Cardinal Georges Cottier, O.P.
The following is a presentation given by Cardinal Georges Cottier
when he was a Theologian of the Papal Household, on behalf
of the Congregation of the Clergy during a world video conference
held in Rome on May 29, 2002.
In the beautiful final Chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution of the
Church Lumen Gentium, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, we read «After
this manner the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith,
and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross,
where she stood, (see John 19:25) in keeping with the divine plan
(294), grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting
herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting
to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth.
Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross
as a mother to His disciple with these words: "Woman, behold
thy son." (see John 19:26-27)» (no. 58). These very intense
lines are the echo of a long tradition authenticated by the Magisterium.
The Mother of the Son of God made man is consecrated, at the foot
of the cross, the Mother of His Mystical Body.
was then proclaimed Mother of the Church by Paul VI. This title
enlightens the meaning of Mary’s «intimate union»
with the Church, where she occupies, «in an eminent and singular
way» the «first place» (see no. 63). It is in
her person that the Church has already achieved that perfection
which makes her without stain or wrinkle (see Eph 5:27). She is
the model of the Church (typus). One must perceive that Mary is
not outside the Church, since she is its eminent and exemplary member,
and that she exercises a maternal function for the Church. The Church’s
mystery and Mary’s mystery include and enlighten each other
can this be explained? The Council, after remembering the words
of the apostle (1 Tim 2:5-6): «Since there is only one God,
there is only one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, who
is a man, and gave Himself as a ransom for them all,» and
added that «The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no ways
obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather
shows His power» (n.60).
life of grace, participation in divine life, exists in principle
and in fullness with Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, so as
to be communicated to His Body, which is the Church. With this communication
Christ attracts the Church and all its members to be assimilated
in Him, to conform to Him and to participate in the gift of Himself
to the Father, through whom He saved mankind. The only Mediator:
the gift of Himself is totally and infinitely sufficient for the
redemption of the world. Allowing His Church to participate in this
is the mark of His love and the depth of the union to which He introduces
her. Like all lives, a life of grace is fruitful, it brings its
fruits in abundance. There is a law here both for the Church and
for Mary, in proportion to the singular privileges.
Council’s text, which we have quoted, strongly emphasises
this: Beneath the cross, Mary suffers deeply with Her only born
Son, she joins in His sacrifice with maternal love; lovingly consenting
the immolation of the victim generated by her: what could these
words mean if not that Mary plays an active role in the mystery
of the Passion and the work of the Redemption? The Council itself
clarifies this: the divine Redemptor’s mother was «and
above all others and in a singular way the generous associate»:
«(...) was united with Him by compassion as He died on the
Cross. In this singular way she co-operated by her obedience, faith,
hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour in giving back
supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order
of grace» (n.61). «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.» For this reason
«the Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate,
Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix» (n. 62).
we add to the title Mediatrix that of co-redemptrix? In the light
of the above, the answer is affirmative. In fact the Council itself,
so as to avoid any false interpretation, adds that the use of these
titles is legitimate. But it must be understood «that it neither
takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness
of Christ the one Mediator» (ibid.).
will notice that this title of co-redemptrix does not appear in
the Council’s texts. One might envisage that this intentional
absence was the answer to a ecumenical reason. The use of this term
needed further development. It is true that, if the word co-redeemer
was to evoke a juxtaposition and an addition to the Savior’s
redeeming work, it should have been strongly rejected. It is as
predestined, provoked, contained by Christ’s redeeming sacrifice,
in a subordinated manner, participated, totally dependent on Him,
that Mary’s co-redemption beneath the cross is meant, just
as it is fully permeated by the intercession of the Son in glory,
His mediation in interceding with heaven. The Council enunciated
the principle that, translating an intuition of faith, regulates
theological meditation in this field: «For all the salvific
influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some
inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It 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» (n. 60). In the light of this principle,
we understand in which sense Mary, and only Her, is the co-redeemer,
and how proportionally the Church is also the co-redeemer. We also
understand in which sense, the vocation of all who are baptised
for sanctity leads them to participate in the mystery of Redemption.
Each of these participations is like an epiphany of the fruitfulness
of the cross of Jesus.
This of course also applies to the word mediatrix, but this word
is covered by the authority of a liturgical tradition.