Mary as Mediatrix

Author: Fr. William Saunders


Father William Saunders

Why is Mary referred to as the "mediatrix?"—A reader in Lorton

The Second Vatican Council dedicated the eighth chapter of the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" to our Blessed Mother. Since our Lord continues His work and saving mission through His body, the Church, the council fathers, particularly under the guidance of Pope Paul VI, decided that it was most appropriate to address the role of our Blessed Mother here because "she is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and is...the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit" (No. 53). The whole Church honors Mary as a pre-eminent and wholly unique member of the Church, and as a model in faith, hope and charity.

Given this basis, Vatican II here again repeated the titles of Mary as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix" (No. 62). In its basic definition, a mediator is one who serves as an intermediary between two other parties. Oftentimes, the mediator assists in reconciling differences and bringing the parties to an understanding.

Examining the references to our Blessed Mother in the sacred Scripture, we find this role of "mediator." Mary, recognized by Archangel Gabriel as full of grace, one with the Lord and blessed among all women, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and bore Jesus Christ; through her "mediation" Jesus entered this world—true God becoming also true man.

In the Gospel passages in which she appears, our Blessed Mother always presented our Lord to others: the shepherds, the Magi, the priest Simeon, and the wedding party at Cana. She stood at the foot of the cross, sharing in our Lord's sufferings, and at that point He gave her to us as our mother. Finally, Mary was with the Apostles at Pentecost; she who brought Jesus into this world was there for the birth of the Church.

At the end of her life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, the fulfillment of the promises of eternal life of body and soul given to all of the faithful. The "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" captured her life well in stating, "Thus in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls" (No. 61).

Therefore we could look at Mary as the Mediatrix in three senses. First, as mother of the Redeemer, she was the intermediary through which the Son of God entered this world to save us from sin.

Second, by the witness of her own faith and thereby of presenting Christ to others, she aided in reconciling sinners to her Son. Mary, sinless yet knowing the suffering caused by sin, continues to call sinners to her Son. Through her example, she inspires all of us to the faith, hope and love that our Lord would want all of us to have.

Finally, because of her assumption and role as mother for all of us, she prays for us, interceding on our behalf just as she did at Cana, asking the Lord to bestow graces to us as He wills.

This title and role of Mediatrix, however, in no way is meant to distract the faithful from Christ or erode His role as the one Mediator (No. 62). Christ's mediation is primary, self-sufficient and absolutely necessary for our salvation, whereas the mediation of our Blessed Mother is secondary and dependent upon Christ. Vatican II stated, "In the words of the Apostle (St. Paul), there is but one mediator: 'for there is but one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a redemption for all' (1 Tim 2:5-6). But 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 originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws its power from it. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it" (No. 60)

As we draw closer to Christmas, let us implore our Blessed Mother's prayers. May her example inspire us to strive to be full of grace, seeking forgiveness of sin, and to present Christ to others in our words and deeds. As she held Christ in her womb, may we hold Christ in our hearts. In so doing, we too may become like mediators, leading others to Christ through our own witness.

Fr. Saunders is president of Notre Dame Institute and associate pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Arlington.

This article appeared in the December 8, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald." Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.