Mary Coredemptrix in the Teachings of Vatican II
The documents of Vatican II never call Mary the Coredemptrix of the human race, but they do uphold and explain the doctrine of coredemption. The concept is introduced in the very first document of the Council, Sancrosanctum Concilium. Paragraph #103 in the chapter on the liturgical year discusses the honor given to Mary throughout the Church’s annual cycle of liturgical celebrations. Mary, the document teaches, “is inseparably linked with her Son’s saving work.” (166) She is “the most excellent fruit of redemption,” but she is also intimately and actively involved in that Redemption. (167) The Council further explores Mary’s coredemptive activity in Lumen Gentium, Chapter 8, which is dedicated to Mary. Here the doctrine of Mary Coredemptrix is taught explicitly even if the word itself is not used. Paragraph #58 reads in part, “…the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, associated herself with His sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which was born of her.” (168) The themes of coredemption are explicit here: God’s ordaining of Mary’s coredemptive activity, Mary’s unity with her Son, her suffering beneath the Cross, her maternal sacrifice, her consent to her Son’s sacrifice, and her offering of the Victim. A few paragraphs later, in #61, Lumen Gentium once again expounds the doctrine of coredemption with the words, “…in a wholly singular way [Mary] cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls.” (169) The Council thus teaches that Mary actively participated with Jesus in saving humanity, despite the Fathers’ choice not to use the specific term “Coredemptrix.” (170)
Mary Coredemptrix in the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Finally, in discussing the Magisterium’s teaching on Mary Coredemptrix, one much not ignore the remarkable document entitled the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism, which Pope John Paul II called “a valid and legitimate tool in the service of ecclesiastical communion” and a “sure norm for instruction in the faith,” (171) clearly presents Mary’s coredemptive role in several paragraphs spread throughout the document. In the first “pillar” of the Catechism, “The Profession of Faith,” Mary’s coredemptive activity is mentioned in #411, where, in a discussion on the Protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15), Mary is identified as the woman announced in the prophecy and is called the “new Eve.” (172) Also in the first pillar, in the section on “Mary’s predestination” (#488), the Catechism speaks of God’s desire for the “free cooperation of a creature” in the Incarnation of His Son. (173) Mary, of course, was the one to give that free cooperation through her consent to the Word becoming flesh. As noted earlier, this was one of her most important tasks as Coredemptrix, to give the Redeemer His instrument of Redemption, His human body. This point is reiterated in #502, which explains Christ’s redemptive mission and the “welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.” (174) Again, Mary freely said “yes” to the Redeemer’s entry into the world, and in doing so, became a co-cause of the Redemption of humanity. Paragraph #529 explains the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and Mary’s role in it, mentioning specifically the “sword of sorrow” that would pierce her mother’s heart. (175) Her co-suffering with her Son was predicted by Simeon and actually began in earnest as she was reminded that Jesus would be the glorious Messiah but also “a sign that is spoken against.” (176) The Catechism’s #964 quotes Lumen Gentium #57-58 at length to emphasize once more the intimate, inseparable union between Jesus and Mary that was “made manifest above all at the hour of His Passion.” (177) Here the Catechism makes the teaching of Vatican II its own in order to stress Mary’s coredemptive activity. The “In Brief” section that follows succinctly sums up the doctrine of Mary Coredemptrix: “By pronouncing her ‘fiat’ at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish.” (178) Mary agreed to freely cooperate with the entire plan of Redemption when she gave the angel her positive response, thereby becoming the Coredemptrix, the one who, with and under her Son, would save humanity. Finally, the Catechism returns to Mary’s coredemptive role in its fourth pillar on prayer. In a section on prayer to Mary, the document notes in #2618, “It is at the hour of the New Covenant, at the foot of the cross, that Mary is heard as the Woman, the new Eve, the true ‘Mother of all the living.’” (179) On Calvary, Mary fulfilled the prophecy of the Protoevangelium. With her Son, she gained victory over the serpent, Satan, and crushed his head. Eve, the first mother of the living, disobeyed God and brought death to humanity; Mary, the new mother of the living, obeyed God and cooperated with her Son to restore supernatural life to all people. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, then, while following in the steps of Vatican II by not mentioning the title “Coredemptrix,” clearly proclaims this important Marian role.
166. Vatican II Council, “Sancrosanctum Concilium,” in The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, N.Y.: Costello Publishing Company; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1998), 29.
168. Vatican II Council, “Lumen Gentium,” 417.
169. Ibid., 418.
170. The original drafts of Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium contained much stronger language describing Mary’s role as Coredemptrix: “[Mary] is called Mediatress of all Graces, because she was associated with Christ in acquiring them…” Many bishops even called for the use of the actual title. However, the Fathers decided to forego the term and revise the language in order to avoid conflicts with Protestant Christians. Cf. Michael O’Carroll, “Mary, Coredemptress, Mediatress, Advocate: Instrument of Catholic-Orthodox Unity,” in Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate Theological Foundations Towards a Papal Definition?, ed. Mark I. Miravalle (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1995), 120-124.
171. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Christoph Schönborn, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 26.
172. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Vatican: Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 104.
173. Ibid., 122.
174. Ibid., 127.
175. Ibid., 134.
177. Ibid., 251.
178. Ibid., 254.
179. Ibid., 630.