We hold this marian symposium in Fatima, a sacred place where shepherd children communed with the Mother of God, and where the sun careened in the sky, confounding human certainties about what is possible and controllable. St. Augustine reminded us that all creation bears vestiges of the Trinity. Through human history, however, certain persons, places, and events, inexplicably chosen by divine intent, have occasioned deeper understanding of the mysteries of faith. Christ chose simple material things like bread, salt, and breakfast on a Galilean lakeshore to mark the giving of Revelation. In this sacramental place called Fatima, the Mother of God brought together ordinary shepherd tasks and a plummeting sun. In every era of history, there are concrete signs and events that open significant questions and evoke deeper understanding of the Faith.
I would like to begin with an analogy from our time that seems particularly apt for reflecting on Mary, Mediatrix, as exemplar for the contemporary world. It involves the launching of a military space vehicle, as told in simple layman’s terms by the technician who worked on it. A few years ago, he had particular responsibility for deploying this military craft, worth billions of dollars. The vehicle was designed to be empowered with energy from the sun through what is known as triangulation. Triangulation means that the craft would be held in its orbit in relation to three entities: in this instance, two stars and the center of the earth. When it reached a designated altitude, the vehicle was designed to deploy panels sensitive to the sun, and obtain energy for its operation. On the day that the craft was launched, the panels opened as they were designed to do-but they immediately closed in again. From earth, there began a series of attempts to maintain the panels in an open position. There was only an eight-hour window of opportunity to accomplish this. After that, if the panels kept retracting, the mission would be lost, and the vehicle, a multi-billion dollar project, would simply be “space-junk.” Six hours passed without success. It became clear, however, that the problem came from inside the vehicle itself. Something within it had a stronger attraction for the panels than one of the stars in the triangulation pattern. With only two hours remaining, the launchers re-constituted the triangulation pattern. An alternate star was selected that would have a stronger attraction for the craft than whatever small item inside it kept drawing the panels to itself. Before the eight hours elapsed, a new pattern was established, the panels remained open, and the mission could go forward.
This true account, the “stuff ” of our age, offers a helpful analogy for naming major qualities of mediation, and the manner in which they are lived with such perfection in Mary, Mother of God. In this symposium, where we are always reflecting in the context of faith, any analogy from the realm of space technology will be partial-never adequate to the mystery in a quid pro quo manner.
Consider, however, four basic aspects of mediation to which the analogy points:
1) In triangulation, the possibility of genuine, effective mediation is triadic. Like all that is true (even a technical apparatus), it has its basis in the Mystery of Trinitarian Life.
2) Mediation involves being centered-a “being in the middle”-that provides an interface for communication, for exchange, for bringing others into union.
3) In creation, this requires matter-material bodies.
4) Since mediation conveys what is intended to be for the good of others, it must be authentic, respecting the truths of being.
It is through these four aspects that I would like to reflect today on Our Lady as Mediatrix, and to affirm how she is exemplar for contemporary cultures which so often lack these traits.