the dogma of Mary, Mother of God, with the theological concept of the body that the body is fruitful (9). This concept states that “(s)ince the body is a ‘sacrament’ meant to be given away to another in nuptial love, a nuptial love that expresses an existing communion of persons, each human body has within it the capacity for bearing fruit” (10). Man was created in the image of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a most Holy Communion. Because man was created in that image, it is written in man’s heart to express it. Human beings are called to give and receive in love, just as the three Persons of the Trinity give and receive. The love between the Father and the Son is so perfect that there exists the “fruit” of their love: the Holy Spirit. Just so, man is called to bear fruit. Mary, the Crown of Creation, the perfect woman, in her immaculate capacity to be the Spouse of the Spirit, also became the perfect image for us of fruitfulness, for she bore the God-man. She is also the perfect model of a physical mother and a spiritual mother, “because she is not only the physical Theotókos, but, also, the universal spiritual mother of the redeemed” (11).
In the last of the proclaimed dogmas, Mary, in her assumption exemplifies the last of the theological concepts of the body as put forward by Fr. Donald Calloway, namely that the body is essential (12). The body is not just an incidental part of who human beings are. It is intrinsically essential. Fr. Calloway quotes the Holy Father saying:
“Mary’s assumption reveals the nobility and dignity of the human body. In the face of the profanation and debasement to which modern society frequently subjects the human body, the mystery of the assumption proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body. … Mary entered into glory because she welcomed the Son of God in her virginal womb and into her heart” (13).
Laying this foundation, then, we can continue with the question at hand: How can Mary, in light of the Theology of the Body, be called co-creator? What does Mary’s body say to us?
The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it (14).
Specifically regarding Mary’s body, Pope John Paul II said:
The Bible … with its characteristic simplicity, honors and praises throughout the centuries the “womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked” (Luke 11:27). The words constitute a eulogy of motherhood, of femininity of the female body in its typical expression of creative love. In the Gospel these words are referred to the Mother of Christ, Mary, the Second Eve (15).
In Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II teaches that as married couples conceive and bring forth children they “share in the creative power of God!” (16)
According to the Bible, the conception and birth of a new human being are accompanied by the following words of the woman: “I have brought a man into being with the help of the Lord” (Gen 4:1). This exclamation of Eve, the “mother of all the living” is repeated every time a new human being comes into the world. It expresses the woman’s joy and awareness that she is sharing in the great mystery of eternal generation (17).
It is necessary to understand exactly what is meant by the term “co-creator.” As quoted above, “I have brought a man into being with the help of the Lord,” co-creation is meant to mean just that: to create with the Lord. A better definition is that in procreation, God chooses to create with the mother and the father. Without the grace of God, no creation is possible; it is therefore necessary that God is present.
However, the creative role of the couple cannot be downplayed. God, in his mercy and goodness, and in a mysterious way, has chosen to continue life in cooperation with his creatures. Does he need human cooperation to create new life? No – but he chooses to let his creatures play a critical and crucial role. This concept, also, is not just a random decision that God made. Rather, by allowing a married couple to share in his creative power, he is revealing a deeper mystery about himself. God is a holy Communion of Love; an eternal exchange of love between Father and Son that is so strong that a third Person exists: the Holy Spirit.
If a woman who is not the Immaculate Conception can say that she shares “in the creative power of God,” how much more can the Mother of God claim this? Mary is also called the Co-redemptrix, which can be understood on two levels: that of subjective redemption and that of objective redemption. All people are called to be co-redeemers on the subjective level: They are called to offer their sufferings in union with his. This is taught in the letter from St. Paul to the Colossians, as he says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (18).
A Christian participates in the subjective redemption through prayer, sorrow for sin, penance, sacrifices, and submission to the will of God. St. Paul speaking of himself employs a mysterious phrase when he says that he must make up what lacks in the sufferings of Christ. What could be lacking in the perfect sacrifice of Christ? Nothing. Nothing is lacking objectively in the sufferings of Christ, nothing, that is, but his (and our) subjective cooperation. In doing so we become co-redeemers with Christ (19).
So, too, can the term co-creator be understood on two different levels. All of humanity, in the nuptial meaning of the body, are called to be co-creators. Mary, however, participates in creation in a much deeper way. To understand Mary’s role as co-creator in her relationship to the Father, one must look at her co-creative role as Spouse of the Spirit and as the Theotókos. As the Spouse of the Spirit, and as the created Immaculate Conception, she shares intimately in the creative power of the Spirit. After exploring this theme, a look at Mary’s co-creative qualities in her perfect virginity will follow. Mary can also rightly be called co-creator as she became the Mother of Jesus, the God-man. This will be summed up as we explore anew her relationship with God the Father as the “exalted Daughter of Zion” (20), the Mother of all the living, the Mother of the new creation. In a maternal way, she is united to her Son as Mother. In a quasi-incarnate way, she is united to the Holy Spirit. How deep and intimate is her union with God the Father? Let us explore that question with fresh eyes and an open heart.
Mary: Co-creator as Spouse of the Spirit and as Theotókos
Marriage is described by Pope John Paul II as the primordial sacrament, because “(u)niting with each other (in the conjugal act) so closely as to become ‘one flesh,’ man and woman, rediscover, so to speak, every time and in a special way, the mystery of creation (21).
(E)ach of these unions renews, in a way, the mystery of creation in all its original depth and vital power. “Taken out of a man” as “flesh of his flesh” woman subsequently becomes as wife and through her motherhood, mother of the living (Gen 3:20), since her motherhood also has its origin in him. Procreation is rooted in creation, and every time, in a sense reproduces its mystery (22).
Mary is also the Spouse of the Spirit, and from their union came forth the God-man. Thus, she, too participated in the mystery of creation, but in an even more profound way. In his general audience of October 6, 1982, Pope John Paul II, speaking about the primordial sacrament said, in regards to original innocence, that it is:
“… linked to the experience of the conjugal significance of the body,” (and) has as its effect that man feels himself, in his body as male and female, the subject of holiness.” He feels himself such and he is such from the beginning. That holiness which the Creator conferred originally on man pertains to the reality of the ‘sacrament of creation” (23).
“That holiness which the Creator conferred originally on man” still remains in Mary the Immaculate One, enabling her to more fully, and more perfectly act as a co-creator.
Mary is also the co-creator as the Spouse of the Spirit, and to understand this, one must take into consideration the work of St. Maximilian Kolbe. According to him, Mary is the personification of the Uncreated Immaculate Conception, who is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is the “flowering of the love of the Father and the Son” (24).
If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine “conception.” The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the “uncreated eternal conception” (25).
Further, since Mary is filled with the fullness of this divine Love, she is the created Immaculate Conception, whose “virginal womb … is kept sacred for him.” In this way, she has been “grafted into the Love of the Blessed Trinity.” At the Annunciation, Mary is even more fully united, if this were possible, with the Holy Spirit, and “in this union, heaven and earth are joined: all of heaven with all of earth, the totality of eternal love with the totality of created love” (26).
Mary, then, is the created Immaculate Conception, a quasi-incarnation of the Uncreated Immaculate Conception. To more fully understand the ramifications of this statement, one must investigate the divine attributes of the Holy Spirit. In the ancient hymn “Veni Creator” we sing, “Come, Creator Spirit.” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, comments on those words. He begins by explaining how the Holy Spirit can be given the title of “creator” that is generally attributed to the Father. In 325 A.D., at the Council of Nicea it was defined that there are two orders of being: Uncreated Being, and created being. This was defined in order to uphold the divinity of Jesus Christ; that he was “begotten, not made.” The next step of course, was to define if the Holy Spirit is Uncreated or created. St. Athanasius argued that:
The Son, who is in the Father, is not a creature, but of the very substance of the Father. For the same reason it is not permissible to count the Holy Spirit a creature and to do violence to the Trinity, since the Holy Spirit is in the Son and has the Son in him (27).
St. Ambrose echoed these sentiments saying, “The Holy Spirit is therefore not a creature, but Creator” (28). St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine spoke of the act of creation belonging to the whole Trinity, summed up by Rhabanu Maurus who said in his commentary of Genesis that “… the power of the whole Trinity worked together in the creation of the world” (29).
The three Persons of the Trinity, however do not share identical roles in creation. It was explained at the Council of Florence that the Father is “the principle without principle.” The definition for “principle” is “nothing other than that from which something proceeds” (30). This was further developed at the Council of Toledo: “We confess the unbegotten and uncreated Father, the font and origin of the entire Trinity, with whom there is not only paternity, but also the principle of paternity” (31).
The Father, therefore, is the unbegotten Creator. Jesus was, as known from the Nicene Creed:
… eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
“Through him all things were made.” Jesus is the begotten creator. The Holy Spirit is a “proceeding creator” as we pray in the Nicene Creed that: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
What, specifically, does the “person” of the Spirit bring to the work of creation? That is determined, as always, by the relationships within the Trinity itself. The Holy Spirit is not at the commencement of the creative act, but at the conclusion, just as the Spirit is not the origin, but the completion of the Trinitarian process. In creation, wrote St. Basil, the Father is the principal cause, from whom all things come; the Son is the efficient cause, through whom all things are made; and the Holy Spirit is the perfecting cause (32).
For as the Trinity has only one and the same natures so too does it have only one and the same operation: “The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle.” However, each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property. Thus the Church confesses, following the New Testament, “one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are” (33).
Is it possible to apply these different roles of creation to Mary? The Father is the principle cause of creation. This means that the Father created from nothing. Bernard Vincent Miller, in a 1928 text entitled God the Creatordefines creation as such:
Creation means just this: that besides God, and apart from God, there was nothing, no being of any sort whatsoever; God willed, commanded, and behold, at his command and by the sole power of his will, things, substances, beings sprang into existence. Where nothing had been, now there is something … (34).
Miller goes on to say in a later chapter (35) that the creation of man must be looked at a bit differently because in the second creation story it says that “the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (36). We know, too, from this second creation account that “The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man” (37). Without getting into the scientific discussion regarding creation, it must also be acknowledged that the second creation account says that: “… the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air …” (38).
How can we apply all of this to the development of Mary as the co-creator? She could never be called the “principle” of creation or the “unbegotten creator” because she is a creature. To this end, St. Maximilian had this to say:
Every creature, and everything in creation, comes into existence through God’s action. God alone exists of himself. … Our Lady also is a creature made by God. In this sense, and of herself, she is nothing. Everything she possesses was given to her by God (39).
Therefore, there can be no parallels made, in this sense between God the Father who created all but the living creatures and humans from nothing, and Mary, who herself is a creature. What about the creation of man and creatures, however? Adam and the creatures were all created from the “Virgin Earth.” Mary has been called the “new Virgin earth … from whom was made the Second Adam, Jesus Christ” (40). This overlaps, then into how Mary shares in the creative role of the Son, “through whom all things were made.” God the Father, the principle cause of creation, of which Mary is the crown, took this Virgin Earth and formed the New Adam. Mary, as the Immaculate Conception is the Virgin Earth, a new Creation in her own right.
“Through him all things were made,” but through her, his flesh was made. Does the Virgin Earth from which Christ, the New Adam, was formed not also have a subordinate role as co-creator? This level of co-creation far surpasses the co-creative role that married couples play as they bring forth children.
How does Mary act as co-creator in relation to the Holy Spirit? Since she is the “quasi-incarnation” of the Holy Spirit she shares deeply in his actions:
(T)he Holy Spirit manifests his share in the work of the Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin. … So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary’s action is the very action of the Holy Spirit (41).
We look, first of all, to the moment of the Annunciation.
The Fathers saw, in Mary in that moment, the supreme manifestation of the Spirit as Creator: “The creative power of the Most High formed the body of Christ at the moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Virgin Mary” (42).
As stated above, the Holy Spirit is the “perfecting cause” (43). Cantalamessa develops this by explaining that
the creative action of the Spirit is the primary source of the perfection of all that exists … the Holy Spirit is the one who makes creation pass from chaos into cosmos … from disorder to order, from confusion to harmony, from deformity to beauty, from oldness to newness … the Spirit is always the one at work, “creating and renewing the face of the earth” (44).
The above actions of bringing order, harmony, beauty, and newness all resound with a motherly tone. Fr. George Montague, S.M., in his work Our Father, Our Mother: Mary and the Many Faces of God has attempted to show the “feminine face of God” in relation to Mary. In speaking of the Spirit he writes:
It has been suggested that the Holy Spirit is the feminine element in the Trinity. This cannot be argued from gender … since the Greek pneuma is neuter and the Hebrew ruah is sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine. But it is true that what are generally considered feminine attributes are often associated with the Spirit of God (45).
This idea “that the Holy Spirit is the feminine element in the Trinity” makes perfect sense when one understands the work of St. Maximilian Kolbe. She, who is the personification of the Uncreated Immaculate Conception, the Holy Spirit, is a woman. Is it mere coincidence that God would choose a woman to be the personification of the Holy Spirit?
Mary, Co-creator in her Virginity
Although Mary’s role as co-creator can be best illustrated in her spousal and quasi-incarnational relationship with the Holy Spirit and in her maternal relationship with God the Son, certain elements should be examined in light of her perfect Virginity. Virginity is “an exclusive donation of self to God … a charismatic orientation toward that eschatological state in which men ‘neither marry nor are given in marriage’” (46). Being the perfect Virgin prepared Our Lady to be the perfect spiritual Mother, as well as the perfect physical Mother to our Savior.
The grace of the hypostatic union is connected precisely with this absolute fullness of supernatural fruitfulness, fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit, participated by a human creature, Mary, in the order of continence for the kingdom of heaven. Mary’s divine maternity is also, in a certain sense, a superabundant revelation of that fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit to which man submits his spirit, when he freely chooses continence in the body … (47).
Virginity according to the Gospel means renouncing marriage and thus physical motherhood. Nevertheless, the renunciation of this kind of motherhood, a renunciation that can involve great sacrifice for a woman, makes possible a different kind of motherhood: motherhood “according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:4) (48).
The spiritual begetting and nurturing of God’s children, as explained by Pope John Paul II in Mulieres Dignitatem says that even “…St. Paul, as a man, feels the need to refer to what is essentially feminine in order to express the truth about his own apostolic service …: ‘My little children, with whom I am again in travail …’” (49).
The Church, who is called “Holy Mother Church,” finds her model of motherhood and of virginity in the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is explained well in Lumen Gentium in the chapter on Mary:
For in the mystery of the Church, herself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin came first as an eminent and singular exemplar of both virginity and motherhood. … (C)ontemplating Mary’s mysterious sanctity, imitating her charity, and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will, the Church herself becomes a mother by accepting God’s word in faith. For by her preaching and by baptism she brings forth to new and immortal life children who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God” (50).
Mary, purest of all virgins, becomes our spiritual Mother through her Virginity. Any consecrated woman, in speaking of her vocation, will (hopefully) claim to be a Bride of Christ. So, too, can Mary be considered the Bride of Christ. So, too, is the Church called the Bride of Christ. Consecrated women, Mary, and the Church are all called to Spiritual Motherhood. Men, too, in whatever vocation they choose are called to bear spiritual fruit, but only women can truly claim to live this “motherhood” as women have the gift of femininity.
To speak of Mary as the Bride of Christ invites us to investigate this concept in light of John Paul’s teaching on the primordial sacrament of marriage. Again, marriage is called the primordial sacrament because: “(u)niting with each other (in the conjugal act) so closely as to become ‘one flesh,’ man and woman, rediscover, so to speak, every time and in a special way, the mystery of creation” (51). The “one flesh” union of Mary and Jesus began at the Annunciation, when Jesus took on human flesh, all of which belonged to Mary. Their union continued as Mary was with Jesus all through his life, and most especially at the end, when the most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary suffered to redeem and give new spiritual life to the human race.
We find ourselves at the very heart of the Paschal Mystery, which completely reveals the spousal love of God. … As the Redeemer of the world, Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our redemption. It is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and the Bride. The Eucharist makes present and realizes anew in a sacramental manner the redemptive act of Christ, who “creates the Church, his body” (52).
Mary, Co-creator – Sharing in the Parental Role with God the Father
Jesus Christ called God his Father, and so we too address God as Father. We know, however, that God is neither man nor woman, and that he “also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood …” (53). God, as the Creator, is our first parent, and his “parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature” (54). There are several instances in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, where one can sense this “feminine face” of God. Listen to the language in the following passages:
When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. … Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms. … I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer (55).
As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort (56).
You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you; you forgot the God who gave you birth (57).
Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even though she forget, I will never forget you (58).
Through these Scriptures, one can detect the feminine qualities of God, which must be present if women too have been created in the image and likeness of God. From whom did women get their femininity if not from God our Creator?
The next question then, is this: Can it be established that Mary could be the personification of the feminine qualities of God, sharing with God the Father, those parental qualities of, in her case, a mother? We have already established that she could share the feminine qualities of God because of her relationship with the Holy Spirit. But what of her direct relationship with the Father? It is typically said that Mary’s relationship with the Father is that of daughter. St. Maximilian Marie Kolbe himself said, “Of Mary we can say that she is God’s daughter” (59). An Old Testament type of Mary may help to bring these two images, that of Mary as daughter and that of Mary as a co-creator with the Father, together. The image is that of Daughter Zion.
Originally, Zion was a fortress overlooking Jerusalem. It was the fortress conquered by David, who there built his royal palace and who also transferred there the Ark of the Covenant. For this reason, Zion was called “the city of David” and the dwelling place of Yahweh (60).
In the Old Testament, Daughter Zion is Jerusalem. Zion was the place where the remnant gathered, “from which was to arise ‘the new Israel’” (61). It was prophesied by Micah that, “Of the lame I will make a remnant, and of the dispersed a strong nation. And the Lord will reign over them on Mount Zion … and you … hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come … the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem” (62). The idea of Daughter Zion is often time coupled with the image of a virgin. The prophets often speak of Daughter Zion as one who has broken her covenant with Yahweh (63). “Turn back, O virgin Israel … how long will you continue to stay, rebellious daughter?” (64) In this same chapter Jeremiah prophesies that Daughter Zion, Jerusalem would be restored: “Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel” (65). Mary, is the New Daughter Zion, who has been rebuilt.
As the “exalted daughter of Zion,” Mary contains in herself the fulfillment of the salvific plan of God and becomes herself the personification of the new Israel, the true “dwelling place of God,” via the Incarnation of the Son of God, who is to restore the kingdom of Israel with a rule to have no end (66).
In this light, Mary becomes much more that just the daughter of the Father. She is indeed his daughter, but a daughter who is, in a sense, the new creation and who bore the cause of the new creation. In her, we find the “exalted Daughter Zion,” the New Jerusalem, the New Creation. Because of her unique relationship with the Holy Spirit, and because she abandoned herself “to the sovereign action of God, with complete confidence …” giving “God carte blanche, total freedom” (67) to do as he willed, she entered deeply into God’s creative power. “To invoke the Holy Spirit as Creator upon oneself,” which Mary did freely, “is to open oneself to a newness …” (68). What is this newness that Mary opened herself to?
Fr. Testa has written: “This is not merely one of many titles (the Virgin Earth) given Our Lady to underscore one of her privileges or virtues, but one indicating a hidden vein fecundating Mariology …”
Suggestive in fact is the biblical exegesis of the incipit of St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Biblos gheneson Jesu Christu” (Book of the generation of Jesus Christ). It is possible to find in the incipit of St. Matthew a correspondence with the expression “Biblos ghenesos” adopted by the Septuagint in regard to the creation of the world (Gen 2:4), implying that the generation of Jesus Christ is also intended for us to be a new creation, a new generation (69).
Mary, as the “exalted Daughter of Zion” opened herself to the power of the Holy Spirit, in which she became not just a channel of the new creation, but actively participated as she carried the New Adam, Jesus Christ, “through whom all things were made” and through them (Redeemer and Co-Redeemer) all things were made new. As the “exalted Daughter of Zion” she became the spiritual mother of us all, again taking an active role in the new creation. Fr. Montague, in his book “Our Father, Our Mother” outlines how this image of the “Daughter of Zion” is realized in Mary. He begins with the theme in John’s Gospel of the theme of “the begetting of the new children of God” (70). For example, John writes that “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (71), and again, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (72). Montague makes a parallel between what was written in the prologue to John’s Gospel and the moment when Jesus entrusted all of mankind to Mary his Mother.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God (73).
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, 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 home (74).
John represents the “those who did accept him” and had the power to “become children of God.” And this rebirth took place as the Mother of God perfectly fulfilled the Will of God in her life. Fr. Montague writes:
It is clear that Jesus’ confiding of Mary to the beloved disciple is not merely a son’s provision for his mother’s care after his death. What Jesus does here is the fulfillment of a prophecy, for the very next verse states that Jesus “seeing now that all things had been accomplished …” The unusual title “Woman” by which Jesus addresses his mother leads us to the woman of Genesis 3:15, which spoke of the “seed” of the woman who would engage Satan. But the prophecies which the announcement of Jesus most clearly fulfills are those foretelling the generation of the new people of God by mother Jerusalem. The surprise is that the fulfillment goes beyond expectations, for there is a real human mother who fulfills the promises, who is Jerusalem in person (75).
This idea of Mary being the New Jerusalem, the exalted Daughter of Zion, is further developed in Revelation 12 when it speaks of the “Woman” who “was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (76). Mary—who experienced a painless virgin birth with the birth of Jesus—as Co-redemptrix cried in pain as she gave birth to us, her children.
Mary is, in a sense, the new creation, and the mother (co-creator) of the New Creation. To what level is she a co-creator on the level of the New Creation? It has already been established that Our Lady cannot be the “principle cause of creation” because she is a creature herself. Let us turn once more to the first story of creation to have a better understanding of Mary’s role in the New Creation. We look first of all to the way in which the first Adam was formed. “The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (77). It cannot be said, from this Scripture verse, that man was created from nothing, because God took the “clay of the ground.” This has already been compared with the New Adam being formed from the “Virgin Earth of Mary.” What God did create from nothing was the soul of man, when he “blew into this nostrils the breath of life” (78). The creation of woman took place as:
The LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man (79).
Here God created Eve from the rib of Adam, but it does not say anything about how she got the “breath of life.” It can be presumed from an anthropological understanding of men that she also received, as do all human beings a unique and individual immortal soul, created from nothing by the Creator. Mary, the Immaculate One, was the first to receive the fruits of redemption, as she received a preservative grace of redemption. She was “built up” spiritually from the blood and water that flowed from side of Christ.
Where does the New Creation fit into this understanding of the first creation? Mary actually participates in both the physical and spiritual creation. She participates physically because she gives Christ his body. She participates spiritually in giving new life to our souls in her role as Co-redemptrix. Again, it cannot be said that she is the principle of the New Creation, because she does not create Jesus out of nothing, but Christ is formed from the Virgin Earth. Likewise, she does not create our souls, a task only accomplished by the Creator. However, she does participate in giving new life to our souls.
How can we understand Mary as co-creator in relation to God the Father? While she is not “co-creator” with God the Father, as the unbegotten principle of creation, she does share in the creative roles of the Son and the Spirit, thus becoming co-creator, in a subordinate way, with the Father. All of humanity is called to co-creation through the nuptial meaning of the body. But, Mary, being the Immaculate Conception, the Spouse of the Spirit, the Theotókos, the Perfect Virgin, and the Exalted Daughter of Zion pushes the meaning of co-creation to a new level, for she does share, in a subordinate way, to the physical and spiritual creation and in the New Creation.
May Mary, our Mother continue to beget new spiritual life in all of her children, through the reception of the Eucharist, and as we seek to give ourselves sincerely, and in so doing become co-creators ourselves.
Sr. Mary Paul Friemel, O.S.F., is a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
(1) Calloway, Donald H., M.I.C., The Virgin Mary and Theology of the Body, Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2005, 43.
(2) Calloway, 55.
(3) Calloway, 56.
(4) Calloway, 56.
(5) Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 24, in Vatican Council II: Volume 1, The Conciliar and Postconciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P., New York: Costello Publishing Company, 2004.
(6) Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), 7, Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1989 (hereafter called MD).
(7) MD, 7.
(8) MD, 20.
(9) Calloway, 58.
(10) Calloway, 59.
(11) Calloway, 59.
(12) Calloway, 60.
(13) Calloway, 62.
(14) Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan, Boston, MA: Pauline Books and Media, 1997, message of Feb. 20, 1980, 75 (hereafter called TOB).
(15) TOB, message of March 12, 1980, 80 (emphasis mine).
(16) MD, 18.
(17) MD, 18.
(18) Col 1:24.
(19) O’Connell, John, “Co-Redemptrix,” www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Faith/0304-97/TITLES.html, 1997.
(20) Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 55, in Flannery.
(21) TOB, message of Nov. 21, 1979, 49.
(22) TOB, message of Nov. 21, 1979, 49.
(23) TOB, message of Oct. 6, 1982, 334.
(24) Manteau-Bonamy, Fr. H.M., O.P., Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, Libertyville, IL: Marytown Press, 2001, 3.
(25) Manteau-Bonamy, 3.
(26) Manteau-Bonamy, 5.
(27) Cantalamessa, Raniero, O.F.M. Cap., Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003, 24.
(28) Cantalamessa, 25.
(29) Cantalamessa, 26.
(30) Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, The Trinity and God the Creator, London, England: B. Herder, 1952, 203.
(31) Garrigou-Lagrange, 203.
(32) Cantalamessa, 33.
(33) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 258, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2nd Edition, 1997, (hereafter called CCC).
(34) Miller, Bernard Vincent, God the Creator, New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1928, 6.
(35) Miller, 65.
(36) Gen 2:7.
(37) Gen 2:22.
(38) Gen 2:19.
(39) Manteau-Bonamy, 67.
(40) Manelli, Fr. Stefano, F.I., All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology, New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005, 85.
(41) Manteau-Bonamy, 91.
(42) Cantalamessa, 33.
(43) Cantalamessa, 33.
(44) Cantalamessa, 34.
(45) Montague, George T., S.M., Our Father, Our Mother: Mary and the Faces of God, Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1990, 46.
(46) TOB, message of March 10, 1982, 262-263.
(47) TOB, message of March 24, 1982, 269.
(48) MD, 21.
(49) MD, 22.
(50) LG, 63-64.
(51) TOB, message of Nov. 21, 1979, 49.
(52) MD, 26.
(53) CCC, 239.
(54) CCC, 239.
(55) Hos 11:1-4.
(56) Is 66:13.
(57) Deut 32:18.
(58) Is 49:15.
(59) Manteau-Bonamy, 69.
(60) Manelli, 103.
(61) Manelli, 103.
(62) Mic 4:6-8.
(63) Montague, 105.
(64) Jer 31:21-22.
(65) Jer 31:4.
(66) Manelli, 104.
(67) Cantalamessa, 33.
(68) Cantalamessa, 33.
(69) Manelli, 85.
(70) Montague, 119.
(71) Jn 3:3.
(72) Jn 3:5.
(73) Jn 1:12-13.
(74) Jn 19:26-27.
(75) Montague, 126.
(76) Rev 12:2.
(77) Gen 2:7.
(78) Miller, 68.
(79) Gen 2:21-22.