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Papers on Proposed 5th Marian Dogma 

Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate
in the Contemporary Roman Liturgy

by Arthur Burton Calkins

Part 3

IV.  Mary as Advocate

            In his book, Mary:  Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Dr. Mark Miravalle declares:

Along with mediating the graces of redemption from God to the human family, Mary also acts as the intercessory advocate for the People of God in their return to God.  Mary not only mediates the graces of God to humanity as Mediatrix, but she also mediates the petitions of the human family back to God, in humble service of both.  Mary intercedes to God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit on behalf of humanity as our Advocate, especially in times of danger and difficulties.[163]

In stating himself in this way Dr. Miravalle also acknowledges that he is following a thought process traced by St. Maximilian-Maria Kolbe.[164] In lecture notes dated 5-20 August 1940 Maximilian speaks of the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit.

From the moment that this union was effected, the Holy Spirit grants no grace, the Father does not send down his own supernatural life through the Son and the Holy Spirit into the souls except through the Mediatrix of all graces, the Immaculate, with her cooperation and by her consent.  She received all the treasures of grace as her own, and distributes them to whom and in the measure in which she wills. ...  And only through her does the love of creatures reach Jesus and through him the Father.  Creatures do not always realize all this, but this is how it always happens.[165]

Mary, then, according to St. Maximilian, is not only the chosen channel of grace to man, but also the unique human person through whom man begins his return to God.  As Miravalle puts it:

Mary, therefore, is at the end of the sanctifying action of God (as Mediatrix of all graces), and at the beginning of the reaction of the human family back to God (as Advocate for the People of God).  Mary is neither the end nor the starting point of God's action to humanity, but has an instrumental presence at both points because of her intimate union with the Holy Spirit.[166]

            The theme of Mary as our Advocate is also a very ancient one in Christian literature.  It can be traced to the thought of St. Irenaeus (+ after 194) who spoke of the Virgin Mary becoming the advocate of the virgin Eve, destroying virginal disobedience by virginal obedience. [167]  "It has been assumed," says Father O'Carroll, "that the Greek word used was Paracletos,"[168] the same word used by Jesus to speak of himself and the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17).  Just as we speak of Mary's mediation as subordinate and secondary to and dependent upon the mediation of Jesus, so Mary's advocacy must be understood in the same way.

            Our Lady's advocacy is likewise presupposed in the earliest recorded invocation to the Mother of God of which we are aware, the prayer known in the Latin tradition as the Sub tuum præsidium.[169] While the earliest extant manuscript of this prayer, which dates from the third or fourth century, is in Greek, a standard rendering of this prayer in English is the following:

We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.[170] [Sub tuum præsidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix; nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedicta].[171]

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council saw fit to make a reference to this famous prayer in #66 of Lumen Gentium.  In #62 of that same chapter they point to Mary's advocacy as a consequence of her spiritual maternity:

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect.  Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.  By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.  Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix [Propterea B. Virgo in Ecclesia titulis Advocatæ, Auxiliatricis, Adiutricis, Mediatricis invocatur].[172]

Pope John Paul II developed this theme in his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater by saying that "Mary's motherhood continues unceasingly in the Church as the mediation which intercedes."[173] He also presented the idea succcinctly in a homily which he gave at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii on 21 October 1979:  "Mary is always at the very centre of our prayer.  She is the first among those who ask.  She is Omnipotentia supplex:  the 'Omnipotence of intercession.'"[174]

            As the liturgy characterizes Mary as "minister of grace", so it also describes her as "advocate of grace".  In the Preface for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception [In Conceptione Immaculata Beatæ Mariæ Virginis] the celebrant addresses the Father in these words:

You chose her from all women to be our advocate with you and our pattern of holiness.  [... et ipsam præ omnibus tuo populo disponebas advocatam gratiæ et sanctitatis exemplar.][175]

This is really another way of looking at the mystery of Mary's mediation of grace and Father O'Keefe does not hesitate to render the idea in this way: 

You established her, far beyond all others, as the intercessor who would obtain grace for your people, and would be the model of the sanctity for which they were to strive.[176]

            The same terminology is found in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of All Creation [Beata Maria Virgo, Universorum Regina]:

When the Blessed Virgin, your lowly handmaid, endured with patient suffering the shame of her Son's crucifixion  you exalted her above all the choirs of angels to reign with him in glory and to intercede for all your children, our advocate of grace and the queen of all creation.  [sed et beatam Virginem, humilem ancillam tuam, quæ ignominiam crucis Filii patienter sustinuit, super choros Angelorum exaltasti, ubi cum ipso regnat gloriosa, pro cunctis hominibus exorans, advocata gratiæ et universorum regina.][177]

The whole Preface, of which we have only quoted a part, makes a striking parallel between the humiliation and exaltation (Kingship) of Christ and the analogous humiliation and exaltation (Queenship) of Mary.[178] It also evokes the Old Testament image of the Queen Mother who sits at the right hand of her son the King and intercedes on behalf of others.[179] It is in this sense that Mary is our "advocate of grace".

A.  Intercessor

            Without a doubt the liturgy is a privileged witness to the Church's profound belief in Mary's advocacy on behalf of her children.  A beautiful example of this occurs in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Gate of Heaven [Beata Maria Virgo, Ianua Cæli]:

She is the Virgin at prayer, always interceding for sinners that they may turn to her Son, who unseals the fountain of ever-flowing grace and opens the door of forgiveness.  [Hæc est Virgo supplex, pro peccatoribus iugiter exorans, ut ad Filium suum convertantur, perennis gratiæ fontem et veniæ patens ostium.] [180]

Here the Latin describes Mary as the Virgo supplex, literally "the suppliant Virgin" who obtains by her entreaty the return of sinners to her Son.

            After reviewing the testimony of the conciliar and subsequent documents of the papal magisterium on Mary as the "supplex Mater" [the suppliant Mother], Father Calabuig notes what a frequent theme Mary's intercession is in the liturgy and how this very recurrence testifies to the truth of the axiom that the lex supplicandi [the law of supplication] has established the lex credendi [the law of belief].[181]  There is hardly a Marian prayer in the Roman liturgy which does not beg or refer in some manner to Mary's intercession.  Father Calabuig refers to the ancient and splendid oration of the Solemnity of the Mother of God[182]:

God our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for you bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  [Deus, qui salutis æternæ, beatæ Mariæ virginitate fecunda, humano generi præmia præstitisti, tribue, quæsumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus Filium tuum auctorem vitæ suscipere.][183]

While the English translation does convey the idea of Mary's intercession on our behalf, it doesn't do justice to the richness of the concepts employed in the Latin. [184] Here is an attempt to be faithful to those concepts while also striving to render them in dignified modern English:

God our Father, through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary, you have bestowed the rewards of eternal salvation upon the human race.  Through her, we were privileged to receive your Son, the source of our life.  Please grant that we may experience her intercession on our behalf.[185]

            This prayer may be taken as representative of a great many in former editions of the Roman Missal as well as that of Paul VI.  A glance at the valuable index provided by Fathers Johnson and Ward indicates how frequently the words "intercede" and "intercession" -- not to mention other cognate forms -- are attributed to Our Lady in the Collection.[186] Unfortunately, I am not aware of a similar tool which could be indicated for immediate references to the vocabulary of the present Roman Missal.  I have found at least twelve orations in Masses of Our Lady which employ the word intercede or intercession and even more which deal with the idea.

B.  Protection

            We have already noted that the Latin word præsidium is translated as "patronage" in the ancient Marian prayer which dates from the third or at latest the fourth century in its original Greek form.[187] It is a word whose range of meaning isn't matched by one single English word.  It means a sitting before, hence a (military) protection, a defense, a place occupied by a garrison and, in a more general sense, help, assistance, support.[188] By the early Middle Ages præsidium became a conventional way of describing the protection which could be expected as a result of Mary's advocacy, of her all-powerful intercession.  Hence it is found in  private prayers invoking Our Lady's help already in this period of Christian history.[189]Here is how it occurs in the Opening Prayer of the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel [Beatæ Mariæ Virginis de Monte Carmelo Memoria]:

Father, may the prayers of the Virgin Mary protect us and help us to reach Christ her Son ...  [Adiuvet nos, quæsumus, Domine, gloriosæ Virginis Mariæ intercessio veneranda, ut, eius muniti præsidiis, ad montem, qui Christus est, pervenire valeamus.][190]

Unhappily, several allusions are lost in this translation.[191] Let us listen to Father Joncas' incisive comment:

The central petition of the prayer is that the worshiping assembly may be aided by Mary's intercession.  The result of granting this petition would be that the worshiping assembly ascend to Christ.  The English translation obscures the mountain imagery in the final part of the petition which connects the geographical roots of the feast among the hermits on Mt. Carmel and the mystical imagery of the "ascent of Mt. Carmel" as a metaphor for the soul's movement toward union with Christ.[192]

Even more important, from our perspective, is the plea that Mary's intercession might help us, so that "fortified by her protection,"[193] we may reach the mountain which is Christ.

            This idea of Mary's protection [præsidium] recurs a number of times in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.[194] For instance, in the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle [Beata Maria Virgo a Cenaculo] the priest prays

... grant that under the protection of the Blessed Virgin we may work for the unity and peace of all those for whom your Son offered himself as the sacrifice of our redemption.  [... concede ut, sub beatæ Virginis præsidio, ad fratrum concordiam et pacem adlaboremus pro quibus Iesus Christus, Filius tuus, redemptionis se obtulit hostiam.] [195]

Here the concept is precisely that under Mary's protection we will have the right conditions to work for unity and peace.  In the Opening Prayer of the Mass of the Holy Name of Mary [Sanctum Nomen Beatæ Mariæ Virginis] the language is borrowed directly from the Sub tuum præsidium:

... grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our Mother with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in our needs.  [... concede propitius, ut, qui sub eius præsidium secure confugimus, materno invocato nomine confortemur.][196]

Unfortunately, the translators have transformed the relative clause and also the object of the petition while retaining some of the key ideas.  A more literal translation can bring to the fore more readily the literary borrowing:  "grant that we who fly trustingly to her protection, may be comforted by calling upon her maternal name."[197]

            In a very notable way the concept of Mary's protection [præsidium] occurs in the Latin title and repeatedly in the prayers of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pillar of Faith [Beata Maria Virgo, Fidei Præsidium], which borrows in great part from the Mass of Our Lady of the Pillar, taken from the typical edition of the Missal approved by the Spanish Episcopal Conference.[198]  Perhaps the idea is best exemplified in the Opening Prayer:

Almighty and eternal God, you gave the Blessed Virgin Mary, glorious mother of your Son, as a pillar of strength to all who call upon her aid; grant through her intercession that we may be strong in faith, unwavering in hope, and steadfast in love.  [Omnipotens æterne Deus, qui beatam Virginem Mariam, gloriosam Filii tui Genetricem, præsidium dedisti omnibus eam invocantibus, concede nobis ut, ipsa intercedente, fortes simus in fide, firmi in spe, constantes in caritate.][199]

One understands the obvious allusion to the famous pillar in Saragossa, surmounted by a statuette of Our Lady, which, according to tradition, was left by her to Saint James the Great, the Apostle of Spain, as a precious reminder that he must be strong in the faith.[200] However, it seems to me that the word præsidium here has more the sense of "defending wall", "bulwark" or "fortification".  Such is the power of Our Lady's protection for those who seek her as their advocate.  Here I would propose that the idea could be rendered with even more strong imagery:  "Almighty, eternal God, who have given the Blessed Virgin Mary, the glorious Mother of your Son as a defending wall to all who call upon her, ..."[201]

            The same idea of the strength of Our Lady's protection is communicated in this line of the Preface:

Bathed in the glory of her Son, she shines upon his people as a star of hope and a pillar of faith.  [Germine gloriosa, spes fulget fidelium et fidei præsidium.][202]

I offer this literal rendition to illustrate my point:  "Glorious by virtue of her Son [the seed, the bud], she shines out as the hope of the faithful and the bulwark of faith."[203]  Likewise the notion of Mary as a source of impregnable strength is to be found in the Prayer after Communion of that Mass:

Lord our God, present in your Church in many ways, we thank you for the sacrament we have received and pray that, with the support of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may be true to the faith on earth and so enjoy the vision of your glory in heaven.  [Deus, qui multis modis Ecclesiæ tuæ præsens ades, gratias tibi de susceptis sacramentis referimus et supplices deprecamur, ut, beatæ Mariæ Virginis freti præsidio, fidei præcepta sequamur in terris et ad tuam gloriam in cælis contemplandam pervenire mereamur.][204]

I would propose that here beatæ Mariæ Virginis freti præsidio could be rendered more forcefully as "relying on the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary".

            The concept of Mary's maternal protection in the Roman Liturgy is certainly not limited to the occurrence of the word præsidium.  We find it, for instance, in the beautiful Preface of the Mass of the Commendation of the Blessed Virgin Mary [Commendatio Beatæ Mariæ Virginis]:

At the foot of the cross of Jesus, by his solemn and dying wish, a deep bond of love is fashioned between the Blessed Virgin Mary and his faithful disciples:  the Mother of God is entrusted to the disciples as their own mother, and they receive her as a precious inheritance from their Master.  She is to be for ever the mother of those who believe, and they will look to her with great confidence in her unfailing protection.  [Quia iuxta crucem Iesu, sacro ipsius testamento, inter beatam Virginem et fideles discipulos arctum instauratur amoris vinculum:  Genetrix discipulis in matrem commendatur, discipuli Matrem accipiunt pretiosam Magistri hereditatem.  Illa in ævum erit mater credentium, isti in perpetuum ad eam securi confugient.][205]

The final sentence in Latin could be rendered in English:  "She will for ever be the mother of believers who will always fly safely to her," but the English translators have done well here to recognize that the very idiomatic securi confugient speaks of Mary's motherly protection.[206]  A point not to be missed is that confugere is precisely the verb used in the prayer Sub tuum præsidium [We fly to your patronage] and hence it makes a subtle allusion to the trusting spirit of that prayer.

            The same verb is used with the same association in the Preface of the Mass of Mary, Mother of Reconciliation [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater Reconciliationis]:

You gave the Blessed Virgin Mary, sinless as she was, a heart of compassion for sinners; seeing her love as their mother, they turn to her with trust as they ask your forgiveness ... [tu enim beatæ Virgini, ignaræ peccati, cor miserans erga peccatores dedisti; qui eius maternam caritatem intuentes, ad eam confugiunt tuam veniam implorantes ...][207]

Recognizing the compassion of Mary's heart for sinners, "they fly to her imploring your pardon".  Sinners should know that Mary is not the source of pardon, which comes from God, but that she is their "advocate of grace" with him.  This, in fact, is carefully drawn out in the Opening Prayer of the same Mass which beautifully sets out Mary's role as the "Reconciler of sinners":

Lord our God, through the precious blood of your Son you reconciled the world to yourself and at the foot of the cross you chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of reconciliation for sinners; grant through her intercession that we may obtain pardon for our sins. [Deus, qui, pretioso sanguine Filii tui, mundum tibi reconciliasti eiusque Matrem, iuxta crucem, peccatorum Reconciliatricem constituere dignatus es, tribue quæsumus, ut, eiusdem beatæ Virginis Mariæ intercessione, nostrorum delictorum veniam consequamur.][208]

Here we might simply point out that a more literal translation would indicate that God was pleased to appoint the mother of his Son as the Reconciler of sinners.  The very use of the verb constituere here indicates Mary's appointment to an office, a special function, a mission or role [munus].  (We have already noted that she is called the "minister of the salvific plan" [salvificæ dispensationis ministra]. [209])  Hence, it is through her intercession that we may obtain pardon for our sins.[210]

            The Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians [Beata Maria Virgo, Auxilium Christianorum] further illustrates the theme of God's appointing Mary to a special role as advocate or helper:

You chose the immaculate Virgin Mary, the mother of your Son, to be the mother and help of Christians, so that under her protection, we might be fearless in waging the battle of faith, steadfast in holding the teaching of the apostles, and tranquil in spirit in the storms of this world, until we reach the joy of your heavenly city.  [Quia immaculatam Virginem Mariam, Filii tui Genetricem, matrem et auxilium populi christiani constituisti, ut, ipsa protegente, fidei certamen certet intrepidus, in Apostolorum doctrina firmus consistat et inter mundi procellas incedat securus, donec ad cælestem civitatem lætus perveniat.][211]

We might also simply note here that matrem et auxilium populi christiani constituisti indicates that God gave Mary the particular role of advocate by appointing her to be "the mother and help of the Christian people" and, thus, with her protecting them [ipsa protegente] they can be fearless, steadfast and secure.

C.  Patronage

             We have already noted more than once that præsidium is translated as "patronage" in the traditional English version of the Sub tuum præsidium [We fly to thy patronage].  In fact the idea of Mary's patronage was yet another way of illustrating her advocacy in the Middle Ages.[212] Just as a vassal would put himself under the patronage and at the service of a suzerain, so many Christians freely choose to put themselves under Mary's patronage by commiting [or consecrating] themselves to her.[213] Not surprisingly, we find that the terms patron [patrona] and patronage [patrocinium] have also entered into the liturgical vocabulary of the Collection.[214] Here is an example from the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of the Holy Name of Mary [Sanctum Nomen Beatæ Mariæ Virginis]:

Lord our God, you have given us new strength at the table of your word and sacrament; grant that by the guidance and patronage of blessed Mary we may turn away from all that dishonors the name of Christ and seek only what brings it into good repute. [Tribue nobis, quæsumus, Domine, quos ad verbi et sacramenti mensam roborasti, ut, beatæ Mariæ ductu et patrocinio, et illa respuamus, quæ christiano inimica sunt nomini et ea, quæ sunt apta, sectemur.] [215]

Here the understanding quite clearly is that all those for whom Mary is a mother in the order of grace [216] have a right to her guidance and patronage.[217]

            In the Prayer over the Gifts of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Magistra Spiritalis], there is also the unhesitating assertion that Mary's patronage extends over all who have been reborn in the waters of Baptism:

Lord, we offer these gifts from joyful hearts; through them sanctify your servants, whom the Blessed Virgin instructs by her example and watches over by her patronage, so that, faithful to our baptismal promises, we may serve you and our neighbor with sincerity of heart.  [Per hæc munera quæ tibi lætantes offerimus, sanctifica, quæsumus, Domine, famulos tuos, quos beata Virgo docet exemplis et patrocinio custodit, ut promissa baptismi fideliter adimplentes, tibi fratribus sincero corde deserviant.][218]

The Italian translation of this prayer seems surprisingly less faithful to the Latin text than is the English, but in rendering patrocinio custodit as "she protects us with her help"[219], we get the idea that Our Lady's patronage is always dynamic, that she never ceases to watch over her spiritual children.

            The linking of Mary's patronage with her spiritual maternity is even clearer in the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom [Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede]:

Lord God, we have received the sacrament of redemption and life and now pray that through the intercession of Our Lady of Ransom, whom in your mercy you gave us as our loving mother and patroness in heaven, we may serve ever more strenuously the mystery of salvation on earth and be at last admitted into your heavenly kingdom. [Sumptis, Domine, sacramentis redemptionis et vitæ, supplices deprecamur, ut, intercedente beata Maria Virgine de Mercede, quam misericorditer nobis piissimam matrem et cælestem dedisti patronam, humanæ salutis mysterio deserviamus impensius atque in regna cælorum mereamur admitti.][220]

Thus Mary is the advocate or patroness of those who "have received the sacrament of redemption" precisely because she is their mother.  As mother, she ever intercedes for them and looks after them.

            Finally, in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick [Beatæ Mariæ Virginis, Salus Infirmorum] Mary is indicated as being a special patron of the sick because of her own share in the mystery of suffering:

In a wonderful way you gave the Blessed Virgin Mary a special share in the mystery of pain.  She now shines radiantly as a sign of health, of healing, and of divine hope for the sick who call on her patronage.  [Quia beata Virgo Maria, doloris mysterii mirum in modum particeps effecta, infirmis eius patrocinium invocantibus signum fulget salutis et supernæ spei ...][221]

In this graceful way Mary's patronage is linked with her role as Coredemptrix, her unique participation in the mystery of redemptive suffering.

V.  Conclusion

             It should be apparent by now that the themes of Our Lady's Coredemption, Mediation and Advocacy are abundantly represented in the Mass formularies of the present Roman Liturgy, especially in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I have not touched the Liturgy of the Hours, nor have I considered the readings available in the Lectionary of Paul VI or in the Collection.  In fact, it cannot be said that this study has exhausted all the instances in which these themes occur, even in the liturgical books to which I have limited myself.  I do believe, however, that I have provided sufficient examples to demonstrate that a case is not being built on one or two debatable texts, but on a truly ample documentation.

A.  Summary

            We have examined at some length how the euchological texts present Mary's collaboration in the redemption in various ways such as the associate of Christ [socia Christi], the new Eve [nova Eva], totally devoted to the person and work of her Son, a sharer in the sufferings of her Son, the one who presents her Son to the Father and the one who unites her sacrifice to that of her Son.  We have then studied the liturgical treatment of Mary as "minister of grace" [ministra gratiæ, ministra pietatis and other cognate forms] which indicate that Mary truly exercises an office of mediating and distributing the grace of the redemption.  Finally we have considered some ways in which the present orations of the Roman liturgy present Mary as advocate for the people of God:  advocate of grace [advocata gratiæ], intercessor, protection [præsidium], Reconciler of sinners, help of Christians and patroness [patrona].

            It is obvious that the liturgy does not present these themes in airtight compartments and we have often seen how the various topics which we have investigated are so interwoven that they cannot be neatly separated one from the other.  I would now like to present two Prefaces which unite in themselves, in a marvelously lapidary way, the three topics which we have been considering, i.e., Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.  Each one consolidates the doctrines which we have been examining from its own unique thematic perspective.

            The first of these Prefaces is that of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Mediatrix Gratiæ], which we have already looked at under the topic of Mary's mediation of grace.  So doctrinally rich is this composition that a second examination will not be out of place.

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Truly God and truly human,[222] he was chosen by you as the one mediator between you and the human family, always living to make intercession for us.  In your wisdom and goodness the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother and companion of the Redeemer, was to have a maternal role in the Church:  of intercession and pardon, of prayer and grace, of reconciliation and peace.  The love that she bestows as a mother is entirely the gift of Christ, the one mediator, from whom alone she receives her power.  Her children, in their trials and fears, turn with confidence to the Blessed Virgin, calling to her as mother of mercy and handmaid of grace.  [Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens æterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum.  Quem, verum Deum et hominem verum, unum inter te et homines constituisti mediatorem, semper vivum ad interpellandum pro nobis.  Sed tuæ bonitatis consilio statuisti ut beata Virgo Maria, Redemptoris mater et socia, munus in Ecclesia exerceret maternum:  intercessionis et veniæ, impetrationis et gratiæ, reconciliationis et pacis.  Quæ maternæ caritatis dispensatio tota ex unica Christi mediatione pendet totamque ex illa haurit virtutem.  Unde fideles, in angustiis et periculis versantes, ad beatam Virginem fidentes confugiunt, quam matrem misericordiæ invocant et gratiæ ministram.][223]

I have already proposed above my own literal translation of a part of this splendid composition in order to highlight Mary's maternal mission as "minister of grace".  Here I should like to underscore the fact that Mary is also referred to as the "companion of the Redeemer" [Redemptoris socia], thus establishing the basis of her maternal and mediatorial mission [munus maternum]:  of intercession and pardon, of prayer and grace, of reconciliation and peace [intercessionis et veniæ, impetrationis et gratiæ, reconciliationis et pacis] and her role as "minister of grace" [gratiæ ministra].  Mary's advocacy is sensitively sketched thus:  "Her children, in their trials and fears, turn with confidence to the Blessed Virgin, calling to her as mother of mercy."  One familiar with the Latin text of the Sub tuum præsidium will notice a subtle allusion to that prayer in the words periculis and confugiunt.

            The second Preface which I would like to indicate as tying all of the themes together is that of the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom [Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede]:

In your wise and provident plan you joined the Blessed Virgin so closely to your Son in the work of redemption that she was with him as a loving mother in his infancy, stood by his cross as the faithful companion in his passion, and assumed into heaven, became our advocate, and the handmaid of our redemption.  She cares unceasingly with a mother's love for all your children in their need, breaking the chains of every form of captivity, that they might enjoy full liberty of body and spirit.  [Qui mirabili providentique consilio, beatam Virginem in opere salutis humanæ Filio tuo tam arcta societate iunxisti, ut in humilitate cunarum ei amantissima mater adesset et iuxta crucem staret fidelis socia passionis: ad supernam autem civitatem evecta advocata nostra fieret ac redemptionis ministra.  Unde de fratribus Filii sui in necessitate versantibus semper curat caritate materna, ut, omnis captivitatis fractis compedibus, plena corporis et animi libertate fruantur.][224]

I have already considered portions of this superb composition under the topics of (1) Associate of the Redeemer, (2) totally devoted to the work of her Son and (3) "minister of the redemption" [redemptionis ministra].  Now let us simply observe how the theme of coredemption is developed by describing Mary as "joined closely to her Son in the work of redemption" and as his "faithful companion in his passion" [fidelis socia passionis]; how that of mediation is attested to by the reference to Mary as "minister of redemption" [redemptionis ministra] and that of Advocate is witnessed to not only by the word advocata but also by the description of how she cares for all of her children with a mother's love.  The use of the word necessitate may also be seen as alluding to the Sub tuum præsidium.  Both of these texts, it seems to me, are not only magnificent prayers, but remarkable formulations of Our Lady's mediatorial office, first on earth, then in heavenn.

B.  Specific Conclusions

            1.  Consolidation of Doctrine.  In his foreward to Præcelsa Filia Sion Cardinal Virgilio Noè states that

The Church of God has discovered ever new meanings in the Gospel figure of Mary, Mother of the Lord Jesus, but the times in which we ourselves have lived have seen significant strides made in the deepening of theological, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral understanding of her role in the economy of salvation.[225]

These words of Cardinal Noè aptly express my own conviction as I bring this study to a close.  How striking that the times in which we live -- with all of the counter signs and confusion and with the "Marian eclipse" which followed immediately upon the Council -- should constitute a privileged moment for "the deepening of theological, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral understanding of [Mary's] role in the economy of salvation"!  This is surely not merely man's doing; it seems to be a sovereign manifestation of God's will.

            Another entire study would be required to speak authoritatively about the Marian Mass formularies found in the editions of the Roman Missal prior to that promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 (including those in the Propers of Saints for Certain Places), but I believe that this almost casual remark of Father Joncas about the past and present prayer formulas for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is highly significant:  "It may be instructive to compare the two orations to show the shift from devotional to mystagogical prayer on this feast."[226] I would simply add to this an acknowledgement that the conciliar emphasis on placing Our Lady in the context of salvation history has had a very salutary effect in the composition of these new Masses.

            In this particular matter the words of Paul VI in Signum Magnum, which I cited at the beginning of this investigation, have proven prophetic:

Nor is it to be feared that liturgical reform, if put into practice according to the formula "the law of faith must establish the law of prayer" may be detrimental to the "wholly singular" veneration due to the Virgin Mary for her prerogatives, first among these being the dignity of the Mother of God.[227]

As I previously noted, the Pope was citing the principle lex orandi, lex credendi here from the perspective of the faith of the Church establishing the law of prayer.

            What I find particularly remarkable in this regard is that, even though the conciliar treatment of Mary's mediation was deliberately minimalistic, the term Coredemptrix was not mentioned and Our Lady's advocacy was presented from a somewhat apologetic perspective without notable development, nonetheless the doctrine which these Masses consolidate corresponds to some of the highest points reached by the papal magisterium on Our Lady.  I believe that this is a matter to note well because since the Council there has been silence on many fronts about already well-established Marian truths with the tacit or even explicit understanding that it is no longer appropriate to speak about them since the Council did not do so.  This is a clear misreading of the intent of chapter eight of Lumen Gentium whose prologue concludes thus:

It [this sacred synod] does not, however, intend to give a complete doctrine on Mary [quin tamen in animo habeat completam de Maria proponere doctrinam], nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified.[228]

Hence, while we cannot say that the Mass formularies which we have considered represent a "development of doctrine" in the strict sense, we can say that, from the doctrinal side, they provide an extremely valuable testimony to the Church's faith and perform a genuine work of consolidation.  In this sense I pray that the study of these texts and -- even more -- their use in worship will help to dispel a lingering confusion in some quarters regarding the magnitude and scope of Mary's mission in the life of Christ and of the Church.

            2.  Need for greater clarity and fidelity in the English translations.  At this stage I do not think it necessary to belabor the need for a careful revision of the English translations of these Marian liturgical texts.  While I have not done an exhaustive analysis of all the translations (which was not the aim of this study), I believe that the euchological texts which I have analyzed are sufficiently representative.  In a number of respects the translations of the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary are notably superior to the translations generally found in the English edition of the Roman Missal of Paul VI.  Unfortunately, this is not enough.

            At times the English renditions of these magnificent prayers betray a remarkable arbitrariness,[229] the acceptance of a questionable ideology[230] and an innocence of some of the finer points of the Marian theology which the Latin originals embody.  To me the most egregious instance of this final issue is the constant rendition of ministra pietatis and ministra gratiæ as "handmaid of love" and "handmaid of grace" which ignores the consistent terminology employed in the papal Marian magisterium for the last hundred years.  My strong recommendation is that a revision of the present English translations be undertaken with the collaboration of theologians thoroughly conversant with the magisterial tradition and competent in mariology.  In this regard I wish to cite the words of our Holy Father of 4 December 1993 to Bishops of the United States on the "ad limina" visit:

 One of your responsibilities in this regard, as stewards of the grace of the supreme priesthood (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 26), is to make available exact and appropriate translations of the official liturgical books so that, following the required review and confirmation by the Holy See (cf. CIC, can. 838, §2-3), they may be an instrument and guarantee of a genuine sharing in the mystery of Christ and the Church:  lex orandi, lex credendi.  The arduous task of translation must guard the full doctrinal integrity and, according to the genius of each language, the beauty of the original texts.  When so many people are thirsting for the living God (Ps. 42:2) -- whose majesty and mercy are at the heart of liturgical prayer -- the Church must respond with a language of praise and worship which fosters respect and gratitude for God's greatness, compassion and power.  When the faithful gather to celebrate the work of our redemption, the language of their prayer -- free from doctrinal ambiguity and ideological influence -- should foster the dignity and beauty of the celebration itself, while faithfully expressing the Church's faith and unity (cf. Vicesimus quintus annus, nn. 9 and 21).[231]

            3.  Magisterial value of these texts.  In his introduction to the valuable study tool provided by Fathers Johnson and Ward for the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cardinal Noè says:

On the occasion of the Marian Year of 1987-1988, the Congregation for Divine Worship brought to term the notable work involved in the preparation of a collection of liturgical texts to facilitate, above all in Marian shrines, liturgical celebration in honour of the Mother of God.  As the publication itself amply explains, a good number of the prayers, chants and chosen readings from the Sacred Scriptures had in the first place arisen among local Christian communities, but their coordination and reshaping for the benefit of the wider pastoral needs of the Roman Rite is an event of far from negligible importance in the development by the magisterium and in the experience of the Christian people of the great riches that are represented by Mary, the Mother of God.[232]

The Cardinal speaks here of the publication of these Masses as a "development by the magisterium ... of the great riches that are represented by Mary, the Mother of God."  This is a point which should not be missed.  The development and approval of the Masses in the Collection have a definite magisterial value precisely because of the axiom that "the law of prayer is the law of faith" or legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi.[233] The Mass formularies of the present Roman liturgy testify strongly to the Church's belief in Mary's role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God.  At the same time, these marvelous prayers of the Church militant are meant to draw her children ever more securely into the worship of the Church triumphant in union with Mary, her Mother.  This is so because, as the Council Fathers happily put it:

Having entered deeply into the history of salvation, Mary, in a way, unites in her person and re-echoes the most important doctrines of the faith:  and when she is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her Son, to his sacrifice and to the love of the Father.[234]

Laus Iesu Virginique Matri Eius!


163. 57.

164. Miravalle 67-68.

165. Anselm W. Romb, O.F.M. Conv. (ed.),  The Kolbe Reader (Libertyville, IL:  Franciscan Marytown Press, 1987) 192.

166. Miravalle 68.

167. CMP Vol. I, #90, 95; cf. Theotokos 5-6 (especially on the debate of Patristic scholars on the meaning of advocate in this context), 189-190.

168. Theotokos 5-6.

169. Cf. Miravalle 57; Totus Tuus 41-45.

170. Theotokos 336.

171. Joseph P. Christopher, Charles E. Spence and John F. Rowan (eds.), The Raccolta (Boston:  Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1957) #333.

172. Lumen Gentium #62 (Flannery 418-419).

173. Maternitas Mariæ in Ecclesia indesinenter perdurat ut mediatio intercedensInseg X/1 (1987) 728 [St. Paul Editions 57].

174. Inseg II/2 (1979) 816 [ORE 610:3].

175. RM 70:  8 December.

176. Oremus 356.

177. Col #29.

178. Cf. Sodi 140.

179. Cf. Miravalle 58-59; Miguens, Mary "The Servant of the Lord" 49, 62-67.

180. Col #46.

181. Calabuig 235-242.

182. Calabuig 241.

183. RM 70 Opening Prayer for 1 January.

184. Cf. critique and literal translation of this prayer in John Allyn Melloh, S.M., "Mary in the Mysteries of Christ from Advent to the Baptism of the Lord:  Liturgical References," Marian Studies 41 (1990) 74-75.

185. Oremus 25; cf. also the translation in RM 67 of the Opening Prayer from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Christmas to the Purification.

186. PFS 708-709.

187. Cf. Totus Tuus 42.

188. Cassel's 467-468.

189. Cf. Henri Barré, C.S.Sp., Prières Anciennnes de l'Occident a la Mère du Sauveur (Paris:  P. Lethielleux, 1963) 36, 112 (3), 142 (79), 159 (48), 232 (10), 234 (82), 266 (24).

190. RM 70, 16 July.

191. The same oration is used as the Opening Prayer for the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit [Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Magistra Spiritalis] (Col #32) where a more faithful translation is given.

192. Joncas 128.

193. Cf. the translation of the Opening Prayer of Col #32 which has "under her protection", the literal translation of Joncas 128 which renders this idea "equipped by her help" and Oremus 138 which gives "guarded by her help".

194. PFS 741.

195. Col #17.

196. Col #21.

197. In repeated cases like this one cannot help being puzzled at the seeming arbitrariness of the translators and those entrusted with verifying their translations.

198. Cf. Introduction to Col #35.

199. Col #35.

200. Cf. Zsolt Aradi, Shrines to Our Lady Around the World (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Young, 1954) 22-24; Domenico Marcucci, Santuari Mariani d'Europa (Milano:  Edizioni San Paolo, 1993) 144-145.

 201. The Italian edition gives:  "Dio, onnipotente ed eterno, che nella beata Vergine Maria, gloriosa madre del tuo Figlio, hai dato un sostegno e una difesa a quanti la invocano ..." [PMM 310] indicating that God has given Mary as "a support and a defense" to those who call upon her.  The same title is given to the Mass, Maria Vergine Sostegno e Difesa della nostra Fede [PMM 308].

202. Col #35.

203. The Italian translation renders fidei præsidium "defense of the faith" cf.  PMM 312.

204. Col #35.

205. Col #13.

206. The Italian text gives:  The faithful will for ever run to her as to a secure refuge [Ricorreranno nei secoli i fedeli come a un sicuro rifugio].  PMM 136.

207. Col #14.

208. Col #14.

209. Cf. Col #7:  Preface.

210. Cf. Sodi 104-106.

211. Col #42.

212. Cf. Barré 39, 142 (81), 183 (21), 302 (11).

213. Cf. Totus Tuus 48-52.

214. PFS 736.

215. Col #21.

216. Cf. Lumen Gentium #62.

217. Cf. Sodi 124-125.

218. Col #32.

219. ci protegge con il suo aiuto, PMM 292.

220. Col #43.

221. Col #44.

222. Cf. footnote 150 above.

223. Col #30.

224. Col #43.

225. PFS 629.

226. Joncas 110, footnote 91.

227. AAS 59 (1967) 467 [St. Paul Edition 3].

228. Lumen Gentium #54 [Flannery 414].

229. Cf. footnote 198 above.

230. Cf. footnote 150 above.

231. ORE 1320:3.

232. PFS 630.

233. CCC #1124.

234. Lumen Gentium #65 [Flannery 420-421].

The above paper first appeared in Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.),
Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations: Towards a Papal Definition? (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1995)

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