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Salvation, Redemption, and the Primacy of Christ

Updated: May 29, 2020


The concept of redemption in the Franciscan school, above all in the form given it by Bl. John Duns Scotus, cannot be grasped apart from the Scotistic thesis concerning the absolute primacy of the Word Incarnate and His Virgin Mother, jointly predestined in one and the same decree absolutely: this means prior to any consideration of creation or of redemption, not relative to or consequent on creation or on redemption. It is important to note that the Scotistic form of this thesis is not only opposed to the position of those who hold that the Incarnation was willed by God only consequently on the divine prevision of Adam’s sin, but also to the naturalist or Pelagian school (especially in its evolutionary version as promoted by many calling themselves “transcendental Thomists”), who hold that the Incarnation was willed consequently on creation as its perfection, rather than creation for the glory of Jesus and Mary.{footnote}On this point cf. St. Bonaventure, III Sent., d. 1, a. 2, q. 2.{/footnote}

In this scenario, so neatly outlined by Scotus, the predestination of the Word Incarnate to be Head and Savior of all the elect, angels and men, is pure grace or gift of the Father to his Son, for whom qua predestined the world was created. All the elect are predestined in Him (cf. Eph 1: 3), not as pure gift, but in view of and through the merits of Christ, Head and Savior of His body, the Church. Therefore, His predestination to be Incarnate Word is basis of His role as Mediator. His mediation is primarily a work of salvation of the elect: from absence of blessedness to the sharing in His blessedness as Word made flesh, this via cooperation in the work of salvation.

Scotus’ argumentation is both simple and profound: the lesser good, redemption, is ordered to the higher and absolutely perfect good, the salvation and enjoyment of the supreme Good in Christ qua Incarnate, according to Bonaventure and Thomas a “quasi-infinite,” greater than which nothing is possible in the order of divine works ad extra.{footnote}Summa Th., I, q. 25, a. 4.{/footnote} A perfect Creator is perfectly rational in his choices, and the basis of all rational willing is the principle that the lesser is for the sake of the higher, and higher for the sake of the highest, in Bonaventurian terms “hierarchization” or sacred ordering.{footnote}Scotus, Ordinatio, III Sent., d. 7, q. 3. For a very readable overview of Scotus’ teaching on the absolute primacy of Jesus, see M. Dean, A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ, New Bedford MA 2006. For Bonaventure on supreme hierarchization of Mary as intrinsic part of the order of the hypostatic union see II Sent., d. 9, q. 7. For commentary, see P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, Pneumatologist. His Theology of the Holy Spirit, New Bedford MA 2004, pp. 70-74.{/footnote}

This “being saved” of all the elect by the merits of Christ, so as to be included with Christ in His predestination, also includes the Virgin Mary. “Being saved” through the merits of Christ the Head, means both being saved from the absence of perfect felicity unto perfect felicity as members of Christ. This is the root of elevating grace in the actual economy of salvation, both before as well as after original sin, for the angels as well as for mankind.

It is also the root of the possibility of perfect redemption after sin, liberating in the children of Adam because, in one of his children, it is preservative redemption. In the economy of salvation as willed by the Father, without preservative redemption there would be no liberative redemption for the family of Adam. The redemption of Mary is preservative because, within this global inclusion, this daughter of Adam, Mary Immaculate, enjoys a unique relation to the primacy of Christ, to the order of the hypostatic union. Yet, in belonging to the order of the hypostatic union as no other of the elect, She does not cease to be included with the rest of the elect, before any consideration of sin.

She is, thereby, key to that order among all the signs or instances of the divine, salvific will. Mary Immaculate, and She alone, is Christ’s real Mother, uniquely included, therefore, in the same first sign (signum) of the divine, salvific will or decree of Christ’s predestination and, hence, though saved through His merits, Mary is also included with Him in one and the same decree (to quote Bl. Pius IX) by which Christ is predestined to be Head and Mediator before any consideration of creation. Hence, She is at once saved as one of the elect, yet also actively involved as Mediatrix, viz., Virgin Mother of the Head and Savior of His body in its saving, hence Salvatrix. This unique grace, merited for Her by Christ, is essentially what we know as the Immaculate Conception, a justice incomparably greater than the original justice, not only of Adam and Eve, but of the angels. The original justice of the angels and of Adam and Eve only vaguely reflects the holiness of Jesus and of Mary, to which their original holiness was ordered.{footnote}R. Rosini, Mariologia de beato Giovanni Duns Scoto, Castelpetroso 1994, pp. 18 ff. Also A. Equiluz, Presupuestos metafísicos de la teología de la preservación en Juan Duns Escoto, in Juan Duns Escoto en el centenario de su nacimiento, Madrid 1966, pp. 169-214.{/footnote}

Some would argue that to be redeemed one must, in some way, be marked by sin: either committed or obliged to contract. The Scotistic school would distinguish: true in relation to some imperfect form of redemption; false in relation to perfect redemption where liberation is predicated on preservation of one of the saved. In this case, our liberation enjoys a perfection it otherwise would not have had. In this scenario, to be redeemed, it is enough to be saved by the Redeemer so as to be his Coredemptrix, viz., via preservation. In the actual economy of salvation, preservative redemption would not be mentioned, except by reason of the sin of Adam. But what is called preservative redemption is that which, even apart from the sin of Adam, viz., the Immaculate Conception in virtue of the sacrificial merit of Jesus are, historically, de facto redemptive merits. These merits, then, are redemptive, not univocally, but analogically or in a twofold manner in relation to Adam and his offspring: one in terms of preservation from committing sin, and one in terms of liberation from sin committed or contracted. In the first, there is no liberation from a debt to sin, because the nature of preservation is the Immaculate Conception, of belonging to the order of the hypostatic union, basis of the redeeming act. In the second, to be numbered among the redeemed, there must be some actual involvement in sin, either committed, contracted, or with a debt to contract.

Like Christ, then, under and in Him, Mary enjoys a dual relation to Adam. Christ is a descendant of Adam (cf. Lk 3: 38), but He is also Adam’s Head, not only as God, but as Incarnate, in virtue of the hypostatic union. Mary is not only daughter of Adam, but also his Mother, typified in the virgin earth from which Adam was formed directly by the Creator, this in virtue of the grace of the Immaculate Conception. This is not a hypothesis, but a revealed fact which conditions a priori the concept of redemption and which requires that preservative redemption not be viewed as an exception within the category of liberative redemption, but in terms of which liberative redemption is defined and shown to be intelligible against all objections, either from the monophysite or from the Pelagian extreme. Mary is not first a daughter of Adam, then after sin, chosen to be Mother of the Redeemer. Rather She is, first, the Immaculate Mother of God, chosen also to be a daughter of Adam to make possible our redemption to share Her glory. She is truly redeemed because daughter of Adam, but She is redeemed preservatively because, as Immaculate, She is preserved from being under Adam’s moral headship; just as if Adam had not sinned, She would have been saved “preservatively”; whereas Adam and the rest of his offspring would have been saved liberatively, viz., freed from the limitations of a less perfect order of justice.

In fact, Adam and Eve sinned. With the fall of our first parents and in view of our solidarity with them in original sin, salvation of the elect, including the angels, becomes intertwined with redemption from sin. For the angels, this redemption is merely preventive of sinning. For Adam and his children, except for Christ, redemption is liberative. Christ alone is Redeemer (and not redeemed), because He is a divine Person, who is like us in all things but sin, therefore, impeccable as man.

But there is also an exception for His Mother, also a daughter of Adam, precisely because Mary is His Mother, therefore, preserved from any taint of original sin, able also to be actively associated with Her Son in the liberation of the family of Adam from original and personal sin.

Here, we must make note of an important distinction between salvation and redemption. Salvation would have been worked by Christ, Head and Mediator, even if redemption had not been necessary to achieve it. Salvation, in this case, would have been from the nothingness of existence and of well-being or supernatural happiness in existing. Redemption is from sin, but only in view of salvation or elevation to the highest possible order of participation in divine life, foreordained before the fall and independently of it. Hence, redemption is relative to salvation, sin to the good for its own sake. Christ is first Savior who becomes Redeemer. So, too, Mary as saved and saving, also becomes redeemed and redeeming.

This poses a key problem. If redemption is salvation via liberation from sin contracted and/or committed by Adam and his offspring, how can one of his offspring be at once redeemed and redeeming?{footnote}This is sometimes known as the objection of St. Bernard: see in this volume T. Noone, The Singular Participation of Mary Immaculate in the Merits of Christ, Her Son and Redeemer, according to Scotus: Continued Reflections on a Theological Breakthrough.{/footnote} Either one has no relation to sin at all, or one is not redeemed. The Immaculate Conception seems to preclude this. Or if Mary is redeemed, She cannot be Immaculate. This is the major objection to Marian coredemption. It is also, implicitly, a major objection to the divine Maternity understood as active cooperation in effecting the Incarnation on the part of a creature who is in need of liberation from sin. Hence, among some who claim to be Catholic, the increasing denial today of the dogma of the Theotokos. But hence, also, the paradoxical mystery of the Theotokos, who is both daughter of Adam; yet, as “Virgin earth” from whom the first Adam is formed directly by the Creator, She is also, prior to the old Adam, as Mother. She is Mother of the first Adam, because as Mother of the new Adam, the one who preexisted His ancestor, She precedes the old Adam; that is, Adam as head of the moral order depends on Mary Immaculate.{footnote}On the typology of “Virgin earth,” see P. Fehlner, Immaculata Mediatrix- Toward a Dogmatic Definition of the Coredemption, in Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundations II, Santa Barbara CA 1997, pp. 259-329, here pp. 291-293; Idem, Redemption, Metaphysics and the Immaculate Conception, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross V, New Bedford MA 2005, pp. 186-262, here 229-239; S. Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed. Biblical Mariology, New Bedford MA, 2nd ed. 2005, pp. 85-86.{/footnote}

Goal of our exposition is not an exhaustive exposition of Scotistic soteriology, but an illustration of how some of its characteristic features reflect the resolution of this problem via the concept of perfect redemption in virtue of the absolute primacy of the Incarnation, whose distinctive coefficient is Marian, viz., coredemption on grounds of the Immaculate Conception, or “preservative redemption.” We have divided it into three parts: the notion of perfect redemption and the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary; the analogical concept of redemption as predicated in relation to Christ, Mary Immaculate, and the Church; some distinctive characteristics of Scotistic soteriology.

Our exposition is not a claim that each of these points can be found expressly formulated by Scotus. It reflects, instead, the elaboration of principles formulated by Scotus about the absolute primacy of Christ, the distinction of salvation and redemption and that between preservative and liberative redemption, basis of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and coredemption-mediation of the Mother of God.

I. The Absolute Primacy of Jesus and Mary and Salvation

1.1 Everyone is familiar with the notion of “perfect redemption” by a “perfect Redeemer” as this appears in Bl. John Duns Scotus’ classic proof of the Immaculate Conception.{footnote}For additional texts and detailed exposition, cf. in this volume the study of T. Noone, The Singular Participation…, cit.{/footnote} Not many, however, even among the theological elite, remark how this argument for the Immaculate Conception posits in the redemption as a work of the Virgin’s Son, above all, a Marian coefficient at its highest point which, as in the case of the Incarnation itself, both conditions the character of the redemptive sacrifice and is the great sign whereby we are not only able to recognize the mystery, but the means by which we also may begin to actively cooperate in the completion of the Savior’s work in the Church from Pentecost to the Parousia.

Perhaps, among modern writers, only Newman, in his Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception,{footnote}J.H. Newman, Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception, in Meditations and Devotions, London 1903, pp. 79-86. Cf. P. Fehlner, Mary and Theology. Scotus Revisited, Rensselaer NY 1978, pp. 41-45.{/footnote}8 fully caught the importance of Scotus’ insight: neither sin, original and personal, nor redemption or liberation from original sin and its consequences, can be grasped unless we first reflect on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception as prior to original justice and original sin in the saving counsels of the Father; and that it is far easier, along the lines of Scotus, to grasp both the mercy and justice of the Father, and so to appreciate the perfection of our redemption.

This coefficient, of course, is the coredemption, as it has been commonly designated by theologians since the early seventeenth century. Among the major promoters of this doctrine, especially since the tragic errors of the Protestant reform concerning Marian mediation and the Church, the disciples of Scotus were particularly influential in the theological world between the Council of Trent and the French revolution.{footnote}Scoti schola numerosior est omnibus aliis scholiis: A saying commonly attributed to J. Caramuel y Lobkovitz, O. Cist.{/footnote} Curiously, Scotus does not, even once, directly discuss the doctrine of Marian coredemption, although he quite clearly deals with all the primary truths underlying that concept, among them the Immaculate Conception or preservative redemption, as well as the unique manner in which Mary, in virtue of Her office of Coredemptrix, actively cooperated with Her Redeemer Son on Calvary so as to be the major Dispensatrix of all the fruits of the redemptive sacrifice.{footnote}Rosini, Mariologia…, cit., pp. 139 ff.; Idem, Il pensiero del Beato Giovanni Duns Scoto sulla Corredenzione, in Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia, vol. II, Frigento 1999, pp. 93-168; P. Fehlner, Immaculata Mediatrix…, cit., pp. 317-321.{/footnote}

1.2 Above all, in the light of the primary argument to establish the truth of the Immaculate Conception and correctly define it, we can be sure that Scotus was quite aware of the doctrine of perfect redemption with a Marian coefficient, most likely in the form in which it appears in the sixth collation of St. Bonaventure’s Collationes in septem donis Spiritus Sancti.{footnote}Cf. P. Fehlner, Il mistero della Corredenzione secondo il Dottore Serafico San Bonaventura, in Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia, vol. 2, Frigento 1999, pp. 11-91.{/footnote} There, in a conference delivered on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1268-part of a series dealing with key aspects of the life of grace and of the heresies contrary to this mystery-the Seraphic Doctor, as it were, theologically interpreting the mind of St. Francis on Marian mediation, very clearly and precisely outlined the three main phases of Mary’s role as maternal Mediatrix. Doing so, he gave a Marian coloratio [coloring] to the work of redemption and to the person of the Redeemer qua Redeemer. These three phases are: the virginal conception and birth of Christ, the sacrifice of the Cross, and the distribution of all graces in the Church.

According to the Seraphic Doctor, Mary begot at Bethlehem: progenuit, Mary paid on Calvary: persolvit, Mary possesses in the Church (and hence, is dispenser of all the treasures of grace won on Calvary by Christ): possidet, the price of our redemption. Redemption means, according to St. Bonaventure, paying a price for someone’s ransom from enslavement. That price for our ransom from imprisonment or state of sin, at every key juncture, is only available through the active cooperation of the All Holy Virgin Mother, the Panhaghia, precisely because All Holy. Bonaventure clearly posits an “All-Holiness” in Mary at the Incarnation, at the Sacrifice on Calvary, and in the Church, implicitly an Immaculate Conception; otherwise, such holiness enabling Her to actively redeem would be unthinkable and impossible. This is what Scotus understands concretely by perfect redemption, as it is also what St. Thomas means concretely by our salvation as one of the three “quasi-infinites.” It is perfect because it involves Mary and, through Her, involves all the redeemed, even angels, in various degrees and ways (our cooperation, synthesized in one word: merit). Without Her, it would not be the most perfect. The liturgical backdrop for this conference could not have been better chosen: feast of the Annunciation, during the season of Lent, close to the celebration of Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost.

1.3 Scotus’ contribution here is to explain why perfect redemption is perfect. His answer: the absolute primacy of Christ, predestined to be Head of the elect antecedently to any consideration of creation, much less redemption from sin, viz., ante constitutionem mundi. Both creation and, in particular, redemption are motivated by the Incarnation, not vice versa. This is why redemption is qualified by the adjective perfect. Its character is primarily determined, not by a relation to sin, but by a relation to the Goodness, Mercy and Justice of the Father who, by pure grace, so predestined his Son to be Head and Savior of the elect-saved.

This point cannot be overstressed in order to see the differences between the two basic approaches to the definition of redemption.

The one based on the premise that the Incarnation was willed primarily as a remedy for original and personal sin, must begin with a consideration of sin, since original justice and sanctifying grace were initially conferred on the angels and our first parents without reference to the mediation of a Savior. Thus, it assumes no redemption has occurred unless a liberation from sin or from a need to contract sin has been effected, such as the debitum peccati originalis. Redemption is so defined that, in the proper sense, there is no such thing as preservative redemption that is not, in some way, a liberation from the moral ruin affecting all who sinned in Adam or should have sinned in him. Thus, in the proper sense, there is no possibility of crushing the head of the serpent on the part of one who needs liberation from sin or the debt to contract sin, for such a person is under the power of Satan.

In this scenario, Christ alone is active Redeemer in the order of objective redemption, (and in an extreme version, the Protestant, in the order of subjective redemption as well). And in this scenario, it is difficult to explain how a mere creature might be actively involved in the objective redemption as Mother of God and Coredemptrix, precisely because it is difficult to show how preservative redemption, or Immaculate Conception, is anything more than a special form of liberation from original sin, viz., from the debt of original sin. The difficulty is quite real, crucial indeed because, as Bonaventure and the entire patristic tradition before him held, Mary is indeed Mother of God, Coredemptrix (under other titles) and Mediatrix of all grace in the Church, this from the first moment of the Incarnation. How can She actively be Mother of the Incarnate Word anymore than Coredemptrix on Calvary and Mediatrix of all grace in the Church, if She must be freed from some debt to contract sin?

The opposite approach, the one taken by Scotus, builds on a very traditional thesis concerning the absolute primacy of Jesus, particularly as this is set forth by St. Paul and St. Irenaeus. Here, the goal of the Incarnation is not primarily redemption from sin, but the highest glory of God and enjoyment of him by man, precisely via recapitulation of all creation under the Headship of Christ. Scotus distinguishes salvation from redemption on these grounds. Even had there been no sin on the part of the elect, angels and mankind, the elect would have come to glory by being saved through the mediation of the Incarnate Word, their Head qua Incarnate. Redemption, on the other hand, is a subordinate aspect of salvation in relation to a negative contingency, the obstruction of salvation by sin.

But on this premise, instead of contextualizing the mercy and justice of God in relation to sin (which then takes on a relatively infinite character), Scotus first contextualizes sin and redemption from sin, in the context of the absolute primacy of Jesus, thus setting limits on the degree to which sin, original included, can by itself, totally corrupt the work of God. Concretely such limits are met, not in those under the moral headship of the first Adam, but in the person of the new Adam, the primary Head of the saved. Here, human nature, indeed the created, is seen in all its perfection, including that of being able to remedy the obstacle to recapitulation of all creation in the Word Incarnate qua Incarnate posed by original sin. Hence, what is commonly called the order of the hypostatic union entails a relation to sin- specifically, original sin; not that relation which is postulated by liberation from sin by a sinless Redeemer, but a relation which is the basis of perfect redemption.

In Christ, this relation arises from the final goal of the Incarnation, to be achieved in the case of sin, by a work of liberative redemption on His part. In Mary, this relation arises from Her being jointly predestined with Her Son as His Mother, this in view of His merit, but also predestined as daughter of Adam, that She might also be His mother, and our Mediatrix and Advocate. And in Mary, daughter of the first Adam and first Eve, but also their mother qua “Virgin Earth,” we find the divine motive for redeeming our human family, rather than dismissing it, as might have happened in the great flood. Mary was predestined Immaculate to be Mother of God prior to Adam; without a redemption of the family of Adam, the original recapitulation decreed, would absolutely not have been realized.

The difference between Christ and Mary is that Christ is not saved, but saves-redeems. Whereas Mary is saved-redeemed by His merits, viz., preservatively redeemed, in order to cooperate as Mediatrix in the redemptive liberation of all others (in the case of the angels, preventive redemption). Her mediation is included in that of Christ as Head, precisely because both are predestined by one and the same decree. Adam and Eve would have been saved by Christ and Mary, even if Adam had not sinned. After original sin, Adam’s salvation is still the work of Jesus and Mary, but is now, redemptive. Just as Christ, after the tragedy of sin, becomes Savior-Redeemer, so Mary is saved preservatively, viz., redeemed after original sin, to cooperate in the work of salvation as Coredemptrix. Or, with St. Paul we might say, the difference between the abounding of sin and the superabounding of grace is the Immaculate Conception.

Preservative redemption, therefore, is not a special case of liberative redemption; it is part of the foundation, within the order of the hypostatic union, for the realization of liberative redemption in the actual economy of salvation, a realization made possible by the fact that the Mediatrix, so preserved, is not outside, but part of the family of Adam. There is, then, not a single, univocal way of defining the need of redemption, viz., a relation to sin in the proper sense. Rather, there are two related ways: one in respect to the Mother of God, who is redeemed in respect to Christ, but redeeming in respect to the fallen; and another in respect to those under the moral headship of the first Adam. Mary is redeemed, not by being freed from original sin or the need to contract it, but because She is preserved from such as the Immaculate and so makes liberation in others possible. It is this approach which is particularly useful in avoiding two contrary, but related heresies: that of affirming a corruption of human nature by sin, so great as to render impossible any human cooperation in the work of redemption; the other one which views the Immaculate Conception as a pure, private privilege of every newly conceived child, without any relation to original sin or to its effects.

Though Bonaventure did not actually subscribe to the absolute primacy of Jesus “ante constitutionem mundi,” nonetheless his presentation of “coredemption” a parte rei radically subordinates redemption to the Incarnation willed for its own sake, and implies in the Virgin Mother a unique sanctity enabling Her to act as Coredemptrix in the “objective redemption,” or “redemptio ad sufficientiam.” Her redemption, contrasted with ours, is simply preservative, and is the key to defining redemption as liberative. It is the sanctity of God revealed in Christ and Mary, not sin, which is the starting point for defining what is the Redemption which actually took place, and why preservative redemption is intrinsically related to our solidarity with Adam, for better (original justice) or worse (original sin). Even if Adam had not sinned, our justice and sanctity would have been mediated by Mary as our Mediatrix with the “new Adam.” She is Mediatrix because Virgin Earth or Immaculate,{footnote}On virgin earth see note 6, above.{/footnote} just as Her Son is first Mediator because absolutely predestined, and Redeemer only secondarily.

Very briefly put: the means of our liberation from sin by Christ is Mary’s mediation as Coredemptrix. Her redemption, therefore, cannot merely be an exceptional form of liberation: not from sin, but only from the debitum peccati. Her redemption is preservative prior to any consideration of “deliverance from moral servitude,” or there is no redemption or liberation for anyone at all. Hence, Her perfect redemption must not first be defined in reference to Adam’s moral headship, but only to that of Christ as in the eternal counsels of God. Mary, in this sense, is a daughter of Adam, yet in the moral order, Adam (and all his children) are dependent on Mary and, through Her, on Christ. This is the truest form of redemption and hence, the basis for the most perfect redemption from sin in everyone else redeemed. For this reason, Immaculate Conception is intrinsically related to original sin, not because as Immaculate She still, in some way, comes under the debitum peccati, having sinned in Adam, but because Her justice, as Immaculate, transcends the original justice of Adam and so is basis for both the original justice of Adam and Eve and for the liberation of the rest of their children from the state of original sin and slavery.

Redemption, therefore, is not fully defined as liberation from sin or the debt to contract original sin and from its consequences, such as slavery, death, etc., but liberation from sin by Christ through the preservation of His Mother from being included under the headship of Adam. Such preservation, through the foreseen merits of Her Son and Savior, is the antecedent elevation of Mary from creaturely nothingness, to the most exalted holiness possible to a created person, prior to any consideration of Her dependence on Adam. This preservation is indeed an exemption from being included under the moral headship of Adam and, for this, Mary is more indebted to Christ than any other creature. This is the “lowliness” (cf. Lk 1: 48) so pleasing to the divine Persons, more than sufficient to account for Her “subordination” to Her Son and Savior and for His willingness to be dependent on Her. But the exemption in question is not an exception from contracting, but the consequence of a more perfect moral state which may be said to define Her entire person, and not merely the first moment of Her existence.

The Immaculate Conception cannot be understood apart from this reference-as it is in all theories which are tinged by the views of Pelagius-for it is intrinsic to Her person as solely under the headship of Christ, potentially or actually perfect Redeemer. Hence, like Adam and Eve, Christ and Mary are totally public persons in the economy of salvation, in the words of St. Bonaventure, sharing the patriarchatus or headship lost by the first couple.{footnote}Cf. St. Bonaventure, Sermo III de Assumptione, toward the middle; cf. Fehlner, Il mistero della Corredenzione…, cit., pp. 37-38. There is an interesting precedent for the opinion common in the Franciscan Order of referring to Mary as “Co-Head” of the saints or elect or members of Christ, recorded by Thomas of Celano in his Vita secunda S. Francisci, part I, ch. 12, n. 18. Speaking of the Portiuncula, or the Church of St. Mary Queen of the Angels, he records that “for her incomparable humility Mary merited to be elevated, after her Son, to the dignity of Head [caput or capo] of the elect” (sometimes translated as Sovereign of the saints, or Queen of the saints). On the thesis that St. Francis anticipated the views of Scotus on the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary, see J. Schneider, Virgo Ecclesia Facta. The Presence of Mary in the Crucifix of San Damiano and in the Office of the Passion of St. Francis of Assisi, New Bedford MA 2004, pp. 180-184.{/footnote} In the view of Scotus, all others depend on Christ and Mary in that perfect economy of salvation, both before, as well as after the fall. For the economy, based on original justice, was subordinate qua type to that based on the order of the hypostatic union, viz., on the justice proper to the grace of the hypostatic union and to the grace of the Immaculate Conception.

1.4 This is a very important point, unfortunately obscured by two superficial objections: therefore, Christ’s work as Redeemer would not have been 1) all sufficient without Mary, nor 2) would He have been universal Redeemer.

The first is the basis of the Protestant solus Christus unus Mediator, to which the door is opened when, in spite of the Immaculate Conception, a “debt to sin” is ascribed to the Virgin Mother. Were we to pursue the logic of the objection, the Creator in creating would have revealed his imperfection and radical insufficiency. In fact, whatever world God creates, however limited, the Creator remains all good and all sufficient. So the love of the Incarnate Savior, as such, does not increase by suffering, or by working the most perfect redemption.

As to the second, the universality of redemption, it is a matter of question whether one may affirm it absolutely, and then immediately exclude the angels, who could only be redeemed preservatively. If it means anything at all, the decree of Trent, excluding Mary from the universality of original sin, surely relativizes this universality insofar as redemption is defined as liberation from original sin. As understood by the Scotistic theologians who contributed so much to the formulation of this “exemption,” it is a privilege, not to be understood as separating Mary from everyone else without any relation to being saved redemptively, but as a privilege guaranteeing Her unique solidarity with us in view of our perfect redemption, and radical goodness of God in creating man with the possibility of the catastrophe of original sin. This is how Scotus and Scotism differ from Pelagius and all his modern disciples, who hold that the Immaculate Conception is an irrelevant exception, or simply the symbol of the sinlessness of all mankind.

In the light of this consideration, a brief reference here, to the long disputed question about the debitum peccati originalis, is appropriate. From the point of view of those who hold redemption as the primary motive of the Incarnation, it is obvious that if preservative redemption is not a form of liberation from the need (however defined) on the part of Mary to contract original sin as a daughter of Adam, She has no relation to Christ as Redeemer and is in no way indebted to Him for Her salvation, a thesis contrary to faith. Redemption for Her requires an antecedent, potential subjection to the consequences of Adam’s sin for all his descendents. On this premise, however, does there remain any realistic difference between liberative and preservative redemption, except the accidental one that Mary did not actually contract original sin? On such grounds, the notion of redemption is strictly univocal, viz., liberation from sin or inclusion in an order of sin.

Scotus does, indeed, seem to refer to preservation from need to contract original sin as a way of relating the Immaculate Conception intrinsically to the work of redemption.{footnote}Scotus, Ordinatio, III Sent., d. 3, q. 1, n. 41-49.{/footnote} But what is rarely noted, even by Scotistic commentators, is that Mary’s indebtedness to Christ as Her Savior – “His looking on Her lowliness” or Her debitum, is not primarily defined in relation to a daughter of Adam who, in some way, is included in that “sinning of all in Adam,” but as a daughter of Adam who, in some real sense, even if not historical, preexisted Adam as the “Virgin Earth” out of which the Creator directly made Adam and then, Eve from Adam-preexisted Adam and Eve in the first decree of God’s saving will, predestining Christ and Mary absolutely. Mary’s debt to Christ for Her innocence-realized historically by a preservative redemption effecting that paradox which is one person both “mother” and “daughter” of Adam (Daughter of Zion), one person both Mother and daughter of Her divine Son (filia Filii)-is the point of reference for defining redemption: first in terms of preservation and then, analogically, in relation to this preservation as liberative; the first, realizing in the “Full of Grace” what is most perfectly participated in by those freed via the maternal mediation of the Immaculate Coredemptrix qua Immaculate. Mary, in fact, contracts neither the debitum peccati originalis, nor original sin, because She is Immaculate, in a state of justice more perfect than original justice and the holiness of which original justice is an adumbration.

That this explanation of references to a debitum in Scotus corresponds to the thrust of Scotus’ logic, is clear from his explanations of how, in fact, original sin is actually contracted.{footnote}Equiluz, Presupuestos metafísicos…, cit. Cf. P. Fehlner, Mary and Theology. Scotus Revisited, Rensselaer NY (privately printed) 1978, pp. 32-41.{/footnote} Geneological descent is a condition, not cause of contraction. Contraction of original sin occurs instead, because the human nature now begotten in each of the offspring of Adam is lacking an element, according to God’s will, indispensable for the infusion of sanctifying grace, viz., original justice, and not merely the natural innocence of the will (as Pelagians, paleo and neo– both claim). In Mary, in virtue of the Immaculate Conception, there is already at conception a higher justice, that of the fullness of grace, of holiness, greater than which none can be conceived, and which God alone can grasp:{footnote}Cf. Bl. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, adapting a famous line of St. Anselm.{/footnote} a holiness which makes Mary not only daughter, but Salvatrix of Adam and Eve. The Immaculate Conception pertains not simply to the first moment of Her existence, as it were, not simply an exception in the normal course of conception after original sin; but it is that which defines Her personhood, both in relation to Christ and to Christians, even apart from any consideration of original and personal sin. With this, the analogical character of the notion of redemption as a possibility in the economy of salvation-and as, in fact, it has occurred-becomes plain, provided one accepts the basic thesis, the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary as motive of the Incarnation.

1.5 The problem, then, is to determine concretely in what way “being redeemed” in Mary includes a relation to sin, without reducing the Immaculate Conception to a merely special case of liberative redemption, so undermining the basis of co-redemption and so perfect redemption. How can Mary be redeemed without some relation to the state of fallen nature? And how can She truly be Immaculate Coredemptrix if She contracts original sin or is subject to the debt of contracting it?

Evidently there is no satisfactory way out of the dilemma without acceptance of the Scotistic thesis on the primary motive of the Incarnation, where redemption is a sub-category of salvation, when it involves all players, in one way or another, in redemption: Redeemer, Coredemptrix, redeemed collaborators. Redemption from sin is subordinated to collaboration in the work of recapitulation of all things under Christ.

Evidently, Christ alone, as man only, redeems and saves and is not redeemed or saved. Those who have sinned, either in Adam or personally, are saved in being redeemed. They cannot take active part in the objective redemption. Mary, however, is unique. Insofar as She is predestined jointly with Christ in virtue of His merits, She is saved and redeemed. But insofar as that redemption is preservative, She cooperates under Christ in the work of objective redemption, or is a cause of our liberative redemption; and insofar as we are in Her as Her children, we can cooperate in the subjective redemption. Her position as our Mediatrix with Christ is unique: both redeemed and redeeming; hence, the basis of Her mediation is Her preservative redemption or Immaculate Conception: not an exception within the definition of redemption as primarily liberative, but an indication of the basic means by which the Redeemer, in fact, effects that liberation.

Mark well: to be under the headship of Adam, a type of that of Christ, no collaboration is necessary on the part of those included. Contrariwise, to be fully recapitulated in Christ requires not only the distinctive work of Christ, and then of Mary, but also our cooperation which, after original and personal sin, requires redemption: liberative dependent on preservative. Only on this basis can we have a balanced view of redemptive mediation: in Christ a pure gift of being predestined absolute Head of creation; in Mary a gift also, but via the satisfactory merits of Christ. To redeem perfectly, one must first be Mediator, and such mediation de facto also includes Mary. Whence Her redemptive preservation through the merits of Christ on the Cross independently of any inclusion under the law of transmission of original sin. Neither is Her immaculate justice dependent on original justice; rather original justice is but a weak reflection of the holiness of the Immaculate Conception.

1.6 At an opposite extreme is a current objection to the Scotistic thesis on the absolute predestination of Christ: without the fall of Adam, the salvation won for us by Christ would not be so perfect, because without the element of mercy, the love of God for us would have been less.{footnote}This is, unfortunately, the position of some neoscotists as well as transcendental Thomists, e.g., J.-Fr. Bonnefoy: cf. K. Lynch, The Predestination of Our Lady in the Franciscan School-A Survey, in Franciscan Educational Conference 38 (1957) 77-165. After the Council, under the influence of Teilhard de Chardin, F.S. Pancheri supported evolutionary interpretations of Scotus, in fact, totally alien to his theological metaphysics.{/footnote} Whereas the previous objection claims that if there is a Mediator, he can only be one, because God is one (and so logically eliminates any formal role for the humanity of Christ, including his mystical members), this objection, typical of our contemporary neopatripassians, claims the exact contradictory: for God to be truly good and merciful, there must be, as it were, a sin on man’s part so that there can be a merciful mediation on the part of God. So it seems, when we look at the redemption from a merely historical perspective. This is, above all, the evolutionary point of view.

The error can only be corrected when we begin our reflection from a metaphysical standpoint, that is, from within the divine counsels of salvation. There, we realize the concept of redemptive liberation from sin depends on a prior positive, that of the joint mediation of Jesus and Mary, principally in Jesus, subordinately in Mary in virtue of a unique preservative redemption. We might say that from the point of view of those who hold, as primary motive for the Incarnation, redemption from sin, any definition of the Immaculate Conception must depend on a prior definition of redemption in terms of sin. From the point of view of those who affirm the absolute primacy of the Incarnation “before the foundation of the world,” any definition of liberative redemption from sin must depend on a prior definition of the Immaculate Conception in terms of the absolute predestination of Christ, prior to any consideration of sin. It is the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, or preservative redemption which, from within, makes plain the full mystery of redemption and of mercy which is not supremely great because of the accident of sin, but whose greatness, in the context of sin, is made plain to us by the mystery of the Immaculate. This is the link of the Immaculate with original sin.

This is a curious objection to Scotus and the great tradition to which he gave birth, for it illustrates exactly what is wrongheaded in making redemption the primary motive of the Incarnation and the ratio of its excellence in the practical order. Sin, in this scenario, is not merely permitted in view of the Incarnation, but is an indispensable means to a greater glory of God, as though avoiding sin would conclude in a lesser glory. This, according to Scotus, is irrational; yet, it is one of the major factors fueling revolutionary revisions of the concept of redemption, e.g., in circles around Teilhard de Chardin and K. Rahner, where the fundamental thrust of Christology is adoptionist (from below, rather than from above, in terms of the preexistence and prior predestination of Christ) and evolutionary (the perfection of the Incarnation is not at the virginal conception, but only at the term of the evolutionary process).{footnote}An excellent summary of these positions with bibliographical references can be found in the study of Don Ferrer Arellano in this volume: Mystery of Iniquity and Mystery of Godliness. Two Modern Sophisims: Redemption without Justice and the Immaculate Conception without Reference to Original Sin.{/footnote}

1.7 These two ways of approaching the redemption- seemingly from opposite directions, yet both involving radical, pantheistic or dualistic errors concerning the first article of the Creed-are at the root of the two major misconceptions of the redemption in modern times. The first is the Protestant, in particular Calvinist viewpoint, which does not so much reject the fact of a redemption, but conceives it in such wise as to exclude our cooperation or mediation as a derogation from that of the “one Mediator.” The attack is directly on the Catholic concept of subjective redemption by way of a theory of faith alone, but which indirectly leads to a rejection of vicarious redemption in favor of “substitutionism.” Not even Christ merits or satisfies actively as man; He merely endures pain that should have been ours.

The second is the modern Pelagian view that redemption, strictly speaking, involves no questions of satisfaction, justice and injustice, merit and satisfaction as the preliminaries for elevation to the order of grace, but only an example of how each can make a fundamental option to be honest and sincere, the fides qua of the anonymous Christian, or the fundamental option under grace. Curiously, both approaches, however different, converge on a very similar notion of faith without doctrinal content. Scotus rejects both, precisely on the basis of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Without this, the redemptive work, culminating on Calvary, would be missing its Marian coefficient, hence, not perfect redemption-subject, indeed, to radical misrepresentation like the Incarnation. Let us now first see how Scotus goes about this, and how the theological tradition initiated by him further articulates this definition of redemption in underscoring the distinctive place of the Immaculate Mother therein.

II. Defining Perfect Redemption with Scotus “Analogically”

2. When we say redemption is to be defined in the proper sense analogically, we mean that it is not to be defined primarily and, as it were, exclusively in terms of a reference to liberation from sin, or ransom, but rather in terms of reference to the holiness of the divine Redeemer and Immaculate Coredemptrix. That holiness is without blemish in both, but according to a certain proportion: in Christ absolutely, in Mary in virtue of Her salvation-redemption by Christ. We say further that Christ is the One Mediator, not to the exclusion of activity by others, but as He is the one who makes this possible in others: first in Mary, and then through Her, our cooperation in being freed from sin. Mary’s salvation, prior to the formation of Adam and Eve, includes a reference to redemption, because she is predestined to be a daughter of Adam, so that the Son of God might be the “Son of man,” viz., of Adam. Hence, without anyway being under the moral headship of the first Adam, Mary nonetheless is part of the human family and so when preserved, in effect, redeemed, in such wise that our liberation from sin (including Adam and Eve) is, in fact, effected by Her maternal mediation.

2.1 For Scotus, perfect redemption with a Marian coefficient does not mean Christ would be an imperfect Mediator had He not redeemed us in this way, nor does it accept the Pelagian, evolutionary Christology which radically eliminates the need of a Redeemer to merit for us before we can cooperate. Rather, it means He would not have bestowed on us so perfect a salvation, had He not done so in a Marian way, just as the Incarnation would not have been so perfectly accomplished, had it not had its Marian coefficient in the person of the Virgin Mother. The unique role of Mary, both in respect to the Head of the Church, and to the Church as Body of the Head, hinges on Her sanctity or blessedness: greater than which none can be conceived and only God can understand, that of the Panhaghia, of the Virgo virginum.{footnote}The classic Cur Deus Homo of St. Anselm as reformulated by Scotus and which is a reply to the other way of asking the question: cur homo Deus?, should be examined in the context of the Monoslogion and Proslogion and of the De conceptu Virginis, where the proof for God’s existence and the incomparable purity of the Mother of God in the hands of Scotus converge on the thesis concerning the absolute primacy of Christ.{/footnote} This is true, in respect to both the Protestant, in particular Calvinist error, that no human nature is sufficiently holy to satisfy for injustice, and in respect to the Pelagian, that all are so holy that no mediation-satisfaction is absolutely necessary, viz., that salvation (whatever it is) is available independently of Christ.

2.2 The theological proof for the Immaculate Conception in “our theology” depends, via the analogia fidei, on the prior truth of redemption being perfect because with a Marian coefficient- above all at its center and consummation, the sacrifice of Calvary, prolonged in the Mass. At the same time the truth, so demonstrated, reveals the premise making possible both the divine Maternity, the Coredemption and the maternal Mediation or spiritual Maternity of Mary in the economy of salvation. So seen, the Protoevangelium, Gen. 3: 15, is a marvelous, condensed synthesis of all that the concept of “perfect redemption” means in the Franciscan school.{footnote}Cf. Fehlner, Redemption, Metaphysics and the Immaculate Conception, cit., pp. 329-339.{/footnote}

This form of argumentation is not a feature of the Franciscan perspective only; it is a truism of the history of theology, as the history of Spanish Mariology in particular clearly and decisively demonstrates.{footnote}Cf. E. Llamas, Venerable Mother Agreda and the Mariology of Vatican II, New Bedford MA 2006, where further bibliographical references can be found in the notes.{/footnote} It is the merit of the Franciscan school, however, to have first formulated the truth about perfect redemption, therefore revealing the correct notion of redemption as it was, in fact, accomplished by Christ for the Church in terms of the holiness of Mary: viz., of Her belonging, within the economy of salvation, to the order of the hypostatic union antecedently to being a daughter of Adam, but at the same time being a daughter of Adam because She was first predestined to be Mother of God, not merely new Eve, but the Virgin Earth. Hence, She belongs not to the order of fallen nature, yet is “our fallen nature’s solitary boast” (Wordsworth). Precisely because of the Immaculate Conception our personal, active cooperation in “filling up what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ in the Church” (cf. Col 1: 24) is not only made possible in fact, but is also an aspect, insofar as it passes through the mediation of Mary, of the superabundance of Christ’s saving work in contrast with the relative universality of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin touches all in his seed (except Mary) without their personal cooperation; whereas all predestined and redeemed in Christ share the blessings of redemption through their active cooperation, either personally or vicariously (as with babies). The latter is more perfect than the former. On this point Scotus and Scotism insist mightily.

The Immaculate Conception, therefore, has a double sense: negative, as preservation in fact from contracting any taint of original sin, including the debitum; and positive as belonging to the order of the hypostatic union, above the angels as Bonaventure observes and so, their Mediatrix. In virtue of the redemptive work of Christ, the good angels were preserved from sinning, but unlike the Virgin Mother they do not, as the rest of mankind does not, pertain to the order of the hypostatic union. Or we may formulate the point thus: historically, in the order of execution, in fact, preservative redemption initially denotes some relation with the order consequent on original sin; metaphysically, or in relation to the order of divine intentions and to the mystery of the triune Godhead, preservative redemption in Mary entails a mystery prior to the fall.{footnote}For a sympathetic exposition in agreement with the Scotistic view from a Thomist viewpoint, cf. J. Ferrer Arellano, The Immaculate Conception as the Condition for the Possibility of the Coredemption, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross V, New Bedford MA 2005, pp. 74-185.{/footnote}

2.3 The contribution of Scotus was above all, that of establishing, the basis of Mary’s holiness qua Immaculate, for realizing our perf