Click here to advertise on

The Father William Most Collection

Mary and the Mass

The doctrine that Mary co-operated immediately in the objective redemption (the once-for-all earning of all graces on Calvary), though some few theologians still hold out against it, is now accepted by the vast majority of theologians. Thanks to the scholarly study by Fr. Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., De Corredemptione Beatae Virginis Mariae disquisitio positiva,1 we may be spared the necessity of giving a detailed defense of that thesis. As Fr. Carol points out,2 over two hundred theologians, counting only those of the twentieth century, have taught this doctrine. The opposition numbers about a scant dozen. But it is not merely a matter of counting theologians on either side-the arguments given by Fr. Carol from two texts of Pope Pius XII3 are so strong that to date not even Fr. Lennerz has attempted to explain them away, although Fr. Carol's large study appeared in 1950, and the arguments mentioned were presented in The American Ecclesiastical Review in November of 1949.4 Since Fr. Carol's book appeared, the Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, has furnished Mariologists with another excellent argument for the immediate co-operation of Mary in the objective redemption. For the Holy Father argued from the New Eve concept of the Fathers to the fact of the Assumption:

We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been designated by the Holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the new Adam, is most intimately associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal foe which ... finally resulted in that most complete victory over sin and death.... Consequently, just as the glorious Resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body.5

In other words, the struggle, the sacrifice of Calvary, was "common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son," to such an extent that, since she shared in the struggle, she had to share in the victory over death. Christ had His victory over death in the Resurrection; Mary in the Assumption. Anyone who would deny the immediate co-operation of Mary would have to suppose the Holy Father argued that Mary, having had no immediate share in the struggle (which he called "common" to both), must have had an immediate share in the Resurrection, not waiting until the end of the world.

But it is not our purpose here to prove the thesis of the immediate co-operation of Mary. Rather, we wish to examine certain further implications of that thesis.

First, let us briefly review the details of that in which Mary's co-operation on Calvary consisted. On Calvary there was offered the supreme sacrifice. Now, as St. Augustine says, "a sacrifice is a visible rite of an invisible sacrifice, that is, it is a sacred sign."6 Without meaning to enter into the difficult controversies on immolation as related to the Mass and Calvary, let us note that on Calvary the external sign was the painful death of Christ. His wounds spoke more eloquently than any words, expressing and showing the interior dispositions of His Heart. Therefore we have the two elements on Calvary: the external sign (His death) which expressed His interior attitudes of adoration, reparation, thanksgiving, and petition. While both elements were required for the sacrifice, the interior dispositions were the more important source of the value of the sacrificed.7

Now in what did Mary's participation in the sacrifice of Calvary consist? In many things. She had provided the flesh of the Victim. For the divine nature of the Word was incapable of suffering and death. But in her womb Christ became the New Adam, for she: "'in the name of the whole human race' gave her consent 'for a spiritual marriage between the Son of God and human nature.' Within her virginal womb Christ our Lord already bore the exalted title of Head of the Church...."8 But now on Calvary Mary shared in His suffering. As Blessed Pius X wrote, quoting St. Bonaventure: "she suffered so much together with Him, that, if it been possible, she would with greater willingness have borne all the torments that her Son suffered."9 Or, as Pope Benedict XV put it:

With her suffering and dying Son, Mary endured suffering and almost death. She gave up her Mother's rights over her Son in order to procure the salvation of mankind, and to appease the divine justice she, as much as she could, immolated her Son, so that one can truly affirm that together with Christ she has redeemed the human race.10

She did all this, not as a private individual, such as St. John, but as the New Eve, deputed by the Eternal Father to be the antithesis of the first Eve who had co-operated in the fall. Therefore our present Holy Father wrote: "She it was who, free of all sin, original and personal, and always most intimately united with her Son, as the New Eve, offered Him on Golgotha, together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and love."11 As a result of that which the same Holy Father called a common share in the struggle,12 there was offered but one joint oblation on Calvary in which the New Eve, subordinate to the New Adam, "merited for us congruously, as they say, what Christ has merited for us condignly...."13 The Eternal Father, looking down upon that scene, saw and accepted the same sacrifice offered by two together-the one, the New Adam, whose work alone was necessary and superabundant, the other, His inferior but inseparable sharer the New Eve.

Such, in brief, is the meaning of the thesis that Mary co-operated immediately on Calvary. Now if to this truth we add another premise, one familiar even to children in catechism class, we reach an interesting corollary. The second premise is the well-known statement of the Council of Trent that the Mass is the renewal of Calvary, sola offerendi ratione diversa.14 The Council tells us that the only difference is that the manner of offering, the bloody manner of Calvary, is now changed to an unbloody manner in the Mass. Now, if the Mass re-presents and renews Calvary, and if on Calvary Mary's co-operation formed part of that which was accepted by the Eternal Father, then the logic is simple-the Mass must completely renew the offering of Calvary just as it was, sola offerendi ratione diversa. In other words, may we not say that Mary shares in the Mass much as she once shared in Calvary?

What is required in order that this be done? It is not required that Mary suffer again-for her Son does not suffer again But it is required that she join again in the dispositions of His Heart as He again shows His wounds to the Father, and manifests those dispositions through the mystical separation of Body and Blood in the double consecration. Does she join in the dispositions of His Heart? Of course. Could we expect that she, in heaven, would have any less close union with the Heart of Christ than she had on Calvary? But does her Son in the Mass join her dispositions to His, so that together they may be accepted by the Eternal Father? In the Encyclical on the Mystical Body, the present Holy Father says of our Lord in the Mass: "He offers to the heavenly Father not only Himself as Head of the Church, but in Himself His mystical members also...."15 Now who is more a member of the Mystical Body than Mary? Blessed Pius X calls her, "the neck by which the Body is united with the Head."16 For her position is unique, that of the New Eve, who, unlike others, co-operated even in the objective redemption on Calvary. And surely the Eternal Father will not now refuse to accept what He once accepted.

But, someone may object, Mary is not present physically on the altar. This is certainly true. It would be a great error to suppose that she is in some way present in the Sacred Host. But she is spiritually present at Mass, and does have the union of dispositions with the Heart of Her Son. Indeed, in the Communicantes, does not the priest speak of sharing and joining with all the Saints, but in primis with Mary? For her position is unique, as has been said. Furthermore, there is a mysterious union of earth and heaven in the Mass. As R. P. Poupon says in his work on the Montfort consecration (a work praised by the present Holy Father):

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 fiat 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....17

For in heaven her Son is always living to make intercession for us, and always shows His wounds to the Father. There Mary is physically present, body and soul, where the sacrifice being made on an earthly altar is actually accepted by the Father.

The same conclusion that Mary shares in the Mass may be drawn from the doctrine expressed by so many Popes that Mary is inseparably united with Christ in all His mysteries. For example, we saw that the present Holy Father reasoned from this constant sharing to the fact of the Assumption. How then could we suppose that she would be excluded from joining again with Him in the Mass, so that the Mass would he a partial, not a complete renewal of Calvary? Before his election as Pope, Pius XII stated the principle of consolation in a specially helpful way:

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.18

Now Mary would not be co-operative "equally in the two phases" if, having shared in the original sacrifice of Calvary, she would not have a parallel sharing in the renewal of Calvary in the Mass.19

It is not strange then, that we find, in the official prayers that every priest is urged to say before Mass, the following (italics mine): 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.


1J. B. Carol, O.F.M., De Corredemptione Beatae Virginis Mariae disquisitio positiva (Vatican Press, 1950).
2Cf. ibid., pp. 49 ff.
3Cf. ibid., pp. 530-36.
4Cf. AER 121, 5 (Nov. 1949), 353-61.
5Transl. by Msgr. Fenton in AER 124, 1 (Jan. 1951), 15.
6De civitate Dei, 10, 5.
7Cf. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., De eucharistia (Turin: Marietti, 1946), p. 271.
8Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, NCWC translation, 110. Internal quote is from Sum. theol., III, q. 30, a. 1.
9Ad diem illum, transl. by Dominic J. Unger, O.F.M. Cap., under title Mary Mediatrix (St. Anthony Guild Press. 1948), p. 8.
10Inter sodalicia (AAS, 10, 182).
11Mystici Corporis (AAS, 35, 247).
12Cf. note 5 above.
13Pius X, Ad diem illum (Unger transl., p 9).
14DB 990.
15Mystici Corporis, NCWC transl., 82.
16Ad diem illum (Unger transl., p. 9).
17R. P. Poupon, Le poème de la parfaite consécration á Marie (Lyon: Librairie du Sacré-Coeur, 1947), p. 513. The congratulatory letter of the Holy Father appears in the English abridgement of the same work: To Jesus through Mary (Cork: Mercier Press, 1951), p. 7. The English version lacks part of the above quotation, but at the end it adds (p. 123): "and with Him all her personal sufferings and tears." The complete French edition has an ambiguous phrase at that point (probably intended to mean the same-perhaps a few words fell out): "la somme de ses douleurs et de ses larmes." Italics in above quote are Poupon's.
18Quoted in AER 121, 5 (Nov. 1949), 360.
19The same thesis is taught by a number of modern theologians. Thus for example see A. Lhoumeau, La vie spirituelle a l'école du Bx L.-M. Grignion de Montfort, 5th ed. (Tours: Mame, 1926), p. 480: "Celui-ci n'est que le sacrifice du Calvaire renouvelé. La Mère de Jesus doit donc y coopérer, comme elle a fait a l'immolation de son Fils sur la croix." See also J. M. Hupperts, S.M.M. La Sainte Messe en union avec Notre-Dame (Louvain: Secretariat de Marie-Médiatrice, 1932), pp. 9-10; and J. M. Alonso, C.M.F., "De B. M. Virginis actuali mediatione in Eucharistia" in Ephemerides Mariologicae 2 (1952), fasc. 2-3, pp. 202 ff. Garrigou-Lagrange seems to have almost, if not exactly, the same idea in mind in his Love of God and the Cross of Jesus, transl. by Sr. Jeanne Marie (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1951), 11, 399 f.


Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on
Shop Amazon

Recent Catholic Commentary

The first steps toward liturgical renewal 8 hours ago
Boycott Apple? No; the effort is doomed to fail. 10 hours ago
Church Fathers: St. Justin Martyr 22 hours ago
Zooming toward Easter 23 hours ago
Why homosexuals need not worry over the Indiana law 24 hours ago

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope announces Jubilee: a Year of Mercy CWN - March 13