STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, SEPT. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A few years back, a man called into a live radio show and exclaimed, “What’s all the fuss about calling Mary the co-redemptrix?”
The caller explained, “What parent can’t understand that when a child suffers, a parent suffers with that child? Last month, my daughter underwent a life threatening surgery, and it would have been much easier for me to be on the operating table than to be in the waiting room. When a child suffers, of course the parent suffers. When Jesus suffered, of course Mary suffered.”
To celebrate the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows is to celebrate Mary’s role as co-redemptrix. In seven ways, this Mother suffered with this Son like no mother has ever suffered before.
1. The prophecy of Simeon is an explicit scriptural revelation that Mary will suffer with her son, the sign of contradiction for the world. “A sword shall pierce through your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35). The Mother will indeed suffer with her Redeemer-Son, as the New Adam and the New Eve seek to restore grace to a fallen humanity. Mary knows her child was born to die, as the Presentation at the Temple profoundly pre-figures Golgotha: a mother offers her son in perfect obedience to the Father at a place of sacrifice.
2. The flight into Egypt by the holiest of families will bring newfound pains to the heart of the Mother. Herod’s soldiers seek the blood of the Redeemer too early. St. Joseph brings the child and his mother to a foreign land, a pagan land that is not well-disposed to Jewish refugees based on an exodus in the past. Mary must care and protect for her son in a hostile environment until heaven directs otherwise. Faithful obedience intermingled with suffering remains the Mother’s daily bread.
3. When Jesus is “lost” for three days in the Temple, the Redemption is again foreshadowed. Mother and Son will be separated for three days, as each will complete the Father’s business on Calvary and await the Easter victory. Mary “kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Her immaculate heart would become the “memory” for the Church, as she would later instruct the apostolic Church as to how to properly meditate on the Passion, from the loss at the Temple, to the Way of the Cross, to Calvary itself, as Mary suffered and offered with Jesus each mysterious component of our Redemption.
4. The Way of the Cross enacts and signifies the joint spiritual journey of the Son and the Mother in their unified mission of Redemption. She walks with him as he carries the cross on his bloodied shoulders, and she carries the cross in her maternal heart. Each step brings both extraordinary pain, but such is the price for ransoming an entire human family.
5. As Jesus is physically crucified, Mary is spiritually crucified. As John Paul the Great notes, “Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son, she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she ‘loving consented to the immolation of the Victim which she herself had brought forth (“Lumen Gentium,” No. 58)’…In fact, Mary’s role as co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son.”
Vatican II adds that the Mother was “enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, [and] associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart” (“Lumen Gentium,” No. 58). It is little wonder that John Paul would say Mary’s sufferings at Calvary reached a level almost unimaginable (“Salvifici Doloris,” No. 25).
6. When Jesus is taken down for the cross, the Mother can finally unburden her heart with full mourning and lamentation, as before this time she had to remain strong in solidarity with her Son and the redemptive mission, “stabat mater” (John 19:25). Christ’s body would be cleansed and cared for now as it had been cleansed and cared for before in infancy, by the same mother who gave to her child a nature identical to her own, human and immaculate. Now the Mother horrifically sees the price of Redemption, wound by wound.
7. As the body of Jesus is entombed, the Mother’s heart is called to the greatest act of faith amidst the greatest suffering, and against all human analysis. From man’s perspective, her son’s effort to win souls to himself has ended in failure and murder. From God’s perspective, “consummatum est” (it is finished), and now patience must bide its time until the Easter morning victory in perfect fulfillment of God’s plan. Only faith amid ongoing anguish by the Mother calls forth heaven’s perspective in the innermost tabernacle of her immaculate soul.
The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady have been collectively mediated upon in the Church since the 14th century. In the recently Church-approved Marian apparitions in Kibeho, Rwanda, Our Lady calls us to return to the weekly praying of the Chaplet or “Rosary” of the Seven Sorrows with the promise of extraordinary graces.
Why ponder the Mother’s sorrow? It is a concrete, motherly example for us on how we are to face our own personal sufferings, which seem to be growing domestically, nationally, and globally by the day. We are to in every situation unite our sufferings with those of Jesus, as did the Mother, for our own redemption, and for the co-redemption of our brothers and sisters throughout the world (cf. Colossians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 3:9), many of whom either do not know Jesus or do not love Jesus.
This is also why the solemn papal definition of Mary co-redemptrix will proclaim to the world with the highest of papal authority a quintessential and uniquely Christian truth: suffering is redemptive.
Ponder the Mother’s sufferings. Her sorrow is our victory.
Pray for the papal definition of Mary co-redemptrix and the torrents of graces it will bring to a suffering Church and world. This includes the true and profound heavenly perspective that no human suffering need be wasted.
Dr. Mark Miravalle