Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mediatrix Of All Graces?

[Please continue to pray for Church Unity! This post is meant in sincerity, and I do not mean to go bashing or to get bashed. If you are able to clear up my misunderstandings in a spirit of grace, please do so! It is difficult differences like these that inhibit Unity. Therefore, I believe we are duty-bound to attempt to sort them out.]

I've just read Dave Armstrong's section on Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, in his "A Biblical Defense of Catholicism." I was not sold on the idea, and am a little confused to boot. Is he defending defined Catholic dogma, or a mere (albeit popular) proposition that exists within Catholicism? It is not clear from the book.

Some Catholic writers claim it is already infallible teaching (e.g., Fr. Most's writing available on EWTN's website). This claim says that the battle is o'er, and those in opposition should just lay down their arms. But since a popular movement has been petitioning the Vatican to define the teaching as dogma, the claim that it is already infallible strikes me as a tad presumptuous.

St. Louis said, "Since all the grace which you receive comes from Our Lady, your salvation therefore ultimately depends on Her, and therefore you shall not enter Heaven without a devotion to Her, either developed in this life, or in the next life in Purgatory, when your dependence on her as mediatrix of all grace will have become absolutely clear." [HT: Laudem Gloriae]

However, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, has this to say about mediation: "The office of mediator belongs fully only to Jesus, the Man - God, Who alone could reconcile us with God by offering Him, on behalf of men, the infinite sacrifice of the Cross, which is perpetuated in Holy Mass. He alone, as Head of mankind, could merit for us in justice the grace of salvation and apply it to those who do not reject His saving action. It is as man that He is mediator, but as a Man in Whom humanity is united hypostatically to the Word and endowed with the fullness of grace, the grace of Headship, which overflows on men. As St. Paul puts it: 'For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave Himself for a redemption for all, a testimony in due times" (I Tim. 2:5-6). [Hat Tip: PowerBlog!]. [Aside: I recently learned that Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange taught Pope JPII when he was still just a lowly seminarian.]

So I wonder, is the battle o'er? Speaking individualistically, this teaching seems to come up short in two prominent ways. 1) The rational theological basis for this would-be dogma seems nearly absent; support for this teaching seems to flow from Marian apparitions and Mystic teachers of the Catholic Church who prophesied that this teaching would become dogma. As the Catholic Church teaches that public revelation ceased long ago, and the evidence of Mary's role as Mediatrix of All Graces does not appear in the early deposit of faith, I would expect to see a strong rationale for its formulation (as, e.g., is given with the teaching of the Immaculate Conception, which in addition enjoys early Patristic support). Some defenses I've read stress that God could see fit to have His graces mediated in this way. Granted. But what tells us that He does (for surely, Reason or Revelation would need to tell us that He does this before it could be an infallible dogma)? 2) The claim that Mary's role is not only to pray for us, but to be a channel of all graces (Fr. Most calls her the "neck" through which all power of the "head" must pass) makes false the primary Catholic defense of Marian (and all Saintly) intercession -- that is, that they merely pray for us as those who are already righteous and before God. Which is it, that the saints pray for us, or that they (also) go about actively dolling out grace? The latter would be different from how Catholics have defended Prayers to the Saints to me.

I am inclined to add as a third reason, that this teaching places at least great strain on the language of 1 Tim 2:5-6, quoted by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange above.

Could it be that the authority supporting this teaching, if it is not yet infallible, is similar to the Predestination teachings within Roman Catholicism? There, while permissible boundaries are defined, there is open debate between a strong Free Will camp (the majority view) and a strong Predestination camp (the minority view). Is there a minority camp that does not see evidence of a "Mediatrix of All Graces" teaching in either Revelation or Reason?

25 comments:

Gil Garza said...

Because Protestants, generally, do not understand any person to cooperate in the singular Work of Redemption, they, likewise, do not understand Mary’s cooperation.

Specifically, the Fathers of the Church refer to Mary as the “go-between” (μεσίτης, mediatrix). Mary may be designated Mediatrix of all graces in two senses:
1. Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces by her cooperation in the Incarnation.
2. Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces by her maternal intercession in Heaven.

Irenaeus writes: “Mary, espoused but yet a virgin, became by her obedience a cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race. AH III, 22, 4” Jerome writes: “Death through Eve, life through Mary. Epistle 22, 21” There are scores of additional examples from the Fathers of the Church. Rather than dump the truck of evidence on you at this point, I would rather pull back for a bit of perspective (I can always point you to sources, later). Of course these early writers do not in any way minimize or confuse the singular work of Christ as Redeemer and Mediator of mankind. The point is these writers underline Mary’s cooperation with, and ministry of, the unique, sole Mediatorship of Jesus Christ. In the incarnation, Mary submits to and cooperates with the Mediatorship of her son. In heaven, Mary ministers his Mediatorship to her children. She sets the example for all Christians who are called to submit to and cooperate with Jesus Mediation on our behalf before the Father. We are also called upon to minister this Mediatorship of Jesus to the world as Mary does.

Thos said...

Gil,

Thank you for your charitable response. If you're willing, let us suppose that I both understand and am fairly comfortable with the idea that Christians are called to "redeem" God's fallen creation through the power of Christ's grace, such that we are all co-redeemers. Further, let's suppose that I am comfortable with an understanding that Mary's special officership as Theotokos, and her prayers for the redemption of fallen creation make the formal title "Co-Redemptrix" (with the capital letters signifying this formal recognition) appropriate.

I am comfortable with the statement that Mary is Mediatrix of All Graces in that she cooperated with and was made a participant in the Incarnation. This seems rational (i.e., based on reason) to me in that All Graces flow from Christ, and Christ came to the flesh through Mary. I see this is an historical recognition.

It's the recognition of her continuing role of mediating all graces that I find troubling, for the reasons stated in my post. The way Fr. Most described this teaching, I am left with the understanding that Mary mediates all graces in a way that means something more than that she prays for all graces to occur or be given. Your #2 sounds more like that her mediation of all graces occurs by the act of prayer, so perhaps different from what Fr. Most says.

I would appreciate any clarification you can provide. Does Mary mediate graces in any way but by asking Christ to send the graces? I.e., does she transmit the grace herself (directly, even if by Christ's power)? Also, is this dogmatic teaching, or just widely accepted teaching? In closing, the rationale and reason for noting Mary's historical mediatorial significance is easy, but what is the rationale and reason for concluding that "In heaven, Mary ministers his Mediatorship to her children." I am reluctant to use this term, but I see the statement as a bit of a non sequitur, and would appreciate your help in better understanding the presuppositions that support the statement.

Pray for Unity!
Thos.

Devin Rose said...

Hi Thos,

It is my understanding that:

This idea is not dogma, doctrine, or even Church teaching but is considered an idea that can be debated and discussed.

That said, if this idea is true, I could see it being true in this sense: I have heard it said before that a husband and wife act as channels of God's grace for each other; all grace comes from God of course, the source of grace, but He could use people as the channel through which He bestows this grace.

In a similar way, perhaps He has made the Virgin Mary the channel of His grace to the world.

All that being said, I do not subscribe to this idea and am in no way bound to believe it. However, I know people who believe it and understand that they do so with a pious faith. I do not think this idea is believed by a large number of Catholics.

Thos said...

Devin,

Thank you, also, for graciously sharing your understanding. I am blessed to have you and Gil, as Catholics, to give of your time for my enlightenment.

Your saying that it is not dogma seems right to me, and so I am surprised Fr. Most made his conclusory statement that it is an infallible teaching. I did see in my research (i.e. "Googling", the only kind of research my generation can do anymore, sadly) that Pope JPII used the term Mediatrix of All Graces several times. In that way, it might be some kind of "teaching", but then again, I'm not sure that he used the term in more then the sense Gil used in #1 (which seems fairly uncontroversial).

I'm cool with saying that God channels grace through parents, who act within creation. I am not familiar with a teaching that Mary acts within creation (as, say, our guardian angels do) other than through intercessory prayer (which is really acting outside of creation for the purposes of affecting creation by God's power). But you know, I could even be cool with admitting the possibility that Mary acts in creation in some way beyond intercessory prayer -- but proponents of this teaching seek to have dogmatically declared that she does mediate all grace. There's a difference between admitting a possibility and declaring as fact, of course.

Maybe I'm in over my head, and should simply ask, what do we suppose it means to act as a channel of grace (as a neck to a head)? The working of these things seems unknowable, so I'm surprised by the effort (lacking divine revelation on the matter) to define how it all goes down. Does Mary get a veto vote? This would be odd because 1) we would say that as she knows God's will perfectly, she would ask for nothing outside of His will, 2) but he could will to send some grace that she can withhold. Hmmm, no, no one can mean that. I guess I don't get the ongoing "channel" notion, and how a "channel" differs from an active participatory agent/object.

Pray for Unity!
Thos.

Tim A. Troutman said...

I think devin is right. There was some petitioning a while back to officially award her this title and it was denied by the pope (although it apparently had quite a bit of support). I don't think that means that he said the title wasn't appropriate, just that he wasn't going to teach it in an official capacity.

Part of the motives for this may well have been ecumenical.

Personally (trying not to be too individualist here but...) I don't like the term and I dont like using terminology like that or like "mercy" in regards to Mary or even certain Church approved prayers. There's always the "we mean it in this sense" card to be played (and you can get away with a lot using that one). But in my mind, why not just say it in the sense that you mean it?

Why not say "Help us cry out to God" instead of "To you do we cry" because the lines, read literally, explicitly contradict the Catholic argument "we only ask her to pray for us" (as you mentioned).

Magisterial infallibility doesn't mean perfectly executed catechesis or the best possible wording of prayers and devotions. It just means that the Church cannot teach doctrinal error in any official capacity. So in that light I would be of the opinion that the Church would do better to word some of these things differently so as not to confuse people (and keep people from converting). They quite nearly kept me from conversion.

Not because I was wrong (at least not wrong on everything) but because the wording makes the Catholic position appear to be something different than it really is. Speaking of Mariology as a stumbling block to Protestants is like speaking of the Cross as an inconvenient proposition to pagans.

Anyway, I get where you're coming from and don't know all the answers except for this- you really have to stick with dogma and official teaching of the Church in order to know what the Church actually teaches. A Catholic theologian (even a pope) making a theological statement is no more infallible than what I'm writing in your comments box (granted they may be just a bit more trustworthy of a source than me).

Denzinger's Sources of Catholic Dogma is probably a great place to get nearly all (if not all) sources of official Catholic teaching up until Vatican 2. I'll have to check what it says on Mary if I can find anything. Skimming through the contents I don't remember seeing anything about her. It wouldn't surprise me if there were far less officially taught about her than most people assume.

Even the Marian apparitions (as I understand it) aren't required to be believed (I think you're just required not to contradict ones that have been approved by the Vatican). I may be wrong on that - correction welcome if anyone knows otherwise.

All that said, 2 1/2 years after my conversion process started, I'm finally just beginning to grasp Marian devotion. This guy's testimony helped me a lot (not sure why something just clicked). I can't remember which one of the lectures it was that I was listening to. Anyway he's a Jewish-Catholic convert interesting to listen to anyhow.

I'll just stop blabbing now.

Gil Garza said...

Mary’s heavenly cooperation with the Father’s plan of salvation as Mediatrix of all graces is classified as a probable pious opinion. In the modern era, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has been petitioned several times under several different schemata to formally define this aspect of Mary’s cooperation with grace. Despite clear teaching of early Fathers and widespread holding of this pious opinion, the Church has yet to act on this matter, and, therefore, it remains an area of theological speculation. “Mary ministers his mediatorship to her children” is a fancy way of saying something very simple. Mary, who is in glory, prays for the salvation her spiritual children. Her interest in the followers of her son is maternal and Christian. It is this unique maternal and Christian intercession in heaven that makes her a Mediatrix. Her intercession on our behalf is Christian, not unlike the care that all Christians should have for one another. Because she implores the source of all grace on our behalf, she is the Mediatrix of all graces. Her intercession is dependent upon Jesus but far surpasses the intercessory prayer of other saints because of her exalted faith and role as mother to Jesus and to his followers.

Thos said...

I think, were I to convert, I would be in Tim’s camp. Without *any* disrespect for Tim’s views though, I think there *may* be a problem with this camp. I remember reading something once in Ludwig Ott’s “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” that surprised me (I’m very sorry I don’t have any quote handy). He basically said that Catholics have a duty to humbly consider as probably correct a pious opinion (as opposed to a tolerated opinion) of the church, one of which, Gil tells us, is the Mediatrix of All Graces.

I’m very with Tim in his view that the words “Mediatrix of All Graces” do not seem to mean at all what is supposedly meant by them. They make up a term of art. The “we don’t mean it in this sense” card would have to be played to avoid textual conflict with 1 Tim 2: 5-6 (into which I genuinely do not believe I’m reading too much of a Protestant view). The Catholics seeking its formal adoption, I would guess, want to use the term in their expressions of emotive devotion to Mary, perhaps unaware of the careful, necessary “we don’t mean it in this sense” theological qualification. Therefore, at the very least, it seems (to me) to be an improvident term. I think ecumenical considerations ought to be secondary to that (but again, this my simple opinion against the likes of the Vatican).

Gil, “Mary mediates” seems different, textually, from “Mary ministers mediation”. But if the former means the latter (as a term of art), please help me make the connection between it and “Mary intercedes with prayer”. I see mediation (as used by Fr. Most in the article I cited in this post) and intercession (as used in the Catholic sense of saints praying for us) as distinct. Are the words ‘mediate’ and ‘intercede’ synonyms (I know they are in the thesaurus, but I mean in this context)? Mary’s prayerful intercession, as I’ve understood it, happens between our desire for God’s will to occur, and God’s choosing to have his will occur. She persuades him, if you will, to hear her righteous prayer made on our behalf. Mary’s mediation of all graces, on the other hand, seems to happen between God’s choosing to invoke his will, and his will (or grace) actually occurring in our lives. So the former is an action of Mary’s in the upward direction of prayer, and the latter is an action of Mary’s in the downward direction of grace. Do you understand the opinion to many only an action in the upward direction? If so, do you think you’re in agreement with Fr. Most (that the power flows from the head-Christ through the neck-Mary)?

You explained that her intercession is dependent upon Jesus, but is the opposite also true (under this pious opinion), that Christ depends upon her intercession before acting (in other words, what do we mean by “all”)?

I hope that my words have come across with the sincerity which I feel. It’s hard sometimes to appear genuine and not condescending in this medium. I appreciate all of your views and time spent sharing with me and helping me through!

Pray for Unity!
Thos.

Thos said...

Tim,

Also, it's interesting that you mentioned Roy Shoeman. I read his "Salvation is from the Jews", and was particularly put out by one little point in it. He said (totally outside of a Marian context) (again, I'm sorry I don't have the book and this quote handy) that God depends on the prayers of His people in order to act. However, if I'm wrong to reject his view, then his view adds nicely to the Mediatrix of All Graces view - particularly that "all" part.

Pray for Unity!
Thos.

Tim A. Troutman said...

I haven't read any of his stuff and only heard that one lecture. The lecture itself was interesting if nothing else but for a few points he brought up.

Actually the most interesting point that I learned was that the Talmud explains the tradition of the scarlet thread being hung by the temple on the day of atonement miraculously turning white upon the priest offering the sacrifice for the people's sins (if it was accepted by God) and that this miracle stopped occurring about 40 years before the destruction of the temple. Ahem.. you do the math. I looked it up in the Talmud and I'll be durned... it was there.

Anyway I didn't know that.. Thought it was pretty cool. And I thought his conversion story was pretty interesting too.

But I agree, that phrase you quoted seems theologically lacking to put it lightly.

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

If all grace comes through Christ, and if Christ comes through Mary, then it follows logically that all grace comes through Mary. It seems to me somewhat ad hoc to admit that as being true while denying in principle that Mary continues through her intercession in heaven to be the mediator of all graces. There is no time and space in eternity. We tend to conceive of heaven as a parallel universe, with a timeline like ours. But all the grace that we presently receive through the sacraments, comes from the Church, which received this grace from the incarnate Christ, who came from Mary. So all the grace I receive through the sacraments came through Mary's fiat, because it came through Jesus.

Grace isn't greater than Jesus. If we can accept that Jesus came through Mary, then it isn't a big deal to say that all grace comes through Mary.

But what about this distinction between mediatrix "in the incarnation" and mediatrix "by her maternal intercession"? There is possibly something of a dualism here, as if Mary's role as mother pertains only to giving birth and raising Jesus, and not in her intercessions for Him and thus for all those to whom He is given.

Grace does not destroy nature; it elevates it. Likewise, heaven eternalizes who we are here on earth. Mary's mediatory role as mother of God is elevated by her assumption into heaven; it is not lessened. Therefore the distinction between mediatrix "in the incarnation" and mediatrix "by maternal intercession in heaven" seems to me to be possibly misleading, as if these are two fundamentally distinct acts. The latter is a continuation of the former. Mary's fiat in Luke 1:38 was a "maternal intercession". In it she (as the Second Eve) speaks for all of us, as our mother, for all time: "Behold the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word". That act, and her motherly intercession for Jesus throughout His life and for all those to whom He was given (who would be united to Him), did not cease upon her assumption; they were simultaneously elevated and deepened. Her maternal intercession in heaven is still "in the incarnation", because that event (i.e. her fiat) is not past tense in heaven; it is ever-present. So it seems to me that the conceptual distinction between these two ways of being a mediatrix is, in reality (i.e. metaphysically), not so clearly distinct, but rather hard to distinguish.

(I'm not trying to answer your question about Church dogma on this subject; I'm only trying to show why I think the distinction between the two "senses" of Mary's role as mediatrix, is such that it is ad hoc to accept one and on principle reject the other, at least to the point of allowing it to be a stumbling block.)

As for 1 Timothy 2:5, I think that by 'mesites' (mediator) in that verse, St. Paul is talking about a unique role that only a divine being could fill, for no mere man could operate "between God and men". St. Paul is not talking about mediating in the sense of bringing forth from one's womb, or interceding through prayer. That is why it seems to me that what St. Paul says here is not incompatible with Mary's mediatory role, because the word 'mediator' is being used in two senses. St. Paul seems to be using it in a legal sense. But the title as applied to Mary is not in the legal sense, but in the ontological sense (in all its implications with respect to motherhood). All the grace of Christ came through the womb of Mary. In that way she was/is *ontologically* a mediator (i.e. that through whom was given) to us of God Himself. But she didn't mediate in a legal sense. God came to her, and she said yes. The other sense is connoted by this question: Who can ascend but He who first descended? In that way, Mary was *not* a mediator, but Christ is.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I hope I can continue the discussion with equal respect and thoughtfulness. I am not a philosopher, so you may have to take layman’s steps with me.

If all grace comes through Christ, and if Christ came through Mary, then it follows that all grace came, or perhaps has come through Mary. I do not see how it is ad hoc to limit her role as a channel of grace to history. Granted that heaven is outside of time, the Incarnation is still an event that was anticipated and has come. Perhaps off track, but I can’t help but wonder if this view of Mary confuses her role as a type with the object, the Church, which could be called the mediatrix of all graces. It does have an ongoing role.

I think you’re saying that if the source and cause of all grace (i.e., Christ Jesus) flowed from Mary, since she is now outside of time, the source and cause of all grace continues to flow from her. Here’s where I’ve missed the connection. That she stepped beyond time at her Assumption does not (necessarily) mean she continues to do what was achieved before she stepped out of time. Is it a fair analogy (and if so, does it hold) to say that Noah would have a continuing role as continuing redeemer of mankind (from the flood that we all deserved), or that David has a continuing Kingship? Or, since Christ is from David’s line, such that David’s election and cooperation were necessary for Jesus, the rod of Jesse, to spring forth, is David also the Mediator of All Graces (in an ontological sense)?

Are you only saying that we owe gratitude to Mary in the present tense and sense because in Heavenly terms her historical fiat is ongoing?

I think that’s the best I can respond about my ‘historical - ever-present’ possible false dualism. Now to my confusion about whether Mary mediates only through intercessory prayers, or through channeling grace back to humanity.

You said that she continues “through her intercession in heaven to be the mediator of all graces.” I understand you as holding that her mediation is achieved in the form the continuing motherly intercession made to her son (in addition to, though not necessarily distinct from, her mediation in the fiat and in birthing and raising the Christ). But you later connected her ongoing mediation with her intercession “for” (vice to) Jesus throughout His life.

Fr. Most said “We will ask also about the nature of the mediation: is it only by way of intercession, that is, does Mary simply pray to her Son that he may give us grace, or does God also use her as an instrument in distributing grace.” His answer? “as many papal texts point out, Mary's role in *dispensation* flows logically from her role in acquiring all graces. (my asterisks added)” More, “Leo XIII… spoke of her… as having "practically limitless power." St. Pius X said she was the "dispensatrix of all the gifts, and is the "neck" connecting the Head of the Mystical Body to the Members. But all power flows through the neck.”

If there’s not a dramatic difference between the teaching that Mary intercedes with her prayers (offered at the Altar in Heaven in an eschatological sense) and a teaching that Mary dispenses graces from Heaven with her practically limitless power, then I badly misunderstand what intercessory prayer is really doing.

Fr. Most goes on, “Is her mediation merely by intercession, prayer for us to her Son and to God the Father? Or does she also play a role in the distribution of graces from the Father through her Son to us?... we answer, since Mary was associated with her Son in acquiring grace for us, she will also share with him in distributing that grace to us. This fits well with the words of the Popes, who call her the administra of grace, meaning that she administers or dispenses it.”

Maybe I’m guilty of creating another dualism here, but if there is no difference between seeking Christ’s graces and favors through intercessory prayer, and participating in the distribution or administration of granted graces, then this is confusing language to use indeed. As I said (I think) in my post, I have no trouble believing that Christ *could* distribute graces through Mary (or any or all of His Saints); my trouble is seeing that this teaching flows as a matter of reason from nature or revelation.

I end with Fr. Most’s quote of St. Bernardine of Siena, “Every grace that is communicated to this world has a threefold course. For by excellent order, it is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to us.” This formulation seems in the legal sense to conflict with 1 Tim 2:5-6. Otherwise, I think I can accept your ontological/legal distinction. I would maintain a prudential concern that this subtly will get lost in average use of the expression Mediatrix of all Graces. You’ll only have more ‘short ladder/long ladder’ mistakes between Mary’s soteriological role and Christ’s. But as a prudential concern (and my own, individualist one at that), I’d rather focus our discussion on the remainderment.

[This subject confuses me, so if my discussion has been confused or confusing, please forgive me.]

Pray for Unity!
Thos.

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

I do not see how it is ad hoc to limit her role as a channel of grace to history.

Well, what I was trying to say was that it seems ad hoc to limit her role as a channel of grace to history on principle. The best you could do, besides the Timothy verse, would be to make an argument from silence on the basis of sola scriptura.

Granted that heaven is outside of time, the Incarnation is still an event that was anticipated and has come.

True. But in heaven, that event is present to God, for whom all is present. God doesn't peer into the future; it is present to Him. Nor does He peer into the past, or merely remember the past perfectly; the past is present to Him. We know that the Apostles will sit on twelve thrones (Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30), judging the "twelve tribes of Israel". Their first-century rule in the Church on earth prefigures their rule in heaven.

That she stepped beyond time at her Assumption does not (necessarily) mean she continues to do what was achieved before she stepped out of time.

Granted, but why would that privilege be taken away from her? It is a great privilege for the saints to participate in the coming of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." (John 5:17) Does it not seem odd then, that Mary would not be allowed to imitate the Father and the Son, in carrying on the work that she began through her fiat? Aquinas says that God delights in letting us participate in His work. God is not jealous in that way. Just as He lets us be pro-creators of children, so He lets the saints be co-redeemers with His Son (though, of course, in a lesser sense).

Is it a fair analogy (and if so, does it hold) to say that Noah would have a continuing role as continuing redeemer of mankind (from the flood that we all deserved),

That wouldn't surprise me at all.

or that David has a continuing Kingship?

Sure. Once a king of Narnia, always a king of Narnia. :-) Lewis, in The Four Loves, says, "When God arrives (and only then) the half-gods can remain." Christ's kingship is not incompatible with David's continuing kingship. It is only because of David's kingship that Christ (through His human nature) is of a royal line.

Or, since Christ is from David’s line, such that David’s election and cooperation were necessary for Jesus, the rod of Jesse, to spring forth, is David also the Mediator of All Graces (in an ontological sense)?

There is an important difference here. Christ did not come to Mary through David or David's line. Christ came to Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. So David was a source of Mary's human nature. But David was not a mediator of Christ to Mary, and therefore not a "Mediator of All Graces" to Mary or to us.

Are you only saying that we owe gratitude to Mary in the present tense and sense because in Heavenly terms her historical fiat is ongoing?

No, I was saying more than that. I was trying to make a point about a principled objection to Catholic theology. If someone grants that all grace comes through Christ, and that Christ comes through Mary, then there seems to be no principled objection to Mary's role as "administrator" or "dispenser" [under Christ] of all graces. One might say, "I don't see it in Scripture, or I don't see how one derives it from her fiat", but that is not the same as claiming that it is on principle incompatible with the gospel or the Bible.

Again on the 1 Timothy passage, I don't think Paul is there saying that there must be no singular "neck" under the unique Mediator. The nature of sub-mediators (whether saints or angels) doesn't seem to be what he has in mind. He is talking about something only a God-man can do. And there is only one God-man. So appealing to the verse to rule out a singular sub-mediating "neck" does not seem to be justified. It makes the verse say more than it is saying, in my opinion.

I wasn't denying the distinction between intercession and distribution. There is a long-standing Catholic tradition that the particular perfections of the saints during their lives on earth, not only remain with them in heaven, but become means by which they aid us through their prayers. That is why one prays to different saints for different needs. (Think of Luther's crying to St. Anne when he was almost struck by lightning.) Whatever you think of that, the point is that implicit in that *practice* is a theological belief that perfections in the saints not only persist into heaven upon their death, but are so blessed that they become put to use to bless us, just as the servants who did well with their talents were given more. That same principle can be seen in the Gospels: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." (Matt 25:21) From that point of view, it is understandable to see how fitting it is that Mary's perfection on earth as the mediatrix of all graces in Christ, would a fortiori be so blessed in heaven as to become the "neck" of which Fr. Most speaks. In other words, it wouldn't surprise me at all; it is what I would expect. For that reason, it would not be for me a stumbling block if the Church declared it a dogma.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Gil Garza said...

The title of Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces has not been defined by the Church. This is usually where Protestants freak out whirligig style. The Church has given us some guide rails, if you will, to help us understand the nature of Mary's role in heaven.

The CCC gives us a correct understanding of the nature of Mary's mediation: "Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office (ie her maternal role of showing her son) but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. #969"

Mary's mediation is, therefore, intercessory in nature. Mary’s mediation is not like a retailer of divine grace. She does not purchase grace at wholesale from her son and retail it at a profit to Catholics. Neither does she distribute divine grace to her Catholic subscribers. Her role in heaven is the same as at the wedding feast at Cana: she pleads her son on our behalf.

Further, the CCC says: "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it. No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source. #970"

Mary’s mediation is completely dependent upon Christ. Mary is not a source of grace at all. Rather, she points to the source of all grace, Jesus Christ, by her mediation. Mary does not hand out her own grace to Catholics. Neither does Mary’s role obscure or compete with her son’s. Notice how the Catechism points to the priesthood of Jesus Christ as the source of this mediation. Mary is only able to intercede on behalf of the faithful because she shares in the priesthood of Christ. This is why I described her role as Christian. Mary and all the faithful are capable of interceding for one another because we all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Catholic theologians and faithful may use the Marian title, “Mediatrix of all graces,” so long as we follow the Church’s guidance concerning the proper understanding of this role. Her mediation is intercessory in nature and is completely dependent upon Jesus Christ.

Principium unitatis said...

Gil,

I don't find in any official Catholic teaching that:

Mary is not a source of grace at all.

Are you drawing this claim from an official document, or do you mean that no official Catholic document teaches that Mary distributes grace? I don't see how the Church could teach that Mary is a source of Christ but not a source of grace, since grace comes through Christ. The Church wants to avoid the Nestorian heresy of making Mary only the mother (and thus source) of Christ's human nature. The grace of Christ is not from one of His two natures, but from His Person. The Council of Ephesus (431) clearly teaches that Mary is the mother (i.e. source) of that Person; she is the Theotokos.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Gil Garza said...

Regarding Mary as a source of grace: Please forgive my inexactitude. Allow me to restate clearly. All grace comes from God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help…Grace is participation in the life of God. Grace comes to us through the Holy Spirit. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. Actual grace refers to God’s interventions. Even our merits and those of all Christians before God are his gifts of divine goodness.

Mary is not an independent distributor of grace. She is not a franchisee of grace. Mary does not give grace to anyone. She doesn’t give grace handouts. She doesn’t hold grace lotteries or grace competitions. She doesn’t give grace to the highest bidder or the one who says the most litanies. She doesn’t ship out grace or deliver grace. There is no shipping or handling of grace. She doesn’t hand on grace. Grace comes from God alone. He is the sole distributor, sole owner and proprietor of grace.

Mary’s role in heaven is to lovingly plead on our behalf. That’s it. If you somehow think that she does anything else in heaven (as if that weren’t enough), I would suggest that you read, Redemptoris Mater, the papal encyclical on devotion to Mary, part III, 38-41 or Lumen Gentium, 62. These should help to clear things up.

Regarding the assertion that motherhood is the source of personhood. I think that this is overreaching on your part. There is no teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary is a source or dispenser of divine grace.

There can be found individuals that taught that Mary is the distributor or dispenser of all divine gifts. This rhetorical device can first be found in the writings of Gregory Palamas. Other Eastern writers, such as Nicholas Cabasilas echo this descriptive exaggeration. From the 17th until the 20th centuries, Latin writers tended to shy away from such rhetoric, preferring instead to emphasize her intercession on behalf of every grace. In 1950, the 1st International Mariological Congress, held in Rome approved a petition to Pius XII asking him to solemnly define Mary as “dispenser of graces” among other things. This petition was not granted. Later, during the consultation of the world’s episcopate prior to Vatican II, 382 bishops requested that the council define Mary’s mediation as “dispenser of heavenly graces” and “present in the bestowal of all graces to men.” The petition was allowed to lapse. Several other schemas were presented to the council with each backing away by degrees from the idea that Mary dispenses or distributes grace. Each was rejected. The section of Lumen Gentium which discusses Mary’s role in heaven was much discussed at the council. Ultimately, the title Mediatrix was added without further embellishment. Only one bishop during the council wanted Mary’s role to be described as “dispenser of graces.” Two bishops during the council requested the description as “Mediatrix of all graces.” This clearly cannot be called a groundswell of support for the idea that Mary is involved in interceding for every grace given by God or that she is God’s UPS delivery driver for divine gifts.

Principium unitatis said...

Gil,

Mary does not give grace to anyone.

It seems to me that Mary has given grace to the whole world, by giving Christ to the whole world. I still don't know anywhere that the Church officially teaches that Mary does *not* give grace to anyone. I understand that the Church has not said she does. But, in my opinion, that does not show that she doesn't. Not saying X is not the same thing as saying "not X". You are saying "not X", but you are defending your claim by pointing to instances of "not saying X". I'm trying to avoid the fallacy of the argument from silence. There are many true theological statements, presumably, that have not yet been said by popes or councils. Presumably development of doctrine was not completed at VII.

Be that as it may, it would be odd that my priest is a source of grace to me, when he acts in persona Christi in my reception of the sacraments (e.g. when he absolves me in the confessional, or when He puts the Eucharist in my mouth), but that Mary would not be a source of grace for anyone, even though she conceived and birthed and raised the Son of God.

That's just extremely odd. It verges on reducing Mary to an incubator or mere conduit of a human nature. (I'm sorry to be crass or irreverent; I love our Blessed Mother very much, as I know you do.) I didn't claim that "motherhood is the source of personhood", but rather that Mary is the mother of a divine Person, the Second Person of the Trinity. That there is Catholic orthodoxy. To deny that she is the mother of the Logos is Nestorianism. What came from her was and is a Person, nothing less. A mother is a source of her child. A source is, simply, that from which something comes. Children come from their mothers (and fathers). So likewise the Logos came from Mary, and so she is, in that sense, a source of the Logos.

I guess you could argue that although she (as mother of the Logos) is a source of the Logos, she is not the source of the grace that comes from the Logos. But I'm thinking of this as a transitive relation: if A is the source of B, and B is the source of C, then A is (in some true sense) a source of C. Therefore, since Mary is (as mother) a source for us of the Logos, and since the Logos is the source for us of grace, therefore Mary is (in some true sense) a source for us of grace. Christ is the fullest expression of the "favor of God". In that sense, it seems to me that grace comes from Mary in a way that it neither has come nor will come from any other mere human in the history of the human race. Do we at least agree on that much?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Gil Garza said...

“Mary does not give grace to anyone.” This statement is made within the context of Mary’s job in heaven. Her role in the Incarnation is undisputed. Note, however, that Scripture does not exalt Mary because she carried and gave birth to the Savior. Rather, she is exalted because of her great faith. It was her assent to God that consecrated her maternity.

The Catholic Church simply does not teach that Mary has any role in heaven other than to intercede on our behalf. In recent years and in light of the teaching of Vatican II and recent pontiffs the proposition that in heaven Mary dispenses grace or is involved in some way in every distribution of grace has become increasingly doubtful and tenuous. Remember, the absence of a teaching does not constitute its affirmation.

Perhaps I should define what I mean by, source: “the place where something begins, where it springs into being, someone who initiates or generates something.” So, properly understood, Mary or your parish priest is not the source of any grace. Grace does not begin with, spring into being from, is not generated or initiated by Mary or Fr. John. Perhaps, what you mean by, “source” is: “a facility where something is available.” In this sense Fr. John is your “source” for sacramental grace, i.e. he makes it available to you. Mary would have been the “source” for Jesus. This second use of “source” is more colloquial and because it lends itself to confusion, I prefer not to use this sense of the word.

Principium unitatis said...

Gil,

I think we mostly agree; we might be using different definitions of terms like 'source', and that might be making us talk past each other a bit. I'll add a few comments.

Note, however, that Scripture does not exalt Mary because she carried and gave birth to the Savior.

The fathers *clearly* do. She is the ark of the New Covenant, for she carried God in her womb. But I beg to differ with your claim. When Elizabeth says "mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43), the very nature of the attribution exalts Mary on account of the identity of the Child she was carrying.

It was her assent to God that consecrated her maternity.

The fathers taught that the divine identity of her Child had something to do with the consecration of her maternity. They taught that this is why Joseph did not approach her physically, because He recognized that her womb had been made sacred by having been the habitation of her divine Child.

So, properly understood, Mary or your parish priest is not the source of any grace. Grace does not begin with, spring into being from, is not generated or initiated by Mary or Fr. John.

What then, on your definition of source, was Mary the source of in the incarnation?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan and Gil,

Thank you for the spirited, well thought-out exchange. I benefitted from 'listening in' on your discussion than from giving my own input. This makes sense, since you are both knowledgeable enough as to be able to conduct the discussion above a level I could do on my own. These are delicate matters in the cause for unity, so deserving of such careful attention, no?

Gil's inclusion of certain historical facts was particularly helpful - I could never put my thumb on such resources so handily, this side of conversion. It is helpful for me to grasp the Eastern roots of devotional titles for Mary. I am trying to sort out and grasp their non-Scholastic pro-Mystical approach to language and doctrinal expressions. Protestantism didn't shake its Westernism, for sure.

Pray for Unity!
Thos.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Thos, on the topic of actual Catholic dogma re: this subject, I have posted this on my blog.

Thos said...

Tim,

Thanks! I'll give your post a more careful read after "work".

Pray for Unity!
Thos.

Amy said...

For some reason, Blogger deleted my post last week on this (and of course it was brilliant and insightful! ;)). In a nutshell, Mary does the same thing in heaven that she did here on earth: since she played a huge role in bringing Christ to the world, she continues to do that in heaven. Her title wouldn't be Mediator of all Graces, but Co-Mediator - she's not acting on her own behalf, she's acting in union with God. Since she's in heaven, that union is now perfect, so she acts in perfect union with His will.

Dogma vs. doctrine:
The Catholic Church doesn't define anything unless it has to, but over the last 2,000 years a lot of controversies have cropped up which affected the salvation of the faithful. This is what causes the Church to hold councils or more precisely define God's revelation. When something is declared a doctrine, the faithful are now required to believe it as part of God's revelation. That's supposed to put an end to the discussion but since we live in a fallen world, it rarely does :)

Dogmas are truths more central to our faith, since other doctrines are related to them. A doctrine is elevated to the level of dogma when controversy reaches a point that it affects the faithful, and when disbelieving that doctrine will cause other aspects of revelation to be denied. Mary always was the Mother of God, as Elizabeth indicated in Luke's Gospel. During the first few centuries, two heresies (they always seem to come in opposing pairs) cropped up - one denying Christ's divinity (he's just a superhuman, but not God), and one denying His humanity (He's truly God, but He was never really a human being, He just looked like one). Mary as Mother of God was declared a dogma because the child she gave birth to was both fully human and fully divine. Denying that she's the Mother of God is to deny either Jesus' humanity or His divinity, and denying either of those puts our salvation at risk.

Note, however, that Scripture does not exalt Mary because she carried and gave birth to the Savior. Rather, she is exalted because of her great faith. It was her assent to God that consecrated her maternity.
The Apostle John certainly does. His Gospel accounts starts out "In the beginning" just as Genesis does. He draws very heavily on Genesis throughout his writings. At the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus calls Mary "Woman", a direct reference to Gen 3:15. He's not insulting her, since that would be violating the commandment to honor his mother and father. He's affirming that she is the woman predicted in the very beginning, the woman whose seed will be the savior of mankind.

When Jesus is dying on the cross, He uses this title again: "Woman, behold your son" (Jn 19:26). John uses the term again in Rev 12 - eight times.

Each time, John shows her in relation to being the mother of Jesus, and the one prophesied from the beginning, not just a woman of great faith.

Thos said...

Amy,

Thanks for contributing. You said, "In a nutshell, Mary does the same thing in heaven that she did here on earth: since she played a huge role in bringing Christ to the world, she continues to do that in heaven." You can see from the course of the discussion in this very combox that picking this statement apart a bit may lead to some disagreements (about the Catholic position). My understanding is that it's orthodox to say that Mary continues to play a huge role, but maybe it's still up for debate whether this involves any downward, outward immediate dispensations of grace from Heaven or simply her highly potent prayers to the Son. I won't rehash what's been said better than I can say it, by more authoritative folks. I just struggle with the latter view, that's all. I react emotionally to it. Maybe that's because I lack intellectual understanding, or maybe God has touched my conscience. I don't want to be too readily dismissive of my concerns, that's all.

Amy and Gil,

I also don't know about the degree to which Mary's credit is due to her assent to the Incarnation. I don't mean to diminish the significance of her "fiat" in the least. But I've understood from Catholic encyclicals (was it Lumen Gentium? Sorry I can't remember) that she was particularly predestined for the role and then blessed both at her conception and throughout her life with grace to remain pure. I just don't want to give kudos to her *in the way that* a Pelagian would compliment someone they thought had persevered and was righteous. In a sense, it seems Joseph deserves as strong a bravo for staying with Mary and having faith even though he was a sinner and wrestled with his active concupiscence. I think the Scriptures speak highly of Mary not because she simply carried the Christ child, nor because she simply was so wonderful as to give her assent, but because she was chosen, filled with grace, and cooperated with God in His plan for the incarnation. Maybe I'm being too picky.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Gil Garza said...

Mary does indeed magnify the greatness of the Lord. All generations will call her blessed for the Almighty has done great things for her. She is blessed because she believed in the promises of God.

She was full of grace at the annunciation. This also means that she corresponded to this grace throughout her life.

Therefore, Mary's glory is what God promised to her, how he prepared her and how she said, yes, to him throughout her life. In this way, she is an example for us all.

Chapter VIII of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church called Lumen Gentium (Vatican II) is warmly recommended reading.

Thos said...

Gil,

I still wrestle with the idea that Mary was blessed "because" she gave her fiat. Maybe "because" is a loaded word, and can mean several things at once. But views on predestination have a heavy hand here too.

L.G. says, "56. The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life."

It strikes me that she is blessed *because* she was predestined to be the Theotokos, and she continued to be blessed (or was more blessed) *because* she responded (cooperated with her free will) to God's calling.

She was chosen first, and given great graces at her conception (the Catholic view holds), so was greatly blessed already at that point. But then, your view seems well incorporated here in L.G., "62. This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until The eternal fulfillment of all the elect."

So her blessings began before her conception, but a certain aspect of her role in the redemption of mankind began at the assent/fiat. Lumen Gentium is an excellent read, thanks.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.