The Father William Most Collection
Co-redemption and Queenship in Ad Caeli Reginam
[American Ecclesiastical Review 133 (September 1955) 171-82. (Also published as "De corredemptione et regalitate in epistula encyclica Ad Caeli Reginam", in Marianum, 1955.]
The brilliant light of a new Marian Encyclical, the Ad Caeli Reginam, illumined the closing days of the Marian Year. This Encyclical is important because it proclaims the new liturgical feast of the Queenship of Mary. But it also has special doctrinal significance, for in it, in the course of his explanation of the titles on which Mary's Queenship rests, the Pope has devoted several lengthy paragraphs to the subject of Mary's Co-redemption. This is the first time that a Pope has treated that subject at such length.
By way of providing a setting for our consideration of the present Encyclical, it will be helpful to review briefly an earlier Queenship message of the present Holy Father, the Bendito seja.1 On May 13, 1946, the Pope made a broadcast over the Vatican Radio to Fatima, in which he also brought Mary's Co-redemption into relation with her Queenship. In the Ad Caeli Reginam, the Holy Father takes great pleasure in recalling that earlier message: "... it is especially pleasing to recall to memory the radio-message which we transmitted to the people of Portugal, when the wonderful image of the Virgin Mary, which is honored at Fatima, was crowned with a golden diadem ..."
The central portion of the Pope's words on Queenship in the Bendito seja reads as follows: "Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election."2 We note especially that the Holy Father says that Christ is King "by right of conquest." These words are perfectly clear when applied to Christ: they refer to the fact that by the great sacrifice of Calvary, He reconquered mankind from the captivity of the devil, by paying the price of our redemption. But the Holy Father likewise says that one of the titles by virtue of which Mary is Queen is also "by right of conquest"! Now it is a general principle
of the interpretation of language, that when the same speaker, in the same context, uses the same words, he ought, unless he makes some qualification, to mean them in the same sense. The Holy Father did insert a qualification, saying that Mary is Queen only "through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him." But since he added no other restriction, we should not presume to add any other. Hence, to apply our principle, the words "by right of conquest" must mean that Mary, in subordination to Christ, shared in the reconquest, in the very payment of the price of our redemption in the sacrifice of Calvary!
In the Ad Caeli Reginam, the Pope restates this same truth with fresh emphasis and in many different ways. First of all, the very setting and context in which he places the paragraphs on Mary's co-operation in the redemption are quite illuminating. Before taking up her share in the redemption, he says: "... the most Blessed Virgin Mary is to be called Queen not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because she, by the will of God, had an outstanding part in the work of our eternal salvation."3 Here the Holy Father clearly distinguishes Mary's Divine Motherhood from her "outstanding part" in the work of redemption. Thus he makes clear that he has in mind more than just a remote, more than just a slight share in the redemption, for this role of hers is "outstanding" and is something different from, and therefore extending beyond Bethlehem.
After describing at length Mary's co-operation, the Holy Father again sums up the two grounds on which her Queenly title rests, and draws a conclusion:
Thus we see that her "outstanding part" in the work of redemption is distinct not only from the Divine Motherhood,5 but that it is also distinct from her role as Mediatrix of all graces. It remains that the Pope must be speaking of an "outstanding part" taken by Mary on Calvary.
But let us turn now to the paragraphs in which the Holy Father explains more directly and explicitly what he means by this "outstanding part" that Mary played.
Immediately after the wards which we have already quoted, in which the Pope draws a distinction between Mary's Divine Motherhood, and her co-operation in the work of salvation, he quotes a passage from Pope Pius XI: "What is more pleasant ... to think of ... than that Christ rules over us not only by natural right, but also by an acquired right, that is, the right of redemption.... Christ has bought us 'with a great price'." By means of this sentence the Pope sets the scene, and shows us that he has in mind the very center of the redemption, the payment of the "great price" of the blood of Christ. In the very next sentence he continues: "Now in accomplishing this work of redemption, the most blessed Virgin Mary was certainly intimately associated with Christ...." We note the way the word "this" helps to place Mary's co-operation in the context of Calvary: for "this," being a demonstrative, points back to the previous sentence, which spoke of the death of Christ by which we were bought "with a great price."
The relation to Calvary is further indicated in the remainder of the above sentence, for the complete sentence reads:
Let us suppose for a moment that in this passage the Holy Father really meant to limit Mary's association in the redemption to a remote co-operation, extending only to Bethlehem, not also to Calvary. Would it not be, to say the least, misleading language to say that "therefore" (because of a remote co-operation that would not extend to Calvary) "rightly" does the Liturgy sing of her on Calvary!
The passage that follows makes the extent of Mary's association entirely clear. After dwelling briefly in a general way on this intimate association of Mary, the Holy Father enters in the next paragraph on a closely knit chain of reasoning:
Here the Holy Father teaches the truth of Mary's co-operation by the classic patristic comparison and antithesis Mary-Eve, Christ-Adam He says that Mary's position was similar to that of Eve. Now Adam was the head of the human race: if he alone had fallen, it would have been enough to involve us in ruin, while if Eve alone had sinned, it would have had a bad example, but no original sin. Yet, in the actual event, it was not Adam alone nor Eve alone who sinned-both co-operated, though on different levels. Only Adam could ruin mankind-but Eve did what she could, and in her inferior way shared in the fall.8
Now Eve, as we see, was involved in original sin, not just in some remote way, but in the very act of sin itself. Hence, if Mary's position is similar to that of Eve, she must have been involved with equal immediacy in the very act by which we were restored.
Some theologians have wondered whether we could confidently press the New Eve parallel so far as to include an immediate co-operation by Mary, that is, one extending even to Calvary. Were we left merely to the resources of our own deductions, such a doubt would be understandable. However, the Holy Father, whose place it is to interpret authentically for us the meaning of Scripture and Tradition, continues, and tells us as plainly as possible, in the words of his own Encyclical, Mystici Corporis,9 that Mary's co-operation with Christ did not begin with being His Mother, and then break off-rather, she was "always most intimately united with her Son" and she "as the New Eve, offered Him on Golgotha, together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and love...." Surely, no more plain words could be found to say that the comparison of Mary to Eve extends even to Golgotha, where Mary "offered Him" and included in that offering "the holocaust of her maternal rights and love...."
But there is more: the Pope says that the reasons for Mary's Queenship form "a certain kind of analogy"10 with the reasons for Christ's Kingship. Now Christ is King, as the Holy Father had said earlier "not only by natural right ... but also by an acquired right ... Christ bought us 'with a great price'"-that is, He is King-"not only because He is the Son of God, but also because He is our Redeemer." The conclusion is obvious: Mary, by analogy, must have shared in the work of that Redeemer, in the payment of that price. Were we to deny her such a sharing the second half of the analogy would be destroyed.
Finally, as we have seen above, the Holy Father sums up his own thought, saying:
What is this "struggle" in which Mary is the associate or "ally" (socia) of Christ? Surely it is none other than that "struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son''11 of which the same Holy Father wrote in the constitution defining the Assumption-the struggle which resulted in "that most complete victory over sin and death" of which "the resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign" and which, for Mary "had to be closed by the 'glorification' of her virginal body." In other words, it was the terrible struggle of Calvary, in which the "great price" was paid for our redemption: the struggle that was "common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son," in which she was His "associate" (socia).
To sum up, then, Mary is "intimately associated with Christ"-not only by virtue of the Divine Motherhood, not only by the "power by which she is able to dispense the treasures of the Kingdom"-but also by virtue of the fact that she "as the New Eve, offered Him on Golgotha"; so that the titles on which her Queenship rests are parallel to those on which the Kingship of Christ rests: both have royalty "by right of redemption," by victory in the "struggle,"12 as well as by the fact that the One is God and the other, the Mother of God.
The overwhelming majority of theologians, even before the Ad Caeli Reginam, were convinced that Mary really did share immediately in the objective redemption.13 However, a very small minority have thus far professed to be unable to see such a meaning in the papal texts. Within this minority, there are two groups: the earlier, typified by W. Goossens14 and H. Lennerz;15 and a more recent group, headed by H. Koster,16 O. Semmelroth,17 and A. Müller.18
Canon Goossens and Father Lennerz have not even attempted, to the best of this writer's knowledge, to explain away certain earlier papal texts, such as that of the Bendito seja, but where they have faced the papal statements, they have generally tried to avoid the obvious sense of the words of the Popes by claiming either:19 (1) that the words of the Popes refer only to a remote co-operation of Mary in the objective redemption (her Divine Motherhood) or, (2) that the words of the Popes refer not to the objective, but to the subjective redemption (the distribution of the fruits of the objective redemption). The mere fact that the Holy Father, in the Ad Caeli Reginam, clearly distinguished Mary's "outstanding part" in the redemption from the Divine Motherhood on the one hand, and from her role as Mediatrix of all graces on the other hand, suffices to prevent Canon Goossens and Father Lennerz from claiming that her "outstanding part" is really only her Divine Motherhood or her universal distribution of graces. Hence her "outstanding part" ought to refer to a co-operation beyond her Divine Motherhood, but before her role as distributrix of all graces-that is, to her co-operation on Calvary. As we have seen, this conclusion is reinforced many times over by a study of the paragraphs in which the Holy Father describes her co-operation in detail. Hence we see that the position of Canon Goossens and Father Lennerz is untenable in the light of this new Encyclical.
The Ad Caeli Reginam also provides a powerful means of answering the more recent group. These theologians, curiously enough, use language that speaks of a co-redemptive role for Mary on Calvary-yet they explain this role in such a way as to deny her immediate co-operation in the objective redemption.
Although the more recent group of theologians differ among themselves on certain points, even on rather fundamental points, yet they are in agreement in saying that Mary on Calvary did not really contribute to the payment of the price of redemption, but instead, merely gathered up, as it were, and accepted for humanity, the graces that Christ alone earned. Thus her role could be described as one of perfect receptivity.
In order to see the full import of their teaching, let us make our ideas on the objective redemption as clear as possible. The objective redemption involves an earning of salvation by the payment of a price: the subjective redemption applies the fruits of the objective redemption. In the objective redemption, a sacrificial offering is given to the Eternal Father-while in the subjective redemption, the human race receives forgiveness and grace. Therefore we can see that there are two movements: an ascending, and a descending movement. In the ascending movement, an offering goes up to the Father-in the descending movement, the fruits of this offering come down to man. Therefore, to say that Mary shared merely in perfect receptivity is to say that she did not share at all in the ascending movement, but only in the descending movement-not in the objective, but in the subjective redemption. A beggar who receives a coin with his hand outstretched is perfectly receptive-but we would not say that there is any ascending movement of a gift or payment from him to the donor, nor would we speak of the beggar as earning the alms. Therefore, since we have already shown that Mary really did co-operate immediately in the objective redemption, we have already given the fundamental answer to the receptivity theologians. This fact will become clearer from a detailed comparison of the receptivity theory with the words of the Pope.
But someone may object and say: "Could not the three phases which the Pope distinguishes in the Ad Caeli Reginam really be: her Divine Motherhood, her receptivity on Calvary, and her later distribution of what she had received?"
At first sight, such an interpretation might seem plausible. However, a careful examination of the words of the Holy Father shows that the receptivity theory is incompatible with many statements in this Encyclical.
To begin, the receptivity theory would contradict the New Eve principle, which the Holy Father tells us extends even to Calvary. For Scripture and Tradition do not describe the first Eve as "receiving" a sin from Adam, but instead, as co-operating in sin, as sinning herself.
Again, in the passage which the Holy Father quoted from his own Mystici Corporis, he said that Mary as the New Eve "offered Him ... together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and love." Therefore Mary joined in the ascending movement, for she both "offered Him" and included in that offering "the holocaust of her maternal rights and love." Now it is one thing to make a joint offering, to cause an oblation to rise up to the Father-quite another thing merely to receive its fruits.
Furthermore, as we have already seen, the Holy Father says that the titles on which Mary's Queenship rests are analogical to those for Christ's Kingship. For Christ is King because He is God, and also because He is our Redeemer: Mary is Queen because she is the Mother of God, and also because she was His associate in the work of redeeming us. Now when the Holy Father speaks of Christ in this passage as Redeemer, he obviously refers to Christ's gift of Himself, as a sacrificial offering ascending to the Eternal Father. If Mary's role were only in the descending movement we would have more of a contrast than an analogy.20
Again, to say that Mary was a sharer or ally in a "struggle with the enemy" which led to a "victory" could hardly mean that she was merely "receptive." If the Holy Father had said only that she shared in the victory or in its fruits, such an expression would not be out of harmony with a receptivity theory. But being a sharer in a "struggle with the enemy" does not seem to refer to a mere receiving of the spoils-it seems more likely to designate a quite active and effective contact with the infernal foe.
Even a brief glance at earlier papal texts leads us to the same conclusion. In the Ad diem illum,21 St. Pius X said that Mary,22 "merited for us congruously, say, what Christ merited condignly." Now to merit, whether it be congruously or condignly, means to earn a reward by means of a good work, which is, as it were, the price of the reward.23 In congruous merit, of course, the price paid is not equal in value to the reward: but yet the reward is granted in view of it, through the friendship or generosity of the donor. In the accomplishment of our redemption, the Eternal Father could have decreed24 to accept a fully adequate payment alone (one made by a Divine Person)-or He could have decreed to accept an inadequate payment (one made by some pure creature). But, the fact is, that He, in His abundant goodness, willed to accept simultaneously both an adequate (actually, superabundant) payment, and an inadequate payment-that is: Mary paid an inadequate price ("merited congruously") for that for which Christ paid a superabundant price ("merited condignly"). Certainly, Mary was not needed, but the incomprehensible generosity of God has willed it this way: St. Pius X has certainly made that fact clear.
We see, then, how far we are from a mere "receptivity" when we consider the clear force of the words of St. Pius X. According to the receptivity theologians, we would have to say that the same verb (to merit), used by the same writer, in the same context, would have two quite different meanings, namely that Christ "paid a price" while Mary "received." And what point would there be in adding the familiar pair of terms "congruous" and "condign" to such a heterogeneous mixture?
Again, Pope Benedict XV said of Mary on Calvary that she "gave up her Mother's rights over her Son to procure the salvation of mankind, and ... immolated her Son"25-but this is merely another way of saying what Pope Pius XII said in the text quoted above from the Mystici Corporis. Hence we conclude again that she joined in the ascending joint oblation.
In the Bendito seja, which we examined at the start of this article, Pope Pius XII said that Christ is King and Mary is Queen "by right of conquest." We can show the force of these words against the receptivity theory by saying: it is one thing to conquer-quite another merely to receive the spoils of conquest!
Finally, in a discourse given before his election as Pope, we have a good commentary on the mind of him who is now Pope. Cardinal Pacelli said that our souls were "redeemed by the blood and sorrows of the Redeemer and by those of His Virgin Mother"26-an excellent description of a joint price, but hardly applicable to mere receptivity.
In closing, let us remark on the very fact that the Holy Father, knowing full well that the great majority of theologians have understood so many earlier texts (both his own and those of his predecessors) as teaching Mary's immediate co-operation in the objective redemption, still chose to add further weight to earlier testimonies. It is one of the gravest duties of the Holy See to guard against errors in doctrine, Now if this teaching were an error, it would be a monstrous error indeed. As Father Lennerz says well: "We are not dealing in this matter with some pious 'Mariological' question, but with the nature and essence of the very work of our redemption."27 How then could the Holy See, if its words were being so seriously perverted, and that by not just a few, but by the vast majority of theologians, not only refrain for so many years from issuing any correction, but instead, continue to heap text upon text to support the "error"?
|1||AAS, XXXVIII, 266. Cf. AER, CXXI, 5 (Nov. 1949), 358-59, and Marian Studies, IV (1953), 65-67.|
|2||Quoted from AER, loc. cit., p. 358.|
|3||"... Beatissima Virgo Maria non tantum ob divinam suam maternitatem Regina est dicenda, sed etiam quia ex Dei voluntate in aeternae salutis nostrae opere eximias habuit partes." The plural "partes" is normal classical usage for "a part, function, office, duty, etc.": Harpers' Latin Dictionary, p. 1307. (All Latin texts of the Ad Caeli Reginam in this article are from the Osservatore Romano of October 24, 1954.)|
|4||"... Maria ... utpote Christi Dei mater, socia in divini Redemptoris opera, et in eius cum hostibus pugna, in eiusque super omnes adepta victoria, regalem participat dignitatem ... ex hac cum Christo coniunctione regalis facultas oritur, qua ipsa potest Divini Redemptoris Regni dispensare thesauros...."|
|5||The fact that the Pope speaks of Mary as the associate of the Redeemer "in His struggle with the enemy and in His Victory" makes clear that by Mary's association with the Redeemer the Pope means more than just her Divine Motherhood, to which the terms "struggle with the enemy" and "victory gained over all" would not apply at all.|
|6||"... cum Christus 'pretio magno' nos emerit.|
"Iamvero in hoc perficiendo redemptionis opere Beatissima Virgo Maria profecto fuit cum Christo intime consociata; merito igitur in Sacra Liturgia canitur: 'Stabat Sancta Maria Caeli Regina et mundi Domina iuxta crucem Domini Nostri lesu Christi dolorosa."' (Italics added in the English above.)
|7||"... si Maria, in spirituali procuranda salute, cum Iesu Christo, ipsius salutis principio, ex Dei placito sociata fuit, et quidem simili quodam modo, quo Heva fuit cum Adam, mortis principio, consociata, ita ut asseverari possit nostrae salutis opus, secundum quandam 'recapitulationem' peractum fuisse ... et si reapse 'ipsa fuit quae ... arctissime semper cum Filio suo coniuncta, eundem in Golgotha, una cum materorum iurium maternique amoris sui holocausto, nova veluti Heva ... aeterno Patri obtulit inde procul dubio concludere licet, quemadmodum Christus, novus Adam, non tantum quia Dei Filius est, Rex dici debet, sed etiam quia Redemptor est noster, ita quodam analogiae modo, Beatissimam Virginem esse Reginam non tantummodo quia mater Dei est, verum etiam quod nova veluti Heva cum novo Adam consociata fuit."|
|8||Cf. the many patristic texts which speak of Eve as a cause of sin and death and of Mary as a cause of salvation, e.g., St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.22.4: "Just as she [Eve] ... became a cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary ... became a cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race...." Many more texts can be seen in G M. Roschini, O.S.M., Mariologia (2d ed., Rome, 1947), II, 300-301, 304-309.|
|9||AAS, XXXV, 247.|
|10||As to the fact that the Pope speaks of "a certain kind of analogy" (quodam analogiae modo), we note that in the first part of the analogy there is the difference that Christ is King by very nature, while Mary is Queen not by nature, but by the favor of the Divine Motherhood. The parallel lies in the fact that He is King because He is God, while she is Queen because she is Mother of God. But in the second part of the analogy, we cannot help admitting in Mary a true co-operation in paying the price of redemption without destroying this second half. Were her co-operation limited to the work of applying the fruits of Calvary, there would be no analogy to the second title mentioned for Christ, since (although He too is operative in the application of the redemption) in this passage, the Pope obviously refers to Christ's work of paying the price of redemption. We cannot make Mary's share merely remote here, since that would be identified with the first part of the analogy, leaving nothing for the second.|
|11||AAS, XLII, 768: "Maxime ... memorandum est ... Mariam Virginem a sanctis Patribus veluti novam Hevam proponi novo Adae ... arctissime coniunctam in certamine illo ... quod ... ad plenissimam deventurum erat victoriam de peccato ac de morte.... Quamobrem, sicut gloriosa Christi anastasis essentialis pars fuit ac postremum huius victoriae tropaeum, ita Beatae Virginis commune cum Filio suo certamen virginei corporis 'glorificatione' concludendum erat...." (Italics added.) The relation of this text to the New Eve principle is also noteworthy.|
|12||In the Bendito seja, the Pope expressed the same truth by saying that Mary is Queen "by right of conquest."|
|13||The objective redemption is the payment of the price of our salvation, through the merits and satisfaction of Christ (and Mary) culminating in the sacrifice of Calvary, by which a boundless treasury was set up. The subjective redemption is the process of giving to mankind the fruits of the objective redemption. Mary's remote co-operation in the objective redemption is her Divine Motherhood: her immediate co-operation is her sharing in the payment of the great price on Calvary.|
|14||See Werner Goossens, De Cooperatione immediata Matris redemptoris ad redemptionem obiectivam (Paris, 1939).|
|15||See H. Lennerz, S.J., De Beata Virgine (3d ed. Rome, 1939) Cf. his articles in Gregorianum, esp. in XIX (1938), 419-44; XXII (1941), 301-24; XXVIII (1947), 574-97; XXIX (1948), 118-41.|
|16||See H. Köster, Die Magd des Herrn (Limburg, 1947) and Unus Mediator. Gedanken zur Marianischen Frage (Limburg, 1950).|
|17||See O. Semmelroth, S.J., Urbild der Kirche. Organischer Aufbau des Mariengeheimnisses (Würzburg, 1950).|
|18||See A. Müller, Ecclesia-Maria. Einheit Marias und der Kirche (Freiburg, 1951) and "Um die Grundlagen der Mariologie" in Divus Thomas (Freiburg) 1951, XXIX, 385-401.|
|19||E.g., Goossens, op. cit., pp. 62-63 tries to make the text of St. Pius X (AAS, XXVI, 454: Mary "merited congruously ... what Christ merited condignly") refer to the subjective redemption only; and on p. 71 he admits that Pope Benedict XV (AAS, X, 182-cited below in this article) refers to the objective redemption, but, although the Pope is speaking of Calvary, Goossens denies that he refers to an immediate co-operation. Lennerz (Gregorianum, XIX, 432) speaks similarly of the text of St. Pius X.|
|20||See also note 10 above.|
|21||AAS, XXXVI, 454|
|22||The Latin here has promeret, a present, but it is the well-known historical present, a tense common in Latin authors. It is proper to translate it by a past, since it clearly refers to the past-otherwise, we would have to say either that Mary is still meriting in heaven (which cannot be, for she is not in statu viae), or we would have to translate promeret as "obtains by prayers." Then we would have a prayer de congruo (whatever that would be!) balancing a merit de condigno: an unheard of and almost nonsensical combination. We should not charge St. Pius X with abruptly changing a familiar formula into such a novel and incongruous mixture. A. Michel (in AER, CXXII, 3 [March 1950], 185) freely admits that promeret has past force.|
|23||Cf. St. Thomas, Sum. theol., I-II, p. 114, a. 1, c.|
|24||Cf. ibid., III, q. 1, a. 2, esp. ad 2, and III, q. 46, a. 2, esp. ad 3.|
|25||Inter Sodalicia: AAS, X, 182.|
|26||"... anime redente dal sangue e dai dolori del Redentore e della sua Vergine Madre" (quoted from AER, CXXI, 5 [Nov. 1949], 360).|
|27||In Gregorianum, XXVIII (1947), 575. (Italics added.)|