What Is a Coredemptrix and What Does She Do?
Before moving further into a discussion of Mary’s role as Coredemptrix, it is necessary to pause for moment to define this term and examine what, exactly, a Coredemptrix does in the order of Redemption. The word “Coredemptrix” technically means a female (designated by the suffix “-trix”) who actively participates in the Redemption (from the Latin verb redimere, “to buy back”) with the Redeemer. (15) The prefix “co-” is especially significant here. Deriving from the Latin preposition cum it means “with” but not equal. In its true sense, “co-” implies dependence, subordination, inferiority, or at the very least, something less than total equality. (16) Applied to Blessed Virgin, then, as it is exclusively is in Catholic thought, “Coredemptrix” refers to “the unique and active participation of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the work of Redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, the divine and human Redeemer.” (17) Further, this participation of Mary with Jesus is “secondary, subordinate, and dependent.” (18) Mary is not equal to Jesus, she is not a “redeemer” in her own right, and she is a creature and not God. Jesus is the one divine Redeemer of the human race, Who paid the price for its salvation and opened the way to eternal life for all people. Mary’s cooperation in this process, while unique and privileged (i.e. unlike any other cooperation, human or angelic) due to her immaculate nature and her divine motherhood, is always strictly inferior to and derived from the Redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. (19)
Mary’s role as Coredemptrix can be identified as part of her broader role as Maternal Mediatrix between God and humanity. This maternal mediation may be considered an “overall genus” of cooperation with Jesus’ redemptive work that is divisible into three “specific elements” or moments of mediation: Coredemptrix (collaboration in acquiring the graces of Redemption), Mediatrix of All Graces (distribution of the graces obtained in Redemption), and Advocate (intercession with God on behalf of humanity). (20) Often, however, non-Catholics, and sadly, sometimes Catholics as well, ask, “How can Mary be a Mediatrix, much less a Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, or Advocate? How can anyone actively participate in the one Redemption of the one Redeemer or in the distribution of the graces He won without taking away from His primacy and privilege?” Basing their arguments on 1Timothy 2:5, they contend that there is only one Mediator between God and man and that any other mediation by anyone, even His mother, would detract from Jesus’ unique mediation and dishonor Him. What they do not recognize, however, is that the passage in question does not exclude the possibility of other subordinate mediators. Instead, its very wording opens up the way for such secondary mediation. St. Paul had two choices for the word “one” in the verse; he could have used either “eis” or “monos.” The first of these has the connotation of “first” or “primary” while the second means “exclusive.” St. Paul chose the first, “eis,” thereby leading readers to conclude that Jesus is indeed the first and primary Mediator between God and man but not necessarily the exclusive Mediator. The word “eis” indicates that others can share in the one mediation of Jesus Christ, and this is what Mary does as a Maternal Mediatrix in her roles as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate. (21)
Now that the definition and classification of Coredemptrix have been established, the question of what a Coredemptrix actually does must be explored. Essentially, Mary as Coredemptrix actively participates in the process of “objective redemption,” acquiring, or meriting, the graces of salvation for the human family. Two important points must be considered here: 1. the term “objective redemption” and 2. the concept of merit.
Mary, the unique Coredemptrix with the Redeemer, takes part in the process of “objective Redemption” or Redemption in actu primo. This means that she actually helps acquire the graces of Redemption rather than merely aiding in the distribution of those graces, which is called “subjective Redemption.” (22) As the unique Coredemptrix with the Redeemer, Mary is a true, though secondary, cause of humanity’s Redemption, a process that, through graces attained at the price of great sacrifice and suffering, establishes a new covenant between God and humanity and pays the debt man accrued to God through his sin. (23) Mary participates in this process by meriting the graces of Redemption along with, yet subordinate to, the Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
This leads to the second point, the concept of merit. What does it mean that Mary “merits” grace along with and subordinate to Jesus Christ? Merit can be defined as “a claim to reward.” (24) Non-Catholics would argue that the only One Who can merit anything, or claim any reward, is Jesus Christ and that to assert that anyone else is capable of meriting dishonors Jesus. The fact that Jesus merits perfectly and primarily, however, does not exclude others from meriting secondarily and subordinately. Dr. Mark I. Miravalle explains, “…human creatures may also ‘merit’ in the sense that God has placed a supernatural value on certain human acts, and if freely performed by man, God rewards His sons and daughters with an increase of His grace and divine goodness for themselves or for others.” (25) Mary, of course, goes further in her meriting than any other human being. She actually merits the graces of Redemption for humanity. How can this be so, especially since Mary herself had to be redeemed by Jesus? Again, Dr. Miravalle responds. Mary, he explains, was redeemed by Jesus through the process of “preservative redemption” and therefore never received a fallen nature. She was immaculately conceived and preserved from original sin, so she did not have to be ransomed from sin like the rest of humanity. She could therefore merit graces of ransom for others without having those graces apply to herself. She did not, of course, merit the “first grace” of God that guaranteed her preservation from sin. (26) Mary, therefore, merits, with and under Jesus Christ, the graces of humanity’s objective Redemption, so she can, and must, be called Coredemptrix.
15. Miravalle, “With Jesus”, 9-10.
16. Ibid.; John A. Schug and Mark I. Miravalle, “Mary, Coredemptrix: The Significance of Her Title in the Magisterium of the Church,” in Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate Theological Foundations Towards a Papal Definition?, ed. Mark I. Miravalle (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1995), 217.
17. Miravalle, “With Jesus”, 10.
18. Calkins, “Liturgy,” 49.
19. de Margerie, “Motherhood,” 206; Miravalle, “With Jesus”, 11.
20. Calkins, “Liturgy,” 45; Miravalle, introduction, x.
21. Hahn, 173; Miravalle, “Foundational Presence,” 271-272; Mark I. Miravalle, “The Whole Truth about Mary, Ecumenism, and the Year 2000,” in Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate Theological Foundations II Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical, ed. Mark I. Miravalle (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing Company, 1996), 23-24.
22. Manelli, 65; Calkins, “Proposed Marian Dogma,” 21; Miravalle, “With Jesus”, 62; William G. Most, “Mary Coredemptrix in Scripture: Cooperation in Redemption,” in Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate Theological Foundations Towards a Papal Definition?, ed. Mark I. Miravalle (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1995), 162.
23. Miravalle, “Foundational Presence,” 294; Most, 160-161; Calkins, “Liturgy,” 81.
24. Most, 154.
25. Miravalle, “With Jesus”, 118
26. Miravalle, “Whole Truth,” 29.