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Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Co-Redemptrix - Catholic Comp. Project II

(To continue my Catholic Composition Project on Marian Dogmas, I’d like to take a look at the title of Co-Redemptrix for Mary. I would appreciate comments on this long post just I did on my Immaculate Conception post. Thanks to all of my readers who put up with such long posts)

As recorded in the Gospel, the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary: “And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37). By this address to Mary, the Archangel showed Mary the sign that nothing is impossible with God as has been shown through Elizabeth’s conception of a child, but this also occurred in the Old Testament with Abraham’s wife Sarah, who conceived Isaac in old age because of the power of God. As scripture attests, “All things are possible through Him who strengthen me”

And Mary replied with insurmountable humility and wisdom in such a way that deserves repeating both now and forever: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38)

This radical humility is essentially the cornerstone of the Gospel. Without humility there would be no Savior because God would still be in Heaven where he rightfully should rest, but instead, He chose to dwell among us and humble himself to suffer hunger, thirst, work, and the Cross. Mary also humbled herself in such a radically way allowing Christ to take her body and turn it into the Ark of the New Covenant, where the greatest of all treasures would be kept. This is preciously one reason Mary is given the title Co-Redemptrix because she consented to be the Mother of God, but it is also because Mary plays a pivotal role in Christ’s sufferings and death.

In no way, however, does the title of Co-Redemptrix mean that Mary was equal to God as she, herself, even needed a Savior because Christ saved His mother from sin. Without God’s role in Mary there would be no Dogma of the Immaculate Conception today. The special title of Co-Redemptrix, rather, is used to show the powerful aid of Mary in the beatific vision of Heaven.

Mary is not only a special person in God’s eyes but also a faithful servant that is a “co-worker” in winning us our salvation and the salvation of the entire world.

The prophecy of Simeon – recorded in Luke 2:35 – states, “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” Namely, Mary would also suffer and endure great trials in life, but her ultimate faith in the Lord as expressed in “I am the handmaiden of the Lord” confirms how she was saved from actual sin. We too must look at Mary also as a shining example a of brilliant mirror reflecting God’s flowing light of mercy on which no blemish resides. Our mirrors remain tattered and some opaque, but Mary’s reflection of the light clears our paths.

When speaking of the Redemption, we begin with objective redemption that began when Christ was conceived and completed in His Resurrection. During that period Christ fulfilled the prophecies of long ago and in dying one death he erased the eternal price of sin, which is eternal death. Three days later Christ rose from the dead, and we, too, believe that if we die in Christ we also will rise with Him.

However, subjective redemption is also vitally important to the Christian faithful in reaching Heaven because even though Christ died for all not everyone will be saved because there will be people that reject His works. Christians have an obligation to grow in the faith by assisting Christ in obtaining their salvation. We believe that salvation can not be earned, but we do believe, as Catholics, that we have a responsibility to work towards our salvation and the salvation of others. This is precisely subjective redemption.

Let me take one minute to help reiterate Catholic teachings on the necessity of works. In James 2:26 it states clearly: “For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead." Everyone, no matter if they are the highest kings or the lowly servants, must work today toward salvation, and Christ has promised that the lowly will be raised and the mightly shot down. Simply, if you are in grace you are saved, and grace is given freely by God so only He knows the state of your soul. This is precisely why frequently Confession is encouraged.

Some Protestants will counter with Romans 3:28: "For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law," however this is not the correct translation in the Catholic Bible. In a Catholic Bible, all of the words are the same except one must remove the word “alone” because we go back to the original Greek, which did not mean “faith alone”. Rather, the word “alone” does occur but in James 2:24: “Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?"

The best explanation to account for the confusion between the Book of Romans and the Book of James is that St. Paul, in the Book of Romans, described the initial saving powers of faith. This view of salvation is acceptable but only for those that have not committed actual sin, namely children under the age of reason. The Book of James describes how one must continue to live the faith by showing how we love it. Just as Christ spoke of in the Gospel of Matthew, “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father,” so must we, with a sincere heart, have works that glorify God.

My final thought on the necessity of works to assist in our salvation rests upon the Cross. We certainly must believe that Christ had great faith in the Father’s plan, and He adhered to it perfectly; yet, Christ also had works beyond compression. After all, the greatest work ever committed for the human race rested upon a wooden cross at Calvary. How would our lives have been different without that work? And it is precisely for this reason that we too must also work towards our salvation through the Sacraments, the Church, prayer, and many other wonderful opportunities one of which is devotion to Mary.

Back to the topic of Redemption, I feel it fundamental to dispute a common claim among Protestants using the thought that Redemption occurs through death because death is the eternal price of sin so they conclude Mary did not die for Redemption and therefore took no part in it. This claim, however, lacks another scriptural basis in Genesis 3 where we recall that suffering also is a price for sin, as both Our Lord and his Mothers’ sufferings play a role in the Redemption of mankind. Mary suffered a tremendous amount by standing below the Cross watching Her Son die, and through her sufferings (Our Lady of Sorrows) we can begin to understand the different parts in her life where she suffered for Our Lord..

Mary’s suffering was united, not equal, with Christ and helped to become part of the work of our Redemption. Without God there would be no Redemption and Mary could not in any way have won for us eternal Paradise, but she once again was chosen by God for a special purpose to assist in our salvation, and for this reason she is called Co-Redemptrix. St. Jerome even stated, “By a woman the whole world was saved,” not signifying that Mary redeemed the world but that through her submission to God’s will, Our Savior came for us.

I conclude with a look at the title of Co-Redemptrix, by stating another common dispute to Catholics: “I, the Lord, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob,” so if Christ was our Redeemer how can Mary also be our Redeemer? And, I counter by reminding this person that it is through God alone that our salvation was won, but Mary participated in this work as well. We do not use the prefix “co” meaning “equal” but rather “part of”. Catholics firmly acknowledge God as the Lord, who won us our freedom from sin and death, but we also remember the pivotal role that Mary played in the sufferings of Christ that won us our eternal rest from all labor. Mary also was saved from sin when as she said called Our Lord, her child, our “Savior”, but Mary was saved from sin at another time. Mary was saved before her birth making her sinless at the moment of her conception and she remained completely in God’s grace: “Full of Grace” (Luke 1:28) This is the Immaculate Conception.

Again, Christ alone saves us and by His blood alone were we saved (CCC. 432), but Mary also worked for our salvation. Remember, God doesn’t need anyone just as He didn’t need anyone to help Him at the Miracle of the Loaves, but instead Our Lord included the disciples. Here, Our Lord included Mary in being part of the salvation of all people.

CCC References: 964-970


The meaning of Luke 1:28
Catholic Forum: Co-Redemptrix


del_button October 26, 2005 at 2:51 PM
Layla said...

I'm confused by one comment you made.

Mary suffered a tremendous amount for Christ by not only giving birth to Him but standing below the Cross watching Her Son die.

Obviously, I don't have a problem with the idea of Mary experiencing pain at the Death of her Son. However, isn't it generally taught that because of her Immaculate Conception, she did not experience pain at His Birth?

It's possible (likely, even) that I misunderstand. I think, though, that since pain in childbirth is a direct result of Eve's sin (Gen. 3:16), it follows that Mary, who bears no stain of sin, wouldn't have had that pain. Of course, she did feel pain at other points (she is, after all, Our Lady of Sorrows), but I was under the impression that childbirth was not one of them.

This is a rather trivial point, I reckon, in the grand scheme. You've written a fine essay on Mary's role in our Redemption. Thank you.

del_button October 26, 2005 at 2:53 PM
Moneybags said...

Thank you very much for the comments, Layla. And, I'm unsure now whether or not she did experience pain in child birth. Please let me know if you find any information on that.


del_button October 26, 2005 at 3:15 PM
Layla said...

From the New Advent article on the Blessed Virgin:

Mary gives birth to Our Lord

"And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered" (Luke 2:6); this language leaves it uncertain whether the birth of Our Lord took place immediately after Joseph and Mary had taken lodging in the grotto, or several days later. What is said about the shepherds "keeping the night watches over their flock" (Luke 2:8) shows that Christ was born in the night time.

After bringing forth her Son, Mary "wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger" (Luke 2:7), a sign that she did not suffer from the pain and weakness of childbirth. This inference agrees with the teaching of some of the principal Fathers and theologians: St. Ambrose [56], St. Gregory of Nyssa [57], St. John Damascene [58], the author of Christus patiens [59], St. Thomas [60], etc. It was not becoming that the mother of God should be subject to the punishment pronounced in Genesis 3:16, against Eve and her sinful daughters.

Shortly after the birth of the child, the shepherds, obedient to the angelic invitation, arrived in the grotto, "and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger" (Luke 2:16). We may suppose that the shepherds spread the glad tidings they had received during the night among their friends in Bethlehem, and that the Holy Family was received by one of its pious inhabitants into more suitable lodgings.

del_button October 26, 2005 at 8:13 PM
Moneybags said...

Thank you VERY MUCH for that correction, Layla. I just corrected it in my essay. I hope this essay helps others in growing closer to Christ through Mary.

God Bless. Pax Tecum

del_button October 26, 2005 at 11:31 PM
Layla said...

I'm happy I could be of some help to you.

Just so you know, the "yes" vote I just gave in your sidebar poll doesn't come near fully saying how much your blog has helped to strengthen my faith. You've got a really good thing going here, and I thank you for it.

del_button November 4, 2005 at 7:32 PM
Moneybags said...

Your comment really means a lot to me, Layla. Thank you

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