OUR LADY MEDIATRIX AND CO-REDEMPTRIX.
Our Lady as Mediatrix
In thinking about this we must recall that for thirty years Mary and Jesus were together living as a family. The strength of love which passed between them is hard for us to understand, (only when we get to heaven will we realise the true meaning of love). Jesus accepted his mother’s authority but also supported her in difficult times as when St Joseph died. So their relationship was very special and from that has come the thought that Mary has the privilege of accepting all our prayers, both those to Jesus and those to the Saints, and conveying them for us.
Conformation of this comes in the Catechism of The Catholic Church where it states; ‘The Motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the final fulfilment of the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix.’ Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph 969.
Some non-Catholics object to this title of Mediatrix. They point to the writings of St Paul who states that Christ is ‘…one mediator between God and man’ (1 Timothy 2:5). But Paul touched upon this mystery again when he stated ‘We are God’s co-workers.’ (1 Corinthians 3:9). If God is the mediator why would He have co-workers? Can’t He get the job done by Himself? Of course He can. But since He is a father His job is raising up mature sons and daughters: and the way to do that is by making us co-workers. Can the answer be that it is Mary who takes our prayers and petitions to Christ who then takes them to The Father? There is a school of thought which says that all our prayers and petitions go through Mary to Christ. That would be difficult to accept by those who claim that they pray directly to Christ and can’t understand why we honour and pray to Blessed Virgin. Theologians continue to search for a definitive answer to Mary’s mediation. It was hoped that Vatican II would make a firm statement but that did not happen. In fact almost up to the last day of the Council the arguments continued and eventually the word ‘Mediatrix’ was deleted. Nevertheless the title of Mary as Mediatrix has been applied in the East since the fifth century and in the West since the ninth. Pope Pius XII used the word Mediatrix eight times in his writings.
In his encyclical Redemptoris Mater Pope John Paul II mentioned Mary as a Mediator. He wrote “Mary entered in a way all her own, into the one mediation ‘between God and men’ which is the mediation of the man Christ Jesus.” I believe that those words give emphasis to the suggestion that, whether we believe it or not, Mary takes all our prayers and petitions to Christ who presents them to The Father.
Our Lady as Co-redemptrix
If referring to Mary as a Mediatrix is going to cause difficulties for some of our separated brethren then to call her a co-redemptrix might cause apoplexy! It is perhaps the most controversial of all the Blessed Mother’s titles.
The controversy stems, in part, from an imperfect understanding of the title’s meaning. Most people believe that a Co-redemptrix is one who has an equal role in human redemption. However in this case the prefix ‘co’ does not mean ‘equal’; rather, it means ‘with,’ ‘together,’ ‘co-operating’ ‘associated in action with another’ or ‘having a usually lesser share in duty or responsibility.’ This is the manner in which Mary fulfils her role as a Co-redemptrix.
How can we regard Mary as a Co-redemptrix? Because she suffered along with her Son and did so with complete dignity. She knew more than anyone that this man who was being scourged, crowned with thorns, made to carry his cross and then crucified was not only her Son but the Son of God.
How tempting it must have been to shout out in anguish; “Listen to me, He is the Son of God” “You don’t understand what you are doing”. “Will someone please listen to me?” But she didn’t utter a single word. How did she manage to remain so silent? Because she knew that what was happening had to happen. It could not be stopped.
So she stood at the foot of the Cross for three hours watching her son, the Son of God, suffer the most appalling agony whilst he bled to death. She shared in His suffering; shared the pain; shared the humility; shared the taunts and insults and shared it all with perfect resolution as Jesus offered Himself as a victim so she offered herself in His support.
We all need to stand at the foot of the Cross to share the pain and grief and to repent of our sins. Mary, who was without sin, was there for us representing each of us and offering our heartfelt sorrow. Mary knew that what was happening to her son was due to sin. That could have made her antagonistic towards we who have sinned. But conversely her thoughts were of love to all humankind, safe in the knowledge that what her Son and herself were undergoing would save everyone from sin. She who was sinless was happy to see everyone in the same sate as herself.
She is seen to participate in Christ’s redemption of creation in three ways.
of Christ’s already accomplished redemption.
in Christ’s redeeming action.
This last is the controversial point, and it is of relatively modern interpretation. Pope Saint Pius X in his 1904 letter Ad diem illum wrote ‘Owing to the union of suffering and purpose existing between Christ and Mary, she merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost world.’
Pope Benedict XV in a 1918 apostolic letter wrote ‘To each extent did she suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to each extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man’s salvation, and immolated Him – insofar as she could – in order to appease the justice of God, that we may rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ.’
Pope Pius XI wrote extensively on the concept of Mary as Co-redemptrix. For example in his letter Miserentissimus redemptor he explained, ‘She brought forth Jesus the Redeemer, fed Him, offered Him as a victim at the cross, by her hidden union with Christ, and an altogether singular grace from Him, was likewise the Reparatrix.’ In 1933 when speaking to pilgrims he said ‘We invoke her under the title Co-redemptrix.’
Pope John Paul II has used the term Co-redemptrix – which has sometimes been translated co-operator – more than any other pope. For example, in an address on the 8th September 1982 he said, ‘Mary, though conceived and born without the taint of sin, participates in a marvellous way in the suffering of her divine son, in order to be a Co-redemptrix of humanity.’ On January 31st 1985 he proclaimed, ‘Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her son.’
In his apostolic letter Salvifici doloris John Paul II said ‘….her intense sufferings were not only a proof of her unshakeable faith, but also a contribution to the Redemption of all…..’ ‘……her standing at the foot of the cross together with her beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the Redeeming death of her Son.’
The idea these popes have represented is that as the mother of Christ, Mary had a special calling. By co-operating in the Redemption, she herself helped to redeem the world. We accept that these encyclicals, apostolic letters and speeches are not infallible statements though, in preparing these words, one has to wonder whether the Holy Spirit was assisting the Holy Fathers.
Finally, this chapter might give rise to misunderstanding if it were not clearly stated that none of these statements do more than honour Mary. Adoration is reserved for God alone.