One of the problems that arise in any discussion on Co-redemption is the limiting of Redemption exclusively to the events of Good Friday. We must realize that the whole life of Christ is of salvific value, from His Annunciation to the hidden years of Nazareth, His public ministry, His passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Throughout His life Jesus is true to His name as the one who saves.
In the West when the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, falls on Good Friday, the feast is moved to another day as if the two events are unrelated and cause a distraction. The Fathers of the second century speak of the inseparability of the Incarnation and the Passion of the Son of God. The Incarnation was Salvation. For them to invoke the former is to include the latter. John Saward in the “Mysteries of March” states that for the Fathers “to say Incarnation is to say Cross.” (1)
In presenting this talk on the Assumption and Co-redemption, it is essential that we keep the whole of the plan of salvation together. As Mary is introduced into the mystery of Redemption with her Immaculate Conception, followed by the Annunciation and Divine Maternity, so then the Assumption event at the end of her earthly life must also be considered and understood as part of the plan of Redemption. If Mary has shared intimately in the joys and sorrows of the Lord through His birth and death, so then it is fitting that she should share in the glory of the Lord’s resurrection. One day we will experience the fruit of the resurrection, but Mary already has partaken of it in an anticipatory way by the resurrection of her body and soul in the Assumption.
As the definition of our Lady’s Assumption has already been solemnly defined by Pius XII in 1950 with Munificentissimus Deus, I will try to show how we can come to a greater understanding of Co-redemption by having recourse to the dogma of the Assumption. We will be able to see how a full and proper appreciation of Co-redemption is a prelude and necessary foundation that leads to the definition of the Assumption. If this defined dogma can only be fully understood as a consequence of, and in relation to, our Lady’s Co-redemption then we will have the impetus to have this fifth and final dogma defined as well.
Before we can proceed to develop this further, it is fitting that we look at the usage of the title Co-redemptrix and its theology which was commonly held up to the time of the definition of the Assumption. I will then return to the main argument of Co-redemption as a necessary foundation for the Assumption. This is confirmed by post Conciliar Mariology with reference to Redemptoris Mater and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our Lady as “Mother of the Church” and “Image of the Church” receives the reward of her pilgrimage of faith by the resurrection of her body. This in turn inspires and leads us on our pilgrimage through life until we too will share what we profess to believe in—the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
The Theology and Use of the Title Co-redemptrix to the Time of the Definition of the Assumption
The discussion on Co-redemption since the turn of the twentieth century has been systematically recorded by a number of people. I am most grateful to Dr. Miravalle for his excellent reference book, Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, Theological Foundations, vol. 1.
The path to the proclamation of the Assumption in the twentieth century begins with Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914). In the numerous encyclicals of Pius X there is an emphasis on the intimate union of mother and Son in accomplishing redemption. Mary distributes the gift of eternal life and actively obtains the gift together with her Son.
Through this communion of pain and will between Christ and Mary, “she merited to become the most worthy restorer (reparatrix) of a lost world,” and hence, too the disburser of all the gifts which Jesus bought for us by the price of His death and His blood. (2)
Miravalle notes that “Pope Pius adds to mariological development when he sanctions the use of the title ‘Co-redemptrix’ by three Congregations of the curia.” (3) The first usage concerns an actual feast of Mary that commemorates her seven sorrows (4) and her participation in the whole plan of Redemption. This feast was raised to a double of the second class, with the intention of giving greater honor to Mary who is known as the Co-redemptrix. (5) The Holy Office repeats the title in the following section on Indulgences.
There are some people whose love for our Most Blessed Virgin inclines them never to pray to Jesus without mentioning the name of His mother, Blessed Mary, our Co-redemptrix. This laudable custom expands the invocation, or the Christian salutation: “Praised be Jesus Christ” concerning which this congregation issued a decree on March 27, 1913. (6)