Marian Contemplations X: Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix (Part 1)

Marian Contemplations X: Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix (Part 1) August 27, 2016

By anonimus (http://days.pravoslavie.ru/Images/im2463.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Praises to Mary by anonymous (http://days.pravoslavie.ru/Images/im2463.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Of all the titles given to Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces and Co-Redemptrix are among the most controversial, even among Catholics. The problem lies in the way they are being read and interpreted. Certainly if we have a predisposition to see these titles as heretical, we will interpret them in such a way so as to force their meaning to be in contradiction to Scripture and authentic Christian tradition. But not everyone misinterprets them for this reason. By the nature of the titles, when read outside of the context in which they are proclaimed, it is easy to get confused as to what they mean. However, if we explore the meaning intended by their use, such interpretations are far different than those suggested by their critics. They can be shown to be perfectly valid, pointing to the role Mary had in salvation history by being the Theotokos. God has become incarnate through her; she gave birth to the one who saves us all. Through her, God the Son, the Logos, became man, and so, became God with Us, able to live out his mission to redeem us through the mediation of the cross. Jesus is the main actor in salvation history, but as an actor, he has others who work with him, and no one works with him more than Mary. Jesus truly is the one who gives us grace, and these titles, far from obscuring this fact are meant to highlight it. There is no one but Jesus who saves us in and with his unique work as mediator between God and man: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2:5 RSV).

And so, in order to show these titles are justified, we must ask, what exactly do they indicate when used? As has been noted, there certainly is ambiguity if the titles are used and discussed without much context. This is why many think we should just not use them. However, if we would stop declaring truths because what we say can be misinterpreted, then we should become silent.[1] What is needed is good will  — for those who are curious about the titles, as well as for those who propose and use them. The people who find them questionable should be willing to hear out their intended meaning and then debate what comes as a result of the meaning, and not just keep interpreting the titles in a way which counters their use. On the other hand, those who propose and use the titles should try to explain what they mean so that the other will not accidentally misinterpret them and introduce a strawman into the discussion, moreover, they should be attuned to the fact that the titles can be easily misunderstood and not assume ill-will by those who misinterpret them.

And so, as we have already indicated, why these titles are seen as important by those who use them is that they are meant to designated how Mary was used by God. The titles are not meant to be seen or understood as a rejection of the unique position of the incarnation in our salvation; instead they actually serve to help us realize that Jesus in his humanity is truly human with a human history and human relations. Jesus was not some Gnostic savior who had no connection to the world; he truly was God who had become man and entered history, and as an actor in history, found himself related to other people in history, with his mother being the connecting link between him and the rest of humanity. She grounds his humanity so it is a historical fact and not a mere myth.

These titles serve to demonstrate the incarnation and how God truly unites himself to human destiny by incorporating it into his person. From her, God the Son took flesh and truly became man. Through her, he unites himself to our humanity, so that he can work as the one mediator between God and man, by being the one person who unites the two together. To call him the one mediator between God and man is to indicate the hypostatic union in Jesus, where he alone is both God and man in his person, making his person the means of mediation between divinity and humanity. In Jesus, humanity is raised up to the divinity and is given a share in the divine life. And so in and through him humanity truly is reconciled with God, because in and with him it is able to be united with God in eternity. This, then, is how Jesus being the unique mediator between God and humanity is to be understood, and how we find ancient commentators like St. John Chrysostom explained it:

Now a mediator ought to have communion with both parties, between whom he is to mediate. For this is the property of a mediator, to be in close communion with each of those whose mediator he is. For he would be no longer a mediator, if he were connected with one but separated from the other. If therefore He partakes not of the nature of the Father, He is not a Mediator, but is separated. For as He is partaker of the nature of men, because He came to men, so is He partaker of the nature of God, because He came from God. Because He was to mediate between two natures, He must approximate to the two natures; for as the place situated between two others is joined to each place, so must that between natures be joined to either nature. As therefore He became Man, so was He also God.[2]

By the fact that he is a divine person who assumed human nature, Jesus is, as a person, the sole mediator between God and man because his person is both God and man. When we read in First Timothy that he is the only mediator between God and man, we must read it as indicating the hypostatic (personal) union of divinity and humanity in Jesus. No one else is both fully God in nature, divine in personal existence, and human at once.  The Father and the Spirit are God, but neither of them assumed human nature. Mary, the saints, and the rest of us are human, but none of us are divine by nature. Only one person is God and man and therefore, only one can be said to be the mediator between the two. His work on the cross, his death and resurrection, established the means for those of us on earth to find our way to heaven, saving us from the effects of our sins. Nothing which is said about Mary denies this; proper Marian teaching not only accepts this, but seeks to affirm it instead of establishing a way to deny this truth.

More to Come


 

[1] Until, at least, our silence itself is misinterpreted. Then what are we to do?

[2] St. John  Chrysostom, “Homilies on Timothy” in NPNF2(13):430.

 

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