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Rev. Gus Puleo: Mary 'Coredemptrix,' mother of us all

Updated: May 28, 2020

The following article was originally published on May 7, 2020 on The Times Herald.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day in May, a month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we should turn toward the Blessed Mother as she is the Mother of the Son of God and also all of the human race. Being the Mother of God, Mary has a unique role and position among the saints and even among all of us. Indeed, she is exalted, but still she is one of us. The Council of Ephesus in 431 attributed to Mary the title of “the Mother of God,” or in Greek “Theotokos,” (“Birthgiver of God’). According to the Council the Virgin Mary was given the title of “Mother of God” since she begot the Son of God made flesh. This dogma was further clarified by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 when it was pronounced that “Jesus Christ, our salvation was begotten from the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos.” Mary has always embraced God’s will and continues to cooperate freely with God in our salvation. Throughout the centuries the Church has implored the Blessed Virgin for help in interceding to her Son. Therefore, many forms of piety have developed in order to bring us all closer to her Son. In fact, Mary’s role is inseparable from her union with Christ. This was made obvious at the hour of the Passion and Death of Christ. There the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the cross enduring within her the suffering of her only begotten Son and joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart. There, she became the “mother” to his beloved disciple, that is each one of us, with these words, “Woman, behold your son.” Mary, as the mother of humanity, in no way takes away or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ in our lives, but rather shows its power. In fact, she has a prominent role in helping us in our own salvation. The Mother of God has another title that is very important which is “Mary, Coredemptrix” since as our mother she cooperates in our redemption. The prefix “co” signifies “in union with’ or “in communion with.” The word “Coredemptrix” can only be understood through the prism of “redemption,” that is our return to grace. Our redemption is the “price” that Jesus paid for our salvation—his suffering and death. By “Coredemptrix”, therefore, we are focusing on the person of Mary cooperating in His redemptive suffering and death. In fact, this title of “Coredemptrix” has been recorded and appears as far back as the 14th century in a liturgical book found in a church in Salzburg, Germany. We only have to look as far as that wonderful statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to see that she literally crushes the head of the poisonous snake with her foot and helps bring salvation to the world. As found in Genesis “I will put enmities between you and the woman”(Gen3:15) which is unmistakable evidence of Mary’s role in our redemption. We see Mary weeping at the foot of the Cross experiencing an immense love for her Son and for us so that she might receive us as her children. Mary died with Jesus as her heart, as predicted at the Presentation, was pierced with the sword of suffering. This coredemptive suffering with our Savior was appropriate for Mary as she received us as her children. This precious gift of “Coredemptrix” generously given to Mary by God shows her cooperation in the acquisition of the graces for redemption. She has been given an endless power in dispensing the graces won by her coredemptive participation with Jesus crucified. This is beautifully depicted in paintings of Our Lady with her hands outstretched downward radiating beams of light—the graces of redemption---to us. As a result, the Rosary joined to Mary’s role as “Coredemptrix” is a fruitful prayer of petition. Through the Rosary, we see Mary’s exceptional role by which she participates with her Son Jesus in the redemption of mankind. She is not only present in the many wonderful mysteries of the rosary, but she is also a participant in them. This cooperation was and is immediate, direct and dynamic. The death of Christ is our redemption along with the compassion shown to us by his Mother. So, this “compassion”, which literally means “suffering with,” along with Jesus’ redemption refer to the different but powerful roles of Mary and Jesus in our salvation. At Calvary Mary offered both herself and her Son to God the Father freely uniting herself to Jesus’ sacrifice for the salvation of all people. When Jesus conferred upon Mary the title of Mother to his Beloved Disciple, a new kind of motherhood was born both spiritual and universal toward all human beings. This silent journey of the life of Mary from her Immaculate Conception, when she was born without sin, finds her on Calvary at a very important moment. She was there accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her Son at the dawn of Redemption when her Son entrusts her to us as our Mother. Mary’s participation was real and effective and continues to be so. In giving her consent at the Annunciation to become the Mother of God Mary agreed to cooperate in the entire work of mankind’s redemption. The Blessed Virgin Mary has been honored with the title of “Queen of Heaven and Earth”; therefore, she is the Mother of God and of all humankind. The Church rightfully honors her with special devotion and prayers such as the rosary which is the epitome of the entire Gospel. She is especially important as we often flee to her protection and place ourselves under her mantle during all different types of danger and needs. For example, now there are special prayers by the Holy Father Pope Francis invoking the intercessory and redemptive help of Mary during this terrible pandemic of the Coronavirus. However, this very special devotion to Mary differs inherently from the adoration given to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and equally to God the Father and the Holy Spirit. We firmly believe that the Mother of God, whom we honor and NOT adore, continues to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the whole human race by being the Mother of God and “Coredemptrix,”of all humankind. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers but especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of us all and especially our “Coredemptrix.” The Rev. Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Church in Norristown and served as an adjunct professor of Spanish at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Norristown High School and attended Georgetown University, where he received B.A. and B.S. in Spanish and linguistics. He has master’s degrees in Spanish, linguistics and divinity from Middlebury College, Georgetown University and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He holds a Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania

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