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Pope Deepens Conciliar Theology

[Miles Immaculatae 26 (1990)]

Something hitherto unheard of has happened: A Pope has decided to deepen the theology of a Council in which he himself took part. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer, in speaking of Our Lady's faith, which was so greatly praised by Elizabeth said: "These words were the guiding thought of the encyclical Redemptoris Mater, in which I sought to deepen the teaching of the Second Vatican Council which stated: 'The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the cross, "preceding" all those who follow Christ by faith.'"1

Was the Pope successful in this remarkable undertaking of deepening Conciliar theology? Definitely yes, what he wrote in Redemptoris Mater is a truly profound and remarkable achievement.

To take it in in all its depth, we need, of course, to go back to see what that Council had said about her, and then we will be in a position to understand the deepening of which the Pope spoke.

Things really began in a very inauspicious way for Marian doctrine at Vatican II. One news release said it was reported: "Several Popes have taught heresy by saying Mary is Mediatrix." Strange, even shocking though it may seem, this statement was made by more than one speaker on the floor of Vatican II during the second session, as reported in a feature article from NCWC News Service, by Father George Tavard.2 The speakers did not come out so clearly, or use those words. What they said, according to Fr. Tavard was this: " As several speakers have pointed out, the term 'Mediatrix' as applied to Mary is incompatible with the teaching of St. Paul." (1. Tim 2. 5) Now to contradict the teaching of St. Paul is, of course, heresy. And several Popes had already called her Mediatrix, especially Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII, and even John XXIII, who was dead by that time.3 So what they said really was, in effect, a charge of heresy against several Popes.

Further, on October 14, 1963, during the second session there was a bitter disagreement and vote, leading to the report by the irresponsible media that they had voted to downgrade her. That was not true, yet it did immense damage.

But to get to the heart of the matter. There are several aspects to the Redemption. One of the most basic and central is this: the redemption is a new covenant. To understand this we go back to the old covenant. At Sinai God spoke to the people through Moses in Exodus 19. 5: "If you really hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my special people." That amounted to saying: "If you do this, I will do that - if you obey, you will receive special favor".

How well did that ancient people keep their pledge? Rather badly. Over and over against they fell into idolatry, and God, after warning them, had to send in a foreign power to oppress them, to bring them to their senses. The chief nations He used for this were the people of Amalek, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the New Babylonians. When they finally did repent, He sent someone to rescue them.

There were several deportations, first from the northern, then from the southern kingdom, by Assyria and New Bablyonia. The greatest of these crushings came in 597 and 587 BC. when Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon swept down in two waves, ruined the Temple and city, and took most of the people into captivity, where they languished until Cyrus of Persia released them in 539. The deportations had been intended to break their national spirit. It worked. When 539 came only 2 of 12 tribes returned at all. The others were permanently lost or absorbed.

It was during this bitter exile that God spoke again through Jeremiah 31 ff. God said through Jeremiah: "I will make a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant I made with their Fathers. For they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master. But this is the covenant: I will write my law on their hearts, I will be their God, and they will be my people."

We notice that the prophecy spoke of a difference. The old covenant had been broken, the new was to be everlasting; the old covenant had been written on tablets of stone at Mt. Sinai. Of the new, God said: "I will write my law on their hearts."

But we still notice that the same two essentials were in this prophecy that had been there at Sinai, namely, it brought into being a people of God, and they were to get favor through obedience.

Vatican II explained: " Christ the Lord established this new covenant, that is, a new testament in His blood, calling together a people from Jews and Gentiles, which would coalesce, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, and would be the new people of God".4

So we see that while in the old covenant, the essential condition had been obedience, the obedience of the people, in the new there was still obedience as the essential condition, but it was to be the obedience of Christ, the New Adam, the new head of our race. Of this St. Paul spoke in Romans 5. 19: "Just as by the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of the one man, the many will be constituted just." The Council itself echoed these words: "... by His obedience He brought about redemption".5 For if His death had not been done in obedience, if it had been merely a physical thing, it would have redeemed nothing, it would have been merely a tragedy. So it was obedience that gave it its value.

We wonder: Did Jeremiah understand all this? Did he see that the essential obedience of the new covenant would be that of Christ? We simply do not know. God could have given him a special prophetic light to see it. But we are not sure. Vatican II faced this same type of problem in Lumen gentium § 55. Speaking chiefly of the prophecies of Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7. 14 it wrote: "These primeval documents, as they are read in the Church, and are understood in the light of later and full revelation, gradually bring to light the figure of the woman, the Mother of the Redeemer." We notice the Council carefully refrained from saying clearly that the human writer of these texts saw Our Lady. In fact, in the very next sentence it added: "She, in this light, is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise, given to our first parents when they had fallen into sin, of victory over the serpent (cf. Gen 3, 15). We notice the ultracautious cf. It means merely "compare". It thereby avoids saying flatly that the human writer had originally seen our Lady in his words. But the Church later, yes, under the light of full revelation, led by the Holy Spirit, has gradually seen the figure of the woman, the Mother of the Redeemer come to light. So it is evident: The Council makes clear that the Holy Spirit, the chief author of Holy Scripture, may have intended more by the words than the human writer at the time was able to see.

So we cannot be sure that Jeremiah the prophet saw the full reality which he foretold. But today, under the light of later and full revelation, as the Council said, we are privileged to see it. Namely, we see that the essential obedience in the new covenant, which gave all the value to the great sacrifice, was the obedience of Jesus. Again, we recall the words of Lumen gentium §3 which we cited above: "By His obedience He brought about redemption."

In speaking of Our Lady's role, the Council places great stress on her obedience. Thus we read: "The Holy Fathers [Patristic writers] see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, 'She, being obedient, became a cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. ' Hence not a few ancient Fathers... gladly say with him: 'The knot of the disobedience of Eve was untied through the obedience of Mary'".6

We must stress the comparison that St. Irenaeus uses. He says that all sin, both original and all later personal sins, can be compared to a complex tangled knot. That knot was untied by the redemption. Mary shared in untying it. It was a knot of disobedience, it was "untied through the obedience of Mary." When we examined the words of the Council on Genesis 3. 15, we noticed that the Council made an important distinction: It was unwilling to say definitely that the human writer of Genesis saw the full reality, but it said that the Church, in the light of later and full revelation, and led by the Holy Spirit, today does see the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer in Genesis 3. 15. How could this be? The human writer was an instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit. So he could be used by the Spirit. Now we must add this question: Did St. Irenaeus see the full implications of what he himself wrote? If we read his words on the knot in context, it seems he had in mind the day of the annunciation, not the day of Calvary. But yet it is obvious that the knot comparison by its very nature had to refer to Calvary, not just to the annunciation. For at the annunciation, the beginning of the untying of the knot was made, but it was not fully untied until the Divine Victim cried out: It is finished! So now we can see a remarkable truth: St. Irenaeus implied more than he saw - not surprisingly, for he, as a Father of the Church, was an instrument in the hands of Divine Providence.

In passing, let us mention briefly something we will develop more fully later on, namely, a General Council too is an instrument of the Holy Spirit. We mean of course in its final documents. We do not mean the floor speeches. As we saw earlier, some of them even charged several Popes with heresy for teaching that Mary is the Mediatrix. Actually, the Council itself was going to teach that very truth. But as we said a General Council in its final decrees is an instrument of the Holy Spirit. So even though some floor speakers had said it would be heresy to call her Mediatrix, yet, thanks to the Holy Spirit, the final decrees of the Council did teach that she was the Mediatrix.

Therefore we can begin to see, since a Council is an instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit, it would not be strange if it taught more than it realized on Mary.

We say this because it said at the start of chapter 8 that it did not intend to settle debates among theologians on Mary.7

What was the state of the debates before the Council? Before it, theologians had come to agree, to see that the Church had taught clearly, in fact, over and over, that she cooperated in the redemption not only by being the Mother of the Redeemer, furnishing the humanity in which He could die: she also cooperated in some way even on Calvary.

What was that way? Here is where the debates are found. One school, the Germans, said that her role was only active receptivity. They explained it this way. If I put out my hand, that is active. If I then pick up something I had no share in producing, that is only receptivity. Now, the Germans argued, the Church merely receives Redemption, in no way does the Church produce it. So, they added: Mary, who is a type or foreshadowing of the Church, could do no more than the Church, could do no more than receive. Had the Germans proved this? Not at all!.8

The other school of theologians wanted to say she did share in producing a claim to grace, that is, she shared with her Son in fulfilling the covenant condition. All this, of course, she would do only in dependence on Him.

It seems very much that this difference probably was at the bottom of the hot debate on October 24, followed by the close vote (1114 to 1074) as to where to put the Marian teaching. It is likely that the Germans wanted the teaching in the Constitution on the Church, so they could argue she does no more than the Church. The other theologians wanted to go far beyond that, to say she shared in establishing the claim to grace, i.e., in fulfilling the covenant condition.

As we go ahead, we can keep in mind this difference. Near the end of this article, we will propose a daring conclusion even before seeing what Pope John Paul II did in deepening the teaching of the Council.

But we return to the teaching of the Council on her obedience. In Lumen gentium § 58 we read this important teaching: "She persevered faithfully in her union with her Son even to the cross, where she stood, in accordance with the divine plan, vehemently grieved with her Only Begotten, and joined herself with motherly heart to His sacrifice, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the Victim born of her".9

Before commenting on this major teaching, we should see what the Council added in Lumen gentium § 61:" ... by the plan of divine Providence, she was singularly, more than others, His generous associate and the humble handmaid of the Lord.... In suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result, she is our mother in the order of grace."10

Let us study the implications of these great teachings.

(1) In both § 58 and 61, she is on Calvary by design of Divine Providence, His associate in a singular way in cooperating in the work of the Savior, which is redemption, that is, in restoring supernatural life to souls. The fact that she is the New Eve also expresses this appointment (spoken of earlier in § 56). (2) We notice that earlier, in § 56 the Council stressed her obedience.11 It did so also in § 61, where it said she cooperated by obedience, faith, hope and burning love. But earlier in the same constitution, as we saw, in §3, the Council also taught that Jesus "by His obedience brought about redemption." For His death if it had not been done in obedience, would have been just a tragedy, not a redemption. It was obedience that gave it its real worth. - But now we see that she cooperated precisely in that which gave value to the redemption , and she did it by plan of Divine Providence, as the Council said twice, that is, she was officially appointed by the Father for this role. The same appointment is brought out when the Council says that she did it as the New Eve.

(3) In precisely what did her obedience consist? We recall that the Council in § 58 said she was "loving consenting to the immolation of the Victim born of her." And yet there is more - it is on this point that the Pope will deepen the Council.

Hence, just as His obedience really won, gained the infinite treasury of grace and forgiveness, so her obedience was part of the offering, the covenant condition, that gained that treasury. In other words, she was not just passive - she was active, painfully active, in even consenting to His death, as § 58 taught. She shared in winning that treasury for us.

It was clearly possible for the Father to fit her into the framework of the covenant, in which obedience is the condition.

Did He actually do so?

We can see this very easily if we put the matter into the framework of what we might call the alternatives of redemption. Let us imagine, in a human way, the Father looking over the scene after the fall of our first parents. He saw not only their sin, original sin, but He saw all the sins of all future generations. He at once resolved to restore our race, and to plan to forgive future sins as well, if only people would repent of them. But, given this attitude, how could He go about it?

There were several alternative courses from which He could pick. (1) He could have forgiven all sin without any makeup at all. This would have been generous, but not so rich as what He actually decided upon. Nor would it provide for His desire that all holiness be fulfilled.12 (2) He could have appointed any human being at all, to carry out any religious act, perhaps an Old Testament type sacrifice. He could then have resolved to accept this offering, even though it would not fully make up for sin. For sin as an offense against the Infinite God, is infinite; this reparation would have been finite. He could even have bound Himself by promise, by covenant, to accept it. (3) He could have sent His Son to become man, but not to be born in a stable. He would have been born in a palace, one equipped with every luxury conceivable. That Son need not have died at all. On some day, perhaps with representatives of all the tribes of mankind present in admiration, could have redeemed the world by a mere prayer, such as: "Father forgive them." A prayer coming from an Infinite Person would have infinite merit; and it would have been infinitely satisfactory as well, for the very fact of being incarnate is a come-down for a Divine Person. Hence it would have more than enough to redeem countless worlds. After that, He could have ascended, without dying, in a blaze of eternal glory. (4) The Father literally went beyond infinity, for He went beyond the infinite redemption we have just envisioned. He went beyond the palace to the stable; beyond a deathless prayer to the terrible death of the Cross. This, as we said, would be beyond infinity, for the third option would have been infinite. Yes, in mathematics infinity plus any finite quantity does not grow - but we are not now in the lowly terrain of mathematics, but in the realm of infinite generosity.

It seems the Father's principle of action is this: as long as there is anything richer, He will not stop short of it.

(5) In view of that way of acting, He could - and as we shall see, He did - add something even to infinity beyond infinity. He as it were looked back to the second option, a finite redemption accomplished by a mere human - and so He decided to add Mary. Then there would be not only a New Adam, Jesus, but also a New Eve, Mary.

Clearly, there was nothing to stop the Father, if He so willed, from doing just this, especially since He willed to place the redemption in the framework of a covenant, in which the required human condition would be obedience. He could call for, and receive, her obedience.

Further, He made her inherently fitted for this role by her Immaculate Conception which gave her a purity and holiness beyond that of any other creature. So there was no inherent obstacle to prevent the Father from appointing her to this role, and accepting her obedience as part of the covenant condition.

Did He actually accept her obedience? Definitely yes. (1) He even, as Vatican II said twice, appointed her precisely for this role: she was there by design of divine providence, as the New Eve, parallel in reverse to the first Eve who had really contributed to bringing down the disaster of original sin on our race. (2) He even asked her to obey by consenting to the death of her Son, death in that way. For the Council said in § 58 she had to consent to the immolation of the Victim born of her. Thus she joined in precisely that which gave His sacrifice its value, in obedience. (3) The Father, as we saw, made her inherently fit for this role, by the Immaculate Conception and by further progress in holiness, reaching a point far surpassing that of all other Saints and angels combined.13

Now we ask: Would the Father appoint her to such a position, and make her fit, and call on her to do so painful a thing as to consent to the death of her Son - and then refuse to accept this her obedience when there was nothing to prevent Him from doing so? Of course not. So then He did accept it. She shared in the obedience that was the covenant condition, which is another way of saying that she shared in the very price of redemption, in dependence upon Him.

This did not mean she had to move the Father - not even Jesus did that, for the Father did have to be moved. God cannot be moved. It was not because Jesus came and died that the Father began again to love us - rather, it was because the Father always loved us that Jesus came and died.

This conclusion, we see, fits admirably with the very things we saw that Vatican II beyond doubt taught about her role on Calvary: she was officially appointed to cooperate, she was inherently fit, she shared in the very thing that gave His sacrifice all its value, namely, obedience. This obedience was the covenant condition, which is the same as saying the price of redemption.

Someone may object at this point: Did not Vatican II say, at the start of its Marian chapter, that it did not intend to resolve existing debates?14 Yes, it did say that.

But the human writers of Holy Scripture, as we saw above, could easily say more than they themselves understood, for the principal author is the Holy Spirit. Thus Vatican II, in § 55, as we saw above, in speaking of Genesis 3:15 (the prophecy of the enmity between the woman and the serpent and of her Son crushing the head of the serpent) and Isa 7:14 (the virgin birth) explained: "These primeval documents, as they are read in the Church and understood in the light of later and full revelation, gradually bring into light the figure of the woman, the Mother of the Redeemer. She, in this light, is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise, given to our first parents who had fallen into sin, of victory over the serpent... . Similarly she is the Virgin who will conceive and bear a Son whose name will be called Emmanuel." Thus the Council seems to be showing us that even though the original human writer may not have seen all the content of these prophecies, yet the Holy Spirit did see and will it, and led the Church later to see it too.

In a similar way, Jeremiah wrote more than he probably understood, in his prophecy of the new covenant - he was an instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit. And St. Irenaeus in his teaching on the New Eve, by the comparison of Mary's role in untying the knot of sin, expressed more than he may have realized - he too was an instrument in the hands of Divine Providence.

So could not Vatican II, also a providential instrument, say more than it understood? We think it did. We have presented much evidence as to what its words objectively mean.

Further, Msgr. G. Philips of Louvain, one of the chief drafters of this Marian chapter, gives away the fact, in his commentary on this chapter, that he too did not fully understand what is clearly part of the meaning which we showed. For in his commentary on §61 and 62, he says on p. 92 that only "a mental distinction is possible between the acquisition and the distribution of grace".15 This means that the two phases, acquisition (through the sacrifice of Calvary) and the distribution (throughout all subsequent ages) are really the same thing - we merely inject a distinction or difference in the way we think about them. In themselves there is no difference. Yet in spite of that, on p. 90, he could say that her cooperation was "concretized in her obedience",16 while on p. 92 he said that her role at present is one of intercession.17 But these two things - obedience and intercession - are very different in themselves. In obedience she does the will of the Father - in intercession she asks the Father to do her will. So there are two things very different in themselves - it is not that just our mind injects a distinction where there is no difference in reality. So we see that even so fine a theologian as G. Philips, chief drafter f chapter 8, did not fully grasp the entire sense of what he had written. Hardly then, would the Fathers of the Council have seen it. So we are not at all out of order if we try to show - and I think we have done it - that Vatican II taught more than it realized, since Divine providence so willed. This is the marvel, almost the miracle of Vatican II!

Early in this discussion we said that there seems to have been something deeper behind the push of the German theologians to have the Marian doctrine put into the Constitution on the Church. We suspect what it is. It is clear from their publications before the Council that they held Mary's cooperation on Calvary was only active receptivity.18 They explain that it is like a person putting out his hand - which is active - and then picking up what someone else has produced, without the recipient having anything to do with producing it. But, they add, that is the way it is with the Church: it contributes nothing to producing the power of redemption - it only actively puts out its hand to receive. Mary, they insist further, was a type of the Church. So she could do not more than the Church does - active receptivity.19

Still more deeply, Germany is the home of Protestantism. In it, humans contribute nothing at all to their own redemption - they merely appropriate, or make their own, what Christ has done without any cooperation on their part. As many Protestants today express it, they take Christ as their personal Savior and then, hallelujah, they are infallibly saved. So it seems that the German faction really was doing its thinking in the framework of a Protestant theology of Redemption and wanted to reduce Mary's role to just that.20

Did they succeed? Definitely not. They did get the Council to speak of her as a type of the Church, in §§ 60-65. But the only applications they were able to make of that was that the Church is like her in being a Virgin Mother, bringing forth souls to the life of grace, and that the Church imitates the holiness of Mary. But they did not get in one word to express active receptivity. On the contrary, as we have shown, the Council assigns a very active role to her, joining in the very obedience that gave the whole value to His death, by consenting to His immolation, as part of the covenant condition, and that she did this by official appointment.

Now we come at last to what Pope John Paul II did to deepen this theology of Vatican II. In his exhortation on St. Joseph, as we saw above, he quoted Vatican II saying: "The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son even to the cross." In his Redemptoris mater he spoke of her "obedience of faith", taking an expression from St. Paul.

Her pilgrimage began at the annunciation. When she was asked to consent, "in the name of the whole human race" as Leo XIII said, citing St. Thomas Aquinas, to be the Mother of the Redeemer,21 this was a very difficult thing in more ways than one. First, she, like all good Jews, had had it hammered in that there was only one God. But from the message of the Archangel she must have seen that her Son was to be the Unique Son of God. For when the angel told her that He would reign over the house of Jacob forever, she could not help knowing, first of all, that He was to be the Messiah. For Jews generally then believed that the Messiah would reign forever. Further, when she heard that he would be conceived when the Holy Spirit would overshadow her, she would recognize that word as the word used to describe the divine presence filling the tabernacle in the desert during the days of the wandering.22 Then the angel added a significant word, for that reason, namely because He would be conceived by the overshadowing by the Holy Spirit, He would be called Son of God. So this was the unique reason why He was to be the unique Son of God.

But further, she had heard in the synagogues the prophecy of His passion in Isaiah 53, about the lamb led to the slaughter, wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. Even the Jews knew23 that this prophecy was messianic, though they had trouble, and even distorted it because they could not believe that the Messiah would suffer. But she, full of grace, would see what ordinary people saw only partly. She would think too of the other dreadful line in Zechariah 12. 10 about the one who was pierced, and the line in Psalm 22. 17: "They have pierced my hands and my feet." Jesus Himself on the cross pointed out that that Psalm referred to Him.

So it was indeed a burden for her to start out on her pilgrimage of faith. Faith really means the total adherence of a person to God, so that when He speaks a truth, one believes, when He makes a promise, one is confident, when He gives a command, one obeys. So she did obey, with her fiat, which as Vatican II was to say, "continued from the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation, and which she unhesitatingly bore with under the cross", and which she will continue "even to the final consummation of all the elect".24

When she cared for His infant needs at the start, her faith would clash with the reports of her senses: this feels like any ordinary child. But still more, when she presented Him in the temple, she knew, even before the words of Simeon about the sword that would pierce her, she knew what it meant: this was the offertory of the great Sacrifice. She was not buying Him back from the service of God, she was turning Him over. He at that point must have repeated what the Epistle to the Hebrews (10. 7) tells us He said at the very first moment of His entrance into the world: "Behold I come to do your will O God." He echoed the continuation of her fiat.

But these and other points before Calvary we could have seen without the help of the Pope. It is when we come to it that we see how he really did deepen the theology of Vatican II about her.

He said: "How great, how heroic, then, is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God's 'unsearchable judgments!' How completely she 'abandons herself to God, without reserve,' offering the full assent of the intellect and will to him whose 'ways are inscrutable'."25

Vatican II had said that at the cross she "lovingly consented" to His immolation. But those words need deepening. The Pope explained: "Christ Jesus who, 'though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men', precisely on Golgotha ' humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross': At the foot of the Cross, Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest kenosis [self-emptying] in the history of the human race. By faith the Mother participates in the death of the Son, that is, the redeeming death."26

The Pope had quoted from Philippians 2. 5-8 which spoke of His self-emptying. It meant that He would not cling to the privileges which He could have had because of His divinity. No, He gave them all up, He resolved to use His divine power never for His own comfort, but only for the sick and others in need.

But the deepest emptying came on Golgotha. The inspired words of Deuteronomy 21. 23 had said, "Cursed be everyone who hangs on the wood." Yet, He emptied Himself so far as that, and in the words of St. Paul (Gal 3. 13) He "became a curse for us."

Plato had said, "No god associates with men."27 Aristotle had said that friendship between a man and a god was impossible, the distance was too great.28 They were thinking of lesser beings, not the infinite God. What would they think if they heard that God the Mighty even became a man!. What would they think if He consented to die so hideously! No wonder St. Paul told the Corinthians (1 Cor 1. 22) that the wisdom of God seems folly to men!

Her emptying as the Pope said was "the deepest kenosis of faith in human history." For really, it is not merely consenting to His death, as Vatican II had said. No, it was deeper, much deeper.

We see this by recalling that all spiritual perfection consists in the alignment of one's will with the will of God, so that we positively will whatever God wills. For there is only one free thing in us, our free will. If we could make that perfectly match the will of God, willing positively what He wills, then we would have reached the summit of perfection, by emptying ourselves of our own will.

To apply this to her: in that dread black hour, it was the positive will of the Father that He, His Son, should die, should die so horribly, even becoming a curse for us. Her Son, in self-emptying obedience to the Father, also positively willed the same thing, to die, die then, die so horribly. Therefore what she was asked to do was not just to consent, that is, to refrain from protesting, to somehow acquiesce, to let go what was happening -no, she was then called on then to positively will that He die, that He die then, die so horribly. It was not enough to refrain from screaming, not enough to merely let it be. She had to positively will it. This was indeed the greatest kenosis, self-emptying in history.

There is still another factor that makes this emptying the deepest in all history: it was going most directly contrary to her love. How great was that love? We know that love of God and holiness are in practice the same thing. But, Pope Pius IX, as we have seen, in defining the Immaculate Conception, said that her holiness/love even at the starting point was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it!" Yes, God could by exercising His infinite power, make a creature capable of comprehending her love. But He has actually not done that. Not even the highest cherubim and seraphim can understand her love - only God Himself can comprehend it! And it was this love for Her Son, her God, that went totally contrary to what she had to do then, to positively will His death, so horrible a death! Literally - this is no rhetoric - this clash within her, this self-emptying is so great that only God can comprehend it, for it is measured by a love that only God can comprehend, multiplied by the atrocity of His sufferings. Words now fail us, we can only stand back in silent horror or admiration and wonder at the greatest kenosis, self-emptying in history.

Truly, to reach this point of understanding, is to do what the Pope said he would do, to deepen the theology of Vatican II about her "obedience of faith", her kenosis.

We should add this too: It was not only at that dread hour that she suffered, not only since hearing the words of Simeon. No, as we saw above, as soon as the Archangel told her that her Son would reign over the house of Jacob forever, right then, she would know He was to be the Messiah. For Jews then generally believed that the Messiah, and only he, would reign forever. And then all the prophecies about the Messiah would swing into place in her mind, including those of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, to be further deepened as she pondered all these things in her heart.29

Why, we ask, did they suffer so immensely, so far beyond the ability of anyone but God Himself to comprehend? Pope Paul VI, in the doctrinal introduction to his Indulgentiarum Doctrina gives us the lead: "Every sin brings with it a disturbance of the universal order, which God arranged in His inexpressible wisdom and infinite love... . So it is necessary for the full remission and reparation of sins... not only that friendship with God be restored by a sincere conversion of heart, and that the offense against His wisdom and goodness be expiated, but also that all the goods, both individual and social, and those that belong to the universal order, lessened or destroyed by sin, be fully reestablished, either through voluntary reparation... or through the suffering of penalties."30 An early Jewish Rabbi, Simeon ben Eleazar, writing about 170 A.D., and quoting Rabbi Meir, from earlier in the same century, said: "He [anyone] has committed a transgression, woe on him! He has tipped the scale to the side of debt [hobah] for himself and for the world."31 A sinner takes from the one pan of the scales what he has no right to take: the scale is out of balance. It is the Holiness of God, which loves so greatly everything that is right, that wants it rebalanced. How can it be done? If the sinner stole property, he begins to rebalance by giving it back. If he stole a pleasure, he begins to rebalance by giving up instead some other satisfaction he could have lawfully had. All sinners took so much to themselves - the total weight from even one mortal sin is infinite - what of the weight of all sins of our times, of all sins of all times! Jesus and His Mother who owed nothing, had no debt, none the less, out of love of the Father's Holiness, and out of love of us, willed to give up so immense a measure, to make salvation abundantly possible for us, even when we have sinned many times over.32

Clearly, we owe them a debt for what our sins have caused them. If someone offends even an ordinary person, we do not say that he should just forget it. No, he owes an apology, some make-up for the offense. What then is the reparation needed to Our Lord and His Mother, for it was our sins that caused such literally incomprehensible suffering to them? So there is an immense need for reparation, especially today. That is a major part of what our Blessed Mother came, or was sent, to call for at Fatima. We must not turn a deaf ear to her pleas!


1Redemptoris Custos, Aug 15, 1989, Vatican Press translation §4, citing Lumen gentium § 58 & 63.
2George Tavard, "Marian Questions" in:" Council Daybook, ed. Floyd Anderson, NCWC, 1965, p. 52.
3The texts are these:
  • Leo XIII: Supremi Apostolatus officio. ASS 16. 1113; Superiore anno. ASS 17. 49; Octobri mense adventante. ASS 24, 196; Iucunda semper. ASS 27. 179; Adiutricem populi. ASS 28. 130; Diuturni temporis spatium. ASS 31. 146-47; Parta humano generi. ASS 34. 195.
  • St. Pius X: Ad diem illum. AAS 36. 453-54; Manilensium Archiepiscopus. AAS 2. 901.
  • Benedict XV: Inter Sodalicia. AAS 10. 182; Fausto appetente die. AAS 13. 334.
  • Pius XI, Galliam, Ecclesiae filiam. AAS 14. 186; Exstat in civitate. AAS 16. 152; Cognitum sane. AAS 18. 213; Ingravescentibus malis. AAS 29. 380.
  • Pius XII, Mystici Corporis. AAS 35. 248; Bendito seia. AAS 38. 266.
  • John XXIII, Dilecte, Fili noster. AAS 51. 88; Discorsi II. 66.
All of the above had called her Mediatrix of all graces in the same or equivalent words at least once. In addition, there are 17 documents teaching that she cooperated even on Calvary (immediate cooperation) in the objective redemption:
  • Leo XIII, Iucunda semper. ASS 27. 178; Adiutricem populi. ASS 28. 130-31.
  • St. Pius X Ad diem illum. ASS 36. 453-54.
  • Benedict XV Inter Sodalicia. AAS 10. 182.
  • Pius XI, Explorata res est. AAS 15. 104; Miserentissimus Redemptor. AAS 20. 178; Radiomessage to Lourdes, Osservatore Romano April 19, 1935.
  • Pius XII Mystici Corporis. AAS 35. 247; Bendito seia. AAS 38. 266; Munificentissimus Deus. AAS 42. 768; Fulgens corona. AAS 45. 583; Ad Caeli Reginam. AAS 46. 634-35.
  • John XXIII Radiomessage to Eucharistic Congress at Catana. AAS 51. 714; Homily for Canonization of St. Peter Julian Eymard. AAS 65. 10.
  • Vatican II, Lumen gentium §58 & 61. Cf. Wm. G. Most "Coredemption: Theological Premises. Biblical Bases" Miles Immaculatae 18/986. 59-92.
  • John Paul II. Redemptoris Mater AAS 79. 382-83; Allocution at Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guayaquil, Osservatore Romano Supplement Feb. 2, 1985.
Inasmuch as it is a general principle that things taught on the Ordinary Magisterium level repeatedly are infallible, this seems to be true of the above two lists.
4Lumen gentium §9.
5Ibid. § 3.
6Ibid. § 56. Citing S. Irenaeus Against Heresies III. 22. 4.
7Ibid. § 54.
8Cf. Wm. G. Most, art. cit. in note 3 above for data on these positions.
9"Ita B. Virgo in peregrinatione fidei processit, suamque unionem cum Filio fideliter sustinuit usque ad crucem, ubi non sine divino consilio stetit (cf. Io. 19, 25), vehementer cum unigenito Suo condoluit et sacrificio Eius se materno animo sociavit, victamae de se genitae immolationi amanter consentiens...."
10"Beata Virgo, ab aeterno una cum divini Verbi incarnatinoe tamquam Mater Dei praedestinata, divinae Providentiae consilio, his in terris exstitit alma divini Redemptoris Mater, singulariter prae aliis generosa socia, et humilis ancilla Domini. Christum concipiens, generans, alens, in temple Patri sistens, filioque suo in cruce morienti compatiens, operi Salvatoris singulari prorsus modo cooperata est, obedientia, fide, spe et flagrante caritate, ad vitam animarum supernaturalem restaurandam. Quam ob causam mater nobis in ordine gratiae exstitit."
11"Merito igitur SS. Patres Mariam non mere passive a Deo adhibitam, sed libera fide et oboedientia humanae saluti cooperantem censent. Ipsa enim, ut ait S. Irenaeus, 'oboediens et sibi et universo generi humano causa facta est salutis. ' Unde non pauci Patres antiqui in praedicatione sua cum eo libenter asserunt. 'Hevae inoboedientiae nodum solutionem accepisse per oboedientiam Mariae; quod alligavit virgo Heva per incredulitatem, hoc virginem Mariam solvisse per fidem' et comparatione cum Heva instituta, Mariam 'matrem viventium' appellant, saepiusque affirmant: 'mors per Hevam, vita per Mariam. '"
12Cf. Paul VI, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Jan. 9, 1957. AAS 59. 7.
13Cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, who said her holiness even at the start was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it", and Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, AAS 25, 247: " Her most holy soul was filled with the divine Spirit of Jesus Christ more than all other creatures of God taken together."
14Lumen gentium § 54.
15"L'Eglise et son mystère aux Deuxième concil du Vatican. Histoire, texte et commentaire de la Constitution Lumen Gentium" (Desclée, Paris, 1968. II. 257-68). Cited from reprint in Ephemerides Mariologicae XXIV (1974) pp. 87-97. Here we cite from page 92: "Une distinction mentale entre l'acquisition et la distribution de la grace est donc possible."
16"Cette coopération absolument unique dans son genre, elle la concrétise dans son obéissance inconditonelle...."
17"Comment obtient-elle ce bienfait? Au moins par sa constante intercession."
18Cf. O. Semmelroth, Urbild der Kirche. Organischer Aufbau des Mariengehiemnisses, Würzburg, 1950, p. 60: "Veilmehr hat sie mitgewirkt bei ihren eigenen redemption subjectiva, die aber zugleich Empfang der Erlösungsfruchte für die ganze Kirche bedeutet... ." [italics added]. Cf. ibid. p. 56: "Damit es [Christi Erlösungsopfer] aber Menschheitsopfer werde, braucht es die subjektive Aneignung durch diese Menschheit." [italics added]. This "Appropriation" of course seems much the same as that of the Lutheran theology of redemption.
19Cf. Semmelroth, op. cit., p. 54: "Schliesslich kann Maria, weil sie wesentlich Urbild der Kirche ist, bei der Erlösung gar nicht anders mitgewirkt haben als die Kirche selbst."
20Cf. note 18 above.
21Leo XIII, Fidentem piumque, Sept 20, 1896, ASS 29. 206. citing Summa III. 30. 1.
22Exodus 40. 34-35. cf. also 1 Kgs. 8. 10. On her knowledge more broadly, cf. Wm. G. Most, "Maria conservabat omnia verba haec" in Miles Immaculatae, 1985, pp. 135-68.
23Cf. Samson Levey, The Messiah. An Aramaic Interpretation (Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1974) pp. 63-67.
24Lumen gentium § 62.
25Redemptoris Mater. AAS 79. 1987, p. 382: "Quam ergo praestans quamque heroica est 'oboeditio fidei' quam Maria erga 'incomprehensibilia iudicia' Dei (cfr. Rom 11, 33) exhibuit! Ut sine ulla condicione se 'Deo committit plenum... intellectus et voluntatis obsequium praestando' cuius sunt 'investigabiles viae (cfr. Rom 11. 35)!'"
26Ibid. pp. 382-83: "Etenim Iesus Christus 'cum in forma Dei esset, non rapinam arbitratus est esse se aequalem Deo, sed semetipsum exinanivit, formam servi accipiens, in similitudinem hominum factus' omnino in ipso Calvariae loco 'humiliavit semetipsum, factus oboediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem Crucis'" Atque ad Crucis radices, Maria per fidem communicat spoliationis huius conturbans mysterium. Haec forsan altissima sit fidei 'kenosis' in hominum generis historia. Per fidem Mater Filii mortem participat, mortem scilicet redemptricem."
27Plato, Symposium 203.
28Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 8. 7.
29Cf. article cited above in note 22. In passing, we notice that this is another approach to the question of His human knowledge. She knew at once He was the Messiah. She would surely have told Him had He not already known. But Pius XII taught (Mystici Corporis DS 3812) that His human soul from the first instant saw the vision of God, by which He knew each member of His Mystical Body individually. Pius XII did this precisely in the context of the theological debate, which had become acute with the work of Galtier in 1939. The Pope then repeated this teaching explicitly in Haurietis aquas (DS 3924, and implicitly repeated it in Sempiternus Rex (DS 3905). The same Pius XII insisted in Humani generis (DS 3884-85) that if the Popes in their acta explicitly take a stand on a matter then being debated, that matter is removed from debate, and is protected by the promise of Christ,"He who hears you hears me" - a promise which of course cannot fail. The Doctrinal Congregation under Paul VI, on July 24, 1966, complained that some were still ignoring this teaching. There is no doubt this repeated teaching was intended to settle the debates, to be definitive - though, sadly, they have not subsided even today.
30AAS 59. 7: "Necessarium est ergo ad peccatorum plenam remissionem et reparationem, quae dicitur, non solum ut per sinceram conversionem mentis amicitia cum Deo restauretur et offensa sapientiae et bonitati Eius illata expietur, sed etiam ut omnia bona tum personalia tum socialia tum ea, quae ad ipsum ordinem universalem pertinent, per pecatum imminuta vel destructa, plene redintegrentur, vel per voluntarium reparationem, quae non erit sine poena, vel per tolerantiam poenarum ab ipsa iusta et sanctissima Dei sapientia statutarum, e quibus elucescant in universo mundo sanctitas et splendor gloriae Dei"
31Tosefta, Kiddushin 1. 14.
32In this we see a solution to the vexed problem of the price of redemption. Surely it was not paid to satan, the captor, nor to the Father, who was not the captor, but yet it was paid. It was, clearly, paid to rebalance the univrsal order of goodness, which the Holiness of God so loves.



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