The Mother of the Savior
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.
Nihil Obstat and Imprimi Potest 1941 and 1948



      Mary, Mother of All Men: Her Universal Mediation and Our Interior Life

Part II

The Mother of the Redeemer
and of All Men

Article II

Tradition ascribes to Mary the titles Mother of Divine Grace, Mother most amiable, Mother most admirable, Mother of Mercy. The Fathers have often spoken of Mary as Mother of all Christians, and even as Mother of all men. In what sense is this maternity to be understood? When did Mary become our Mother? How does her maternity affect all the faithful, even those who are not in the state of grace, and all men, even those who have not the true faith? These are the questions we shall try to answer in this section.

In what sense is Mary our Mother?

   Evidently Mary is not our mother in the ordinary sense of the term since she did not give us natural life. Considering our natural life, it is Eve who deserves to be called the mother of all men. Mary is our mother rather in a spiritual sense and through adoption, for, by her union with Jesus the Redeemer, she has communicated to us the supernatural life of grace. She is very much more than a sister in grace: we say, on the analogy of natural life, that she has given us birth to a Divine form of life. St Paul could say, speaking to the Corinthians, 'In Christ Jesus, by the Gospel, I have begotten you' (1 Cor. iv, 15). With still more truth can we speak of Mary's spiritual maternity ---- a maternity which is source of a life destined to endure not sixty or eighty years, but all eternity.

Mary's maternity is adoptive, as is God's fatherhood of the just. It is, however, much more intimate and fruitful than in ordinary human adoption. Human adoption constitutes a person legally the child and heir of another. But all this is in the legal order; and even though it is a sign of the affection bestowed on the adopted child, it does not produce any interior change in it. Divine adoption, on the contrary , produces sanctifying grace in the soul of the just, thereby making it to participate in the Divine nature and to have within itself the germ of eternal life. The soul which is endowed thus with grace is agreeable in God's eyes and is His child, called to know Him face to face and to love Him for all eternity. St. John speaks of this in his prologue when he describes those who believe in the Son of God made man as  'Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God' (John i, 13). Mary's maternity participates in the fruitfulness or fecundity of the Divine Paternity: in union with the Redeemer, she has truly and really communicated to us grace, the germ of eternal life. She can therefore be called Mother of grace, Mother of mercy. That is what the Fathers meant when they called her the New Eve, and said that she had co-operated voluntarily in our salvation as Eve had co-operated in our fall.

The points of doctrine just outlined are found in the Church's preaching from the 2nd century on. The references are the same as those given a short while ago in connection with the doctrine of the New Eve. St. Ephrem, in the 4th century, is a particularly eloquent witness. He calls Mary 'Mother oflife and of salvation, Mother of the living and of all men' since she gave us the Savior and united herself to Him on Calvary. [24] Similar expressions are found in St. Germanus of Constantinople, [25] St. Peter Chrysologus, [26] Eadmer, [27] St. Bernard, [28] Richard of St Laurence, [29] St. Albert the Great [30] who calls Mary 'Mater misericordiae, Mater regenerationis, totius humani generis mater spiritualis,' and in St. Bonaventure. [31]

Every day the liturgy repeats: 'Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy . . . show thyself a mother. . . Hail, Mother of mercy, Mother of God and Mother of pardon, Mother of hope and Mother of grace.'

   When did Mary become our Mother?

   The different texts we have quoted indicate that Mary became our mother by consenting freely to be the Mother of the Savior, the Author of grace and of our spiritual regeneration. By that act she conceived us spiritually and would have been our adoptive mother as its result even had she died before her Son. But that was not to be. Instead she lived on to unite herself to Jesus in the sacrifice of the Cross and by that great act of faith, hope and love of God and souls, she became our mother in a still more perfect way and contributed more directly, more intimately, and more profoundly to our salvation. Besides, it was on Calvary that Jesus proclaimed Mary our mother, when He addressed to Mary the words: 'Woman, behold thy son', and to St. John, who personified all the redeemed, the words: 'Behold thy mother.' Tradition has always understood the words in that sense: they do not refer to a grace peculiar to St. John alone, but go beyond him to all who are to be regenerated by the Cross. [32]

The words of the dying Savior, like Sacramental words, produce what they signify: in Mary's soul they produced a great increase of charity and of maternal love for us; in John a profound filial affection, full of reverence for the Mother of God. There is the origin of devotion to Mary.

Mary continues to exercise her motherly functions in our regard by watching over us so that we grow in charity and persevere in it, by interceding for us and by distributing to us all the graces we receive.

What is the Extension of Mary's Maternity?

   She is first of all Mother of the faithful, of those who believe in her Son and receive through Him the life of grace. But she is also Mother of all men, since she gave the world the Savior of all men and since she united herself to the oblation ofher Son Who offered His precious blood for all. This is what has been affirmed by Popes Leo XIII, Benedict XV, and Pius XI. [33]

   She is not the Mother of all men in a general way, as may be affirmed of Eve in the natural order, but of each man in particular, for she intercedes for each and obtains for each all the graces he receives. Jesus says of Himself that He is the Good Shepherd who 'calleth his own sheep by name' (John x, 3). Something the same may be said of Mary who is the mother of each individual man.

However, Mary is not Mother of the faithful and of infidels, of the just and sinners, in exactly the same way. The distinctions which are made in regard to the members of Christ's Mystical Body must be made here also. [34] Mary is Mother of infidels in that she is destined to engender them to grace, and in that she obtains for them the actual graces which dispose them for the faith and for justification. She is Mother of the faithful who are in the state of mortal sin, in that she watches over them by obtaining for them the graces necessary for acts of faith and hope, and for disposing themselves for justification. Of those who have died in the state of mortal sin, she is no longer the mother: she was their mother. She is fully the Mother of the just, since they have received sanctifying grace and charity through her. She cares for them with tender solicitude so that they may continue in grace and grow in charity. She is in an eminent way the Mother of the blessed who can no longer lose the life of grace.

All this makes clear the meaning of what the Church sings every day at Compline: Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy; Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs in this vale of tears . . .

His Son, God the Father, from Whom all good things descend, gave her all graces: as St. Bernard says, God's will is given her in Him and with Him.

   'God has chosen her to be treasurer and dispensatrix of all His graces. All His graces and all His gifts pass by her hands . . . Since Mary has formed the Head of the predestined, Jesus Christ, it pertains to her to form also the members of the Head, who are the true Christians . . . She has received from God a special power to nourish souls and to make them grow in Him. St. Augustine goes so far as to say that the predestined in this world are enclosed in Mary's womb and that they come to the light only when their good Mother brings them forth to eternal life. It is to her that the Holy Ghost has said "Take root in my elect" (Eccl. xxiv, 13) ---- roots of profound humility, of ardent charity and of all the virtues.

   'Mary is called by St. Augustine, and is in fact, the living mould of God ---- forma Dei. In her was the Man-God formed . . . and in her alone can man become deiform. Whoever is in this mould and allows himself to be shaped there, takes on the appearance of Jesus Christ, true God, in a manner adapted to his human weakness, without excess of pain and labor. This is a sure way, without danger of illusion, for Satan never had and never will have power over Mary, holy and immaculate, stainless and sinless.

   'What a difference there is between a soul formed in Jesus by the method of those who, like sculptors, rely on their art and their industry, and a soul which, relying in nothing on itself, and freed from all attachments and submissive in all things, throws itself into Mary's hands, there to be shaped by the action of the Holy Ghost. What stains, what defects, what darkness, what illusions, what an amount of the merely natural there is in the first soul, and how the second one is pure, Divine, and like to Jesus . . . !

   A thousand times happy is the soul to whom the Holy Ghost reveals the secret of Mary and to whom He opens this enclosed garden. That soul will fmd God alone in that most lovable creature-God infinitely holy and infinitely condescending, yet proportioned to its weakness . . . God lives in her and, far from causing souls to rest in herself, she leads them to God and unites them to Him.'

   Thus Christian doctrine becomes the object of a penetrating faith for St. Grignon de Montfort, of a contemplation which issues in a true and strong charity.

Mary, Exemplary Cause of the Elect

Jesus is our model. His predestination to natural Divine Sonship is the exemplary cause of our predestination to adoptive sonship for 'whom He foreknew He also predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son; that He might be the first-born among many brethren' (Rom. viii, 29). Similarly Mary our Mother, associated with her Son, is the exemplary cause of the life of the elect. It is in that sense that St. Augustine and St. Grignon de Montfort after him say that she is the mould or the model according to which God forms the elect. One must be marked with Mary's seal and reproduce her characteristics to have a place among those loved by Our Lord ---- which is the reason why theologians teach commonly that a true devotion to Mary is one of the signs of predestination. Blessed Hugh of Saint-Cher even says that she is, as it were, the book of life, [35] or the mirror of that eternal book, since God has written in her the names of all the elect, just as He willed to form, in her and by her, Jesus Who is the First of the elect.

St Grignon de Montfort writes [36]: 'God the Son said to His Mother "Let thy inheritance be in Israel" (Eccl. xxiv, 13). It is as if He had said: God, My Father, has given Me for heritage all the nations of the earth, all men good and evil, predestined and reprobate; I shall lead some by a rod of gold and others by a rod ofiron; I shall be the father and advocate of some, the just chastiser of others, and the judge of all; but you, My dear Mother, you shall have for your heritage only the predestined who are prefigured by Israel, and as their mother, you will give them birth, nourish and rear them; as their Queen you will lead, govern and protect them.'

   It is in that same sense that we must understand the words of St. Grignon de Montfort a little further on in the same work, when showing that Mary, like Jesus, makes her choice always in accordance with the Divine good pleasure: 'The Most High has made her His treasurer and the dispenser of His favors, to ennoble, raise up, and enrich whom she wills, to allow whom she wills to enter on the narrow way of Heaven, to make whom she wills pass through the narrow gate of life in spite of everything, and to give the throne, the sceptre, and the kingly crown to whom she will. To Mary alone has God given the keys of the cellars of Divine love, and the power to enter on the highest and most secret ways of perfection and to lead others thereto.'

   Those words make clear the scope of Mary's spiritual maternity by which she forms the elect and leads them to the term of their predestination.

24. Opera S. Ephraem Syr., edit. Assemanit. II, syr. lat., pp. 324, 327; III, 607.
25. Sermo in Dorm., Deip., 2 and 5.
26. Serm. 140 and 142.
27. De Exc. V.M., c. xi, 5.
28. Sermo de Aquaeductu, n. 4 sqq.
29. De Laud. B. M. V., I. VI, c. I, n. 12; I. IV, c. 14, n. I.
30. Mariale, q. 29, n. 3; qq. 42, 43.
31. Serm. VI in Ass. B. M. V., and in I Sen., d. 48, a. 2, q. 2, dub. 4.
32. This explanation, suggested by Origen in the 3rd cent., Praef in Joan., I, 6, is explicitly advanced by many authors, especially from the 12th century on, from which time it became common. It has been regarded in different papal documents as the common belief of the Church. Cf. Benedict XIV, Bull Gloriosae Dominae, Sept. 27th, 1748 ; Gregory XVI, Bull Praestantissimum; Leo XllI, enc. Octobri Mense, 22nd Sept., 1891; Adjutricem, 5th Sept., 1895; Augustissimae Virginis, 12th Sept., 1897; Pius X, Ad diem ilIum, Feb. 2nd, 1904; Benedict XV, litt. ap. Inter Sodalicia, Mar. 22nd, 1918; Pins XI, litt. ap. Explorata res, Feb. 2nd, 1923; enc. Rerum Ecclesiae, Feb. 21st, 1926.
33. Leo XllI calls Mary mother not only of Christians, but of the whole human race: enc. Octobri Mense, Sept. 22nd, 1891; ep. Amantissimae voluntatis, April 14th, 1895; enc. Adjutricem populi, Sept. 25th, 1895 ; Benedict XV calls her mother of all men: litt. ap. Inter sodalicia, March 22nd, 1918; for Pius XI cf. litt. ap. Explorata res, Feb. 2nd, 1923; enc. Rerum Ecclesiae, Feb. 2lst, 1926.
34. Cf. Illa, q. 8, a. 3.
35. Comm. in Eccles., XXIV.
36. Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, ch. i, a. I, no.2.


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