THE MEANING OF UNIVERSAL MEDIATION
Garrigou-Lagrange writes that it is through Christ that men are perfectly united to God.
"For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins; and he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation." (1)
Because of this, Christ is the only perfect mediator between God and man, reconciling the human race to God by his death.
Through Christ's human nature, he is the Mediator because that very human nature distances him from God by nature and from man by dignity of both grace and glory.
Again, it belongs to Him, as man, to unite men to God, by communicating to men both precepts and gifts, and by offering satisfaction and prayers to God for men. Christ satisfied and merited as man by a satisfaction and a merit which drew an infinite value from His divine personality. This mediation is twofold, both descending and ascending. It consists in giving to men the light and grace of God, and in offering to God, on behalf of men, the worship and reparation due to Him. (2)
This does not mean, however, that others may not participate at some level as a mediator between God and man if they somehow participate in their union—not perfectly as with Christ, but in some degree. St. Thomas, in this respect, includes the prophets and priests of the Old and New Testament, calling them ministers of the true Mediator.
The question then arises as to Mary's role as universal Mediatrix for all men and for the distribution of all graces, both in general and in particular.
St. Albert the Great addresses the superiority of Mary's role as mediator in comparison to the prophets. “Mary was chosen by the Lord, not as a minister but to be associated in a very special and quite intimate manner in the work of the redemption of the human race: Faciamus ei adjutorium simile sibi." (3)
It is Mary's role as the Mother of God that designates her to be the universal Mediatrix, for she is truly the intermediary between God and man, much below God and Christ because she is a creature, but above man by virtue of her divine maternity.
Not only was Mary thus designated by her divine maternity for this function of Mediatrix, but she received it in truth and exercised it. This is shown by tradition, which has given her the title of universal Mediatrix in the proper sense of the word, although in a manner subordinated to Christ. This title is consecrated by the special feast which is celebrated in the universal Church.
To have a clear understanding of the meaning and import of this title, we shall consider how it is becoming to Mary for two principal reasons: because she cooperated by satisfaction and merit in the sacrifice of the cross; and because she does not cease to intercede for us, to obtain for us, and to distribute to us all the graces that we receive. Such is the double mediation, ascending and descending, which we ought to ponder in order daily to draw greater profit from it. (4)
MARY MEDIATRIX BY HER COOPERATION IN THE SACRIFICE OF THE CROSS
Mary was an active participant in her son's sacrifice from the free consent that she gave at the Annunciation. She cooperated in the sacrifice of the cross by giving us its victim.
Again, she cooperated by offering him in the temple as a most pure host. At the moment of Simeon's words: "Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed," (5) Mary began to suffer deeply with her son.
Never did she cooperate more in the sacrifice of her son than at the foot of the cross, uniting herself, Garrigou-Lagrange writes, "more closely than can be expressed, by satisfaction or reparation, and by merit." (5)
Many of the saints—particularly the stigmatists (7) —were exceptionally united to Christ's sufferings and merits, but their suffering cannot compare to Mary's. Mary offered her son voluntarily, in the same way that Christ offered himself to the Father. "No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again." (8)
Pope Benedict XV wrote, “She renounced her rights as a mother over her Son for the salvation of all men." (9)
Mary accepted the martyrdom of Christ and offered it for us, experiencing along with him, all the torments that Christ suffered in his body and soul. She accepted this suffering in reparation for the sin that offends God, that crucified her son and that ravishes and kills. Her charity surpassed that of any of the greatest saints by cooperating in the sacrifice of the cross, wherein she offered to God for us, the life of her son whom she adored.
As her son was about to die, Mary exhibited the greatest acts of faith, hope, and love ever made. These acts made her the queen of martyrs for she, herself, was a martyr, not only for Christ, but with him.
"She was, in a sense, nailed to it by her love for Him," Garrigou-Lagrange states. "She was thus the co-redemptrix, as Pope Benedict XV says, in this sense, that with Christ, through Him, and in Him, she bought back the human race." (10)
Pius X sanctioned the teaching of theologians when he wrote, “Mary, united to Christ in the work of salvation, merited de congruo for us what Christ merited for us de condign.” (11)
Theologians referred to Mary, in all Greek and Latin tradition, as the new Eve, for she is the mother of all with respect to the life of the soul, just as Eve was with respect to the human body.
It stands to reason that the spiritual mother of all men ought to give them spiritual life, not as the principal physical cause (for God alone can be the principal physical cause of divine grace), but as the moral cause by merit de congruo, merit de condigno being reserved to Christ.
The Office and Mass proper to Mary Mediatrix assemble the principal testimonies of tradition on this point with their scriptural foundations, in particular the clear-cut statements of St. Ephrem, the glory of the Syriac Church, of St. Germanus of Constantinople, of St. Bernard, and of St. Bernardine of Siena. Even as early as the second and third centuries, St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian insisted on the parallel between Eve and Mary, and showed that if the first concurred in our fall, the second collaborated in our redemption. (12)
Just before he died, Christ spoke to his mother and the apostle John. "Woman, behold thy son. After that, He saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own." (13) Here, John did not only represent himself, but also all men, spiritually, who were redeemed by the sacrifice of the cross. To Christ, John represented the personification of all men for whom Christ died.
These words inspired a profound maternal affection in Mary, which eternally shrouded not only John's soul but the souls of all mankind, making Mary the true spiritual mother of us all.
MARY OBTAINS AND DISTRIBUTES ALL GRACES
That Mary obtains for us and distributes to us all graces is a certain doctrine, according to what we have just said about the mother of all men. As mother, she is interested in their salvation, prays for them, and obtains for them the graces they receive. In the Ave Maris Stella (14) we read:
Salve vincla reis,
Break the sinner’s fetters,
Profer lumen caecis,
To the blind give day,
Mala nostra pelle,
Ward all evils from us,
Bona cuncta posce.
For all blessings pray.
Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical Octobri mense stated, "According to the will of God, nothing is granted to us except through Mary; and, as no one can go to the Father except through the Son, so generally no one can draw near to Christ except through Mary."
In the Litany of Loreto, (15) Mary is petitioned by many of the graces which she bestows including: “health of the sick, refuge of sinners, comforter of the afflicted, help of Christians, queen of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins.” In addition to the many graces that she confers she also, through our prayers, she leads us to the sacraments and helps us to receive them worthily.
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” The "now" for which we pray is petitioned in the church every moment of the day by millions of Catholics, who ask for grace for that present moment. This grace is the most specific of graces and varies for each of us. Mary knows our spiritual needs at any given moment and prays that we receive the needed graces.
When we treat of what the prayer of proficients ought to be, we shall speak of true devotion to Mary as it was understood by Blessed Grignion de Montfort. Even now we can see how expedient it is frequently to use the prayer of mediators, that is, to begin our prayer by a trusting, filial conversation with Mary, that she may lead us to the intimacy of her Son, and that the holy soul of the Savior may then lift us to union with God, since Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. (16)
Next: The Growth of the Life of Grace by Merit, Prayer and the Sacraments
(1) 2Cor. 5:19
(2) Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, O.P., "The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I," trans. Sister M. Timothea Doyle, O.P., Illinois: Tan Books, 1989, p121
(3) St. Albert the Great, Mariale sive Quaestiones super Evangelium: Missus est (ed. A. Borgnetj Paris, 1890-99, XXXVII, q. 29)
(4) Garrigou-Lagrange, p121-2
(5) Luke 2:34-35
(6) Ibid., p122
(8) John 10:18
(9) Litt. Apost., Inter sodalicia, March 22, 1918. (Act. Ap. Sed., 1918, p. 182; quoted in Denzinger, 16th ed., nº
(10) Benedict XV, Litt. Apost., citat.: “Ita cum Filio patiente et moriente passa est et paene commortua, sic
materna in Filium jura pro hominum salute abdicavit placandaeque Dei justitiae, quantum ad se pertinebat, Filium
immolavit, ut dici merito queat, ipsam cum Christo humanum genus redemisse”. Denzinger, Enchiridion, nº 3034, n4.
(11) Cf. Piux X, Encyclical, Ad diem ilium, Feb. 2, 1904 (Denzinger, Enchiridion, 3034): “Quoniam universis
sanctitate praestat conjunctioneque cum Christo atque a Christo ascita in humanae salutis opus, de congruo, ut aiunt,
promeruit nobis, quae Christus de condigno promeruit, estque princeps largiendarum gratiarum ministra”. It should be remarked that merit de congruo, which is based in jure amicabili seu in caritate is a merit properly so called, although inferior to merit de condigno The word “merit’ is used for both according to an analogy of proper and not only metaphorical proportionality.
(12) Garrigou-Lagrange, p124-5
(13) John 19:26-7
(16) Several Thomistic theologians admit that, as the humanity of Christ is the physical instrumental cause of all the
graces that we receive (cf. St. Thomas, IIIa, q. 43, a. 2; q.48, a.6; q. 62, a. 5), everything leads us to think that, in a
manner subordinated to Christ, Mary is not only the moral but also the physical instrumental cause of the transmission of these graces. We do not think that this can be established with true certitude, but the principles formulated by St. Thomas on this subject in regard to the humanity of Christ incline us to think so.