Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mary, Mediatrix?

Having looked at the Four Marian Dogmas of the Catholic faith, I thought I'd briefly reflect on another belief about Mary which is rather controversial in the dialogue between Catholics and non-Catholics: That is, the notion of Mary as "Mediatrix". While this Marian title is not "Dogma" per se, it is, nevertheless, a frequently occurring thought and belief in Catholic writings and devotion, and a source of much misunderstanding regarding Mary for non-Catholics. In fact, it could be argued that this title of Mary, or at least its misunderstood meaning, is perhaps the source of the controversy surrounding Mary between Catholics and non-Catholics. An incorrect understanding of Mary's mediatorial role is the reason why so many accuse the Catholic Church of divinising Mary, of minimising Christ, and of perverting the Gospel.

The Fifth Marian Dogma?
While not a Dogma of the Church, it is still important to reflect on this teaching because it does have great import for our faith as Catholics. Moreover, many feel that it may soon become the fifth Marian Dogma. Others are, in fact, petitioning for that very thing (Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was among them during her lifetime). For myself, I think defining the teaching as Dogma would be good, because in so doing, the Church would be handing down the definitive definition of Mary as Mediatrix--the title's proper meaning and the limits of that meaning--in a manner that Catholics can be confident has been given to us free from error. Such a dogmatic definition, then, rather than widening the rift between Catholics and non-Catholics, could rather, in fact, help to repair it by giving concrete expression to an otherwise often misunderstood teaching.

Mary, Our Mother
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 967-970, discuss Mary's mediatorial role in the context of her Motherhood of all the Church. We discussed this Motherhood in the article Mary, Mother of God, stating that we have been adopted through Christ as sons and daughters of God and made a part of the divine family. We have the Father as Our Father, the Son as our Brother, and His Mother for our Mother, which Scripture confirms when Jesus gave Mary into the care of John, the "Beloved Disciple" who stands as a type of all of us (John 19:26-27), and who himself would call Mary the mother of all those "who obey God's commandments and have in themselves the witness of Jesus" (Rev. 12:17).

...she is our Mother in the order of grace
967 By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to his Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity. Thus she is a "preeminent and...wholly unique member of the Church"; indeed, she is the "exemplary realization" (typus) of the Church.

968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace."

969 "This 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 eternal fulfillment of all 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 in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix."

970 "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men...flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it." "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source."
According to the Catechism, therefore, we see that Mary's role as "Mediatrix" refers to her willing cooperation in God's plan of Salvation. It was through her that Jesus came to the world as a Man, in order to die for us. In that sense, then, she "mediated" Him to us. As the Catechism continues to say, she functioned in this role from the moment of the Annunciation, through Jesus' birth, all the way to her motherly suffering with Him at the Cross, when the sword of sorrow pierced her heart. Yet it goes on to assure us that Mary didn't leave this role when she was assumed to heaven, but continues to mediate for us through her prayers and intercessions for us.

It is here that those who do not agree with this doctrine usually bring up 1 Timothy 2:5, which says, "For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and humanity, himself a human being, Christ Jesus." If there is only one mediator, the objection goes, and that mediator is Jesus, then it cannot be Mary. For Catholics to thus invoke Mary as Mediatrix is a direct contradiction with Scripture!

However, in examining the issue, one must clearly keep in mind what the text of 1 Timothy actually says, in context. Starting at verse 1 of chapter 2, we find St. Paul urging all Christians to intercede for the needs of others. Such intercession is precisely what is referred to in the Catechism as Mary's primary mediatorial role. Thus, if we can intercede for each other, how is it then unbiblical for Mary to do so? Secondly, pay close attention to what Jesus' sole mediation refers to: He is the "one mediator between God and humanity." That is, Jesus reconciles us to God. He acts as the go-between for us, in inaugurating the New Covenant in His blood. This is not what the Church claims about Mary--that she mediates between us and God. Rather, in bearing Jesus to us, she mediates to us the Mediator. In praying for us, she brings our needs to that One Mediator. When Jesus listens to her pleas on our behalf and gives His grace to us, "the gifts of eternal salvation", as the Catechism says, they are mediated to us through Mary as a result of her intercession for us. In other words, the graces won for us by Jesus on the Cross flow to us through Mary, who bestows them on us with a Mother's loving touch.

Sharing In, Not Competing With
This is why, in paragraph 970, the Catechism tells us that Mary's mediation in no way obscures the sole mediation of Jesus. Her power and role as mediatrix comes directly from Jesus, as she shares in His divine life--just as the Priest's power and authority are but a sharing in Christ's high priestly ministry. Looking at it from the other direction, just as we are all called to mediate Jesus to the world through our prayers, good works, and testimony of the faith--and this mediation is derived solely from Jesus' salvific work--so Mary is the mediatrix par excellence, performing this task in a more complete and perfect manner than we could. The superiority of her mediatorship is more tangible, too, in the fact that she alone bore Christ and gave Him to us.

Understood in this way, we see, on the one hand, that Mary's mediatorial role is not a lesser sort of the same kind as Christ's--in that she mediates us to God the Father as the bringer of the Covenant. On the other hand, we see that Mary's mediatorial role is, in fact, of the same kind as our own, but far superior, as she literally brought Christ into the world, and continues to bring Christ to the world, and the world to Christ, through her prayers and intercessions.

The Humble Way to Jesus
This is why we as Catholics turn to Mary in our prayers, asking her to intercede for us. Many accuse us of going to Mary instead of to Jesus, objecting to such a course by saying that we have the right to go straight to Him. And this is true, we do indeed have access to the Throne of Grace because of Him, and can indeed boldly enter in. No one denies that, and Catholics often do approach Christ directly, such as at Mass, where we receive Him physically and tangibly in the Eucharist. When she appeared to the children at Fatima, Portugal, Mary herself taught them this prayer, "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy." This sums up Mary's role--to lead us to Jesus, to tell us, as she told the servants at Cana, "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5).

Yet, the fact remains that "God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). There are times when a humble awareness of who we are, of our sinfulness, would make us realise what a bold act of presumption it would actually be to approach Christ directly. While He has made the way for us, we have not always made ourselves worthy to walk in that way. Thus, it is unarguably more humble to ask others to go to Him on our behalf--and Queen among those others, the one we can be most sure that Jesus will listen to, is Mary, His own Mother and ours, who is always ready to plead our case with Him. There is no competition, for when we go to Mary, she brings us to Jesus. And when we have gone to Jesus, He gives us His Mother to be our own.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.)


Christian said...

Hello but when has Mary ever been the Mediatrix.
Jesus said that He is the ONLY Mediator between God and man. He said that He is the ONLY Redeemer, the ONLY Advocate, the ONLY Creator, the ONLY Savior, and the ONLY ONE WE SHOULD FIX OUR EYES ONTO.
When has the Bible said:
Mary is the Mediatrix, the Advocate, the co-Redemptrix, the Mediatress or anything else?
Who said that Jesus is the ONLY Mediator, Redeemer, etc.? - GOD HIMSELF
But who said that Mary is the Mediatrix, co-Redemptrix, etc.? - MAN, MERE HUMANS
So who would you believe in? God Himself or men (saints, popes, etc.)?
The Bible said, "Blessed is the man who believes in God, but cursed are those who follows the ways of men!"
And when has Mary been ever virgin?
If you READ THE BIBLE, the Bible clearly tells us that Mary has other sons and daughters!
Now i have more to tell you, but just email me on my gmail account for questions.

Gregory said...

Hello, Christian,
Thanks for stopping by the blog. I'm going to reply to your comment in a second, but first I would ask you a few favours. The first would be to actually prayerfully read through the articles that I have written before commenting, since I have answered most of your questions and criticisms in the article above and in previous ones (particularly to do with Mary). The second would be that you do not make unwarranted assumptions about my own faith--such as, for example, that I have not read the Bible. Were I a betting man, I would wager that I could go toe-to-toe with you regarding what the Bible says and where, any day of the week. It rather bothers me when people automatically assume that because I'm Catholic, I haven't therefore read the Bible (which, incidentally, the Catholic Church gave to the world).

A third suggestion, which is mainly for your benefit, would be to not give your email out in comment boxes, without making various alterations to it, such as adding spaces or Xs, to avoid spam-bot machines from, well, spamming you.

Anyway, all that said, I'd like to tackle your comment point-by-point, so that I don't miss anything. Your words will be reproduced in italics as I go.

Gregory said...

You wrote:
Hello but when has Mary ever been the Mediatrix.

As I wrote in the above post, the Church teaches that Mary's role as mediatrix is part and parcel with her being Mother of the Church--a concept that is very clearly taught in Scripture in John 19:26-27 and Revelation 12:17. Thus, from the moment of her assent to Gabriel's Annunciation that she would bear Jesus Christ into the world, she became the mediatrix par excellence, literally bringing Jesus to us. As I mention in my articles on the Rosary, particularly The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation in the Temple, and The Wedding Feast at Cana, every time Mary brings Jesus to someone, or leads someone to Jesus, she is acting as Mediatrix.

Similarly, we ourselves, in sharing the Gospel with others, or lifting others up in prayer, are also mediating between others and Jesus. The difference between our roles as mediators, and that of Mary's, is only in the superior quality of her mediation, as well as in the fact that through her conceiving Jesus in her womb, she mediated Him into the world in a way that no other person can ever claim to do.

Jesus said that He is the ONLY Mediator between God and man.

Actually, to be technical, it was St. Paul who said this about Jesus, and not Jesus Himself who said it. But yes, you're absolutely right--Jesus is the only mediator between us and God the Father. However, since we are all members of Jesus' body, whenever we mediate or intercede (the words are synonyms) for another, bringing them to God, or bringing the truth of God to them, we are participating in Christ's one mediatorship. Moreover, our mediatorial role is more correctly that of bringing others to Jesus, who them mediates them to the Father. As such, there is no contradiction between Christ's sole mediation, and our own co-mediation or participation in His mediation. This is even more true of Mary.

Gregory said...

He said that He is the ONLY Redeemer, the ONLY Advocate, the ONLY Creator, the ONLY Savior, and the ONLY ONE WE SHOULD FIX OUR EYES ONTO.

I'm wondering, when you make these claims, whether you'd be willing to source them, with, say, appropriate biblical passages? It makes it easier to respond to your objections. In short, though, we do not claim nor believe that Mary is Creator or Saviour. When we refer to Mary as Mediatrix or Co-Redemptrix, or as Advocate, we do not mean by these terms to suggest that she is an alternative to Christ or in competition with Christ. Rather, it is because Mary is so fully united to Christ (as we all should be and hope to be), that she participates in these roles. Through her prayers on our behalf, she becomes our advocate, just as you are advocating on behalf of the people in your life for whom you pray. By making Jesus' salvation possible by bearing Him into the world, and by willingly offering Him to the Father at Calvary, Mary participates, in a smaller, limited, yet nevertheless important way, in Jesus' Redemptive act. There is nothing in that that is in contradiction with Scripture, if you take the time to understand what we mean by the terms that we use to describe Mary, and when you correctly understand what Scripture teaches.

As for Christ being the only one on whom we should fix our eyes, how literally shall we take that statement? Unless I am to spend the rest of my life in Eucharistic Adoration, I cannot but fix my eyes on something other than Christ. Of course, the eyes of my spirit are fixed on Him throughout my day--imperfectly though that may be. However, just as when you admire the great masterpiece of a painter, you are honouring the painter himself, and not simply the masterpiece, when we "fix our eyes" on Mary, we honour Jesus as we honour His Mother, and His greatest masterpiece. There is no competition between the two, for she lives only to glorify Him, and any honour she receives from us is only magnified and given to Him on our behalf. Thus, when we honour Mary, we honour Jesus twice: the first when we in our own imperfect ways honour Jesus Himself, and the second, when Mary perfectly honours Jesus on our behalf. It is no different, but immeasurably greater, as when someone praises me for a painting that I have done, and I reply in all humility, that my talent is a gift from God.

When has the Bible said:
Mary is the Mediatrix, the Advocate, the co-Redemptrix, the Mediatress or anything else?

As I mentioned above, since Mary's mediatorial role is directly related to her motherly role, John 19:26-27 and Revelation 12:17 very clearly tell us that she is all the things you mention. When she brings the servants at the wedding in Cana to Jesus, and prompts Him to begin His public ministry, she acts as advocate and mediatrix. Simply by giving birth to Jesus has she become co-redemptrix, for Christ's redemption for us could not have been accomplished but for her "yes" to God.

Who said that Jesus is the ONLY Mediator, Redeemer, etc.? - GOD HIMSELF

Yes, but God (through St. Paul) specified that Jesus' mediation is that of reconciling us to the Father, and, as I mentioned above, does not preclude our (and Mary's) mediating others to Jesus. Moreover, the very passage in Scripture (1 Timothy 2:1-8) which calls Christ the One Mediator (v. 5) instructs and commands us to mediate, or intercede, for one another and the whole world. In fact, St. Paul's very point is that our ability to so intercede is completely dependent upon the fact, and united with the fact, that Christ is our mediator with the Father!

Gregory said...

But who said that Mary is the Mediatrix, co-Redemptrix, etc.? - MAN, MERE HUMANS

First of all, I would disagree that it was simply "MAN, MERE HUMANS" who have said this, since Scripture very clearly implies this truth, if not outright stating it. Secondly, since that same Scripture in which you place so much stock was itself the product of "MAN, MERE HUMANS", albeit ones inspired by God's Spirit, who wrote the Scriptures, why do you automatically assume therefore that they were trustworthy in writing Scripture, but not in anything else that they proclaimed or passed on? Why do you assume that the only time these men were inspired by the Spirit is when they wrote Scripture? The Bible itself says otherwise, when it tells us to "hold fast to the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess 2:15) and that their preaching was "not the word of any human being, but God's Word, a power that is working among you believers" (1 Thess 2:13), or when Scripture tells us that it is the Church itself that is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

So who would you believe in? God Himself or men (saints, popes, etc.)?

I believe that you have made a false dichotomy, since the "saints, popes, etc." are not, and the Catholic Church has never, contradicted God's word. Therefore, I confidently say "I would believe in both, trusting that Jesus can keep His word when He said that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against His Church, founded on Peter, the Rock."

The Bible said, "Blessed is the man who believes in God, but cursed are those who follows the ways of men!

True--so, how do you know that you are not, in fact, following the "ways of men"? Considering there are some 20 000 or more denominations of Christianity, all differing over their interpretation of what Scripture says, how do you know that you have the right interpretation, and thus are not following the ways of men yourself? Are you infallible?

And when has Mary been ever virgin?
If you READ THE BIBLE, the Bible clearly tells us that Mary has other sons and daughters!

If you would read my blog, you would see that I've already answered this objection quite extensively in a two-part article on this subject, here and here, so I won't bother repeating myself now. In brief, the Bible does not, in fact, anywhere state that Mary had other children. I beseech you to find me one passage that states unequivocally that "So and so was Mary's son or daughter." In case you don't want to go through the trouble of looking, I'll make it easy for you--there aren't any. That's all I'll say for now. If you really want to know what the Church teaches about Mary's perpetual virginity, read the two-fold article linked above.

Now i have more to tell you, but just email me on my gmail account for questions.

I will send you an email, just in case you didn't click the "email me all replies to this comment" checkbox when you posted, just to let you know that I've replied to you. I will let you know that whatever else you have to "tell" me would best be posted here, however, since I get enough email already, and I will likely just repost anything you say here anyway. But it's up to you. I promise that I will read and reply to all you have to say, but ask that you continue to conduct yourself in a spirit of Christian charity.

God bless

Joey said...

Be encouraged, Gregory. All evangelism is Marian, so it is fitting that separated brothers and sisters would find it vexing to deal with the Church's teaching about her Blessed Mother.
Pax vobis.