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

Marian Contemplations X: Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix (Conclusion) September 24, 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
This is the fifth and last post in a series on the titles of Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix. To read the first post, click here, to read the second post, click here, to read the third, click here, and to read the fourth, click here.

Many say that various prayers and devotions to Mary suggest we believe that Mary has done something for our salvation, that she is actively working for our salvation in a way which is equal to Jesus Christ. That is, they say that our devotions to Mary show what we truly believe, and that our focus on her shows we put her on equal footing with her son. While some might acknowledge that the prayers of the rosary suggest Mary has a subordinate position to Jesus because the faithful ask her for prayers, other devotions, such as the Akathist to the Theotokos, seem to suggest she has a primary role in our salvation as believers implore her to “Save us.” When any such devotion is engaged, does it not indicate that she has an active role in our salvation, and other titles, like Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix must be seen in the light of those devotions? This is why it often looks like Mary, and not Jesus, is the focus of our attention and so the one we see as pivotal in our salvation.

The problem lies in perspective. If we acknowledge Mary is doing something, anything, for us, it is not indicative of her doing so in an equal fashion as Jesus, but rather, in coordination with what he has already done. Jesus truly is the one who has achieved what was necessary for our salvation; he is the one who has reestablished the original integrity of creation through the grace given out by his sacrifice at Calvary. Yet the Christian life in part is the recognition that as Christ brings us into his body, the Church, we are to bring his grace to others, to help mediate that grace and so in a fashion save others. It is not because we have the ability to save them ourselves, but rather, we have the means to help them find that salvation, to direct them when we witness to them, when we share the gifts God has given to us with them. In doing this we are working for their salvation, helping indeed to save them, though such salvation comes not from us but from Christ.

Scripture does not deny the sole work of salvation done by Jesus when it says we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), because our work is done in order to open ourselves up to Jesus and to let his redemptive work take effect in us. It is about cooperation with grace – if such cooperation with grace were not necessary, than all would necessarily be saved by the God who desire all to be saved. And so as we work out our own salvation, we also have a role to help others work out their salvation, helping, indeed, to save them, as the Epistle of Jude declared:

But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit;  keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  And convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 1:20 -23 RSV)

Reading that text from Jude, we should see that there is no contradiction in understanding it is Jesus who saves while believing we, somehow, share in the work of Jesus and save others, snatching them out of the fires of hell. We are told we can save someone, and yet, if we do, it must be seen as complementing the work of Jesus, being founded upon it and indeed, subordinate to it. Moreover, when we save someone in this way, we do so by grace, recognizing it is Christ Jesus who lives in us and therefore works through us to achieve such a great work (cf. Gal. 2:20). How we encounter someone, what we do for them (through corporeal works of mercy), might be enough to help them to turn aside from a life of sin and so enter the path of salvation. We can see this in the legend of St. Nicholas and how he helped many young women avoid a life of prostitution; his actions saved them. And if such ordinary actions can do such good, then as the prayers of a righteous man or woman greatly avails itself upon God and the world (cf. James 5:16), God can and does do extraordinary wonders through the saints. Their prayers and actions can bring more grace with them than mere good actions alone, leading many to salvation. As an example of this, all we need consider is the prayers of St. Monica and how her prayers not only helped St. Augustine to the faith, but through much tears, she was able to save also her husband, Patricius.

Thus, God is at work in and through humanity, through us as his instruments. He has affirmed the salvific work of the saints through miracles, showing that they can and do work for our salvation, not only by instructing us, but also by the transference of grace to us through their intercession. [1] They have been able to melt many frozen hearts. They would be the first to admit that anything achieved by them is from the grace of God, so that, though they are willing instruments who cooperated with grace and achieved much for God, it would not have been possible if God had not been at work in their lives. Christ’s work is the source and foundation of our salvation, but the means by which that salvation is wrought in the world is one which works with us, not apart from us, and so the saints can be said to have saved many.

What has been said about the saints is even more true about Mary, the Mother of God. She is, as we have said before, at the right hand of her son; she is glorified and has attained the height of glory as Daughter Zion. When we pray for her to save us, we are asking her to send some of the grace which flows through her down to us, so that through her help, through her intercession with Christ, we can be directed away from the path leading towards perdition and be put on the path of salvation. Thus, when we pray, “Save us,” we realize she is doing so not apart from her son, but with him, realizing that as his mother, he will give everything she should ask, and as our spiritual mother, she will give all she can for our salvation as long as we ask for it. She mediates grace as mother of the son, even as she is mother to us, her spiritual children. This is exactly what it means for her to be Mediatrix of all Graces and Co-Redemptrix: she works for the salvation of all, pleading for all, hoping all of us can attain salvation and join with her in her heavenly glory, a hope which is made possible by Christ her son. She works for our salvation, and so we can truly ask her to save us, but as Bulgakov reminds us, however great that work, it is always derivative of the work of Christ:

But at the same time it is indicated perfectly clear that this power of the Mother of God is derivative, conditioned by her “holy and almighty prayers” with which she “unceasingly” “prays to Christ our God for all, and works for all to be saved.” And in this capacity, the Mother of God is only the first in a series of holy intercessors, as this is fixed, for example, in all prayers of dismissal: “Christ, our true God, but the prayers of Your Most Pure Mother,” etc. [2]


 

[1] We need only to read the Acts of the Apostles to see this to be the case, where we find many miracles associated with the preaching of several Apostles, especially Peter and Paul, bringing many to salvation

[2] Sergius Bulgakov, The Burning Bush. trans. Thomas Allan Smith (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2009), 76.

 

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