The Predestination and Coredemption of Our Lady

Father Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., born in Cardenas, Cuba, on February 19, 1911, was the youngest of eight children. He eventually made his way over to the United States, where he would fulfill his vocation. “On February 20, 1935, he was ordained priest at the Immaculate Conception Shrine in Washington, D.C.” (1)

Father Carol spent his consecrated life advancing the primacy of Christ, which brought about a greater Marian devotion. (2) Through lectures, books, and numerous articles, Father Carol challenged minimalist approaches in Mariology, in the hopes that our witness as followers of Christ would become that which imitates our Lord’s fullest expression in honoring Mary. Mariology for Carol started with the Christological or Trinitarian perspective, and from this foundation a proper ecclesial understanding was established. How God considered and honored Our Lady, in as much as we can deduce this, should impact our own Marian expression. Having spearheaded and started the Mariological Society of America, which produced the periodical Marian Studies, Father Carol gave readers the opportunity to contemplate Mariological issues both current and traditional. In addition to the publication, an annual symposium would be given, inviting leading theologians to present lectures and engage in further Mariological dialogue. (3) His periodicals addressed all things Marian, but father Carol seemed to have a few Mariological favorites he focused upon.

Three areas of emphasis in Carol’s Mariology will be examined. First, Our Lady’s predestined primacy with and under Jesus. (4) Mary, with Christ, was predestined by the will of God the Father, thereby giving back to the Trinity the greatest glory offered by humanity (5) within herself, having been being intentionally selected as the Mother of God. (6) This is not only a Franciscan position, but also a Thomistic one. Applying this teaching to the redemptive aspects of the Incarnation will also be examined to clarify theological differences.

For Father Carol, Mary’s association with Jesus is not dependent upon or impacted by the stain from Adam, because Jesus’ Incarnation was not reliant upon sin. His becoming flesh and dwelling among us was the perfect expression of the Father’s love toward His creation. Although Father Carol is a Franciscan, his work has been extremely balanced in presenting differing viewpoints fairly. (7) We will focus on Mary with Christ, emphasizing her predestined role in God’s oikonomia. (8) In viewing the Incarnation, the Passion, and the eternal reign of the Messiah we shall address other subjects of concern in Carol’s Marian scope.

Another area of prominence for Reverend Carol is his penetration of the controversy surrounding the “debitum peccati.” (9) Original sin is something that impacts us all, (10) and its application to us as descendents of Adam brings about questions on Our Lady’s preservation from it. What is Mary redeemed from, if she is sinless? Certainly with the definition of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception in 1854, (11) we have clarity from a Magisterial perspective, and from this we are able to work out many applications in the field of soteriology. There are still areas of question though, (12) and whether Mary was ever, or could have ever been, under the debt of sin is one such topic under investigation. How far does the reach of humanity’s flawed father extend to this daughter of Zion, who is completely separate from the stain of sin?

The redemptive role of Christ is certainly imperative to Father Carol’s Trinitarian comprehension and expression, and thus it has Mariological ramifications, in that he sees Our Lady as Coredemptrix. Because Mary is predestined with Jesus primarily for expressing and responding to the Father’s love, she is certainly associated with Our Lord’s redemptive plan, through His generous intentionality. Her association with Jesus’ redemptive mission as Coredemptrix is the final area of specific emphasis for our review concerning this Franciscan theologian. He will be a guide from whom we will examine these topics in Scripture, Magisterial documents and current theological contributions. These three areas of interest for Carol are intertwined one with the other. Each could be examined under the category of Trinitarian generosity, or, for Father Juniper, under the universal primacy of Christ. The ecclesial ramifications of Our Lady’s invitation into such Divine intimacy certainly speaks of what the Church is, and what we are called to be as followers of Christ. (13) There are eternal consequences to proper Mariology.

Investigating the early Church, we note how defining Mary’s role as Theotokos at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., and ever-virgin at the Lateran Council in 649 by Pope Martin the first, safeguarded a proper understanding of Christology. (14) As it was then, so it is for us today. Mary will always point us to Christ, and with this in mind we can see great value in the theological efforts of Father Juniper Carol’s Mariology.

Typological reflections will be applied in examining the Old Testament with its fulfillment in the New, where applicable. (15) Applying faith to natural reason, we will be able to go beyond the merely rational in Marian consideration. She is more than just the mother of the historical Jesus. All of this will be bedded in the Magisterial teaching, which will give an interpretive voice to the examination of Scripture and Tradition. (16)

Starting with the Predestination of Mary, then examining Adamic sin and our redemption, we will conclude with its application to Our Lady as Coredemptrix. Each of these topics is extremely dense in theological insights and developments, and consequently, have significant implications for our spirituality. As St. Anselm says,

I am afraid that, just as I am invariably annoyed by bad painters when I see the Lord himself depicted as of ugly appearance, the same fault will be found with me, if I presume to plough through such beautiful subject matter with an unpolished and contemptible style of writing. (17)

With Father Carol as a guide we shall examine these topics in greater depth. This is not a complete analysis of the subject matter mentioned, (18) nor the fullness of Father Carol’s Mariology, but it is a wonderful place to start.

The Predestined Primacy of Mary with Jesus

We are a people desperate for clarity on the eternal . This is expressed by man’s continued grappling with core philosophical questions and his wanting lucid teachings on matters of life and eternity. “Men look to their different religions for an answer to the unsolved riddles of human existence. The problems that weigh heavily on the hearts of men are the same today as in the ages past.” (19) With the inclusion of faith, we transform and build upon man’s natural reasoning and philosophical queries. With the revelation found perfectly in and through Christ as seen in Scripture and Tradition, we, through the Magisterial teaching authority, have clarity in our soteriology. (20) From this teaching body we hear of Mary’s redemption. (21)

This matter is imperative because our Christology is what forms our soteriology, and a proper understanding of the theologia within the Trinity not only aids our approach to the Incarnation and redemption, but our foundations in orthodox Mariology. (22)

Mary is the recipient of the Trinity’s generosity in the most manifold way. (23) She now stands as an icon for the Church, a standard, but always our Mother, leading us into greater intimate response (anabasis) and elevation, due to the decent (katabasis) or condescension of God in Christ. (24) In her, we are nurtured to a greater reception of Christ in the sacraments of the Church, and become more receptive to the Spirit’s unfolding of the life of Christ within us.

Concerning the predestination of Our Lady, Carol says,

If, in point of time, we find Our Blessed Lady fulfilling a specific mission entrusted to her by the Almighty, it is obvious that this mission is the result of a positive act on the part of God’s will from all eternity. This divine will determining the existence of Our Lady, ordaining her to the beatific vision and (as a means to the end) charging her with a specific function in the divine economy is what we mean here by her predestination. (25)

God’s creation of the heavens and earth, the visible and invisible, is an intentional and free expression of God’s loving generosity. (26) He is not in need of us, or our praise, nor is He made greater because of the creation of the heavenly beings or earthly realities. That which is created exists because of Him, from nothing (ex nihilo). (27) There was not a back-up plan in case creation did not fall in sync with the Creator. The Trinity was not caught off-guard by the Angelic or Adamic rebellion. The fact that some of His creation failed their probationary period did not leave God wringing His hands, so to speak. This is important when considering questions regarding the Incarnation and its redemptive applications, expressed traditionally in Scotistic and Thomistic schools of thought. The Incarnation is not a hypothetical appendage to theologia (28) and the entire history of salvation. (29)

Through revelation the Creator, specifically the unity of the Trinity, causes to exist what did not. (30) By natural reason, many deduced from creation a higher power, first cause, or Creator, but it was the Incarnation which expressed God as Family; (31) Father, Son, and Spirit. (32) The oikonomia of God is the unfolding of this revelation within the economy of time, to a stiff-necked people. “Creation’s economy is the law of God’s household. It is how He fathers His family throughout salvation history.” (33)

Because God’s redemptive oikonomia is not an accidental unfolding of events, brought upon our existence due to the blunder of our first parents, we can see the unchanging constancy of God’s love, being expressed patiently from the beginning until now, and forever after. “The cross needs to be understood as a Trinitarian event, but one that we weren’t ready to receive, or even comprehend, until God took us through a long preparation. That’s what the Old Testament is all about, and why we need the New Testament in order to see it.” (34)

Out of all time, past, present, and future, God chose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus.

From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. (35)

We know that all of creation was made by and for the Word. Jesus is above all and before all. (36) The Incarnation was neither an accident nor a back-up plan. This Incarnation is forever associated in time and eternity with Mary as the Mother of God Incarnate. It is from her association with Christ that all is explored. (37) Starting with the Trinity and then humanity, we approach this “gentle Woman” with a new expectancy and insight. In Christ we readily see the Church as His Body and Kingdom. This certainly is in God’s intention before time, so how much more is the reality of Mary’s identity with and in Christ, in that her offspring is the Source from which the Church exists. (38)

In the Old Testament we are introduced to Eve as the first woman, intentionally chosen to exist in time, brought forth from the side of Adam. She is eternally identified with her spouse. Although our Lady’s existence in time comes about after thousands of years, she is foreshadowed throughout God’s economy being expressed in the Old Testament. From Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and Hannah, all the way back to the very beginning with Eve, we see Our Lady in typological representatives. (39) Specifically we are directed to the reality of Our Lady’s role with Jesus in the Protoevangelium, (40) where hope is extended amidst the rubble of the first sin, seeing that this Woman with her Seed would be in enmity with the serpent and his.

So, intentionally from the start, we can see Our Lady’s predestination with Jesus, even though experientially Eve is the first woman created for the unfolding of God’s economy.

Why would there be resistance to the predestination of Our Lady with Jesus? Misunderstanding and fear often are reasons many distance Mary from such close correlation to Our Lord’s Incarnation and Redemption. Many approach her maternity in a utilitarian manner, as if any old womb would have done. We must see her first as Jesus does, before resigning her to a belittled state of emphasis. Mary is not selected haphazardly, as if she is an incidental part in God’s demonstration of Love. She is forever identified with Christ at the Incarnation, as well as with His death, resurrection, and Ascension.

But she remains what she was and will be for all eternity, the Mother of God made flesh. And what child, all the more if it were God, would forget the part and position played by his mother with regard to her? “Honor your father and your mother…”: how should the Son of Man, who honored his heavenly Father in everything, not also honor his earthly mother as well? (41)

God is not surprised by our sins, confused by our constant stumbling, nor unsure as to the next step needed in our journey back to Him. It just so happens, and is to our benefit, that our invitation into the Trinity’s love is built upon the inclusion of the Blessed Mother into the Divine economy.

Our Lady’s predestination with Christ and her association with Him, is seen in Old Testament typology and is fulfilled and transformed in the New Covenant’s unveiling. As Eve is identified with Adam, the mother of all living, even more so does Our Lady stand with Christ in the redemptive fulfillment. Abraham is the father of faith (42) and next to him stands Sarah, who struggled with the promise of God. Juxtapose this with Our Lady next to Christ, believing the promises of God, and offering her Son to the Father as an acceptable sacrifice. In the Old Testament Esther intercedes for her people before the king, and Mary fulfills this type as the Mediatrix and Advocate for the Church. (43) As Solomon lifted up Bathsheba, to be at his side, even more we note Our Lady as Queen of Heaven beside our eternal King. The Old is fulfilled in the New. (44)

In her very person as a Jewish girl become the mother of the Messiah, Mary binds together, in a living and indissoluble way, the old and the new People of God, Israel and Christianity, synagogue and church. She is, as it were, the connecting link without which the Faith (as is happening today) runs the risk of losing its balance by either forsaking the New Testament for the Old or dispensing with the Old. (45)

Another reason Mary’s association with Jesus is so resisted is due to the debt of sin applied towards all of humanity. Just because she is pre-figured in Old Testament types, (46) how can she avoid the fall’s ramifications upon humanity? This dilemma has brought much resistance and discussion in Mariology concerning Mary’s exemption in contracting original sin.

Sin and Redemption

There are two aspects we will look at in this section. The first is Mary’s exemption from the otherwise universal contractingt of original sin; the second, briefly addresses the Incarnation and whether it would have happened regardless of original sin.

Because Adam and Eve sinned, (47) humanity was deprived of the preternatural gifts, the Garden of Eden, and the intimate life and communion of the Trinity. Our sin cut the very life off to our souls. From that time on, humanity has carried the weight of sin and death, unable to receive total peace. The oikonomia of God’s commitment to His people by covenant is unfolded in His economy. From Adam and Eve, to Noah, Abraham, Moses, (48) and David we have been pointed to Messianic deliverance. (49) Jesus is that fulfillment. He is that which the Old covenant testified about, pointed to, and prophesied of. (50) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (51) Mary was with the child. (52) All of created history unfolded with hope growing in humanity for the Woman and her Seed to come and crush the serpent, the devil, bringing fear of death to an end. (53) We are all worthy of death, unrighteous, and wanderers, in need of an ark, a ram, a deliverer, and a King. Jesus becomes flesh and we see the Father. (54) The oikonomia is revealed from the perspective of the Son’s revelation. The question arises though, that if all are in need of deliverance and under the debt of sin, how could our Church proclaim as dogma that Mary was immaculately conceived? How could she be without sin? (55) Another question could be, in what way is she redeemed? Would Mary be in need of deliverance from Adam’s sin? Since she is always identified with Christ how could she have been under Adam’s stain? Although Mary is human and not divine, she is intentionally chosen by God, so, in what manner is Mary sharing humanity with Adam, yet remaining free from his associative sin in her role as Mother of God?

Father Carol says of the debitum peccati, that it is “the universal necessity to contract sin.”

This necessity is said to arise from two factors: (a) being conceived according to the normal laws of propagation; and (b) being included, by divine disposition, in the act of disobedience by which Adam lost the grace of God for all his descendants. The former factor is supposed to induce a remote necessity (debitum remotum) to incur original sin; while the latter factor gives rise to a proximate necessity (debitum proximum) to contract it. (56)

In this debate there are three varying opinions which need to be pointed out. First,

Some say that, since Mary was conceived by way of seminal generation, and since she was included in the will of Adam as the moral representative of the race, she should have contracted original sin, although, in fact, God suspended the application of the law in her case (here is the debitum proximum).

Others claim that, owing to her normal generation, Mary should have been included in the sinful will of Adam, but God exempted her from this, and hence from actually contracting original sin (debitum remotum).

A third group contends that God preserved Mary from every necessity (proximate or remote) to contract original sin. (57)

Sin is a deprivation of grace. We are lacking grace whereas, Mary is filled to overflowing with it. (58) Her redemption is more sublime and most perfect. All of these graces are the fruits of Jesus’ redemptive work and its application to Our Lady before the Passion, for her calling as Mother of God. “The efficacy of the Savior’s redemptive grace was so overwhelming in her case, that it not only preserved her from the actual contraction of sin, but even places her beyond any possible reach of the universal law of sin.” (59) She is preserved from sin and not bound under the curse of sin and death, yet fully human. This is not so outlandish; humanity was once in a state of purity and innocence before the fall in the Garden of Eden. For Mary, her redemption is likened to a pre-fallen state, yet it is even greater, in that Christ fulfills and transforms the Old Testament types and preternatural gifts with the New Covenant realities, and Mary’s fullness of grace. In other words, Mary’s identification with Jesus enables her to participate with a greater innocence and purity than our first parents. She is the model that we wish to emulate in following Christ.

The matter of sin is something our technologically advanced society cannot remedy. Regardless of the amount of movies promoting ideologies which glory in the self, or the countless books, magazines, and articles, which try to promote existence based on immediate gratification with little thought of selfish ramifications, the nagging conscience reminds those who haven’t completely dulled it that we are not the entirety of our existence. There can be an intellectual snobbery which attempts to convert the religious from their spiritual introspection, but no logic or reason can negate the ramifications of our creatureliness. If there is a Creator, than I as creature am not my own. He is the authority to whom I inquire, how should I then live? In opposition to the gods of self or the sterile attempts of creatures striving for divinization, the one true God has chosen to speak with and to us from the very beginning. We have been privileged from the onset to be invited into communion with our Maker. The Creator has chosen to dialogue with His creation. He has intended to make them family so we stop here and meditate upon the opening moments of “the beginning” as it unfolds within the book of Genesis.

Man is created in the image and likeness of God and woman is formed from the side of Adam by this same God. We hear of the intimacy in Eden as the Lord walks with them in the cool of the day. (60) Our first parents were not created for an eternity in Eden, but rather the Beatific Vision. (61) To compliment the full outpouring of God’s generosity, freedom in humanity enables a response which, if given, will enter the creature into loving exchange with the Creator. In the Garden we are told they have one tree they must not partake of, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (62)

When the serpent enters this place of refuge Adam and Eve are put to the test. Will they obey God who loves them, or will they allow themselves to be persuaded b