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

Mary's Universal Mediation during her Earthly Existence

We shall see fIrst of all in what this mediation consists and what are its principal characteristics. After that we shall examine the two ways in which Mary exercised her mediation during her life on earth, by her merits and her satisfaction.

Article I

Our Holy Mother the Church approved during the pontificate of Benedict XV the proper Mass and Office of Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces. [1]  Many theologians consider that the doctrine of Mary's universal mediation is sufficiently contained in the deposit of revelation to be one day proposed solemnly as an object of faith by the infallible Church. It is taught by the ordinary magisterium of the Church through the liturgy, through encyclical letters, through pastoral letters, in preaching, and in the works of theologians approved by the Church. Let us see first what is meant by this mediation and then inquire if it is affirmed by tradition and proved by theology.

What is meant by Mary's Universal Mediation?

St. Thomas says, speaking of the mediation of the Savior (IIIa, q. 26, a. I): 'It pertains to the office of a mediator between God and men to unite them.' That is, as he explains in the following article, the Mediator offers to God the prayers of men, and most particularly, sacrifice which is the principal act of the virtue of religion, and distributes as well to men God's sanctifying gifts, light from on high and grace. There is, thus, a double movement in mediation: one upwards in the form of prayer and sacrifice, and the other downwards in the form of God's gifts to men.

The office of Mediator belongs fully only to Jesus, the Man-God, Who alone could reconcile us with God by offering Him, on behalf of men, the infinite sacrifice of the Cross, which is perpetuated in Holy Mass. He alone, as Head of Mankind, could merit for us injustice the grace of salvation and apply it to those who do not reject His saving action. It is as man that He is Mediator, but as a Man in Whom humanity is united hypostatically to the Word and endowed with the fullness of grace, the grace of Headship, which overflows on men. As St. Paul puts it: 'For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave Himself for a redemption for all, a testimony in due times' (1 Tim. ii, 5-6).

But, St. Thomas adds (loc. cit.): 'there is no reason why there should not be, after Christ, other secondary mediators between God and men, who co-operate in uniting them in a ministerial and dispositive manner.' Such mediators dispose men for the action of the principal Mediator, or transmit it, but always in dependence on His merits.

The prophets and priests of the Old Testament were mediators of this kind, for they announced the Savior to the chosen people by offering sacrifices which were types of the great sacrifice of the Cross. The priests of the New Testament may also be spoken of as mediators between God and men, for they are the ministers of the supreme Mediator, offering sacrifice in His Name, and administering the Sacraments.

The question arises, is Mary, in subordination to and in dependence on the merits of Christ, universal mediatrix for all men from the time of the coming of the Savior, in regard to obtaining and distributing all graces, both in general and in particular? Does it not appear that she is? Nor is her role precisely that of a minister, but that of an associate in the redemptive work, in the words of St. Albert already quoted.

Though non-Catholics answer the question with a denial, the Christian sense of the faithful, formed for years by the liturgy, which is one of the voices of the ordinary magisterium of the Church, has no hesitation in maintaining that, by the very fact of her being Mother of the Redeemer, all the indications are that Mary is universal mediatrix, for she finds herself placed between God and men, and more particularly between her Son and men.

Since she is a creature she is, of course, altogether below God Incarnate. But at the same time she is raised far above men by the grace of the Divine maternity, which is of the hypostatic order, and by the fulness of grace which she received even from her Immaculate Conception. Hence, the mediation attributed by the liturgy and the Christian sense of the faithful to Mary is, strictly speaking, subordinated to that of Jesus and not co-ordinated; her mediation depends completely on the merits of the Universal Mediator. Nor is her mediation necessary [for that of Jesus is superabundant and needs no complement: it has however been willed by God as a kind of radiation of the Savior's mediation, and of all radiations the most perfect. The Church regards it as most useful and efficacious to obtain from God all that we need to lead us directly or indirectly to salvation and perfection. Last of all, Mary's mediation is perpetual and extends to all men, and to all graces without any exception whatever.

The above is the precise sense in which universal mediation is attributed to Mary in the liturgy, in the Feast of Mary Mediatrix, and by the theologians who have recently treated the question at great length.

The Testimony of Tradition

Mary's mediation was affirmed in a general and implicit way from the earliest centuries by the use of the titles, the New Eve, the Mother of the Living. There is all the more reason for so understanding tradition in that the titles were attributed to her not solely because she gave birth physically to the Savior but because she co-operated morally in His redemptive work, especially by uniting herself very intimately to the sacrifice of the Cross. [2] From the 4th century onwards, and notably in the 5th century, the Fathers affirm clearly that Mary intercedes for us, that all the benefits and helps to salvation come to us through her, by her intervention and her special protection. From the same time too she is called mediatrix between God and men or between Christ and us. Recent studies have thrown much light on this point. [3]

The antithesis between Eve, cause of death, and Mary, cause of salvation for all men is repeated by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, [4] St. Epiphanius, [5] St. Jerome, [6] St. John Chrysostom. [7] The following invocation of St. Ephrem deserves to be quoted in full: 'Hail, most excellent mediatrix of God and men, hail most efficacious reconciler of the whole world.' [8]

St. Augustine speaks of Mary as mother of all the members of our Head, Jesus Christ. He tells us that by her charity she co-operated in the spiritual birth of all the faithful who are  Christ's members. [9] St. Peter Chrysologus says that Mary is the mother of all the living by grace whereas Eve is the mother, by nature, of all the dying. [10] It is evident that he considers Mary as associated with the Divine plan for our redemption.

From the 8th century we may quote the Venerable Bede. [11] St. Andrew of Crete calls Mary Mediatrix of grace, dispenser and cause of life. [12] St. Germanus of Constantinople says that no one has been saved without the co-operation of the Mother of God. [13] The title of mediatrix is given by St. John Damascene also, who asserts that we owe to her all the benefits conferred on us by Jesus. [14]

In the 9th century we find St. Peter Damien teaching that nothing is accomplished in the work of our redemption without her. [15] The teaching of St. Anselm, [16] Eadmer, [17] and St. Bernard in the 12th century is the same. St. Bernard speaks of Mary as: gratiae inventrix, mediatrix, salutis restauratrix saeculorum. [18]

From the middle of the 12th century the explicit affirmation of Mary's co-operation in our redemption becomes quite common. Her co-operation is looked on as consummated by her consent to her sacrifice at the Annunciation, and its accomplishment on Calvary. Among names that may be cited are those of Arnold of Chartres, Richard of St. Victor, St. Albert the Great, [19] and Richard of Saint- Laurent. St. Thomas seems to be of the same opinion. [20] It is found quite explicitly in St. Bernadine of Siena, St. Antonine, [21] Suarez [22], Bossuet, [23] and St. Alphonsus. St. Grignon de Montfort is one of those who, in the 18th century, did the most to spread the doctrine by bringing out its practical conclusions. [24]

In the encyclical Ad Diem IlIum, Pius X stated that Mary is the all-powerful mediatrix of the world before her Son: 'Totius terrarum orbis potentissima apud Unigenitum Filium suum mediatrix et conciliatrix.' The title of mediatrix has been consecrated by the institution of the Feast of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, on January 21St, 1921.

Theological Arguments

The theological arguments invoked by the Fathers and still more explicitly by theologians are principally the following:

Mary deserves the title of universal mediatrix, subordinated to the Redeemer, if she is an intermediary between Him and men, presenting to Him their prayers and obtaining benefits from Him for them. But that is precisely Mary's role. For, though a creature, she reaches by her divine maternity to the frontiers of the Divinity , and she has received a fulness of grace which is intended to overflow on us. She has, too, co-operated in saving us by consenting freely to be the Mother of the Savior and by uniting herself as intimately as possible to His sacrifice. We shall see later that she has merited and made satisfaction for us, and we know from the teaching of the Church that she continues to intercede for us so as to obtain for us all graces that contribute to our salvation. These different offices pertain to the exercise of her maternity , as we have already seen.

Thus Jesus is the principal and perfect Mediator, in dependence on whose merits ---- and they are superabundant and sufficient of themselves ---- Mary exercises her subordinate mediation. [25] But Mary's mediation has nevertheless been willed by God because of our weakness and because God wished to honor her by allowing her the exercise of causality in the order of salvation and sanctification.

The work of redemption proceeds therefore entirely from God as First Cause of grace, entirely from Jesus as principal and perfect Mediator, and entirely from Mary as subordinate mediatrix. These three causes are not partial and co-ordinate ---- as are three men who drag the same load ---- but total and subordinated: the second acts under the influence of the first, and the third under the influence of the second. An example which may make the point clear is that of the fruit which proceeds entirely from God the Author of nature, entirely from the tree, and entirely from the branch on which it grows. It does not proceed in its different parts from different causes: neither is our redemption the work in part of the Divinity, in part of the Humanity, and in part of Mary. [26]

It is worth noting how becoming it is that Mary who was redeemed by the Savior in a most excellent manner and preserved from all sin, Original and actual, should co-operate in this way in our justification and our final perseverance.

Mary's mediation is of a much higher order than that of the Saints, for she alone has given us the Savior, she alone was so intimately united to the sacrifice of the Cross, she alone is universal mediatrix for all mankind and for all graces in particular ---- even for that grace which is of all the most particular, the grace of the present moment which assures our fidelity from instant to instant.

I. Cf. The decree of January 21st, 1921, of the Sacred Congregation of Rites: 'De Festo Beatae Mariae Virginis Mediatricis omnium gratiarum.'
2. Cf. St. Justin, Dial., 100; P. G., t. VI, col. 711; St. Irenaeus, Contr. haer., III, xxii, 4; V, xix, I: P. G., t. Vll, col. 958 sqq., 1175; Tertullian, De carne Christi, 17; P. L., t. II, col. 782.
3. Cf. Dittremieux, De mediatione universali B. Mariae Virginis, 1926; Marialia, 1936; Dublanchy in Dict. de Theol. Cath. also Marie Mediatrice in La Vie Spirituelle, 1921-22. Dover, S.l., La Mediacion universal de la Segunda Eva en la Tradici6n patristica, Madrid, 1923-1924. Frietoff, O.P., Maria alma socia Christi mediatoris, 1936. Merkelbach, Mariologia, 1939, pp. 309-323. Genevois, O.P., La maternite spirituelle de Marie en sainte Irenee, Revue Thomiste, 1935. Galtier, S.J., La Vierge qui nous regenere, Rech. de sc. rel. 1914.
4. Cat., XII, 5, 15.
5. Haer., LXXVIII, 18; P. G., t. XXll, col. 728.
6. Epist., XXII, 21; P. L., XXII, col. 408.
7. Hom. in sanctum Pascha, 2; P. G., t. LV, co1. 193 and in Gen., III, hom. XVll, I; P. G., t. LIII, col. 143.
8. Opera omnia, edit. Assemani, Rome, 1740, t. III, graecolat., col. 528 sqq., 531 sqq., 551; in Lamy's edit. II p. 547 and t. I, pro1eg., p. xlix.
9. De sancta virginitate, VI, 6; P. L., t. XI, cot. 399.
10. Serm. 140 and 142, P. L., t. LII, cot. .576, .579.
II. Homil. I infest. Annunc. andhom. I infest. Visit.; P. L.,t. XCIV.C01. 9,16.
12. In Nativit. B. M., horn. IV, and in Dormit. S. M., III; P. G., t. XCVII, cots. 813 and 1108.
13. In dormit. B. M.; P. G., t. XCVIII, c. 349.
14. In dormit. B. M., horn. I, 3, 8, 12; II, 16; P. G., t. XCVI, cots. 70.5. 713, 717, 744.
15. Serm. 45; P. L., CXLIV, cots. 741,743.
16. Orat. 47,52; P. L., t. CLVIII, cots. 945, 955, 964.
17. De excellentia B. M., IX, XI; P. L., t. CLIX, cots. 573, 578.
18. Ep. 174; P. L., t. CLXXXII, cot. 333; Super Missus est. horn. IV, 8; P. L., t. CLXXXIII, c. 83.
19. Mariale, q. 42. He terms Mary the coadjutrix et socia Christi.
20. He says that on the day of the Annunciation Mary gave her consent in the name of all humanity, loco totius humanae naturae. C£ also his Expos. Salut. Angelicae.
21. He terms Mary adjutrix nostrae redemption is et mater nostrae spiritualis regenerationis. Summa Theol., part IV, tit. XV, c. xiv, 2.
22. In lIIam S. Thomae, t. II, disp. XXIII, sect. I, n. 4. He shows from tradition that Mary merited de congruo what Christ merited de condigno. This is also the teaching oflohn of Cartagena, Novatus, Chr. de Vega, Theophile Raynaud, etc.
23. 4th sermon for the Feast of the Annunciation. Cf. also the index to his works under the word Marie.
24. Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, chs. I and II.
25. Jesus' merits needed no complement on the part of Mary; that is why she is compared in the mystical body to the neck which unites the head to the members. She is compared also with an aqueduct through which grace passes to us.
26. For the moment we are attributing to Mary only moral causality which, as we shall see, is exercised by merit, satisfaction and intercession. However, it is probable, as we shall show later, that she exercises a physical instrumental causality as well in the spiritual order for the trans- mission and production of the graces which we receive through her. This is no more than a simple probability, but we believe it cannot be denied without running the risk of diminishing Mary's influence, which must be greater than is commonly believed. Cf. infra pp. 203-215.



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