COOPERATION IN REDEMPTION
by Fr. William Most
All God's decrees are eternal, since He is unchangeable. So it is
evident that from all eternity He decreed the incarnation. But then of
course He necessarily decreed the Mother through whom it was to take place,
our Lady. So she is eternally joined with Him by divine decree.
The fact that she was to be associate as well as Mother was expressed
in the very first prophecy of the Redeemer: "I will put enmity between you
and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head
and you shall bruise his heel."
Many Scripture scholars today profess they find it hard to understand
this text. They say there was only one woman alive at the time, Eve. So how
could it be Mary? But the Jews, strangely, understood more than Christian
scholars on this text. We have ancient Jewish documents, Targums. They are
Aramaic versions, mostly rather free, of the OT. We have four different
ones for the Pentateuch. They let us see how the Jews in ancient times
understood these prophecies. The Jews did not use "hindsight', seeing them
fulfilled in Christ, whom they hated. A great Jewish scholar of today,
Jacob Neusner, author of over 300 books on Judaism, made a great survey of
all Jewish writings after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, in (Fortress, Phila. 1984). He found, remarkably, that up to the time
of the Babylonian Talmud, 500 - 600 A. D. , there was practically no
interest in the Messiah. Then interest returned in the Talmud, but the only
major point mentioned was that He was to be of the line of David. In
contrast, the Targums see the Messiah in so very many texts. Now it is
obvious, that these texts could hardly have been composed (we think the
Targums first existed in oral form) during literally centuries when there
was virtually no interest in the Messiah. Hence those portions of the
Targums must go back at least before 70 A. D. , Some scholars, e. g. , R.
Le Deaut , (Rome,
Biblical Institute, 1982, pp. 4-5) think the Targums first began in the 5th
century B. C. , in the scene we read about in Nehemiah 8:8.
For certain the Targums are ancient, and show us how the ancient Jews
understood these prophecies. So on Gen 3:15, instead of foolishly saying
that it means women do not like snakes -- as one prominent commentary, now says -- the Targums knew much. For example.
says: "And I will put enmities between you and the woman,
and between your sons and her sons. And it will happen: when her sons keep
the Law and put into practice the commandments of the Law, you will aim at
and wound him on the heel, and make him ill. For her son, however, there
will be a remedy, but for you, serpent, there will be no remedy. They will
make peace in the future in the day of King Messiah."
Two other Targums, Pseudo-Jonathan and the Fragmentary Targum speak
similarly, except that they use the plural, sons, instead of the singular.
But all three speak of a remedy for the son or sons of the woman, but not
for the serpent.
Many today point out that the same Hebrew verb is used twice,
for the son of the woman striking at the head of the serpent, and for the
serpent striking at his heel. So, they say: no victory, just a tie. But the
ancient Jews knew better. They knew there was a remedy for the son of the
woman. It is true, they cloud the picture a bit by injecting allegory, so
common at the time, but yet the basic message is clear: the son of the
woman will have a victory.
So the magisterium of the Church is quite right in seeing Our Lady and
her Son in this text, and seeing them as associated in the victory over the
Vatican II sagely pointed out, speaking of this text and Isaiah 7:14:
"These primeval documents, as they are read in the Church, and are
understood in the light of later and full revelation, gradually bring
before us the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer. She, in this light, is
already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise given to our parents,
fallen into sin, of a redeemer (cf. Gen 3. 15. . . cf. Is 7. 14)."
#55 seems to have indicated that perhaps the human
authors of these texts may not have understood all that the Church now,
with full light and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is enabled to see. Our
Lady was prophetically foreshadowed in the promise. So Eve is the type, a
prophecy of Mary to come. What an indication that just as the first Eve
really contributed to the damage of original sin, so the New Eve, as the
Fathers so often called her, would really contribute to reversing that
St. Irenaeus, quoted twice by the Council on this matter in LG #57, saw
this typological sense. He even, doubtless inspired by the Spirit who
chiefly wrote the text, said, as the Council quoted it: "Thus then, the
knot of the disobedience of Eve was untied through the obedience of Mary."
We saw that St. Irenaeus probably was inspired, for just before these words
he had pictured all sin, original and personal, as a tangled, complex knot.
Then it was that St. Irenaeus added: "Thus then, the knot of the
disobedience of Eve, was untied thorough the obedience of Mary." But - and
this is why we are led to suppose special inspiration for S. Irenaeus - the
knot was not untied at the annunciation, the moment presupposed in the
context of St. Irenaeus. No, the knot was not untied until the divine
Victim cried out: "It is finished." So objectively, probably without
realizing it himself, St. Irenaeus implied even her cooperation on Calvary.
It is not out of place to suppose that a Father of the Church, an
agent in the hand of the Holy Spirit, might write more than he understood.
Really, LG itself implied that in #55, which we cited above. For it
indicated that perhaps the original writers of Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14
did not understand all that Holy Spirit had in mind, all that the Church
today, under His continued guidance, sees clearly.
Similarly, we might well suspect that Jeremiah the prophet in his
prophecy of the new covenant in 31:31ff did not see all that the Spirit
intended. For it would have been most natural for Jeremiah to have in mind
the obedience of the people, as the condition of the new covenant. Yet we
know well from Romans 5:19 and LG #9 that it was really the obedience of
Jesus that was required, not just that of the people. Did Jeremiah see
this? God could have revealed it to him. But that is quite uncertain.
And now, in passing, may we become so bold as to suggest a
possibility. Even though the Council at the start of chapter 8 of said it did not intend to settle controversies in Mariology, there
is reason to believe it wrote more than it realized, being likewise an
instrument in the hands of Divine Providence. But more on that later.
So it is clear already at the start from Gen 3:15 that not only was she
was to be the Mother of the Redeemer, but also that she was to be
associated with Him in the victory over satan. For Pius XII, starting with
Gen 3:15, reasoned that the victory over sin in which she was to share
would not be complete if she had ever been under original sin, and in
built the definition of the Assumption precisely
on the fact that she was associated with Him in the "struggle" against the
infernal enemy, and so, since the struggle was a work "in common", the
fruit there of, glorification, had to be similarly in common: resurrection
and ascension for Him, assumption for her.
In passing we might raise a question: if even the stiff-necked Jews
could see the mother of the Messiah in this text, then she who was full of
grace must have seen that fact too. And as we shall see presently, she knew
her Son was the Messiah. So, she was the woman foretold, to share in the
victory. Further, since the Church, in the person of Pius XII, could reason
that this victory implied an immaculate conception - very reasonably, for
the first Eve had an immaculate start, for original sin had not been
invented when she first appeared , so the new Eve should have the same
immaculate start -- if then, the Church now sees the immaculate conception
in this text of Gen 3:15, then would not our Lady herself have seen the
same truth, with her fullness of grace? In other words, it seems she knew
her own immaculate conception!
We should add too: many Scripture scholars, among them Pope John Paul
II ( # 24) believe the use of the word "woman", perhaps
an editorial adjustment, was used in Scripture to tie together four
passages: Gen 3:15, the Cana Episode, the scene at the foot of the Cross,
and the woman clothed with the sun in Apocalypse 12. We spoke in passing of
her as full of grace. We are well aware that many version today refuse that
translation, and water it far down, such as "favored one." But the official
text of the Church, the Vulgate, does have the rendering full of grace. And
not without reason. St. Luke used the Greek word , a perfect
passive participle, which is a very strong form. Further, the basic verb is
. Now verbs ending in form a class which in
general means to put a person or thing into the state indicated by the root
of the verb. e. g., leukos> means white, means to make white. The
meaning of the root of is favor or grace. So the verb means to
put her into favor or grace. But we need to be careful. If by favor we have
in mind only that God as it were sat there and smiled at her, but gave her
nothing, we would have the Pelagian heresy. So we might as well use the
word grace at the start, to indicate a gift He gave. Still further, the
Gospel uses in place of her personal name, Mary. That is a
usage comparable to our English pattern in which we might say of someone
that he is "Mr. Tennis", meaning the ultimate in the category of tennis. So
then she would be Miss Grace, the ultimate in the category of grace!
We cannot help noticing too that though many today deny that Isaiah
7:14 speaks of a virgin birth - although St. Matthew saw it-- yet she could
not have missed it. For she saw it being fulfilled in herself. It is true
the Targum as we now have it did not mark this passage as messianic. But we
know why, thanks to some splendidly honest modern Jewish scholars: Jacob
Neusner ( pp. 173 and 190), Samson Levey (, Hebrew Union College, 1974, p, . 152 and note
10), and H. J. Schoeps (, Westminster,
Phila, 1961, p. 129): Neusner tells us (p. 190) that when the Jews say the
christians using this prophecy, they pulled back, and said it was not the
Messiah. But they gave themselves away, for the Targums do mark Isaiah 9:5-
6 as Messianic, and everyone admits that the child in both 7:14 and 9:5-6
is the same child, for both passages belong to what is commonly called the
book of Emmanuel.
We will see more about Isaiah 9:5-6 later on.
To continue: Someone might well ask: Since He had come to redeem the
world, why did He spend most of that time, about 30 years, in a hidden
life? The answer is clear: He redeeming the world even then. Really,
Jesus merited for us not only on the cross, but in His whole life. The
Greek Fathers understood this especially well with their theology of
physical mystical solidarity. They meant that all humanity forms a unit, a
solidarity. Then the humanity of Christ comes to be part of that
solidarity. But His humanity is joined, in the unity of One Person, with
the Divinity. Therefore, as it were, a force or power spreads out from the
divinity, across the humanity of Christ and heals the rest of humanity.
This was so firm in the minds of the Eastern Fathers that St. Gregory of
Nazianzen in his was able to reason against Apollinaris:
"What He has not assumed, He has not healed." Apollinaris had said Christ
had no human rational soul. Within the framework of physical mystical
solidarity St. Gregory could argue that if He did not assume a human
rational soul, he did not heal human rational souls.
So they knew that even the first instant of His incarnation could have
been enough to bring about the whole of Redemption. Had He been born not in
a stable, but in a palace, had He stayed only moments, long enough to
say:"Behold, I come to do your will, O, God. . . . Father forgive them,"
that would have been an infinite redemption, coming from an infinite
person. The theme of His whole life was: "My food is to do the will of Him
who sent me", an echo and continuation of His initial words: Behold I come
to do your will O God."
So He spent about 30 out of His 33 years in the seclusion of a hidden
life. But since that hidden life was doing the will of the father, it was
infinitely meritorious. He wanted to teach the value of a family life
according to the Father's plan.
Now she was joined with Him in all this, and her part in all this was
meritorious, not infinitely, but immensely. We already saw that the New Eve
theme was contained in Genesis 3:15. So as New Eve her merit was not just
that of a private person, but that of the one appointed by the Father to
join in reversing the damage done by the old Eve.
Pope Paul VI, in an address to the 13th National Congress of the Italian
Feminine Center on Feb. 12, 1966 gave us a very profound statement:
"Christian marriage and the Christian family demand a moral commitment.
They are not an easy way of Christian life, even though the most common,
the one which the majority of the children of God are called to travel.
Rather, it is a long path toward sanctification." Even in the case of
ordinary couples, the path leads toward sanctification, if they act
according to the Father's plan. It is wonderfully sanctifying, if it is
undertaken precisely as doing the will of our Father in Heaven. Our Father
knew well how to entice, as it were, people to register for this course in
sanctification. He built into us a powerful attraction to the opposite sex.
If people follow through, after the initial emotion has simmered down, they
find themselves in a pattern of life which is not an easy one, but which
really is a long path towards sanctification. For the differences of male
and female psychology are tremendous, so great that even with an ideal
couple - not always to be found - each one could say honestly: "I have to
give in most of the time to make this work." And the generosity and
selflessness of even ordinary parents to their children is amazing. One
insurance commercial put it this way: "When you have children, their goals
become your goals."
The full perfection and sinlessness of Jesus the Son of Mary, and the
similar sinlessness of His Mother and St. Joseph would make this difficulty
of meshing two lives far less. Yet Mary and Joseph, and their Son, knew
that in living this family life they were following out the Father's plan
for mankind. And by , they were, as He said later at the
Jordan,"fulfilling all justice." They were doing what the Father willed.
But it is one thing to say that her living that family life was
meritorious, another thing to say that it was meritorious for our race. We
already noted that as New Eve she was appointed to help merit for all. But
there is more.
We get a start with the help of St. Paul, who in 1 Cor 12:26 wrote:
"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all
rejoice together." We find this same thought - not strangely, for Paul as
trained as a Rabbi - in a text of Simeon ben Eleazar in the 2nd century, in
the 1. 14: "He [anyone] has committed a transgression: woe to
him. He has tipped the scale to the side of debt for himself and for the
world. He has carried out a commandment: blessings on him. For he has
tipped the scale to the side of merit for himself and for the world."
Even though this text belongs a century after St. Paul, the idea that
sin is a debt is so prevalent among the Rabbis, that we may be confident it
was there in Paul's day too. Really the concept of sin a debt which the
Holiness of God wants to have paid is found all over the Old Testament, the
intertestamental literature, the New Testament, the Rabbis, and the Fathers
of the Church.
It is so strong that Leviticus 4 calls for a sacrifice to be offered for
even , an unwitting violation of the law. The Holiness of God
wants all that is right to be done. In the intertestamental literature, for
example, we read in 3. 5: "In heaven next to it are the
archangels, who minister and make propitiation to the Lord for all the sins
of ignorance of the righteous. Or the 3:8-9:"The
righteous man continually searches his house to remove utterly [all]
iniquity [done] by him in error. He makes atonement for [sins of] ignorance
by fasting and afflicting his soul." Nor is the theme lacking the New
Testament. In Luke 12: 47-48 on the lips of Our Lord Himself: "The slave
who knew his master's wishes but did not prepare to fulfill them will get a
severe beating; but the one who did not know them, but did things
[objectively] deserving blows will get off with fever stripes". St. Paul in
1 Cor 4:4 had this sort of thing in mind when he wrote: "I have nothing on
my conscience, but that does not mean that I am justified." The in 2. 3 tells the Corinthians: "You stretched out your
hands to the almighty God, beseeching him to be propitious, if you had
sinned at all unwillingly." In the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom there is
still a line before the Epistle: "Forgive us every offense, both voluntary
But as we said, it is one thing to say she merited much during the hidden
life. We got help from St. Paul to start. But now, more precisely: we read
several times that Moses appealed to the merits of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob and thereby won forgiveness for the sinful people. In
44. 1. R. Samuel ben Nahmani says Moses stood in prayer 40 days and 40
nights asking God to forgive the sin of the golden calf, but without any
result. But when he mentioned the merits of the fathers, God at once
forgave them. (Cf. A Marmorstein, (KTAV, 1968, . p. 151). . . . . The reason is that Abraham was
the Father of the whole people, and as such, his merits were of avail for
Now when she pronounced her , and became the mother of the Head
of the Mystical Body, then ipso facto, as Pius XII observed, in his message
to the Marian Congress of Ottawa, Canada, on June 19, 1947: "But when the
little maid of Nazareth uttered her to the message of the angel. . .
she became not only the Mother of God in the physical order of nature, but
also in the supernatural order of grace she became the Mother of all who. .
. would be made one under the Headship of her divine Son. The Mother of the
Head would be the Mother of the members. The Mother of the Vine would be
the Mother of the branches." So already on that day of the annunciation she
became the mother of the members of the Mystical Body of which her Son
Christ was the Head.
So it is obvious: if the merits of Abraham counted for all His people,
so did her merits count for all those of whom she became the spiritual
So just as He merited for all of us not only on the cross, but also in
His whole earlier life, so she too merited for all of us.
She did this, of course, not independently of Him, but as His Mother and
member. She, in her humility was completely unlike Philo's picture of
Abraham ( 4. 27) who "by the innate goodness of
his natural dispositions had acquired a spontaneous, self-taught, self-
That word is in ill favor today among many, but it should not be
so. A merit is really a claim to reward. But all of us gain a claim to a
reward not by our own power - not even Our Lady can do more - but inasmuch
as we are members of Christ and like Him. In Romans 8:17: "If children,
then heirs, heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with
Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." In that way, and to
that extent, we gain a claim to a reward. To put it another way: by grace
we are adopted as sons of God, and even given a share in His very divine
nature, as 2 Peter 1;4 tells us. Sons, as sons, do have a claim to be in
their Father's house. It is only in this sense that we, and even she, merit
heaven. So the Council of Trent (DS 1532) taught that we get justification
without any merit at all on our part. Then, the possession of that
justification, since it makes us sons of God, and sharers it the divine
nature, gives us a claim to entrance into the mansions of our Father (DS
1582) whose sons we are. A claim, as we said, is the same as a merit. So it
is only in this sense that we merit heaven. St. Paul sums sit up compactly
in Romans 6 :12: "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is
eternal life." Of course, once we achieve that dignity of sons and sharers
in the divine nature, then our works take on a great dignity, which calls
for reward:DS 1582).
Her merit on Calvary was, as we shall explain later, strictly beyond the
power of any actually existing creature to comprehend. But even before that
it was practically measureless. For among other things, there are three
special factors that affect how greatly an action is meritorious: the
dignity of the person, the work that is done, and the love with which it is
What then of all that she did, with the quasi infinite dignity of the
Mother of God, as Pius XI wrote, in an Encyclical written for the 1500th
anniversary of the Council of Ephesus, which defined her divine motherhood:
"From this dogma of the divine motherhood as from the font of a hidden
gushing spring, flows the singular grace of Mary and her dignity, second
only to God. In fact, as Aquinas writes: 'the Blessed Virgin, from the fact
that she is the Mother of God, has a sort of infinite dignity from the
infinite good that God is."
As to the works themselves that she carried out, she not only did
ordinary things in the hidden life, but things of extraordinary difficulty
as we will soon explain.
The love with which she acted meant her attachment to the will of God.
But that attachment, which is the same as holiness, was so great that even
at the start of her life, as Pius IX wrote in , it was so
great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God
can comprehend it." Of course, God being all powerful, could create a
creature capable of understanding her holiness/love. But He has not done
that. So actually, only God Himself can comprehend it.
In regard to the work, the difficulty of the work done greatly increases
merit. It is not that difficulty as such is worth anything. Not at all. But
we have in us only one thing that is free, our free wills. Therefore if we
could make that free will match entirely the will of the Father, there is
nothing else to do. Full perfection is attained. But when someone acts in
the face of great difficulty, then his/her will must adhere to that will of
the Father with all the greater force, or else fail.
It is interesting to examine precisely how it is that difficulty
increases that ability, and increases merit. Since we are made up of two
parts, body and soul, or matter and spirit, and since the two are so
closely tied together as to add up to one person, it follows that if we
have a condition on either one of the two sides, for smooth running there
should be a parallel condition on the other side that condition sis called
a resonance. When it falls on the side of the body, as is most usual, it is
called somatic resonance.
Now all spiritual perfection lies in the attachment of our wills to
the will of God, for there is only that one free element in us. How is it
then, that we could not just make one act of acceptance of His will and be
instantly perfect? There are chiefly two reasons: 1)We cannot at anyone
time foresee all that His will may ask of us before the end of our lives;
2)the development on the spiritual side is tied to development on the
somatic side. But hat somatic development follows the laws of the growth of
bodies: plants, animals, and children grow not in a constantly smoothly
rising curve. Rather the pattern is a step graph, consisting of long
plateaus, with small rises in between. Sol if anything can shakeup the
bodily side, the somatic resonance, then it is possible for spiritual
growth to be large instead of in small steps. When things are difficult,
especially when one must hold on in the dark, the rise, if one does well,
can be very large. It was large so often in her life. Hence her great
growth, a growth that could well be compared to geometric progression in
which each number is multiplied by itself, e. g, 2 x 2 = 4; 4 x 4 = 16, 16
x 16 = 256 etc.
It is in view of this that the Father often puts persons in situations
where they must as it were hold on in the dark. Abraham had been told by
God that he was to be the Father of a great nation through Isaac. Yet later
- we do not know how long it was - God told Abraham to kill that son in
sacrifice. Abraham might well have said at that point: Now I recall you
told me I am to be the Father of a great nation through this son Isaac. I
must believe your word, and I do believe it. But now you tell me to kill
him before your promise can begin to be fulfilled. So please tell me which
of the two things you will me to do, and I will do it.
But Abraham said nothing of the kind. He simply started out, working
in the dark, that is, adhering to the will of the Father when it seemed
utterly impossible to do what the Father commanded. We know the outcome.
By putting Abraham into such a difficult position, God wanted Abraham
to profit spiritually in an enormous degree. Abraham did that, and His
faith was a merit for all his posterity.
Now Our Lady was put into such difficulty many times. First at the
annunciation, she knew at once from the words of the archangel that her Son
was to be the Messiah. For the angel had told her that her Son would reign
over the house of Jacob forever. Practically all Jews then believed that
only the Messiah would reign forever. Yet she knew the prophecy of Isaiah
53 about the terrible suffering and death of the Messiah. Ordinary Jews
seem to have had great difficulty with it, to such an extent that the
Targum on Isaiah 53 turned the meek lamb into an arrogant conqueror. She
would not do that, she would understand.
Her works were holy as she was holy. Isaiah loves to stress: God is
the Holy One. Zeus/Juppiter, chief god of Greece and Rome, was not so much
immoral as amoral. He lived beyond the reach of morality. The gods of
Mesopotamia, from whence the Hebrews came, were often of much of the same
temper. Thus the Mesopotamian gods sent the great flood not to punish the
immorality of the human race, but simply out of whim -and then were afraid
of it, and cowered on the battlements of heaven until it was over.
What a striking revelation was it then for the world when Psalm 11:7
proclaimed: "God is and He loves sedaqoth." He Himself observes
morality, and He loves things that are done in accord with morality - such
as the actions of Jesus and Mary in the Holy Family.
That word Holy, which the angels triply proclaimed before the
astonished gaze of Isaiah, really meant that God loves all that is morally
right. We can see this fact all over the Old Testament, the
intertestamental writings of the Jews, the New Testament, the Rabbis, and
the Fathers of the Church.
We have grown accustomed to the idea that there are three Persons in
the one God. But in her culture, and even to her, that idea was strange,
incomprehensible. Of course it is really incomprehensible to us too. It is
just that we have grown up with it, and so it never did have the impact it
would have when it first burst forth upon the world.
We saw it is obvious she knew her Son was to be the Messiah. That
understanding would be helped by Genesis 49:10, a line which again, so many
Catholic scholars find hard to understand, while fine Jews see it clearly.
Thus Jacob Neusner (op. cit. , p. 242 cites that line and then says: "It is
difficult to imagine how Gen 49:10 could have been read as other than a
messianic prediction." Not long before the annunciation, it was clear that
the time for the prophecy was at hand. For there had been some sort of
ruler from the tribe of Judah all along, until 41 B. C. when Rome imposed
Herod on them as Tetrach, and then in 37, as King. Herod by birth was not
of the tribe of Judah, was half Arab, half Idumean. Neusner also reports
(p. 12) that messianic expectation was intense and high at the time.
Did she also have to face the difficult belief in more than one Person
in God? Did she know He was to be divine? It is hard to escape that
First the archangel said her Son was to be conceived when the Holy
Spirit would her. That word was the same word used in Exodus
40:35 for the divine presence filing the ancient tabernacle in the desert.
She would easily grasp that. Then the archangel continued , the Son would be called Son of God. An ordinary Jew could be
called a son of God (cf. Hosea 11:1), but this was not the usual sense. He
was to be called Son of God for the unique reason that He would be
conceived by her being filled with the Divine Presence, like the Tabernacle
of old. Most likely she saw His divinity at this point.
But there were many helps toward seeing that in the Old Testament.
First, Isaiah 9:5-6, which, as the Targum shows, the Jews knew was
Messianic, said the child was to be , God the Mighty (he NAB
version as "God-hero" is completely indefensible, linguistically and
otherwise. Not even modern Jewish versions of Isaiah make such a
mistranslation, though they naturally would want to avoid the divinity of
the messiah). The difficulty the Jews had with this line was
understandable, for they had had monotheism hammered into them. So had she.
But what the stiff-necked Jews did not probably see, she, full of grace,
would hardly miss.
And there were additional helps in the OT, as we said:
In Psalm 80. 15-18 God is asked to visit this vine "and the stock which
your right hand has planted. . . . Let your hand be upon the man of your
right hand, upon the son of man whom you have strengthened for yourself."
Samson Levey () here comments: "It
would appear that the Targum takes the Messiah to be the son of God, which
is much too anthropomorphic and Christological to be acceptable in Jewish
exegesis." He notes that neither the earlier nor the later rabbis took up
this interpretation by the Targum. Rather, he says that some of the later
rabbis "carefully steer clear of any messianic interpretation " by the
Targum here. (In passing: we note that here the Messiah is called Son of
Further, Psalm 45. 7-8 says: "Your throne, O God, is ever and ever. .
. . God your God has anointed you with the oil of rejoicing." Even though
some think the Psalm was occasioned by a royal marriage, the Targum saw it
as messianic. Levey even remarks that the Hebrew word for king in
verses 2, 6, 12, 15, and 16 is understood as God.
There is still more in Ezekiel 34. 11: God Himself said: "For thus
says the Lord God: Behold I, I will search out my sheep and seek them out."
We notice the repeated "I", which seems to stress the thought that God
Himself would come. But in verse 23 of the same chapter: "I will set one
shepherd over them, my servant David." The Targum Jonathan does treat the
psalm as messianic. Of course this is not conclusively clear, but there
could be an implication that the Messiah, called here "my servant David"
would be God Himself.
Again, in Jeremiah 23. 3 God said: "and I myself shall gather the
remnant of the my sheep from all the lands to which I have driven them."
But in verse 5: "I will raise up for David a righteous branch." That word
"branch" is often taken by the Targums to indicate the Messiah. Hence
Targum Jonathan on verse 5 does use "a righteous Messiah" instead of
"branch". Then, surprisingly, in verse 6: "And this is the name which He
shall call him: the Lord is our righteousness." In the later Midrash,
1. 51 we read :"What is the name of the King Messiah?
R. Abba b. Kahana said: 'His name is 'the Lord'". In the Hebrew text of
that passage, the word for Lord is Yahweh! It is astounding to find a later
rabbi doing such a thing. (cf. Levey, op. cit, p. 70).
Still another passage appears in Jeremiah 30. 11: "For I am with you -
oracle of Yahweh - to save you." The Targum clearly calls this passage
messianic. Levey notices this, and comments: "in v. 11 the apparent
anthropomorphism of God being with Israel, in the physical sense is
softened by the use of the word Memra" - Memra is a puzzling word in the
Targums, which seems in general to refer to the complex interplay between
God's constancy and the fickleness of His people - but a times, it seems to
mean God Himself. (On Memra cf. Bruce Chilton, ,
Glazier, 1987, p. lvi).
So there were multiple indications of the divinity of her Son. But, as
we said, this would be a shock to her, an occasion for holding on in the
dark. For she as we said had had monotheism hammered into her: but now she
learns that still another Person, he Son, is to be God!
She may even have picked up the fact that the Spirit who was to
overshadow her was a separate Person. It was entirely clear that the Spirit
was divine, from the connection to Exodus 40:35 as we said.
Then she would have to cope with a revelation even of the most Holy
Trinity. We, as we said above, have grown up with the concept of Three
Person but only One God. But if she picked up the implication we have
brought out, it would be something entirely new that burst upon her at this
We can add: Not a few Saints have been given the grace to sense the
presence of Jesus in the Eucharist in Tabernacles. She who was full of
grace- how could she fail to sense the divine presence within her, for nine
months. But then, what reverence. A strong rabbinic tradition, beginning
with Philo ( 2. 14. 68-69) held that Moses after his first
encounter with God in a vision, never could bring himself to have sex again
with his wife. What reverence, what immense merit in her who had not just a
vision, but the physical presence of the Divine Son within her for nine
months! In passing, how could some today dare to think she must have had
several additional sons and daughters after Jesus, when even Moses could
not bring himself to that after just one vision. And what of Joseph, more
holy than Moses!
Was it easy, perhaps even not necessary for her to have faith after
such a vision? Not at all. She as we saw, had to hold on in the dark to
believe most difficult things. And further, after His birth, and during all
the hidden life, there would be a constant clash between two voices, as it
were, the voice of her faith telling her that this child is divine, and the
voice of her senses telling her that He feels like just any ordinary child,
and even has normal baby needs!
On entering into this world, as Hebrews said (10:7), He said: "Behold,
I come to do your will, O God." The Church teaches, though so many deny it,
that from the first instant of conception His human soul had the vision of
God, in which all knowledge is present. Pius XII even specified, in his
Encyclical (DS 3812) that at that point "when just received
in the womb of the Mother of God, He has all the members of the Mystical
Body continuously and perpetually present to Himself, and embraces hem with
salvific love. The same Pope repeated his teaching in
(1951 DS 3905) and still again in (1956, DS 3924). - We
add that anything taught repeatedly on the ordinary magisterium level is
infallible. So this surely is. - It is obvious that all throughout His life
He suffered anguish from the knowledge of all that He was to suffer. He
allowed us to see inside Himself, as it were, in Luke 12:50:"I have a
baptism to be baptized with, and how am I constrained until it is
accomplished!" He meant He knew He had to be plunged into the depths of
terrible suffering, and was as it were in a tight spot, could not get
comfortable until it would be over with. He let us look again in John
12:27: "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father save me from
this hour." And then in Gethsemani the lifelong nightmare caught up with
Him, and He could not waken Himself by a scream to find it only a dream.
No, it was there, and He literally sweated blood, as the capillaries
adjacent to the sweat glands ruptured from the impossible interior tension
and poured out their red tide though those orifices. He even experienced
agonizing fear, as Mark 14:34 tells us. For His humanity was, by the will
of the Father and His own consequent self-emptying (Phil 2:7) unprotected
by divine resources from the natural consequences of so terrible a
prevision. So He was even moved to beg the Father to let the chalice pass.
Really, it could have passed, and there still would have been an infinite
redemption, since any act of the God-man, as we saw above, was of infinite
merit, infinite in reparation. B ut the Father willed that He should drink
the biter chalice even to the dregs, to show the immense measure - really
entirely beyond measure - of His love.
She began to suffer with Him and so to merit for us at the
annunciation, for then as we said, she knew the terrible prophecy of Isaiah
53. She knew Psalm 22 which He was to recite on the cross: "They have
pierced my hands and my feet"(22:16). She knew the related prophecy of
Zechariah 12:10: "They shall look on whom they have pierced, and they
shall mourn for as one mourns for an only son." Even the RSV fears to
render the underlined pronouns as the Hebrew has them. But the message is
plain:the one who is pierced is divine,"me";and "Him" refers to the Messiah
as if another person.
All spiritual perfection lies in aligning one's will with the will of
the Father. And when what He positively wills is known, it is required that
one positively will what the Father wills. So she as called upon even from
the start of her association with the suffering Messiah to will what she
knew the Father willed, what she knew her Son willed. She spoke her
to all that, perhaps not fully realized at the very moment of the
annunciation, yet surely present to her soul as she pondered all these
things in her heart, meriting immensely along with Him.
Not even the nativity scene, with the song of the angels, was exempt
from trials. His circumcision, the first shedding of His blood, was painful
to Him and therefore to her as well.
His presentation in the temple was most difficult: we might well call it
the offertory of the great sacrifice. Other parents bought their sons back
from the service of God. She and He, in obedience to the law, went through
that same ritual. But they knew it was not buying Him back. Rather, it was
giving Him over. For He, since He had had that divine vision in His soul
from the start and at the start had said: "Behold, I come to do your will O
God", He renewed that offering then, or rather, He continued it, with that
new expression of it. She too, continuing her , echoed that offering
Both knew what that implied, what it was to bring. Even though it was
well known in advance, yet to actually go through this offering must have
been painful indeed.
The prophecy of Simeon similarly, even though it conveyed no new
information to her, yet it would be painful to have to hear explicitly that
a sword would pierce her soul as He would be the stone on whom some would
stumble and fall, though some would rise.
Soon there came the threat to His life from Herod. This was in a way
strange indeed: He, the Messiah, whom she most likely knew to be even
divine, could He not protect Himself? But Joseph and Mary obeyed the angel
and went into exile into Egypt.
At age 12 something strange happened. He allowed His parents to be in
grief and distress for three days, while seeking HIm, to find Him in the
temple. His reply: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's
business? -- this puzzled them. It need not mean they did not know who He
was. Rather, it is evident that His way of behaving was such a radical
departure from His usual kind and considerate way. It is that they could
not understand, and so had to hold on in the dark, with immense merit,
until the light dawned.
During the long years of that hidden life, humanly she might well have
wondered: when will He begin the mission for which He came? And yet, she
would find the thought of that mission hard to bear, for she knew all too
well to what it would lead.
At the start of His public life came the wedding at Cana. She, sin a
really feminine way, did not ask Him to do anything, she merely hinted,
saying: They have no wine. His response was such as to cause again an
occasion of holding on in the dark for her, with a chance for great
spiritual merit and growth. For the words "What is it to you and to me" in
the Old Testament do not carry a favorable color. There are two types of
this usage. One is in the sense of,"What did I do to bring this on?"
Examples are in Judges 11:12; 2 Chron 35:21 and 1 Kings 17:18. The other
type is about the same as saying: "This is your affair, not mine." Examples
are found in 1 Kings 3:13 and Hosea 14:8.
She did hold on well in the dark, as we can see from her words to the
waiters: Do whatever He tells you. And the outcome proved her faith was not
misplaced. It brought His very first miracle, the first open example of the
power of her intercession with Him. He advanced the hour. Some think that
word always refers to the hour of His death. But that would not at all fit
here. Rather, it is the time He had set for beginning His miracles. Really,
even so He did not change the time: in making His decision before then as
to when the time would actually come, He had taken into account in advance
her intercession. Without her intercession, the time would have been
We might think of asking: Since she was full of grace at the start, how
could she grow? The answer is that sanctifying grace is simply the ability
to take in the vision of God face to face in the world to come. Since that
vision is infinite, and we are so finite, our capacity can always increase.
At the start, then, she was full of grace, in that she had all the ability
of which her soul was capable at that point. But that capability could
advance, especially by doing things that were difficult, such as holding on
in the dark.
So her merit for us, and her personal growth went on at a dizzying
pace. Again, we might compare it to a geometric progression.
We might be tempted to think that between the best of Sons and the
best of Mothers, everything would be sweetness and light. We already saw
the strange episode of finding in the Temple at age 12, a case that
required holding on in the dark. We saw another at Cana. Now we see some
very surprising cases. As Luke 11:27 tells us: "And it happened, when He
said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him:
Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked. But He
said: Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it."
The thought is much the same in another passage, from Mark 3:20-35.
Some of those about Him, seeing He preached so intently that He would not
stop to eat, thought Him out of His mind, and went out to take Him by
force. Then -- if indeed the incident is chronologically placed -- the
scribes said He was casting out devils by the devils. Next, His Mother and
relatives came to a crowd where He was speaking. It was announced to Him.
Instead of inviting her in and telling the crowd: I want you to meet my
Mother, He replied "Who are my mother and my brothers? And looking around
on those who sat about Him He said: Here are my Mother and my brother.
Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister, and mother."
Both incidents just mentioned not only do not praise or accept her, but
seem to reject or to put her down. Surely, both were difficult occasions
for immense merit of holding on in the dark. It would be only by pondering
in her heart that she could find the right interpretation.
Vatican II supplies the correct understanding in LG #58: "In the course
of His preaching, she received the words in which her Son praised those who
heard the word of God and kept it, as she was faithfully doing, more than
the reasons and bonds of flesh and blood." That is, He was making a
comparison of two forms of greatness: that of being the Mother of God -
which as we saw, is a quasi-infinite dignity - and hearing and keeping the
word of God. The second category is greater than the first. But she was at
the peak in both categories. She had indeed received the Word of God at the
annunciation, and thereby received the Word made flesh, and further she had
kept His words faithfully, as Vatican II said. That was even in her a
greater dignity than that of the Mother of God.
Not only on the occasions just mentioned, but all throughout His
public life, when He received the acclaim of the crowds, she in humility
had remained in the background.
But towards the end, the Apostles, and so many would have been able to
see He was in danger of death. There may be a hint of that in Mark 10:32:
they are on the road to Jerusalem, and "Jesus was walking ahead of them;
and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid." Already long
before this point His enemies had resolved to ill Him. They were afraid to
arrest Him openly, for the crowds considered Him a prophet. But He, even
without the vision in His human soul, just naturally, could have seen this
coming. And she too must have seen it coming. Yet just as He went ahead,
wanting to fulfill His redemptive sacrifice, so too would she.
When He was in agony in the garden, she must have known even if at
some distance. For there seems to be such a thing as extrasensory
perception, which is probably just a natural phenomenon. So many have had
it, and it comes especially to mothers when their sons are in danger. So
she must have perceived His agony, and continuing her would have
willed what she knew the Father willed.
Then He was arrested, and everything was all too obvious. She, as we
said, had modestly and humbly remained in the background when He was
acclaimed by the crowds. But now, when the terrible blackness came over
Calvary, she moved out of the shadows and into that darkness, to share His
disgrace, to merit with Him, even though of course only in subordination to
It is not enough to say that He redeemed us by dying. Of course that
is true. But we still ask: How did that operate? There are three aspects to
the redemption: new covenant, sacrifice, payment of debt or rebalance of
the objective order. She shared in a singular way in all aspects, by her
obedience to the will of the Father.
First it was a new covenant. At Sinai, God had promised favor with
obedience as the condition. Jeremiah 31:31-33 had foretold a new covenant,
again with obedience as the condition. Probably Jeremiah did not see that
the obedience was to be that of the divine Messiah and His Mother. Yet that
was to be it. At the Last Supper, He said over the chalice: "This is the
chalice of my blood, the new and eternal covenant, which is to be shed for
you and for all so that sins may be forgiven." Yes, the Father's love of
objective goodness did not wish to forgive sins without a rebalance of the
moral order. So His blood was to be shed "so that sins might be
forgiven."But as we said the condition of that new covenant was obedience,
first His obedience even to death. But also her obedience in willing what
the Father willed. She had been appointed to this work as the New Eve, as
the one foretold in Genesis 3:15 as sharing in the struggle and the victory
over sin and death.
Secondly, it as the great sacrifice. She was even physically present
at it. In Isaiah 29:13 God had complained:"This people honors me with their
lips, but their hearts are far from But now the Hearts of Jesus and His
Mother were not far from the will of the Father. Rather, they, knowing what
He willed, willed the same-- all sanctify as we said consists in conformity
of one's will with the will of the Father. And when the soul know what He
positively wills, then it must and will positively will. it. So she then at
immense cost, did even will that He die, die then, die so horribly.
He on entering into the world had offered that: Behold I come to do your
will O God. She in unison of Heart has said her which she not only
never retracted, but intensely continued, even to the Cross. The difficulty
of willing His death is literally beyond our comprehension. For to do that
was to go most directly contrary to her love for Him. How great was it?
Strictly beyond the comprehension of anyone but God Himself. And this is
most strictly true, is no mere rhetoric. For we saw already that Pius IX,
in defining the Immaculate Conception, had said that her holiness at the
start was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no
one but God can comprehend it."But, in practice, holiness and love of God
are interchangeable terms. Therefore, her love, a principal measure of her
suffering, was really beyond the ability of any actually existing creature
to comprehend. We said "actually existing creature" since of course God
being almighty, could have created a creature capable of comprehending her
Son. But as a matter of fact, He has not done that. So only God could
comprehend her love, and consequently, her suffering. This was done in
union of will. It was that obedience of will which gave all the value to
His sacrifice. Without that it would have been a tragedy, not a sacrifice.
It would have been as empty as that of which God complained in Isaiah
29:13. But she by her obedience, at cost beyond our comprehension, joined
in that will which gave all the value to His sacrifice. She did it as the
new Eve, as the one foretold as sharing in the victory over sin and death.
The third aspect is that of the rebalance of the objective order, or
the payment of the debt of sin. We saw that the Holiness of God really
means His love of all that is objectively right. Sinners had taken from the
scales, as it were - we recall the words of Simeon ben Eleazar - what they
had no right to take. He, and she in union with Him, both owing nothing,
yet gave up, put back more than all sinners of all ages together had taken
away. This was a self-emptying spoken of in Philippians 2:7. This was the
sacrifice that made our peace and won all forgiveness and grace, once for
We have been working basically with Scripture alone to show the fact
of Our Lady's immediate cooperation in the objective redemption, by way of
obedience, which was part of the covenant condition, of the essential
interior disposition of the sacrifice, or rebalancing the objective order.
This fits perfectly with the teachings of the magisterium. There are 17
documents, from every Pope from Leo XIII to John Paul II inclusive, plus
Vatican II that teach this truth.
To illustrate, we look at #61: "The Blessed Virgin,
predestined from eternity along with the incarnation of the divine Word as
the Mother of God, by design of divine Providence was the gracious Mother
of the divine Redeemer, in a singular way more than others, and the
generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. In conceiving Christ,
in bringing Him forth, in nourishing Him, in presenting Him to the Father
in the temple, in suffering with her Son as He died on the Cross, she
cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by
obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to
souls. As a result, she is our Mother in the order of grace."
That is indeed a magnificent text. It begins as we did, with her union
with Him in the eternal decree for the Incarnation. It speaks of her
association with Him throughout all His life, and especially in the great
sacrifice itself. It says she did this in a singular way - which means that
even though St. John was present at the Cross, he was not in the position
in which she was, the New Eve, His associate, the one appointed "by design
of Divine Providence" to act thus. It stresses especially that her role was
one of obedience. LG #56 had twice said her role was accomplished by
obedience, in contrast to the disobedience of the first Eve, to undo what
the first Eve had bound by disobedience. John Paul II in #19 expressed the same truth excellently,"as a sharing in the
sacrifice of Christ - the new Adam - it becomes in a certain sense the
counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our
first parents. Thus teach the Fathers of the Church and especially St.
Irenaeus, quoted by the Constitution : 'The knot of Eve's
disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience. . . . '"
There is something really remarkable that not everyone has noticed
here. At the start of that Chapter 8 of the Council had
said it did not intend to settle debates in Mariology. Yet we believe it is
clear that it did settle the chief debate. Such a thing is very possible.
We saw above that in LG #55 the Council indicated that perhaps the human
writers of Gen 3:15 and Is 7:14 did not understand all that the Church now,
guided by the Holy Spirit, has gradually come to see. We noted it is likely
that Jeremiah did not fully understand his prophecy of the new covenant. We
saw that St. Irenaeus implied more than he is likely to have seen, in his
words about the knot, cited by the Council. So too the Council, an
instrument in the hands of Divine Providence, certainly could, if God so
willed, write more than it saw.
Now before the Council there were two positions about her cooperation on
Calvary: 1)The German theory of active receptivity, in which she would, as
it were, merely put forth her hand [active] and pick up what she had no
share in producing [receptivity]. 2)The position of Cardinal Santos and
associates, according to which she shared by meriting, that is,
contributing to establishing a claim to all forgiveness and grace. Hence in
LG #61 and 56 the Council said, three times, that she shared by obedience.
But as we have explained, obedience is sharing in the covenant condition,
sharing in the interior disposition which gave all its value to the great
sacrifice, obedience is rebalancing the objective order of paying the debt
incurred by the disobedience of our first parents, and all other humans. Of
course that is not merely picking up something which she had no share in
producing (to say that is really a Lutheran theology of redemption: merely
appropriating). No, she shared actively in the ways indicated.
How actively? Any soul should positively will what the Father wills.
Since there is in us only one free thing, our free wills, to align that
will with the will of the Father is all the perfection requires. She in
that dread hour knew what the FAther willed, that her Son die, die then,
die so horribly. So she was called upon not to just passively acquiesce,
but to actively will what the Father willed! She did that, heroically, and
did it going counter to her love, which was so great that, according to
"none greater under God can be thought of, and no one
but God can comprehend it." ( spoke of her holiness -but
holiness and love are in practice interchangeable terms). So her suffering
is literally beyond our comprehension, beyond that of any actually existing
creature (though God could create a creature to comprehend it, but actually
He has not done so). Again, John Paul II, in , after
saying in that he intended to deepen the theology of
Vatican II on her faith, wrote in #18: "How great, how heroic, then, is the
'obedience of faith' [Rom 1:5] shown by Mary in the face of God's
'unsearchable judgments'! How completely she 'abandons herself to God'
without reserve, 'offering the full assent of the intellect and the will'
to him whose 'ways are inscrutable'. . . . At the foot of the Cross Mary
shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying [cf.
Phil 2:5-8]. This is perhaps the deepest 'kenosis' in human
history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his
redeeming death. . . ." Now since according to St. Paul, faith requires
belief in God's word, confidence in His promises, and above all, the
'obedience of faith' [cf. Rom 1:5] that is, the full alignment of human
will with the will of the Father, so she by her faith shared in the
obedience that is the covenant condition, in the interior disposition of
the sacrifice, in the rebalancing of the objective order or paying the debt
of all sin, which is really the same as the price of redemption [cf. 1 Cor
Of course, this is far beyond any mere "active receptivity".
We can see that truth by Scripture, as we have done, by the words of
Vatican II, and by the Encyclical .
Now about the objection that since she had to be redeemed, she could not
cooperate in the redemption, which would include her own redemption, we
have two replies:
1)the Magisterium has taught repeatedly, so often as to constitute an
infallible teaching, that she did so cooperate. We saw above how precise
and clear this teaching is, we saw it cannot be taken as something merely
loose or vague, especially since LG ##56 & 61 had said three times that she
shared by obedience, the covenant condition, and that which gave its value
even to His sacrifice. Pius XII, in the constitution solemnly defining the
assumption, had even gone so far as to speak of her role on Calvary as a
work "in common" with Him. Even if we could not explain the how, we should
still believe an infallible teaching. The saying is very true: a thousand
difficulties do not add up to one doubt, when the assurance of the truth is
2)One major aspect of the redemption is that it is a new covenant. Two
comments on that:
a)He who makes a covenant does not ask, need not ask of a proposed
covenantor: Are you worthy to fulfil this condition, so that if you do
this, I will do that? No, the one who makes the covenant has the sovereign
right to set whatever terms and conditions He wishes, and to choose whoever
he wishes as a covenant partner, especially when the originator of the
covenant is God Himself. Really, He could have set as a condition for the
whole of redemption an animal sacrifice by any ordinary human, and have
even bound Himself by advance promise to accept it.
b)There are two levels within the new covenant, so that if we ask
why God gives good things under it, there are two answers, on the two
levels. First, on the most basic level, everything He gives is unmerited,
unmeritable, for no creature by its own power can establish a claim on God.
And He cannot be moved at all. But then, on the secondary level, that is,
given the fact that the Father has freely created and entered into a
covenant, then if the human fulfills the condition set, the Father owes it
to Himself to give what He has promised. Really, even the death of Jesus
was on this secondary level. It did not move the Father: He could not be
moved, did not need to be moved. It was because the Father always loved us
that Jesus came, not that Jesus came and then the Father dropped His anger.
The old language on this subject often spoke much of meriting
redemption on a basis of justice. But we must never forget that no creature
at all can ever establish any kind of claim on God, whether in justice or
on a lesser level, by its own power. It can establish any sort of claim
only if God as it were says: "If you do this, I will do that." So St.
Augustine wrote well in saying to God ( 9. 5): "You deign to
even become a debtor by your promises to those to whom you forgive their
So there is no need to think of logical momenta in her cooperation, as
if she had to earn on a primary, basic level. No, as we saw, even the work
of Jesus, infinite though it was, was on the secondary level. It was, to
borrow an expression from St. Thomas, a (ST I. 19. 5. c)
"Vult hoc esse propter hoc, sed non propter hoc vult hoc. That is: God in
His love of good order, of all that is right, loves to have one thing in
place to serve as a reason or title for giving the second thing, even
though that title does not at all move Him. Again, we must not forget that
He cannot be moved, and needed not to be moved to love us.
I had a very indulgent grandfather who acted somewhat in this way.
Each year the day before New Year's Day he would tell me: "Now phone me
tomorrow. If you can say Happy New Year before I do, you win a dollar."
This of course was a setup. He arranged a condition which he did not at
all need, which did not at all earn the dollar. But in his generosity he
was trying to find a fine way to give. St. Irenaeus tells us (4. 14. 1):
"In the beginning God formed Adam not because He stood in need of man, but
that He might have someone to receive His benefits."
When we finally grasp this perspective, when we realize that even the
merits of His Son did not move the Father, who did not need to be moved,
who could not be moved, but who made a setup suited to His own purpose - we
already saw that that purpose entailed two things: His desire to fully
satisfy everything that was right, i.e. , to rebalance the scales of the
objective order, and, secondly to provide a means of giving to us, of
making us open to receive - then we think again of my grandfather on New
Within, then, such a framework, with such an attitude on the part of
Our Father, if He, the supreme master who makes the covenant, wants to set
whatever condition it pleases Him to set, then if any human, even if it
were a mere, an ordinary human, if that human fulfills the covenant
condition, then the human is providing the Father with a reason for giving,
which the Father did not need, but yet willed for the two reasons just
reviewed. So if Our Lady joins in the condition set by the Father, there is
no problem at all: she is meeting the condition which His excessive
generosity liked to set, as a means of giving for a great New Year's Day.
Every comparison limps. Very true. And our does limp. But to limp
means to be partly parallel, partly not. So there is in our comparison a
lack of parallel in that what the Father in Heaven calls for is not just a
phone call, but the terrible suffering of His Son, and the incomprehensible
suffering of the Mother of that Son, so that even, as St. Paul says in Rom
8:17: "We are heirs provided we suffer with Him. . . ." But there is still
a great parallel in that in both cases the Father receives no benefit. What
is done at His request does not at all move Him: . The request made by the Father is still basically a means of giving
which He loves to have for the two reasons given above, that He loves all
objective goodness (here, rebalance), and that it is to benefit us His
Now that all graces have been earned, once for all (cf. Hebrews
9:29), is there further role for Our Lady? The mere fact that she shared in
earning all graces -- for Calvary did not earn just some graces, but all
graces -- would all by itself warrant our calling her the Mediatrix of all
But there is much more. We saw above that Moses more than once
appealed to the merits of Abraham in asking God to grant forgiveness. Did
this mean that Abraham at the precise moment asked the Father to give
forgiveness? Before the death of Christ, Abraham would not have yet had the
beatific vision, in which He could see what Moses was asking and respond.
Yet in some way we may suppose God did take Abraham into account.
This could have been in two ways. First, The Father even without
giving Abraham the beatific vision could have made known to Abraham that
Moses was appealing for help. Then Moses could have responded. Second, even
if Abraham was not made aware of the request of Moses, yet the established
merit of Abraham would of itself provide a reason- a "hoc propter hoc" for
We may speak in a parallel way about our Lady, except that there is no
doubt that she now sees all her spiritual children and all their needs in
the face to face vision of which St. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 13:12, the
beatific vision. That vision is of course, infinite. A creature will see in
it in proportion to the degree of grace with which that creature left this
life. But she was full of grace, grace was so great that "none greater
under God can be thought of, and only God can comprehend it" Or, as we saw,
her suffering with Her Divine Son was beyond our comprehension. So she even
now sees in that face to face vision all of her children and knows all of
their needs. She can then actively ask for them by way of intercessory
prayer. We are tremendously numerous, and our needs numerous, yet that is
not too much for her soul to take in, enlightened by a light proportioned
to her fullness of grace.
Secondly, even if she were not asking individually for our needs, yet
her merits, beyond our comprehension, provide a "hoc propter hoc", a reason
for the granting of what we need. The Father already wants to grant all
forgiveness and grace - He bound Himself by accepting the price of
redemption, which is infinite, to grant forgiveness and grace infinitely.
So there is no limit at all to that to which He has bound Himself to give.
The only limit is imposed by the receptivity or lack thereof on the part of
us individually. We recall that His commandments were given to tell us how
to be open to receive that which He so intensely wills to give.
So there are two scriptural reasons why we may and should call her
Mediatrix of all graces.
We add that she has a role in each Mass, the very heart of the
distribution of all graces. For a sacrifice has two elements, the outward
sign, and the interior disposition. As to the outward sign, the body and
blood on the altar are still those which she provided for her Son. As to
the interior disposition, just as His attitude of obedience to the Father
today is a continuation of that with which He left this world, so too her
acceptance of the Father's will which she had at Calvary, did not diminish
thereafter, and now is permanently continuing in the glory of heaven. John
Paul II confirmed these deductions in an address to the crowds in St.
Peter's square on Sunday Feb. 12, 1984 (, English
edition, Feb. 20, 1984, p. 10):"Today I wish to dwell with you on the
Blessed Virgin's presence in the celebration of the Liturgy. . . . Every
liturgical action. . . is an occasion of communion. . . and in a particular
way with Mary. . . . Because the Liturgy is the action of Christ and of the
Church. . . she is inseparable from one and the other. . . . Mary is
present in the memorial - the liturgical action - because she was present
at the saving event. . . . She is at every altar where the memorial of the
Passion and Resurrection is celebrated because she was present, faithful
with her whole being to the Father's plan, at the historic salvific
occasion of Christ's death."
Again, as before, we see if the magisterium confirms our Scriptural
understanding just given that she is Mediatrix of all graces. And we are
Vatican II, in LG #62 did call her Mediatrix. It did not, however, add
the words "of all graces". The reason? First of all, it was not needed. For
as we said, the very fact that she shared in earning not just some but all
graces, means she shares in every grace that is given out. Secondly, there
was the unfortunate influence of Protestant observers at Vatican II. As C.
Balic, one of the drafters of Chapter 8, tells us (in "El Capitulo VIII de
la Constitucion 'Lumen gentium' comparado con el Primer Esquema de La B.
Virgen de la Iglesia" in 27, 1966, p. 174) Protestant
observers had said in advance that if the Church said too much, dialogue on
the topic would be ended.
But further, the Council itself added a footnote to its statement that
she is Mediatrix, referring us to texts of Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI,
and Pius XII, which call her Mediatrix of all graces. Really, there are
still more papal texts: Leo XIII (Encyclical, ) wrote: "nothing at all of that very great treasury of all
grace which the Lord brought us. . . is imparted to us except through Mary"
and again ( internal quote is from St.
Bernardine, n. 6): "'Every grace that
is communicated to this world has a threefold course. For by excellent
order, it is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from
the Virgin to us. '" St. Pius X (, Feb. 2, 1904) called her
"Dispensatrix" of all the gifts which Jesus gained for us by His death."
And in , of August 27, 1910, he called her "the
treasurer of all graces." Pius XI three times also called her "treasurer of
all graces" (in AAS 14, 186; AAS 16, 152, and AAS 18. 213). Pius XII
(, May 13, 1946) said "nothing is excluded from her
dominion." John XXIII (, Jan 31, 1959)
wrote:"Did not the Lord will that we have everything through Mary" and in
"From her hands hope for all graces."
Her Son promised to send us a new Advocate (Jn 15:26; 16:7). He
Himself had been their Advocate and still is (1 Jn 2:1). She was and is, as
we saw, intimately associated with Him as advocate. Further, just as Israel
was considered the spouse of God (Is 54:5; Hos 2:19), and as St. Paul spoke
of the Church as the spouse of Christ (2 Cor 11:2; cf. Eph 5:25), so too we
could speak of her as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit to whom she is ever
most perfectly faithful, her soul ever responding to any slight breeze from
the Spirit sent through His Gifts.
In Isaiah 55:9 God said: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so
are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." On
hearing this a man might well wonder: How then can I understand God, how
know what He wills, how to deal with him? But In Jesus we have the answer.
He, though a Divine Person, has a fully human heart, which we can
understand. Pius XII in even says that Jesus has a love
of feeling in His human heart. But then, someone might still say: Yes, but
His heart is the heart of a Divine Person. However, her heart is purely,
entirely human, and yet it is completely in unison with His. So her
Immaculate Heart can and does assure us we have in heaven an Advocate whom
we can understand, who understands us. who loves us to the extent that like
the Father, she did not spare her only Son, but gave Him up for all of us.
In Apocalypse/Revelation 12 we find the image of the woman clothed
with the sun. Interpretation is debated. We have statements on it by
several Popes. St. Pius X (ASS 36. 458-59) said "No one of us does not know
that that woman signifies the Virgin Mary. . . . John saw the Most Holy
Mother of God already enjoying eternal happiness, and yet laboring from
some hidden birth With what birth? Surely ours." Pius XII( AAS 41. 762-63)
said: ". . the Scholastic doctors have considered the Assumption of the
Virgin Mother of God as signified not only in the various figures of the
Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun." Paul VI
(, May 13, 1967) said that this vision "is interpreted by
the sacred liturgy, not without foundation, as referring to the Most
Blessed Mary, the Mother of all men by the grace of Christ the Redeemer."
John Paul II ( #24) says the use of the word woman ties
together Gen 3:15, Cana, the foot of the cross, and this vision.
These Papal texts are not fully definite. But it seems that some
features of the vision do refer to Our Lady, others to the Church, in view
of the labor. Now there is a well known Hebrew pattern in which an
individual stands for and is identified with a collectivity. So this image
could stand for her as an individual, but as identified with the Church.
B. J Le Frois, in a dissertation for the Biblical Institute in Rome in
1954, suggests that if the image stands
for both, it might be a forecast that before the end the Church will take
on an especially Marian character, in an age of Mary. St. Louis de
Montfort, in #49 does predict an age of Mary.
So this might be taken as a scriptural image of her as the Church,
which is the spouse of Christ and/or the Holy Spirit, and so our Advocate.