Catholic Apologetics

We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

 

The first part of this series covered the doctrine of the Blessed Virgin as Coredemtrix of the human race.  We now turn to the other two, related aspects of her identity: Mediatrix of All Grace, and Advocate of the Church.

 

Though all three titles are intertwined, the roles of Mediatrix and Advocate are, in a sense, two sides of the same coin.  The Blessed Virgin is a conduit to her divine Son on the part of the Church – her spiritual children – just as she is a conduit from Christ through which His graces flow.

 

 

Definition

 

As with the doctrine of Mary as Coredemtrix, neither that of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces or Advocate has not been made explicit dogma with solemn definition(s) by the Church; we have the “working definitions” provided by the ongoing testimony of the ordinary universal magisterium (supported by the saints and mystics).

 

Wile the papal magisterium uses the titles “Mediatrix” and “Advocate” directly in reference to the Blessed Virgin, these are not, as noted, given formal definitions.  What is indicated, of course, is that Mary both distributes the graces gained by Christ on the cross and offers the prayers of the faithful along with her advocacy for our salvation.

 

St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his masterpiece The Glories Of Mary, offers this important distinction: “…in calling Mary our mediatress, I mean that she is a Mediatrix of grace, and that her office differs from that of Jesus Christ, who is our principal and sole mediator of justice (emphasis in original).”[1]

 

He continues: “In calling Mary omnipotent (as Saint John Damascene, Saint Peter Damian, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Comas of Jerusalem, and others have done), I intend to signify that, as Mother of God, she obtains from him by her prayers all that she asks for the benefit of her clients.  Taken absolutely, neither mediation nor omnipotence is attributable to Mary, since she is only a creature.  In calling her our hope, I mean that all graces (as Saint Bernard teaches) pass through her hands.”[2]

 

As we’ll see below, not only is Mary regarded as Mediatrix of grace in a general sense, the saints and the magisterium teach that she is Mediatrix of All Grace – every grace that flows from the Godhead passes through her hands, by the fiat of the Holy Trinity, as reward for her participation in the Sacrifice of the Redemption of mankind, and as a gift to us.  Likewise, for our benefit, she is the Advocate par excellence on behalf of the faithful before the Throne of God.

 

 

Status Of The Teaching

 

States the most distinguished 20th-century Thomist, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, “Our Holy Mother Church approved during the pontificate of Benedict XV the proper Mass and Office of Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces.  Many theologians consider that the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation is sufficiently contained in the deposit of revelation to be one day proposed solemnly as an object of faith by the infallible Church.  It is taught by the ordinary magisterium of the Church through the liturgy, through encyclical letters, through pastoral letters, in preaching, and in the works of theologians approved by the Church” (emphasis mine).[3]

 

(Unfortunately, the introduction of the Novus Ordo Rite of Mass in the Latin Church reduces the practical impact of this point: It is at least doubtful whether it can be said that this Rite (which was, of course, never properly promulgated, and never abrogated the Tridentine Rite) teaches the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces.  The traditional date of this feast was May 31st; after the institution of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the same day, it varied by locale, but the 1962 Tridentine Missal lists both on that date.  The Novus Ordo Liturgical Calendar as published by the USCCB, in contrast makes no mention of this title of Our Lady anywhere.[4])

 

Garrigou-Lagrange continues, “It would appear that the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation is capable of being defined as a dogma of faith, for it is implicitly revealed in the different titles which Tradition gives Mary – that of Mother of God, most powerful in intercession with her Son, that of the new Eve intimately associated with the Redeemer, that of Mother of all men… Mary’s universal mediation appears then to be capable of definition as a dogma of faith: it is at least implicitly revealed and it is already universally proposed by the ordinary magisterium of the Church” (emphasis mine again).[5]

 

This statement is tantamount to categorizing the teaching as an infallible doctrine of the Catholic Church (an implicit dogma).  As discussed previously regarding the doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix, the lack of a formalization of the doctrine does not make it less than an infallible teaching of the Church, which hence demands the full assent of divine-catholic faith.

 

The Fathers & The Early Church

 

The prayer quoted at the head of this essay is known as the Sub Tuum and dates to at least the mid-third-century.  This prayer demonstrates that the belief in the Virgin as Theotokos, Mediatrix, and Advocate was explicit in the early Church.

 

This quote from St. Irenaeus bears repeating: “… so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race… Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.  What the virgin Even had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith.”[6]

 

Mary can be said to be the very “cause of our salvation” in the sense that she cooperated directly in the Redemption as well as in the sense that she distributes the fruit of it (grace) to the Church.

 

Irenaeus also calls the Blessed Virgin “advocate” for Eve herself, representative of our fallen race: “And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve.”[7]

 

St. Justin the Martyr identifies Mary as the New Eve, a common teaching of the Fathers: “…He became Man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent, might be also the very course by which it would be put down.”[8]

 

This facet of Mary’s existence (Mediatrix of Grace) is not only entirely congruent with her ontological status as the New Eve, but flows naturally from it. 

 

As Mary literally, physically “mediated” Christ into the world, it follows naturally that she would do the same with His grace.

 

This mediation is a natural extension of her spiritual Motherhood (as we will explore later).  That most eminent Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, touches upon this facet 17 centuries ago: “In spirit she [the Blessed Virgin] is Mother, not of our Head, who is our Savior Himself – of whom, rather, it was she who was born spiritually, since all who believe in Him, including even herself, are rightly called children of the bridegroom – but plainly she is [in spirit] Mother of us who are His members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that Head, might be born in the Church.  In body, indeed, she is Mother of that very Head.”[9]  It is fitting and natural that our spiritual Mother would advocate for us before the Throne of her Son, the King, as well as distribute His gifts.

 

I would be remiss to pass by a little-known quote from Antipater of Bostra, a Father of the Council of Ephesus, who surely provided one of the earliest known usages of the Virgin’s title of “Mediatrix”: “Hail you who acceptably intercede as a Mediatrix for mankind.”[10]

 

The understanding of the Blessed Virgin’s role as Mediatrix grew, organically, from the patristic period.  We will examine in depth the deep and sophisticated exegesis of the topic by later, well-known Marian theologian-saints below.

 

The Popes

 

Pope Pius IX, in Ubi Primum (in which he solicited theological opinions from the episcopate regarding the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception), stated, “For, God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will, that we obtain everything through Mary.”[11]  This statement is tantamount to calling Mary “Mediatrix of All Grace.”

 

In his famous Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pius IX reiterates this theme, using the term Mediatrix; she is, “the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix in the whole world; in her who is the most excellent glory, ornament, and impregnable stronghold of the holy Church; in her who has destroyed all heresies and snatched the faithful people and nations from all kinds of direst calamities; in her do we hope who has delivered us from so many threatening dangers.” Conciliatrix is a synonym for Advocate.

 

Pope Leo XIII continues this theme through several encyclicals in the final decades of the 19th century.  In Supremi Apostolatus Officio, elucidating her role as Advocate, he writes that, “It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary”; that, “the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God”; that she, “has a favour and power with her Son greater than any human or angelic creature has ever obtained, or ever can gain.”[12]  He also acknowledges her as “the guardian of our peace and the minister to us of heavenly grace,” echoed again in Superiore Anno.[13]

 

Leo is more explicit yet in Jucunda Semper: “The recourse we have to Mary in prayer follows upon the office she continuously fills by the side of the throne of God as Mediatrix of Divine grace; being by worthiness and by merit most acceptable to Him, and, therefore, surpassing in power all the angels and saints in Heaven.”[14]  Further, he confirms the teaching on the transmission of grace as given by St. Bernardine of Siena: “Every grace granted to man has three degrees in order; for by God it is communicated to Christ, from Christ it passes to the Virgin, and from the Virgin it descends to us.”[15]

 

Ad Diem Illum, the magnificent encyclical by Pope St. Pius Xth marking the 50th anniversary of the definition of the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, is a treasure trove of teaching regarding the Blessed Virgin as Coredemtrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.  We will explore this document in more depth below, but, to consider only for the moment the question of papal support for the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace and Advocate, we have, “it has been allowed to the august Virgin to be the most powerful mediatrix and advocate of the whole world with her Divine Son,” and, “[Mary] merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost world… and Dispensatrix of all the gifts that Our Savior purchased for us by His Death and by His Blood.”[16]

 

Benedict XV, in Inter Sodalicia (1918), teaches that Mary’s role as Mediatrix is a gift to her from the Godhead in recompense for direct participation in the Sacrifice of the Redemption: “But if for this reason [her co-redemptive suffering], every kind of grace we receive from the treasury of the redemption is ministered as it were through the hands of the same Sorrowful Virgin, everyone can see that a holy death should be expected from her, since it is precisely by this gift that the work of the Redemption is effectively and permanently completed in each one... further, there is a most constant belief among the faithful, proved by long experience, that as many as employ the same Virgin as Patron, will not at all perish forever.”

 

Popes Pius XI and Pius XII continue this papal tradition of explicit recognition of the Blessed Virgin as Mediatrix Of All Graces and Advocate in the encyclicals Miserentissimus RedemptorIngravescentibus Malis, and Mediator Dei.

 

In the former, Pius XI states, “Trusting in her intercession with Christ, who whereas He is the ‘one mediator of God and men’ (1 Timothy ii, 5), chose to make His Mother the advocate of sinners, and the minister and mediatress of grace…”[17]

 

(It is also true that, despite his many failings, Pope John Paul II expressed an authentic and orthodox Marian theology and contributed to the papal magisterium regarding Mary’s roles of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.)

 

We see that the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace and Advocate is firmly established in the ordinary universal magisterium.

 

 

Explication

 

Mary Is the Archetypal Davidic Queen Mother

 

A fascinating aspect of the New Testament Covenant is the typological relationship between the queen mothers of the Davidic dynasty and the Blessed Virgin, Queen Mother of Christ the King, the typological fulfillment of the former.

 

We will demonstrate that the Old Testament Davidic Queen Mother was an advocate to the King on behalf of the people, that Christ is the archetypical Davidic King, and that, since Mary is His Mother, she is, in parallel, the archetypical Queen Mother, Advocate before her Son, the King, on behalf of His Body.

 

To understand the phenomena of the advocate queen mother, one must be aware of the fact that the Jewish monarchy mimicked that of surrounding kingdoms at the time.  These pagan cultures practiced polygamy; because the king might have multiple wives, the role of queen was given to the king’s mother.


Though Israel was intended originally to have God as its king, recall that the people desired to “be like all nations,” and have an earthly king.[18]  God granted them their wish, though the Davidic Monarchy was unlike any other in a number of ways:

 

  • ·      It was based on a covenant relationship with the people[19]
  • ·      The throne of David was considered akin to the very Throne of God; it is referred to as the “throne of the Lord”[20]
  • ·      Most importantly, as the above suggests, this monarchy would be typologically fulfilled by God Incarnate Himself ruling all of creation for eternity

 

The canonical example of the Old Testament Queen Mother as Advocate is that of Bethsabee (Bathsheba), mother of King Solomon, David’s son.  In 1 Kings chapter 2, we are shown both the great respect she is shown by her son, the king, as well as the exercise of her role as advocate:

 

“Then Bethsabee came to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonias: and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne: and a throne was set for the king' s mother, and she sat on his right hand.  And she said to him: I desire one small petition of thee, do not put me to confusion. And the king said to her: My mother, ask: for I must not turn away thy face (1 Kings 2:19-20).

 

The king himself bows to this woman, and indicates she has such power over him that he cannot refuse her requests.

 

We can see that the Queen Mother exercised a special role of honor and advocacy in the Davidic monarchy.  The next step, Christ being not only a king in the line of David, but the archetypical fulfillment of it, is beyond dispute; it is taught by the Church as clearly revealed in Scripture.

 

“Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.  And of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

 

We have also Amos 9:11:

 

“In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, that is fallen: and I will close up the breaches of the walls thereof, and repair what was fallen: and I will rebuild it as in the days of old.”

 

quoted in Acts in reference to the Kingdom of Christ.

 

Mary appears in Revelation (12:1) crowned with the Twelve Stars of Israel because she is the Queen Mother of the New Israel.  Just as the Queen Mothers of old were advocates for the people before the king, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, is Advocate for the Church Militant and Church Suffering before the King, her divine Son, Jesus Christ.

 

 

Her Divine Motherhood Gives Her Rights Over Her Son

 

St. Alphonsus Liguori speaks of the great power of the Queen Mother: “So great is the authority which a mother has over her son, that even though he is a monarch and has absolute power over everybody in the kingdom, still she can never become her son’s subject.”[21]  He states further that, “…by every law the queen enjoys the same privileges as the king” (emphasis mine),[22] that her prayers have the nature of a command by her divine Motherhood[23], and also points out that St. Thomas himself stated that Christ acted at Cana solely due to His Mother’s intercession[24] (which the Scripture makes directly apparent).

 

The early-20th century French theologian, Fr. Raymond de Thomas de Saint-Laurent, states that, “By her divine Motherhood, the Blessed Virgin possesses indisputable rights over the Savior.  In the first place, she has rights over His will.  The child Jesus had to obey His mother… ‘And he went down with them, and was subject to them’… On earth as in Heaven, Jesus pays His mother the entire respect and tenderness of a son.  It is therefore impossible that He would refuse to fulfill her wishes.”[25]

 

Note that these esteemed saints and theologians point out that Mary has actual rights over Christ.  Though there is clearly an insurmountable metaphysical obstacle to the notion of a human being truly commanding the Godhead, the reality is that God Himself has willfully ceded the Blessed Virgin such power over the distribution of grace.  Her divine Motherhood entwines her ontology, so to speak, with the divine in a completely unique sense. 

 

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange puts it beautifully (as is his talent) – though she is a creature, thus infinitely inferior to the Deity, “… at the same time she is raised far above men by the grace of the divine maternity, which is of the hypostatic order, and by the fullness of grace which she received even from her Immaculate Conception.  Hence, the mediation attributed by the liturgy and the Christian sense of the faithful to Mary is, strictly speaking, subordinated to that of Jesus and not coordinated; her mediation depends completely on the merits of the Universal Mediator.  Nor is her mediation necessary (for that of Jesus is superabundant and needs no complement): it has however been willed by God as a kind of radiation of the Saviour’s mediation, and of all radiations of the most perfect.”[26]

 

Ad Diem Illum notes that, “If then the most Blessed Virgin is the Mother at once of God and men, who can doubt that she will work with all diligence to procure that Christ, Head of the Body of the Church (Coloss. i., 18), may transfuse His gifts into us, His members, and above all that of knowing Him and living through Him.”[27]

 

Continued Next Issue…

 


[1] Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary (Liguori Publications, 2000), xxvii

[2] Ibid, xxvii

[3] Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour (TAN Books, 2012), 161

[4] http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/liturgical-calendar/upload/2016cal.pdf

[5] Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour, 209

[6] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, as quoted in William A. Jurgens, Faith Of The Early Fathers, Volume 1 (The Order of Saint Benedict, 1970), 93

[7] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, Ch 19, P1 (unfortunately this quote is not in Faith of the Early Fathers)

[8] Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho The Jew, Ibid, 62

[9] Augustine of Hippo, Holy Virginity, as quoted in William A. Jurgens, Faith Of The Early Fathers, Volume 3 (The Order of Saint Benedict, 1979), 71

[10] As quoted in Mark I. Miravalle, Mary Coredemtrix Mediatrix Advocate (Queenship Publishing, 1993), 36

[11] http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9ubipr2.htm

[12] https://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_01091883_supremi-apostolatus-officio.html

[13] http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13ro4.htm

[14] http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13ro5.htm

[15] Ibid

[16] http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10imcon.htm

[17] http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius11/P11miser.Htm

[18] 1 Sam 8:6, 19-20

[19] 2 Sam 5: 1-3

[20] 1 Chron 29:23

[21] Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary (Liguori Publications, 2000), 94

[22] Ibid, 95

[23] Ibid, 99

[24] Ibid, 97

[25] Fr. Raymond de Thomas de Saint-Laurent, The Virgin Mary (American Needs Fatima – no date given), 41

[26] Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour, 163

[27] https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_02021904_ad-diem-illum-laetissimum.html