In the spiritual life the soul must be illuminated by faith, especially when faced with the bloody reality of Christ’s shameful death on the Cross. The Holy Apostle Paul is extremely explicit on this point: “For the word of the Cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness…But we preach Christ Crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (I Cor 1:18, 23-24). Without the light of faith, Christ Crucified is nothing else but foolishness; with divine faith, however, the Cross of the Savior is the power and wisdom of God.
The model of faith is the Theotokos (Mother of God) standing at the foot of the Cross. “Throughout her entire life,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “and even at the final test, when Jesus, her Son, died on the Cross, her faith never wavered…This is why the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.” (49) In her maternal gaze on Calvary she beheld her Son crucified and tormented amongst blasphemy, mockery and indifference; in her Mother’s Heart, however, she ever saw her “God-Savior” (cf. Lk 1:47) and she adored Him in His misery as the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” She offered her own suffering to the Father in union with Jesus and, as far as what depended on her, she offered Christ as an expiation for sins, sacrificing her maternal rights over her Son precisely in order to redeem humanity in her subordinate, but essential role as Mother Coredemptrix. (50) Her faith in the Divinity of her Son was constant right from the Incarnation, when she gave her informed consent, her fiat, to be the Mother of God. (51)
The Centurion: Illumination and the Theotokos Coredemptrix
As St. Bonaventure points out, we are deeply in need of this illumination of faith. “We have need of these three things…” writes the Seraphic Doctor, “to be enlightened in the intellect, to be purified in the affections, to be perfected in both works and effects. And this we cannot bring about without the interventions of the glorious Virgin.” (52) Here is the treasure we find in the Theotokos Coredemptrix: she is not only the supreme model of faith, but she intervenes and plays an active, essential role in the illuminative way. “Hence, for all practical purposes,” writes Fr. Fehlner, “it is impossible to advance in wisdom, knowledge, counsel, etc., that is in holiness, unless one is supported by the courage of the Mother who brings (profert) to earth the price of our salvation, who pays (persolvit) the price of our salvation, who possesses (possedit) the price of our salvation.” (53) She, as Mother Coredemptrix, mediates the light of faith to us. Hence the Seraphic Doctor does not hesitate to call her our “Illumanitrix.” (54)
Among the wide variety of souls who stood near the Cross there was the Roman Centurion, an executioner by profession. What should have been but another day’s work turned out to be the day of his salvation. St. Mark recounts: “And the Centurion who stood over against Him, seeing that crying out in this manner He had given up the ghost, said: ‘Indeed this man was the Son of God.'” (Mk 15:39; cf. Mt 27:54 and Lk 23:47). Upon witnessing the most humiliating and excruciating death in the history of the world and the most dreadful interior martyrdom of the Blessed Mother, the pagan soldier received the grace of professing the Divinity of Jesus Christ. And where did this grace come from, if not from the reservoir of Mary’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart?
The Centurion represents every soul that acquires the gift of faith and the light of heavenly wisdom. “Mary penetrates the deep recesses of the soul,” writes a contemplative, “and, in this interior depth, she shows herself and makes the soul hear her voice, admire her beauty, penetrate the mysteries of her life; and she expands over it the splendors of divine Wisdom…” (55) The Mother of God and Seat of Wisdom forms and instructs the soul interiorly, cooperating with the Holy Spirit in infusing the theological virtue of faith. Since her faith as the Mother Coredemptrix is the model of faith for every believer, she desires to instill her very own faith into souls. De Montfort, in fact, writes that “the Virgin Mary will make you a partaker of her faith…it will be…your hidden treasure of divine Wisdom and your all-powerful weapon which will serve to enlighten you.” (56)
The intervention of the Theotokos Coredemptrix in enlightening the soul by the virtue of faith occurs not only at the first moment of divine illumination, as in the case of the Centurion, but continues until that last moment of faith: the hour of our death. Regarding her ongoing maternal mediation in the illuminative way we can take, for example, the telling episode recorded by the Franciscan mystic St. Charles of Sezze: “…when I began praying before Our Lady, I did not set out to disco