The Concept of Redemption and Co-redemptioin During the “Golden Age” of Spanish Mariology

I. Introduction

1.1 During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries strong controversy occurred over the nature and forms of redemption, and also over that of Marian co-redemption, principally in Spain where for many years lively disputes continued over the Immaculate Conception. The goal of these controversies was above all the definition and clarification of the concept of redemption, so as to explain adequately the meaning and content of the work of Jesus Christ, universal Redeemer.

Alongside this, there was an important secondary intention as well. On the one hand the theologians and mariologists sought to introduce into the clarification a concept and type of redemption which did not have sin in itself, either committed or contracted, as its proper object or matter, and thus to make that concept compatible with, and applicable to a person such as the Immaculate Virgin who had not been touched in any way by sin.

Further, these theologians aimed at perfecting a concept of redemption not absolutely exclusive to the Son of God, Savior and Redeemer of mankind, but which would admit a contribution, or collaboration on the part of the creature as well. The basis and the reason for so nuancing the concept of redemption was precisely to render it compatible with the teaching long since traditional in the Church since the time of St. Irenaeus, viz., with the efficacious collaboration of the Virgin Mary, the New Eve, in the redemption of men.

Under discussion here, is a characteristic feature of Catholic soteriology, about which there exist, in fact, considerable differences among theologians. Over and above this, Martin Luther had introduced into the problematic of redemption, his theories concerning justification and the application of the merits of Christ to sinners. What kinds of merit were to be applied? What was the value of such merit?

The disputes over redemption during these centuries were the origin of different theories and explanations, both of the nature of redemption and of the collaboration of the Immaculate Virgin in the redemption, in brief, of the co-redemption. These have continued to be explored down to the present day. So also today, differences of criteria and ways of reflecting continue in relation to the concept or significance of the redemptive work of Christ and, above all, in relation to the collaboration of the Coredemptress, the Virgin Mary, in the redemption. And today, as in past ages, clarification of concepts is sought in order to attain an objective and adequate understanding of the truth: the image of Mary, Mother of the Son of God, and as Immaculate Virgin and Spouse of St. Joseph, collaborator with Him in the work of redemption.

1.2 In past centuries and during the golden age of our [Spanish] theology and mariology, primary attention was devoted to the analysis of theological concepts from the aspect and in the speculative, intellectualist style, characteristic of the scholastic theological system, at times overdoing the subtleties of this kind of thought. Conversely, little place was given to positive theology just in its beginnings (initiated by Petavius…), an approach resting more on the value and significance of facts and testimonials.

This conceptualist methodology within the scholastic system tends to brake, in great part, any progress in making intelligible the underlying problems. It is no easy matter to clarify in simple, brief form what has been transmitted to us from the mariological controversies of the golden age, let alone do it with this kind of approach.

In view of this, I have chosen a different method which facilitates a greater clarification of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and a more objective knowledge of the reality of the redemption. In a time of easy access to information, of transatlantic flights, when an idea reaches the poles of the earth before a word is spoken-these are facts of the moment-the first requirement is the perfect understanding of experiences, and