A defense of Mary as co-redemptrix

Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI have both argued against the title of “co-redemptrix” for our Blessed Mother. For them, this title is like a misguided (and exaggerated), though well-intentioned, expression of love. The two popes would rather not introduce any misunderstandings for Christians, nor take away from Jesus’ unique role as Redeemer and Savior. (Reference: https://angelusnews.com/faith/once-again-pope-francis-says-mary-is-not-the-co-redemptrix/)

“Christ is the mediator. Christ is the bridge that we cross in order to turn to the Father. He is the only redeemer; there are no co-redeemers with Christ, He is the only one. He is the mediator par excellence.” –Pope Francis

However, during his papacy, Saint John Paul II acknowledged our Blessed Mother’s special role and cooperation in humanity’s salvation. The following is an excerpt from his general audience on April 9, 1997:

Some feared there might be a desire to put Mary on the same level as Christ. Actually, the Church’s teaching makes a clear distinction between the Mother and the Son in the work of salvation, explaining the Blessed Virgin’s subordination, as co-operator, to the one Redeemer. Moreover, when the Apostle Paul says: “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9), he maintains the real possibility for man to co-operate with God. The collaboration of believers, which obviously excludes any equality with Him, is expressed in the proclamation of the Gospel and in their personal contribution to its taking root in human hearts.

However, applied to Mary, the term “co-operator” acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to Him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity.

The Blessed Virgin’s role as co-operator has its source in her divine motherhood. By giving birth to the One Who was destined to achieve man’s redemption, by nourishing Him, presenting Him in the temple and suffering with Him as He died on the Cross, “in a wholly singular way she co-operated… in the work of the Saviour” (Lumen gentium, n. 61). Although God’s call to co-operate in the work of salvation concerns every human being, the participation of the Saviour’s Mother in humanity’s Redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact.

Despite the uniqueness of her condition, Mary is also the recipient of salvation. She is the first to be saved, redeemed by Christ “in the most sublime way” in her Immaculate Conception and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

A defense of Mary as co-redemptrix

“Theologically, according to the Patristic Fathers, Jesus is called the New Adam, and Mary the New Eve; this is from the time of the Apostles. Damnation entered the world through Adam; salvation entered the world through Jesus. And destruction entered the world through Eve; salvation entered the world through Mary.” –Father Paulo Ricardo

I’m reminded of God’s decree in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you (i.e., the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” In anticipation of our fall from grace, God already had a plan for our salvation, and this plan significantly involves “the woman.”

Dying on the Cross, Jesus refers to His Mother in this formal way: “When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27)

Another instance where Jesus refers to His Mother as “woman” was prior to His first public miracle at the Wedding of Cana, which highlights the Blessed Mother’s influential power with her Son. Through her intercession, the wedding does not run out of wine, and the best is actually saved for last (John 2:1-12) The troubled wedding at Cana may represent the desired union between God and mankind, which definitely needs a miracle due to our sinfulness and lack of grace.

And like Queen Esther in the Old Testament interceding before King Ahasuerus on behalf of the Jewish people (Esther 7:3-4), Mary our Queen intercedes before her Son Jesus for the salvation of all peoples from Satan’s destruction.

“So did she suffer with her suffering and dying Son, and almost die; so did she abdicate her maternal rights over her Son for the salvation of men, and to placate God’s justice, insofar as was fitting for her, so did she sacrifice her Son, that it can properly be said that she with Christ redeemed the human race.” –Pope Benedict XV (from his apostolic letter Inter sodalicia, on March 22, 1918)

When the Lord asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, it was a test of obedience and trust in God’s Will and providence. (Reference: Genesis 22:1-18) In the New Testament, God Himself made this sacrifice of His only begotten Son, the most perfect sacrifice which would open wide the gates of mercy and eternal life. But the Father chose for His Son to have a human mother, from whom Jesus received His human nature. Her consent was necessary too.

Like with Abraham, and like with the Incarnation of Jesus, our Blessed Mother had a choice: to say yes or no? I’ve heard it said that Mary made her second fiat on Calvary, where she consented to all the suffering that her Son went through. In her sorrowful motherly suffering, she could relate most intimately with God the Father’s sacrifice.

And even after Jesus died, she continued to suffer. The side of His body was pierced to prove that He was really dead. While Jesus could no longer feel physical pain, she felt tremendous emotional pain at seeing this desecration of God’s most holy body. She felt the pain of betrayal, as so many who had professed to love Him had abandoned Him in fear. She also felt the pain of separation in the darkness of those days as she awaited His Resurrection. For the one closest to God, the Immaculate and highly favored one, she endured untold sufferings that are hard for us sinners to understand.

When the Holy Spirit inspired Simeon to make a prophecy, he had told the Blessed Mother: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35). It’s a loaded statement, which to this day is still being fulfilled. We have yet to see the final rise of Israel, where Jesus will be recognized as the long hoped-for Messiah. And I would argue that Simeon’s prophecy implies a common recognition of Mary’s pierced soul, and of her special role in our salvation. How we respect and show gratitude for the Blessed Mother’s cooperation certainly reveals our hearts, because if we honor the Mother, we also honor the Son.

As God promised Abraham countless descendants as a reward, Mary was rightfully made the Queen of Heaven and Earth. In God’s generous economy of grace, she was (indirectly) asked to be the Queen Mother for all His children, and she said yes. Along with this royal title, I think the title of “co-redemptrix” has theological merit. It leads us to contemplate the mysteries of our salvation more deeply in our hearts, like Mary did during her earthly life. Most importantly, it invites us to turn to our most compassionate Mother, who is fully united with the Most Holy Trinity, for our salvation. Ad Jesus per Mariam. To Jesus through Mary.

The practice of true Marian consecration is a blessing that brings us closer to God, rather than to an idolatry of Mary. How many dangers my soul has been preserved from through our Blessed Mother’s intercession… I desire to love God more in imitation of her and assisted by her unceasing prayers for me.


A child of Jesus and Mary.

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