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The MOST Theological Collection: Mary in Our Life

"Chapter XVI: Renewing Calvary with Mary"

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THE GREATEST of all the means to grace are the Mass and the sacraments. If we use them well, they allow us to come under the full force of the torrents of grace that were earned for us in the Redemption. As we have seen, Mary's role is not merely that of one of many means to grace, as though she were competing with other channels for our attention: no, all graces come through her, even the graces of the Mass and the sacraments.1

To understand the relation of Mary to the Mass, we need to review certain dogmatic facts that we have already studied.2 Mary was present on Calvary, not just as a mere spectator, not even in the same way in which St. John was present. Although John surely suffered at the sight of his suffering Master, and joined in the dispositions of the Heart of Christ, yet he shared only in the subjective redemption, the distribution of grace, not in the once-for-all atonement and earning of all grace. But Mary participated in the sacrifice of Calvary in a very special way.

In a sacrifice, there are two aspects or elements: the external sign, and the interior dispositions. The external sign of the sacrifice of Calvary was the bloody death of Christ. The interior dispositions expressed by the external sign were those of the Heart of Christ: love, adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication. Instead of merely expressing in words to God: "I love you, I thank you, I wish to offer reparation for sin, I beg for all graces for humanity," the Son of God expressed these acts of His Heart much more eloquently by an action: His terrible death. Now Mary joined in both the external sign and in the interior dispositions. She did not, of course, physically die with Him, but she did suffer intensely with Him, and she literally furnished the flesh in which He could suffer and die. In these ways she was intimately united to His death. No less intimate was the union of the dispositions of her heart with His. Though it cost her untold agony, she gladly extended the fiat of Nazareth to Calvary, joining in the offering of her Son to the Eternal Father. But there is still more. She did all this not merely as a private person, but as a sacred person, designated by the Eternal Father to share in the offering, so that what the Father accepted as He looked down upon Calvary was a joint work of Mother and Son, the New Adam and the New Eve. Of course His offering alone would have abundantly sufficed without her, but it was part of the generous design of God that she should be associated in the work of the Redemption, in the atonement and earning of all graces.

The Council of Trent teaches us that the Mass is the renewal, the re-presentation of Calvary, except that the manner of offering is changed from the bloody manner of Calvary to the unbloody manner of the Mass.3 If, then, we add the above teaching on Mary's immediate co-operation on Calvary to this statement of the Council, the most elementary logic yields a wonderful conclusion: Mary must co-operate in the Mass in a way parallel to her co-operation on Calvary!

Theologians are only beginning to realize this possibility. Of course those few who deny the immediate co-operation on Calvary4 will be logically forced to deny this conclusion as well; since, however, the vast majority of theologians accept the immediate co-operation on Calvary, it seems logical that they should also accept this deduction, and a considerable number have. One of the most recent and distinguished theologians to uphold this position is Cardinal Lercaro, Archbishop of Bologna, who, at the Mariological Congress held in Rome in 1950, at the time of the solemn definition of the Assumption, developed this theme at some length. Among other things he said:

Now the Virgin remains ever the Mother of Christ, and her will continues to be intimately united to the will of her Son. Therefore, just as on Calvary, in a union of will, she offered with Jesus the life of her Son, so also at the altar, still in union of will, she offers Jesus in mystical immolation. For she is present at the altar as at Calvary, in the same role!5

Now Cardinal Lercaro did not imply that Mary is a priest in the usual or sacramental sense of the word.6 Nor did he mean that she is present in the Sacred Host, or is physically present on the altar. But she is spiritually present, in a "union of will" with the will of her Son, and she is physically present in Heaven, where Christ ever shows His wounds to the Father. It is there that the Mass celebrated here below is accepted. The acts of the will of Christ Himself are not multiplied with each Mass. The external sign, the mystical immolation, is multiplied with each Mass. But His dispositions of heart are not only like those He had on the Cross: they are the same dispositions still continuing without interruption.7 For death does not change the attitude of one's heart toward God: it makes it permanent for eternity. Similarly, Mary's love of God and willingness to offer her Son have not diminished, nor have they suffered any interruption since that day. It is true her sorrow has been "turned into joy,"8 but that is true also of her Son, as He Himself foretold. Neither the Son nor the Mother suffers any more nor do they make new satisfaction or earn new merit. Rather, the Mass applies the merits and satisfactions once earned on Calvary. But they were earned as a joint work, the work of Jesus and Mary, as we have seen.

Another excellent theologian, R. P. Poupon, expresses the truth this way:

Could Mary, the Mother inseparable from the Son, be absent from the eucharistic sacrifice?-Since her Assumption, she lives body and soul in the glory of God; there also, Jesus, by the wounds of His Passion, represents to the Trinity the death He underwent on the cross; without ceasing, He offers the loving acceptance that He made of that bloody death. There, more perfectly than on Calvary, Mary unites herself to the priestly activity of her Son, and, as in a brilliant mirror, she sees the unique sacrifice of Calvary reproduced on all the altars of here below, and she assists at it with an incomparable wisdom. In that mysterious union of heaven and earth, Mary continues her [at of adoration, of entire subjection, that she made to the will of the Father; she offers the divine Lamb, who, in the Host, bears the sin of the world....9

This view that Mary co-operates in the Mass as she once did on Calvary seems to be implied in the principle of consortium, emphasized so many times by so many Popes.10 According to this principle, God, having once begun to associate Mary with Him in the work of redemption, does not repent of His action, but continues to keep her forever associated with Him in this work. Pope Pius XII deduced even the fact of the Assumption from this association.11 But even earlier, before his election, he stated this principle of association in an especially appropriate form:

After all, the application of the merits of Christ constitutes, together with their acquisition, a single complete work: that of salvation. It was fitting that Mary should co-operate equally in the two phases of the same work; the unity of the divine plan demands it.12 [Emphasis added.]

Now if Mary had shared in Calvary, but did not share in the renewal of Calvary, we could hardly say that she would be cooperating "equally in the two phases" as "the unity of the divine plan demands." Would it not be strange to have Mary associated with her Son in all except the Mass?

It is not at all surprising, then, that the Church, in the official prayers before Mass, urges each priest to say:

O Mother of piety and mercy, most blessed Virgin Mary, I, a miserable and unworthy sinner, flee to you with my whole heart and soul, and I beg of your devotedness that just as you stood by your most sweet Son hanging on the Cross, so also you may be pleased graciously to stand beside me, a miserable sinner, and all priests who are offering here and in the entire Holy Church, so that, with the help of your grace, we may be able to offer a worthy and acceptable host in the sight of the supreme and undivided Trinity. Amen. [Emphasis added.]

For the priest, who at Mass is so thoroughly another Christ that when he says, in the first person, "This is my body.... This is my blood," the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ-this priest is taught by the Church to ask that Mary stand beside him, even as she stood beside Christ on Calvary.

It is obvious, then, that Mary can help us wonderfully to unite with the Mass. Now, according to the encyclical Mediator Dei, the faithful who assist at Mass join in the offering in two ways: "... they not only offer the Sacrifice by the hands of the priest, but also, to a certain extent, in union with him."13 The Holy Father continues, explaining more clearly what he means by each of these two ways. First he tells us:

... the faithful offer the Sacrifice by the hands of the priest from the fact that the minister at the altar in offering a Sacrifice in the name of all His members represents Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body.14

The first manner of participation, therefore, is in virtue of the fact that the people are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. But Mary is the spiritual mother of that Mystical Body,15 and the physical mother of the Head of that Body, Christ. Hence it is through her that the faithful are enabled to share in this first manner of joining in the sacrifice.

The second way in which the faithful join in the Mass

... is based on the fact that the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation, and thanksgiving with the prayers or intention of the priest, even of the High Priest Himself, so that in one and the same offering of the Victim and according to a visible sacerdotal rite, they may be presented to God the Father. It is obviously necessary that the external sacrificial rite should, of its very nature, signify the internal worship of the heart.16

It is clear that the most important part of this second manner of participation depends on the union of dispositions of the faithful with those of Christ. Now Mary is most closely united to His Heart Hence, the more closely one is united to her, the more closely he is joined to the Heart of Christ Let us, therefore, earnestly beg her to help us to unite with her Son, and ask her to make us share in the matchless dispositions with which she once assisted at Calvary, and with which she still assists at each Mass.

But this participation in the attitudes of the Heart of Christ ought to extend beyond the time of the Mass itself. Of this the same Holy Father says:

... it is necessary that the people add something else, namely, the offering of themselves as a victim. This offering, in fact, is not confined merely to the liturgical Sacrifice.17

For it would be vain to express many fine sentiments toward God and not to live them out in our daily lives. Thus the Mass is extended, gathering up, in a way, the spiritual offerings of the previous day, and also looking forward and offering in anticipation the spiritual sacrifices of the day that is beginning. If we give ourselves completely into Mary's hands, she will help us to carry out this program of the sanctification of our whole lives. But it is not enough merely to say in words that we give ourselves to her: we must live out this gift. The more thoroughly we actually live under her influence, the more completely she will form us in the image of her Son, the true High Priest and Victim. Hence a thoroughgoing consecration to Mary, such as that which we intend to discuss in chapter XVIII, is a most powerful means of uniting with the Mass through Mary.

The Church provides us with many a reminder of the close association of Mary with the Mass. First of all, she does this in the official prayer before Mass, from which we have already quoted. This prayer most aptly suggests the correct attitude, a spirit of union with Mary who played so important a part in the first Calvary.

The Mass itself begins. The priest bends low before the altar, proclaiming his sinfulness to God, and "to Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Blessed Michael the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints." He then begs for pardon, asking the intercession of all the saints, but in the first place of "Blessed Mary ever Virgin." Thus we have a reminder of Mary in the introduction to the Mass.

The first of the principal parts of the Mass is at hand. Having offered the Host and the Chalice, the priest bows in the middle of the altar and prays:

Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation, which we offer You in memory of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, Our Lord: and in honor of Blessed Mary ever Virgin....

We approach the most solemn part of the Mass, the twofold Consecration. Shortly before pronouncing the awesome words of Consecration, the priest recalls the fellowship he and the people have with the saints:

We join in union with, and venerate the memory of: in the first place, the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of Our Lord Jesus Christ; but also, the blessed Apostles and Martyrs....

The Consecration itself is complete. A few prayers are said immediately after it, terminating in the Lord's Prayer. The server has answered: "But deliver us from evil." The priest adds his Amen silently, and continues, making an extension of the last petition:

Deliver us, we beg, O Lord, from all evils: past, present, and to come: and by the intercession of the Blessed and Glorious ever Virgin Mother of God, Mary, with your Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and Andrew, and all the saints, graciously grant peace in our days....

Before the Communion of the people, the Confiteor is repeated, with its double invocation of Mary. Finally, in the official prayers of thanksgiving after Mass, the Church inserts a beautiful prayer asking Mary to be with us to supply for our inability to make a worthy thanksgiving, asking her to offer her own love and adoration to her Son in our behalf (we shall examine this prayer in the next chapter).

Thus we see that before and after the Mass, and constantly throughout it-before and after each of the principal parts- the liturgy puts Mary before our eyes. And it is not strange: the Mass is, as we have seen, the repetition of Calvary, in which Mary took an important part.

Now no one will deny that objectively, in itself, it is best to use the missal at Mass. For the missal should be a help both to a union of dispositions of heart and to a closer external participation in the sacred rite. But we may ask: Are there any conditions in which it is good to recite the Rosary during Mass? Some writers, without examining the principles involved, have jumped to a negative conclusion. The Holy See, however, does not share that attitude. Let us cite another passage from the encyclical on the liturgy, the Mediator Dei:

Many of the faithful are unable to use the "Roman Missal" even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who then would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people, for instance they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.18 [Emphasis added.]

We cannot avoid noticing the broad attitude of the Holy Father. Some cannot profit from the missal at all, others cannot profit from it at certain times. Therefore, he says, let them meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ, or recite some prayers that are in harmony with the Mass. It is entirely obvious that the Rosary is just such a method, for it is a most excellent way of meditating on the mysteries of Jesus Christ, and the vocal prayers of the Rosary are surely in harmony with the Mass. For the people assisting at Mass ought, as we have seen, to unite their dispositions with those of Christ Himself on the altar: certainly the Our Father, which He Himself composed, is in perfect harmony with His dispositions. Nor is the Hail Mary out of harmony with His Heart: the first half contains the first heaven-sent announcement of the mystery of the Redemption, which was consummated on Calvary and is renewed in the Mass. The remainder of the Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer of petition and an acknowledgment of sinfulness-and both attitudes enter intimately into the principal ends of sacrifice.

From these principles and the text of the Mediator Dei we conclude that the use of the missal is objectively the best way of assisting at Mass, and its use is to be encouraged. In our zeal for liturgical reform, however, we must not assume that it is the best method for every person on every day, and that all other methods, such as the Rosary, are to be rejected. The cardinal rule is this: Whatever helps one best to unite with Christ of Bring Himself on the altar is the best means for that person on that day. Certainly, for some persons on some days, and for others on all or nearly all days, the Rosary will be the best method. Pope Leo XIII did not hesitate, in the decree by which he established October devotions, to order that the Rosary be said daily either during Mass in the morning, or later in the day before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.19 Clearly, then, to attempt to exclude the Rosary from the Mass is to ignore sound principles and the teachings of Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XII.

Whatever means of assisting at Mass grace leads us to choose at any particular time, let us remember to use it in close union with Mary. For the Mass is the renewal of Calvary, that joint offering of the supreme sacrifice in which Mary was so closely associated with the great High Priest, her Son.


END NOTES

1 See again chap. V.
2 In chaps. I-V, esp. IV.
3 See H. Denzinger, C. Bannwart, I. Umberg, S.J., Enchiridion Symbolorum (21st-23rd ed.; Friburg, 1937), 5940.
4 See Appendix III C.
5 G. Lercaro, "La Missione della Vergine nell'Economia Eucaristica," p. 50, in Alma Socia Christi, VI, 1 (Academia Mariana, Rome, 1952) pp. 38-56 (esp. pp. 46-52). When he wrote this article, Archbishop Lercaro held the See of Ravenna. Since then he has been promoted to the See of Bologna, and, in January, 1953, was created a Cardinal. See also A. Lhoumeau, La Vie spirituelle à l'École du Bx L.-M. Grignion de Montfort (5th ed.; Tours, 1926), pp. 479-82. See esp. p. 480: "It [the Mass] is none other than the Sacrifice of Calvary renewed. Therefore the Mother of Jesus ought to co-operate in it just as she did at the immolation of her Son on the Cross." See also J. M. Hupperts, S.M.M., La Sainte Messe en union avec Notre-Dame (Secrétariat de Marie-Médiatrice, Louvain, 1932), pp. 9-10 and J. M. Alonso, C.M.F.., "De B. M. Virginis actuali mediatione in Eucharistia," in Ephemerides Mariologicae II (1952), fasc. 2-3, pp. 202-3. See also the reference to R. P. Poupon in note 9 below.
6 In 1872 a work appeared by Msgr. Van den Berghe, Marie et le Sacerdoce. The author received a letter of congratulation for it from Pope Pius IX on August 25, 1873 Pope Pius IX also approved the title Virgo Sacerdos. On May 9, 1906, Saint Pius X gave an indulgence of 300 days to a prayer in which Mary was called Virgo Sacerdos. Therefore the doctrine that Mary in some sense is a priest is not false. For she has the dignity or grace of the priesthood in an eminent, though not a sacramental, form. The ordinary faithful share in a sense in the priesthood of Christ through incorporation with Him. She by her unique consortium had a special kind of share. But the Holy See wishes that the doctrine and devotion to the Virgin Priestess be suppressed for prudential reasons for the present, to avoid great misunderstandings. For the history of the case, see: M. P. Pourrat, P.S.S., "Marie et le Sacerdoce," Du Manoir, Maria, 1, 801-24; and Basilio de San Pablo C.P., "Los Problemas del Sacerdocio y del Sacrificio de Maria," Alma Socia Christi, IV, 141-220. See also D. Bertetto, S.D.B., "De Marialis Sacerdotii Natura," Ephemerides Mariologicae, II (1952), 4, pp. 401-7, and G. de Broglie, S.J., "Autour du Sacerdoce Marial," Marianum, XV (1953), 2 pp. 214-16.
7 See Garrigou-Lagrange, De Eucharistia (Turin, 1946), p. 292.
8 John 16:20.
9 R. P. Poupon, Lo Poème de la parfaite consécration a Marie (Librairie du Sacré-Coeur, Lyon, 1947), p. 513. Pope Pius XII has sent a letter of congratulation to Fr. Poupon and this letter is printed in an English abridgment of the same work: To Jesus Through Mary (Cork, 1951), p. 7.
10 See the many passages quoted in chaps. III and VI.
11 See chap. VI.
12 Quoted in AER 121 (November, 1949), p. 360. See also Appendix III, B 6, text 1.
13 NCWC translation, §92.
14 Ibid., §93.
15 See chap. II.
16 Mediator Dei (NCWC translation), §93.
17 Ibid., §§98-99.
18 Ibid., §108.
19 The original order was issued September 1, 1883 (ASS 16:113-18, esp. 117), and was reissued on August 20, 1885 (ASS 18:95-96), and August 26, 1886 (ASS 19:92-93). In addition, the Sacred Congregation of Rites was asked whether the Holy Father ordered the Rosary during Mass or after Mass. On January 16, 1886 (ASS 19:48), the Sacred Congregation replied that the Rosary was to be said during Mass, not after Mass. This decree still remains in force, as the Ordo reminds us each year.
END

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