Thursday, February 05, 2004

Short Dialogue on Mary Mediatrix

From the public discussion board of Catholic Family Radio: 5 April 2000. My Protestant opponent is responding to my paper: A Biblical and Theological Primer on Mary Mediatrix. His words will be in blue:

Thanks for your excellent post, filled with relevant and interesting comments, the exact opposite of another notorious recent member of this board. :-)

I feel in some ways invited to this discussion by Dave’s self-identification as an informal theologian.

Kewl! :-)

If the church is as she has been defined, then she has every right to make anyone co-redemptrix.

Not really, because she can't go against the apostolic Tradition, which holds that there was only one such person: Mary. The Church's power is not absolute: it is subordinate to the "Tradition Received."

If any man can agree to that role of the Catholic Church, then every other point falls in line behind it.

Well, it has the "power" to authoritatively declare Tradition on any given point, but not to create it, as many Protestants caricature our position. Just as with the NT Canon: the Church didn't create it, but rather, authoritatively proclaimed it, thus settling the issue. But in general terms, Church authority is very central to this discussion, yes.

I must agree to the idea that God chose to involve a woman in the salvation of men, but can do so only in a very general sense . . . If identification of her as co-redemptrix is confined to this level of understanding, who could object?

I assume that you outline your areas of disagreement below. If not, please elaborate.

I can even agree to the idea that Mary is chief among creatures and therefore chief among co-redeemers. But, I can only see that designation as function of grace offered her, not by any virtue of her own actions.

Of course. Every good thing we do goes back to grace, lest we become Pelagians. Yet we cooperate with God's grace. We can choose not to, so there is some measure of merit due to us by virtue of our free cooperation. All the more so, Mary.

Was the reason that Christ experienced birth (as opposed to being a 30 year old theophany) in order to give a special station to Mary, or so that we could rightly say that he was in all ways like us?

The latter; yet that doesn't rule out the former also, does it? The fact remains that Mary's place is highly exalted by the plain fact of being Theotokos. But this is not to be seen as a "competitor" to Christ's glory and uniqueness. Rather, it is an obvious corollary of it, and protector of it - as all Marian doctrines are intended to be, rightly understood. Mary is "moon" to Christ's "sun." She reflects; her "light" is not self-generated.

The emphasis in "Mother of God" is on GOD, not "mother," but again, it is still an unfathomably glorious thing to be "Mother of God." One could spend their whole life contemplating the profundity and sublimity of it (as Luther fully grasped).

A corollary effect of being born of a woman may have been that Mary receives honor greater than that of any creature, but can we say that it was the reason for it?

No; nor does the Catholic Church say that. But it will not minimize Mary's role out of a false and unnecessary philosophical either/or schema.

The distinction is important because it makes the point between lower case and upper case mediation.

Indeed. We have no significant disagreement on this point.

Mary is a mediator. I think we would agree that God has always chosen to involve human mediation in every act, even creation (as I could see giving man the right to name the animals as a co-creative act).

We would; many Protestants (particularly Reformed) would balk at such expression as idolatrous.

The question remains as to whether Mary is a Mediator with a capital M, involving more than God’s usual modus operandi.

She is qualitatively more so than the rest of us, being Theotokos.

Some of the language above (point 7) seems to indicate that Mary had some special consent to give regarding the suffering of our Lord. What I do not understand is how her assent becomes consent. I too, assent to the crucifixion every day. (Most days I insist on it, to my shame.) In fact, this is alluded to in point 13.

Maybe that was a poor choice of words on my part. It's not like God wouldn't have done it if Mary said "no." He would have simply chosen another - knowing all things - but Mary did cooperate with her free will, and that is what is being emphasized in that portion of the paper.

It would seem to me that the ability to give consent to the crucifixion ended after a certain point in our Lord’s life. She could have chosen to abort (wanted to choose, that is, whether she actually could have is another matter) or to neglect him as a newborn, but at the time of his offering he was an adult male who did not need her consent any more than he required that of the apostle (recall that he identified one protest as satanic).

"Consent" can mean not just to "give permission" or "cause," but also, "to agree in one's will" (whereas "assent" is mental and intellectual, not a function of the will). That is what I was getting at, and what the Catholic teaching is. Mary understood what was going on at the Crucifixion, as no one else did, not even St. John. She knew this was part of redemption. In that fashion, she agreed with God's plan and willfully participated in it, unspeakably horrible from a mother's standpoint though it was.

On a popular level, does anyone think that Mary could have prevented the presentation of the sacrifice?

No; you're barking up the wrong tree here, based on your limited definition of "consent," which the dictionary doesn't require.

Could she have ordered her Son from the cross and lessened him to the role of a divine beverage fountain for Palestinian weddings?

No. And if she had, I don't believe God would have elected her for the role she had in the first place.

As for point 10, there is no reason for thinking that God could not have done such a thing, but what is the reason for thinking that he would?

Centuries of reflection, according to the mind of the Church and of her saints and doctors and greatest theologians; analogies to other biblical involvements of human beings; elements of propriety and plausibility.

How will dogmatically identifying Mary as co-redemptrix bring him glory?

I think it brings God the Father glory in the sense that He once again chose to involve human beings in His Providence, in such a way that we can only marvel at what is called "divine condescension." It is similar to the Incarnation in that "God didn't have to do it that way." It shows Divine Humility. I see many parallels with the Incarnation itself, in those senses.

Point 15 states that all graces come through Mary and I have heard this before without questioning it, because I understood it differently than what seems to be unwrapping in my mind now. Certainly Mary is the mother of Jesus, but is it understood that other that her giving birth to the Christ, she somehow now is the high priestess of every grace to the Church. I appeal to the rudimentary theologians here… Am I to picture Jesus handing something to Mary and Mary handing that
same thing to me?

Some theologians have used the word picture of Mary being the "neck" of the Body of Christ. Jesus is the head and distributes His graces through Mary the "neck," so that a creature would have the honor and privilege of being involved in the redemption of the human race: always secondarily, as an agent, not as a primal cause.

Or it is understood in the sense that Mary intercedes for every grace offered.

This begs the question, if Mary becomes co-redemptrix, does it lay the foundation for a type of female co-priesthood?

No, because the priest is an alter Christus. He is representing Christ at the Last Supper at every Mass, so that maleness is fundamental to it. Mary, I think, is more analogous to a figure for the Church, or for the lay Christian.

Thanks for a very stimulating post.

Uploaded on 30 June 2000 by Dave Armstrong, from public discussion board posts.

No comments: