A Mother's Loving Words to Her Son: "Accept Death"
By Kevin Clarke
Saturday, 06 January 2007
On my way to becoming a graduate student, I began to orient myself toward the study of theology. I picked up my dust-covered Catechism and read it. I started to open myself more to the mysteries of the faith. I had long resisted Marian devotion, but I felt a tug.
Meanwhile, I had heard a fellow Catholic endorse "The Last Temptation of Christ" as a thought-provoking and faith-inspiring film. Having heard many bad reports regarding the movie, I decided to give it a critical viewing. One especially repugnant portrayal in the movie, which on the whole I found grossly offensive in nearly all conceivable ways, was Martin Scorsese's portrayal of the Blessed Mother. I could not quite put my finger on it, but my budding faith resisted his portrayal of her as a nuisance and obstruction to his mission. The Spirit within me convulsed, rising up to defend his spouse, though my mind did not fully grasp why just yet.
I have since come to discern the frustration of the Spirit over the precious good name of his spouse. "The Last Temptation of Christ" deprives her of her loving consent. She resists her son's sacrifice for sinful man, his immolation. The Mary portrayed in the movie is not Mary at all, but a satanic anti-Mary disguised as the Blessed Mother. There is no total enmity, but cooperation with Satan. Though my indignation preceded understanding, the Spirit has led me to that full understanding. The words of Scorsese's Mary sound more like Peter's words; and in that biblical episode, the real Jesus knew who was speaking—Satan. (1)
Unlike Scorsese's satanic anti-Mary, the authentic Mary of history walked with Jesus in perfect subordination to his will and mission. Thus the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, provides the inspiration for this article, and though it stopped short of using the term "Co-redemptrix" it clearly highlighted the doctrine of Mary's co-redemptive offering and suffering:
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. (2)
The Council fathers use very interesting language here: thoroughly sacrificial. This will be the focus of this article—Mary's co-redemptive mediation in the sacrificial offering of her son. The loving consent that permeates Mary's, life leading up to its climax at Calvary, will be examined in some of the events of her earthly existence recorded in the gospels. I contend that Mary's lifelong fiat represents a kenosis, an emptying of self, for the sake of all her spiritual children that merits a specific response from each of them, namely, consecration. Finally, a stirring Old Testament parallel will serve as a Scriptural means to illumine the nature of loving consent to immolation.
The Beginning of Co-Redemption—The Incarnation
While human beings have always borne God's image and likeness, reflecting his freedom, dominion and authority, humanity was not the temple of God's dwelling presence until Mary's fiat at the Annunciation. The choice to commit sin changed man and impaired his ability to live in God's image and likeness in this life, wounding his relationship with God, himself, other human beings, and all of creation. But something infinitely greater happens than if God had simply restored original justice: the Incrantion.
The Incarnation is the beginning of our redemption, and it ontologically changed mankind forever. With the condemnation due to sin weighing us down, "the whole earth waits" for Mary's fiat, as St. Bernard says. (3) Infinite God, pure spirit, wants to become man, not only to bridge that infinite gap between sin and God to initiate man's reconciliation, but also for man's most undeserved elevation. But God doesn't impose this plan; he asks permission from a teenage virgin. He asks not only to be born of her, but for a lifelong mother-son relationship. Thus redemption begins at the Incarnation. Mary's answer to the angel begins her mission of Co-redemption: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (4)
Lumen Gentium draws upon the Church Fathers as it speaks of Mary's total devotion to the person and work of her Son and the mystery of redemption as handmaid of the Lord:
Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she "being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race." (5)
But along with this envied role given to Mary to be mother of the Messiah, there is a great price. "This union of the mother and the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death," the Council says. (6) And the work of salvation, as the book of Isaiah says, is not pretty. The Suffering Servant will be despised, rejected, sorrowful, smitten, wounded, bruised, chastised, stripped, oppressed, afflicted, cut off, and killed. (7) There is great reason to believe that Mary knew this at the time of the Annunciation. Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily on the feast of the Assumption in 2005, remarked that the Magnificat Mary proclaims bespeaks a young woman who was "imbued" with the Scriptures. "We see that Mary was, so to speak, 'at home' with God's word, she lived on God's word, she was penetrated by God's word." (8) From the moment she gave her fiat at the Annunciation, she would bear her Son's sufferings in her heart all her days, and she knew she would. The lot of the Suffering Servant becomes Mary's lot as well. As Dr. Mark Miravalle points out, there are not two separate missions given to Mary, one of God-bearing and one of suffering.
There are not two invitations. There is not one for bearing the Redeemer and another for suffering with the Redeemer—not one invitation sent to Nazareth and another sent to Calvary. Mary is invited by the Almighty to a vocation of the greatest conceivable union with the Redeemer and with His prophesied mission. (9)
Mary accepts both invitations for the remainder of her life. The Gospel of Luke makes this very tangible. With Mary, times of joy are simultaneously times of sorrow, as we see, for example, in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
In the Rosary we celebrate with joy the Presentation, yet the event possesses an element of sorrow. Simeon reveals that "a sword will pierce through your own soul also." (10) Throughout her son's life, as he grows and ages, she ponders these words. Her suffering precedes his as "her heart is pierced in anticipation due to the knowledge of the suffering awaiting her innocent child." (11)
A dream for Joseph sends the Holy Family into a sorrowful flight into Egypt to escape the slaughter of the innocents. Mary's sorrow would have not only been that of being forced into flight to save the God-man, but because of the great evil committed against innocent life. Fr. Stefano Manelli says she shares Rachel's mourning, being pierced by "thousands of swords." She must have been overwhelmed with sorrow as the historical events unfolded around her, the cruel slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem. "With what violence must not the 'sword' of Simeon have pierced her soul by means of this horrible carnage of the innocent children?" (12)
The episode in which Jesus is found teaching in the Temple is also numbered among the Joyful Mysteries (not only because of the finding of Jesus, but that wisdom incarnate had entered the Temple). But the Gospel of Luke calls attention to three days of suffering: "Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." (13) Manelli, using the Latin Vulgate, comments on "your father and I have sought you sorrowing." Manelli links the suffering of Joseph and Mary with Simeon's prophecy of the sword. Thus their sorrowful and anxious searching attains co-redemptive merit for salvation. (14)
At the Wedding of Cana in the Gospel of John, Jesus performs his first public miracle following the intercession of his mother. She intercedes on behalf of the young couple who have run short of wine. After her simple request, "they have no wine," Jesus responds mysteriously, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." (15)
"Jesus' response … essentially asks the question, 'Are you ready to begin a public mission that will end in Calvary in untold pain and suffering?' Mary responds directly to the servants in manifesting her readiness to initiate the public journey that will lead to the redemptive sacrifice at Calvary." (16)
The experiences of Mary in the gospels, even the joyous ones, are colored with the blood of her spiritual suffering.
If Jesus is "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter," (17) then Mary in a sense is the one who leads him there. At Cana, this becomes very tangible, when Mary urges Jesus onto his mission on behalf of her spiritual children, for the simple and loving accommodation of a more blessed wedding ceremony. And just as it was for Abraham, (18) it does not mean that she loves her son less, but rather the opposite is true, as we shall see. Her words lead directly to the Cross and to Calvary. And Calvary leads to the Resurrection. And the Resurrection leads to the Ascension. And the Ascension leads to the sending of the sanctifying Holy Spirit for the life of the Church. Her love for the couple at Cana is not only a temporal love, seeking provisions for a happy memory of their wedding day, but a deep maternal spiritual love, that their sins that separate them from her beloved and divine Son may be no more. Her love does not merely lead to a superabundance of wine, but a superabundance of grace through the Holy Spirit.
The term immolation is a theological term replete with meaning. It occurs throughout the Old Testament, and it is usually a word associated with abominable practices—the sacrifice of children, usually by fire, to pagan gods such as Baal and Molech. The Pentateuch forbids immolation to pagan gods, (19) but the faithless Israelites do it anyway. (20) Frequently God painfully speaks through the prophets of his sons and daughters being murdered in sacrifice to these gods. (21) Yet, this is exactly what God asks of Abraham—that he offer his son as a "burnt offering." (22) Meaning and history surounds the term "immolation," and in the case of the mother of the Savior, she is called to loving consent to the immolation of her child, Jesus, for the redemption of the world.
Immolation implies the offering of a sacrifice through its destruction. It implies something very active. There is nothing passive about immolation. Unless the one making the offering has some sort of possession over the victim, and in some sense brings the victim to the altar, there can be no real offering. Jesus really offered his life, and he had the power to do so. He laid his life down of his own accord. (23) Mary is at the foot of the Cross not as a bystander or a condemned man's mother, but there of her own accord, as an active participant, according to the language of the Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul II says that "her consent to Jesus' immolation is not passive acceptance but a genuine act of love by which she offers her Son as a 'victim' of expiation for the sins of all humanity." (24) He states on another occasion that Mary's active role was that of "accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her son." (25) Moreover, this is a lifelong mission of preparation for sacrifice. The journey Abraham and Isaac made in three days, Mary and Jesus made in 33 years. Pius X, in his encyclical Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, writes about the office of the Blessed Virgin.
It was not only the prerogative of the Most Holy Mother to have furnished the material of His flesh to the Only Son of God, Who was to be born with human members, of which material should be prepared the Victim for the salvation of men; but hers was also the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time presenting Him for the sacrifice. (26)
Msgr. Arthur Calkins in his article "The Mystery of Mary Co-redemptrix in the Papal Magisterium" shows a number of papal documents leading up to the language used by the Council fathers. He cites the Letter Inter Sodalicia of Pope Benedict XV, from which the Council drew heavily: "For the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother's rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice." (27) Pius XI spoke of Mary "Reparatrix" who "offered him as victim" in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor. (28) Finally, he cites Pius XII in Mystici Corporis who, two decades before the Council, wrote that the sinless Virgin Mary "offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a new Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall." (29)
This phrase presents a twofold challenge. On the one hand, consent implies that she gave God some sort of permission to be sacrificed for the sins of mankind. On other hand, it is conceivable that she agreed to the sacrifice of her son for the sake of humanity, but one would expect to see a different adverb used to describe her consent, such as "mournfully" or "reluctantly." But neither would convey the truth about Mary. The latter adverb is altogether false and the former is only a partial truth. The Council fathers have understood a profound truth. Mary's consent is loving because she loves her Son and he is effecting the restoration of the relationship between himself and his loved ones. Mary's consent is loving because she loves all her spiritual children, and her Son's death opens wide the doors of her motherhood to all.
St. Maximilian Kolbe writes "She loved us even to the point of sacrificing her divine Son for us; at the Annunciation she had already deliberately accepted us as her children." (30)
Pope John Paul II, in a homily given in Ecuador in 1985, spoke of how Mary's "maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ 'to gather into one all the dispersed children of God' (Jn. 11:52)." (31) And again, the pope in Evangelium Vitae elaborates: "The 'yes' spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the Cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive and beget as her children all those who become disciples, putting out upon them the saving love of her Son." (32)
Pius X, again in Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, writes about the joy Mary felt at the foot of the Cross. "When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the Cross of Jesus there stood Mary His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her Only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind." (33)
As Pope John Paul II said in a homily in September 2000, "In the incarnate Word and in Mary the infinite distance between the Creator and creature became a supreme closeness; they are the holy space for the mysterious nuptials of the divine nature with the human, the place where the Trinity is revealed for the first time and where Mary represents the new humanity, ready to take up again, in obedient love, the dialogue of the Covenant." (34) The pope's language reflects spousal intimacy. She had given her life to the vocation of raising, nourishing, and loving the God-man, born of her own flesh and blood. Mary—the most Christ-like of all his creatures, so one with the Lord that she is invoked as Queen of Martyrs—made her life an outpouring in total faith to God.
On Calvary, there is nothing less than two total self-offerings—Jesus' kenosis to the Father on behalf of sinful man and Mary's kenosis to the Father with Jesus. She entirely surrendered her Son into the Father's omnipotent hands and to his omniscient will at the foot of the Cross. At the same time that Jesus was making a full and total gift of himself to the Father for the sake of sinful man, Mary was offering Jesus back to the Father in a full and total gift of herself for the sake of sinful man: Her life was Jesus and Jesus was emptying himself.
Kenosis and Consecration
What is the result of Jesus' kenosis? "God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (35)
What is the result of Mary's kenosis? Certainly Mary's queenship in heaven is, her elevation at the right hand of Jesus when he takes his seat on the heavenly throne. But just as Jesus' enthronement begins on the Cross, Mary's enthronement begins at the foot of the Cross: "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home." (36) Mary is given over to be John's mother, the mother of all the faithful, and the mother of all humanity. "Mary became our Spiritual Mother initially at the Annunciation, but her motherhood was perfected on Calvary, participating in the spiritual regeneration or rebirth of the human family." (37) The virtue of justice demands that we somehow honor the self-gift of our Spiritual Mother. But her gift was kenosis. The only proper response, inasmuch as we are capable as her fallen children, is our kenosis to Jesus through Mary—consecration.
The believer contemplating Calvary will find Mary at the foot of the Cross. If, and only if he believes in the Immaculate Conception, he sees not only Mary, but Mary Co-redemptrix, who chose to suffer with her divine Son as an offering for each particular believer. Not only has the Savior given his life for the believer, but he has given his mother, who herself has made a total self-offering for the sake of the believer, inasmuch as God's greatest creature can. When this realization comes, it compels a response. Just as the initial kerygmatic proclamation, "Jesus suffered and died for you," calls a catechumen to deeper entry into a relationship with the Lord of liberation, so does Mary's kenosis call for a deeper relationship. "Mary 'lovingly consented' that her Son should die for you." Consecration is a response to that realization. It enters into a cycle of endless self-donation between the believer and the Co-redemptrix for the glory of God. As St. Louis de Montfort eloquently writes:
The most holy Virgin… seeing that we give ourselves entirely to her, to honor and to serve her, and for that end strip ourselves of all that is dearest to us, in order to adorn her, meets us in the same spirit. She also gives her whole self, and gives it in an unspeakable manner, to him who gives all to her. She causes him to be engulfed in the abyss of her graces.… In a word, as that consecrated person is all Mary's, so Mary is all his. (38)
St. Maximilian Kolbe sheds more light on what consecration actually brings about. While de Montfort speaks of consecration as holy slavery, Kolbe speaks of consecration as holy property. Moreover, believers not only become property, but they are "annihilated in her, changed into her, and transubstantiated into her," sharing in the life and mission of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. "We are her possessions as She is God's and as She comes to give birth to the Son of God, so transubstantiated into her we come to give birth to the same Son in the hearts of (those who) belong to or will belong to the Immaculate." (39)
An Old Testament Model:
Especially Admirable and Worthy of Honorable Memory
Some may posit that Mary's presence at the Cross does not necessarily mean there is loving consent and, therefore, that the Council's assertion is unscriptural. But there is a Scriptural precedent for this type of consent to sacrifice of offspring. Abraham is an obvious example in his willing sacrifice of Isaac. He would have immolated the youth had God not intervened. However, there is a more direct, and grisly, parallel. Not only at the Cross do we find a mother's loving consent to the immolation of her son.
One of the best examples of a prefigurement Mary's loving sacrifice comes from the second book of Maccabees. In one of the most faith-inspiring accounts in the Old Testament, the wicked King Antiochus arrested a mother and her seven sons to compel them to eat unlawful swine's flesh. Rather than transgress the law, all seven brothers heroically forfeited their lives. The author recounts the first six sons' sacrificial deaths and their triumphant words. But what is behind their heroism? The sacrifice of Eleazar in the previous chapter sets a good example for them, but the author shifts the focus to a woman "especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord." (40)
Throughout this chapter the author describes how the mother not only "bore it," but encouraged each of her sons, as Mary does for Jesus by her presence at the foot of the Cross. The mother drives this narrative with these words to each son:
I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. (41)
Even though this mother is not the Immaculate Conception, the "woman" spoken of in Genesis 3:15, her example calls to mind the enmity between the serpent's seed and the woman's seed. Here, the mother is certainly a type of that woman while Antiochus is a type of the serpent's seed, and this enmity is well-demonstrated when the king calls on the mother to mediate between himself and the youngest son. When Antiochus promises to make the youngest son rich and powerful, his words are poignantly similar to those used to tempt Christ in the desert. (42) But when he cannot persuade the son, he turns to the mother. Yet, the seed of the serpent finds no help, no mediation in this woman; rather, she mediates against the king. It almost seems as if she is about to give in to his persuasions, but then story begins its climax when she leans close to her son and exhorts him to lay down his life, for his sake, her sake and for the sake of his brothers.
Having lovingly consented to the immolation of her six eldest sons, the youngest remains alive. Any human mother would acknowledge the special affection she has for her youngest child, and after more than 60 months of pregnancy and countless memories and loving hopes, it is impossible to grasp the power of grace and the victory of surrender to God's providential plan this mother has won in the following words to the seventh son:
My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers. (43)
Her words deserve citation in full, because they offer a great richness to our understanding of loving consent to immolation. The words provide a window into the powerful silence of Mary's presence. Mary, like this mother, points toward the infinite justice and mercy of God, who will raise Christ and all the dead. Mary's presence at the Cross anticipates the Resurrection of Jesus, the fulfillment of the general resurrection hoped for by the mother in Maccabees. This mother in Maccabees has a Spirit-filled understanding of divine power, mercy, and justice. Not only her words but the words of her sons demonstrate this understanding. God in his power created the world and all that is in it out of nothing and therefore has the power to restore their lives if they count them as nothing. God in his mercy will look upon their sacrifice and give life back to them. God in his justice will look upon their sacrifice and the evil of their transgressors and bring them to "everflowing life" under his covenant and punish the transgressors. Indeed, this is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, with a strong parallel in John's Gospel. "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again." (44)
So, finally, the youngest son dies, vanquishing the king and his diabolical efforts. No more attempts are made to persuade the mother. Why not? The king had kept her alive, hoping she would mediate his will to her sons. But the enmity was too great. She dies, after her sons. The Maccabean author gives no details of her death, whether she was tortured to death by the raging king or dispatched quickly.
The words of this woman are echoed in Mary's loving consent. She consents to Jesus' death because his death gains his brothers lives. Mary's loving consent is in her love for God, her love for us, her love for herself. (45) Just as the mother in Maccabees knows the deaths of her sons are necessary for victory in that one particular battle against evil, so the mother of Christ knows her son's death is necessary for victory in the total war against evil. In her complete union with the Holy Spirit, the Immaculate Virgin, too, would have urged on her Son.
In the Trinity the Spirit urges the Son to give himself in love to the Father; he does the same thing for us, God's adoptive children. So too on the cross the Holy Spirit urges Christ as a true man to yield himself up in love to his Father. The Immaculata participated in this urging on the part of the Spirit of love, since she lived by his divine life. (46)
We remember the strong character judgment the author of Maccabees made about the mother of seven: "especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory." She put her obedience to the plan of God and love for him over continued life with her children, while trusting in his goodness and justice. Her faith is resurrection faith. This she shares with a virgin mother about 200 years later. As Pope John Paul II noted in his Wednesday audience on January 12, 2000, "'The Son of man … will be raised on the third day' (Mt 17:22-23). A certitude that never left her, even when she held in her arms the lifeless body of her crucified son." (47)
Like the Maccabean mother, Mary loves all of her sons. Both mothers see the necessity in their sons' death. But Mary knows that the hopes of all her children—past, present, and future—hinge on the immolation of her divine Son. And the main difference between the two mothers is that the family in Maccabees fell during a severe persecution while the mother of Jesus had been holding her son's hand on the walk to the altar of Calvary ever since the Annunciation. Mary can in her own right echo Jesus' words, "I lay down my life… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." She says to us, "I lay down my life with my Son… No one takes him from me, but I offer him up of my own accord."
No words could ever convey the suffering either mother would have endured. But it is fitting to close with the words of John Paul II in Salvifici Doloris:
In her (Mary), the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith but also a contribution to the redemption of all. … It was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. (48)
Mary offered the Victim upon the altar of her Immaculate Heart. And as an offering, she chose to have the sword plunge through the flesh of her maternal love. She offered her divine son perfectly and in doing so offered herself, too. The mother in the book of Maccabees urged on her sons with powerful words, with great strength of will, to fortify them in their will to die for God's law. Mary stood in silence because she knew that her divine son needed no words to fortify his commitment to accomplishing the divine will.
Outside of her son, no other human being has had such a lifelong and perfect union with the divine will. St. Louis de Montfort frames this concept succinctly: "Mary, being altogether transformed into God by grace and by the glory which transforms all the saints into Him, asks nothing, wishes nothing, does nothing contrary to the eternal and immutable will of God." (49) Therefore, her offering of her Son became an offering of herself. After all, we do not have relationships with abstractions, but with persons. She loved Jesus. She had a living relationship with him, and she watched the God in whom she lived and moved and had her being die on a Cross. She offered her relationship with her Son, an offering that Peter initially did not want to make. With her heart so perfectly united with his, no lance could pass through the Sacred Heart without also passing through the Immaculate Heart.
Only Mary was fully capable of consenting to Jesus' death. The reason for this is her holy and Immaculate Conception. She is the woman of Genesis 3:15, and throughout her life she maintains her free will, her choice to consent or refuse. But she keeps her choice more constant than the rising sun. It is conceivable to imagine an untimely supernova putting an end to sunrises forever. But it is inconceivable for the Blessed Virgin to have ever turned from God's will. For the entirety of her earthly existence, she chooses enmity with the ancient serpent. As Aidan Carr, O.F.M., and Germain Williams, O.F.M., explain in an article on the Immaculate Conception:
The enmity described requires that Mary be finally a complete victor over the devil and his snares, and this she would not have been if for one instant she had been subjected to Satan through the slavery of sin. The crushing of the serpent's head can mean nothing else than a perfect immunity from his evil stain. (50)
The sinlessness of Mary, special to her humanity, united with the sinlessness of Christ, natural to his divinity, conquer Satan as they suffer together, Carr and Williams write. They quote J.B. Carol, O.F.M., who wrote that Mary "joined her own heroic sufferings to those of her beloved Son for the salvation of mankind, and the eternal Father was pleased to accept them for that purpose in subordination to those of the unique Redeemer." (51)
A painful light shines from Calvary into our reality: We cannot truly understand the depth of the Council's words "lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her" because we need Jesus to die for our redemption, whereas Mary is preserved from sin. We can associate ourselves with the sacrifice of the Lord. We can offer ourselves with him through our sufferings. We can "complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (52) for the sake of the Church, becoming his co-workers and co-redeemers. But we cannot give consent to Jesus' sacrifice. It is absurd to think that each individual sinner who voluntarily creates an infinite gap between God and himself could then give God permission to cross that gap and die. More absurd is to think that each individual sinner could give God permission to cross that gap and die for his neighbor. To give consent is to agree to, or give permission to. We have all played the harlot. We have all committed idolatry. We have all thrown up an infinite gap between ourselves and God because of our sin. We cannot give the Lord permission to redeem us and the rest of humanity from what we rightly deserve—eternal separation. This right is proper only to a sinless mother—Immaculate Mary, conceived without sin. Only Mary is capable of loving consent—becoming the Co-redemptrix. The Cross is sin. Mary's loving consent to immolation echoes the words of her Son and makes them her own maternal words, "'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'" (53)
Mary, and the mother of seven, knew as they watched their children die that God is perfectly just. They made their offerings to an infinitely just God, who would not let death have the last word. Faith links both women. And both women, "especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory," offered the immolation of their children in love, knowing that their infinitely just God is merciful and compassionate. Mary, through the birth pangs of watching the death of the firstborn of mankind, gave birth to the whole communion of believers at the foot of the Cross. Thus the words of the mother of seven may be heard in Mary's sorrowful and loving silence: "Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers." (54) We are those brothers.
Let us, therefore, become her slaves and her possessions, living temples of her divine spouse, the Holy Spirit, consecrated to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart that she may have us back again in our hearts, resurrected from the slavery and possession of sin and death.
Kevin Clarke is a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
(1) Cf. Mt.16:21-23.
(2) Lumen Gentium, 58 (emphasis mine). Vatican Council II: Vol. 1: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Flannery, O.P., Austin. Ed. Northport, New York: Costello Publishing Company, 2004.
(3) Miravalle, Dr. Mark, "The Incarnation: The Virgin Becomes the Co-redemptrix," Saturday, 24 December 2005, You must be logged in to see this link.
(5) LG, 56.
(6) LG, 57.
(8) Pope Benedict XVI. Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Monday, 15 August 2005. You must be logged in to see this link.
(9) Miravalle, "The Incarnation: The Virgin Becomes the Co-Redemptrix."
(11) Miravalle, "The Incarnation: The Virgin Becomes the Co-Redemptrix."
(12) Manelli, F.I., Fr. Stefano M, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology, New Bedford, Massachusetts: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005, 306.
(14) Manelli, 318-319.
(16) Miravalle, Dr. Mark, Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion, Goleta, California: Queenship Publishing, 2006, p. 35
(19) Lev.18:21; Deut.18:10-12.
(20) Cf. Jer.32:35; 2Kgs.23:10.
(21) Cf. Ezek.16:21; Jer.7:31, 19:5.
(24) Calkins, Msgr. Arthur B. "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium," Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today, Miravalle, Dr. Mark, Ed., Goleta, California: Queenship Publishing, 2002, p. 82
(25) Calkins, Msgr. Arthur B. "The Proposed Marian Dogma: The What and the Why," Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations III, Miravalle, Dr. Mark, Ed. Goleta, California: Queenship Publishing, 2000. p. 26.
(26) Pope Pius X, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, February 2, 1904, 12.
(27) Calkins, "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium," 67.
(28) Calkins, "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium," 67.
(29) Calkins, "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium," 68.
(30) Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Fr. H. M, The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Libertyville, Illinois: Marytown Press, 2001, 96.
(31) Calkins, "The Proposed Marian Dogma: The What and the Why," 26.
(32) Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 103, in The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan, Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1997, p. 574.
(33) Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, 12.
(34) Calkins, Msgr. Arthur B, "The Theology of the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary," Saturday, 21 October, 2006, You must be logged in to see this link.
(37) Miravalle, "Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion," 89.
(38) De Montfort, St. Louis-Marie Grignion, True Devotion to Mary, Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1941, 91-92.
(39) Fehlner, F.I., Fr. Peter Damian, St. Maximilian M. Kolbe: Martyr of Charity—Pneumatologist: His Theology of the Holy Spirit, New Bedford, Massachusetts: Academy of the Immaculate, 2004, 146.
(41) 2 Mac.7:20.
(42) 2 Mac.7:22-23.
(43) 2 Mac.7:24; cf. Lk.4:5-7.
(44) 2 Mac.7:27-29 (emphasis mine).
(45) This is not to be understood as a disorderly self-love that the fallen experience as a result of sin, which wounds an individual's relationship with himself and clouds his own self-understanding, but an ordered love of self in which Mary recognizes her own dignity as the mother of the Messiah and spiritual mother of all the redeemed, fully embodied in her words "all generations will call me blessed" (Lk.2:48).
(46) Manteau-Bonamy, 96.
(47) Pope John Paul II, Wednesday audience of January 12, 2000, You must be logged in to see this link.
(48) Calkins, "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium," 81.
(49) De Montfort, 16.
(50) Carr, Aidan, O.F.M., and Williams, Germain, O.F.M. "Mary's Immaculate Conception, Part I," Saturday, 26 August 2006, You must be logged in to see this link.
(51) Carr and Williams, "Mary's Immaculate Conception, Part I."
(54) 2 Mac.7:29
You must be logged in to see this link.
Send Oh Lord Holy Apostles into your church“Christ has no body but yours, no hands butyours, no feet but yours.Yours are the eyes through which Christ’scompassion must look upon the world.Yours are the feet with which He is to go about
doing good.Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.”St. Theresa of Avila