A Fifth Marian Dogma?
The Virgin Mary is the Mother of God, preserved immaculate from the moment of her conception, and assumed into Heaven to reign as Queen at the end of the course of her earthly life. What more could be said of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Actually, there are two interconnected doctrines of the Church which have yet to be defined with the precision of the four Marian dogmas.
A possible fifth Marian dogma could include three titles of Mary: Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race.
The First Gospel
Before we get into the meaning of these titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we need to go back to the beginning. We need to go back to the Fall of man, just after Adam and Eve committed the first sin.
After the Fall of man, God turns and addresses the serpent, Satan, saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; she shall crush your head… (Gen. 3:15).” This Protoevangelium, or First Gospel, shows that God did not wish to leave the crown of creation to their ruin. He says that He shall raise up a woman, that is, a mother, who would crush the head of the serpent.
This New Eve has been identified as Mary of Nazareth, who walked alongside the Redeemer, the New Adam, Jesus Christ. With God’s grace, and by her free choice, Mary participated uniquely in God’s plan of salvation. Everything that the Church teaches to be true of Mary and proposes for belief is there as a guide and safeguard for the truths of Christ.
On the Cross, Jesus Christ redeemed the world. In other words, He bought back humanity from the jaws of death. He opened the way to eternal life by paying the price of the debt of Adam and Eve. He is the new Adam who makes up perfectly for the sin of the old Adam.
Likewise, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the new Eve alongside the new Adam. Mary uniquely participates with Jesus in the saving work of Calvary. Jesus is the Redeemer, and only He alone could buy back the human family from the bonds of sin. However, God willed that His Mother, as a human being, should participate in the process of redemption.
She is alongside the Redeemer and thus is called the Co-Redemptrix. She is the woman spoken of in the Protoevangelium that is in total enmity with Satan.
She shows us the perfect model of participating in the work of redemption. Christ accomplished the redemption perfectly upon the Cross, but the work of redemption continues until the end of time. We can unite our good works, our hopes and desires, our sufferings, and our joys to the Cross of Christ. When we do so, we offer a sacrifice of our lives in Christ and become co-redeemers.
Mediatrix of All Graces
Mary is also referred to as the Mediatrix of all graces. It first needs to be pointed out, that the Second Vatican Council teaches, “The maternal duty of Mary… flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ (LG 60).”
Jesus is the one Mediator between God and man. Mary does not supplant this mediation, she simply participates in it in a unique way. From the moment that she consented to bring the Word of God into the world, the God-bearer continues in this mission.
The Mother of the Redeemer is given to St. John, representing the whole Church, at the foot of the Cross. Jesus says, “Woman behold thy son (cf. LG, 58).” At that moment, Mary, the New Eve, is shown as the mother of all the living. As the fathers of the Second Vatican Council said, “She is our mother in the order of grace (LG, 61),” which “began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation… and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect (LG, 62).” From the moment she said yes to God at the Annunciation, Mary began her mediating motherly role for all mankind.
Finally, the council fathers say, “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation (LG, 62).” All of the grace of God is ordered to our eternal salvation, and Mary acquires these gifts and distributes them to all.
Mary associates with her Son in His work of redemption and mediation by the will of God the Father. It is by His plan and through her Son that Mary has any ability to do anything. The Father did not need her, but He chose her.
Mary was associated with the Redeemer in acquiring graces and so she shares with the Mediator in their distribution. Like St. Bernardine of Siena said, “Every grace that is communicated to this world has a threefold course. For by excellent order, it is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to us.”
As a loving Mother, Mary cares for her children with tenderness. She brought us Jesus and continues to bring us to Jesus. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “No Mary, no Jesus.” She is a model for the Church and our great Advocate.
She is with us throughout every step of our lives. She is even alongside us in the Sacraments. She never leaves her Son.
In Baptism, the stain of Eve is removed and we are given the Holy Spirit and united to the death and resurrection Jesus. Mary, the New Eve is alongside us as she was with the Redeemer under the Cross.
In Confirmation, we receive the grace of Pentecost. Mary is present with us as she was with the Apostles at Pentecost.
The Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, fully human and fully divine. This is still the flesh born of Mary.
In Penance, the merits of Christ on the Cross are applied to the penitent. The mediating presence of Mary at the Cross makes her present to us in Confession.
Just as Mary did not see bodily corruption and she remained without sin, Mary advocates for us in the Sacrament of the Sick. She desires for us to be more in conformity with Christ and prays for us.
Jesus Christ exercised His priesthood in His humanity and divinity. Without Mary’s free consent, there would be no Incarnation, and without the Incarnation there would be no Holy Orders.
The first public miracle of Christ took place at the Wedding Feast at Cana where Christ elevated Matrimony to the level of a sacrament. Further, this miracle took place as the result of Mary’s advocacy on behalf of the couple.
Only the Magisterium of the Church can declare dogma. So, it is not up to us to decide if there ought to be a fifth Marian dogma. Regardless, these doctrines are held as part of the content of the Faith and have been celebrated in various ways in the liturgical life of the Church. Mary is the Co-Redemptrix, the Mediatrix of All Graces, and an Advocate.
Let us end with these prayers from Byzantine Catholic Daily Prayer:
“O Theotokos, my most holy Lady! Unworthy as I am, I beg you: by your holy and powerful prayers, cleanse my clouded mind and bruised heart. Free me from the memories of sins long gone by. Rescue me from every inclination to do wrong. In your goodness help me, for I am poor and lost. For you are praised by all generations, and your glorious name is honored forever.
Hail Mary, full of grace, O Virgin Theotokos, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, for you have given birth to Christ, the Savior and deliverer of our souls.
Under your protection, we hasten, O Virgin Theotokos. Do not turn away from us in our time of need, but pure and blessed Lady, save us!
You are truly deserving of glory, O Theotokos, the ever-blessed and most pure Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who as a Virgin gave birth to the Word of God, true Theotokos, we magnify you.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.”
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