Now, why art thou drawn together with grief?
Hast thou no king in thee,
or is thy counsellor perished,
because sorrow hath taken thee
as a woman in labour.
Micah 4, 9
And Simeon blessed them,
and said to Mary his mother:
Behold this child is set for the fall,
and for the resurrection of many in Israel,
and for a sign which shall be contradicted:
And thy own soul a sword shall pierce,
that, out of many hearts,
thoughts may be revealed.
Luke 2, 34-35
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). Our Lord is citing the Book of Sirach 51, 23-30: ‘Come to me, all you that need instruction, and learn in my school. Why do you admit that you are ignorant and do nothing about it? Here is what I say: It costs nothing to be wise. Put on the yoke, and be willing to learn. The opportunity is always near. See for yourselves! I have not studied very hard, but I have found great contentment. No matter how much it costs you to get Wisdom, it will be well worth it. Be joyfully grateful for the Lord’s mercy, and never be ashamed to praise him. Do your duty at the proper time, and the Lord, at the time he thinks proper, will give you your reward.’ Jesus also says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 26:24).
By citing Sirach, Jesus is identifying himself with the eternal wisdom: The Divine Logos of God. Our souls can find rest only by learning how to be like Jesus was in his humanity: humbly and meekly obedient to the will of God and perfected in obedience by willingly suffering for the sins that offend our heavenly Father. Jesus produced our eternal reward for us, but if we hope to merit this reward, we must be willing to take up our cross after him. No matter how much it physically and emotionally costs us to follow the road to Calvary in our Lord’s footsteps, our love of God and hope in His promised reward should relieve us of our burdens (Rom 8:18).
By trusting God and surrendering our burdens to Him, as we faithfully carry out our duties of discipleship with Christ’s yoke taken upon us, He will be faithful to us in return and provide the patience and fortitude we need to endure our yoke with the help of these actual graces (Rom 5:2-3; 2 Cor 12:9-10). God’s actual grace is efficacious in that it has the power to inspire and influence us to do what pleases Him over and against our natural instincts. By opening ourselves to the Divine persuasion with the knowledge and understanding we have received from the Holy Spirit (the sanctifying light of faith), we can acquit ourselves of the temporal debt of sin by offering our suffering to God in reparation for our sins.
Without faith and uniting our sufferings with Christ’s afflictions, the trials we have and the burdens we carry hold no redemptive value. Nor could they ever be lightened if we focus strictly on ourselves and fail to look at Christ our paschal victim. Trying to remove these burdens altogether would be ignorant of us and unwise, for without them we could never be buried with our Lord into death and be raised with him to new life with God. We who have been predestined to grace or adopted as children of God are co-heirs with Christ on condition that we unite our sufferings with our Lord’s suffering in temporal expiation for our sins to appease God’s anger or justice. St. Paul teaches us: ‘And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint-heirs with Christ; yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be glorified with him’ (Rom 8:17).
Jesus suffered and died first and foremost to redeem humanity by making eternal expiation for sin. The primary purpose of his self-sacrifice was to gain forgiveness of sin for the whole world and remove mankind’s eternal guilt. So, we as Christians do not unite our suffering and dying to self with Christ’s temporal satisfaction to God for sin exclusively to increase in sanctification for the individual allotment of heavenly rewards, now that we have been assuredly saved by professing our faith in our Lord and Saviour’s just merits – a Protestant presumption. Rather, our predestination to glory or the attainment of our salvation rests on whether we have sufficiently expiated our temporal debt of sin before gaining admittance into Heaven with no stain of the remnants of sin on our souls. Nothing unclean may pass through the gates that lead to the marriage feast of the Lamb. Those who have been invited (predestined to grace) must don white and spotless apparel by having suffered and died to self in union with Christ to be worthy of attendance in the first place (Rev 2:7; 7:14; 21:27; Mt 22:1-14).
Our cross stands at the forefront of our baptismal commitment (Jn 12:24; Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). St. Paul preached a “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). For unbelievers, the cross is a scandal and something foolhardy to take up. The wisdom of this world is totally indifferent to it. Yet, as heirs with Christ, we shall be glorified with him, but only after we have temporally suffered for our sins (Rom 8:17). Jesus did not eradicate suffering and death by his passion and death, because these evil effects of original sin are means by which we can make temporal reparation and expiation for our personal sins to amend our broken relationship with God. Our Lord and Savior gave suffering redemptive value, making it the necessary means to redeem mankind. So, unless we accept and unite our suffering and death with the passion and death of our Lord because of our daily sins and offer our suffering to God in reparation for our sins in union with him, we are unworthy to reap the fruit Christ alone gained for us: eternal life with God (Phil 3:10).
Pain and suffering have no moral and spiritual value if divorced from repentance. Conversely, repentance is incomplete if the debt of sin remains in the balance. God forgave David his mortal sins of murder and adultery after he sincerely repented with a contrite heart. But to off-set his transgressions and restore an equity of justice, God took the life of the child David conceived in his act of adultery with Bathsheba for having murdered her husband Uriah: an innocent life for an innocent life, or an eye for an eye. And God also permitted the rape of David’s wives for his act of adultery (2 Sam 12:9-10, 14, 18-19). Only then could David’s broken relationship with God be fully amended, provided he accepted his pain and loss as a temporal punishment for his sins to restore the equity of justice in his relationship with God.
Now, one might object that this was required of David because Christ hadn’t died for his sins yet in real time. However, if our Lord and Saviour’s just merits hadn’t been applied to David, God wouldn’t have forgiven him to begin with. He, nor even Abraham, couldn’t have been reckoned as righteous before God because of his act of faith. His several days of fasting and lying on the ground in sack cloth covered with ashes would be non-sequitur if Christ’s foreseen merits and the saving grace which our Lord produced for us did not apply to him at this time. But what Jesus accomplished on Calvary transcends historical time and space. His merits extend to all three dimensions of time: past, present, and future. If this weren’t the case, all the righteous in Hades of Old Testament time would still be there forever, but not in Gehenna or Hell, being denied the Beatific Vision of God. Yet, they were liberated by Christ after he had died on the cross and rose from the dead to open the gates of Heaven.
Thus, the debt of sin can be remitted only by having to do penance for it. Doing acts of penance, whose pain and loss counter-balances the sinful pleasure one is heartily sorry for or accepting the pain and loss that God permits because of our sins, completes the temporal redemptive process. Christ did not suffer and die so that we should no longer owe God what is His rightful due for having offended His sovereign dignity (Mt 5:17; Job 42:6; Lam 2:14; Ezek 18:21; Jer 31:19; Rom 2:4; Rev 2:5, etc.). If this were so, then there would be no need for us even to repent, besides doing penance. Our Lord and Saviour made eternal expiation for sin on behalf of mankind (Adam). We cannot reap the fruit of his merits unless we make temporal expiation for our own personal sins in union with his temporal and thereby eternal propitiation for sin, now that he alone has unlocked the gates of heaven and merited grace for us as our ultimate paschal sacrifice.
This is from Jesus himself: “No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish”(Lk 13:3); “Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance” (Mt 3:8). True repentance for the forgiveness of sin calls for fruit worthy of our act of contrition. Our outward acts (alms-giving/fasting) must conform to our inner disposition or spiritual reality (charity/temperance) to off-set our vices and sins (greed/gluttony) which have been forgiven by the act of repentance pending full temporal restitution.
In Protestantism, sanctification isn’t the essence or formal cause of justification. Sanctification is a separate construct that relies on our first being justified strictly by Christ’s external merits. Some Non-Catholics do exercise penance but merely for an increase in sanctification and consequently a greater enhancement of heavenly rewards. Penance does not contribute to an ongoing justification in Protestant thought. Here there is no place for the temporal remission of our debt of sin and purification of the soul making it inherently just or righteous before God and worthy of entering Heaven. Yet Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke that unless we do penance, we shall all perish. Repentance and penance go together. Doing penance, therefore, is necessary for gaining admittance into Heaven, albeit the subsequent rewards. Our Lord’s infinite merits aren’t applied to us personally unless we make temporal and finite restitution for our sins in union with his temporal and thereby eternal satisfaction for sin.
Hence, the best way to learn from Jesus is to look to him and try to be like him: meek and humble of heart. Only then can we have the patience and fortitude to carry our cross. It is the proud of heart who can’t bear carrying the cross and regard it as a personal affront. By being inordinately self-appreciative, they see their trials as having no positive value, since they’re too focused on themselves and on what they feel they don’t deserve but deserve better. But as Christians, we mustn’t forget that the crosses we bear have redemptive value. By offering our suffering to God as an oblation for our sins, in acknowledgement of them, we can make temporal satisfaction to God in union with Christ’s temporal and thereby eternal satisfaction for the remission of our personal temporal debt to God for our past sins, regardless of whether God has already forgiven us, yet because He already has by our humble act of contrition in a true spirit of repentance in and through the just merits of Christ.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions
of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake,
which is the church.
Colossians 1, 24
Temporally, we are still indebted to God for our offenses against Him and are required to make restitution for the remittance of our debts. The purpose of satisfaction is to repair the offense offered to God and make Him favourable to us again. An act of reparation can be satisfactory to God only if there is something painful about it. This is what is meant by commutative justice, that virtue whose object is to render to everyone what belongs to him. When we sin against God, we deny Him what He is supremely entitled to, viz., our love and obedience. So, saying sorry isn’t enough to restore a balance of equity in our relationship with God. This requires that we show our love for Him which we have denied Him. By accepting our sufferings or making personal sacrifices and offering them to God as means of reparation for our offenses against Him, equity is restored, as the pain or loss counters the vain pleasure of selfish gain which is the object of our sins.
By his passion and death, our Lord gained the grace of forgiveness and the removal of guilt for all humanity because of man’s implication in the sin of Adam. But the temporal damage that remained because of man’s personal sins still had to be covered on his part, and this had initially been done by the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of all mankind. She was chosen to help restore mankind to the life of grace, since Eve morally contributed to its loss. Her interior suffering counter-balanced Eve’s pursuit of vain pleasure and repaired the offense our primordial mother had committed against God’s sovereign dignity by enticing her husband to join her with the Serpent in common rebellion (Gen 3:6).
The sin Eve committed was an irrational movement towards a mutable good, which Satan was aware of when he deceived Eve to put her faith in him. So, only Mary’s obedient act of faith in God could have provided the contrary movement needed to undo Eve’s transgression. And this required that she willingly suffer to appease God in His justice. Only then could the equity of justice be restored between mankind and God, on condition that our Blessed Lady united her suffering with the suffering of her Son in and through his merits. The Mother made finite temporal satisfaction in union with the Son’s infinite temporal satisfaction in his sacred humanity, pending the eternal satisfaction to God for sin he alone could make in his divine nature, but not without temporal satisfaction.
God willed that eternal satisfaction be made on condition that it be completed and perfected by man’s temporal satisfaction. Both Jesus (the second Adam) and Mary (the second Eve) did this in their shared humanity, having learned obedience to God and made perfect through suffering. If temporal satisfaction weren’t needed, God would have redeemed humanity without having to become man. Our Lord’s theandric (Divine and human) act would be superfluous. We, as “living stones,” have been “built up into a spiritual house,” a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). As “partakers of the divine nature,” we are called to unite our sacrifices to God with the ultimate sacrifice of the God-man for the temporal remission of sin. Our Blessed Mother Mary has led the way in the order of grace.
The eternal satisfaction Jesus made for our transgressions by his afflictions could be completed only by the temporal satisfaction our Blessed Lady made by her sorrow in union with her divine Son’s suffering for the forgiveness of sins in reparation for Adam’s transgression which alone produced the Fall. What our Lord super-abundantly gained for us by his just merits – mankind’s reconciliation to God – was completed by the Virgin Mary, whose participation rendered God’s plan of salvation perfect. The Serpent mustn’t be able to gloat, not even over half of what he accomplished by seducing Eve to rebel against God with him, now that the sin of Adam would be undone by her divine Son.
God ordained that a sword should pierce Mary’s soul so that the temporal satisfaction she should make would complete the eternal satisfaction made by her Son in human unity together. What Jesus accomplished in his passion was mankind’s objective redemption. What his mother Mary gained for mankind as its spiritual and maternal representative was subjective redemption. By carrying her cross in union with her Son, Mary offered penance to God for all the sins of Adam’s descendants and thereby helped remit the temporal debt of sin by her act of reparation. Her sorrow for the loss of her beloved Son temporally expiated mankind’s sins so that her Son’s temporal and eternal expiation would be complete. Our Lady could act in union with her Son on behalf of sinful humanity because she was without sin (Gen 3:15; Luke 1:28, 30; 1:42).
Christ chose to be “made of a woman” primarily for this reason (Gal 4:4), which is why he called his mother “Woman”, viz., the New Eve, at the beginning and end of his public ministry – in the shadow of the Cross and from the Cross (Jn 2:2-5; 19:26-27). Adam called his spouse and helpmate “the woman,” though she wasn’t much help to him. By her instigation, we who are descended from Adam are “conceived in sin” and “born in guilt” by association (Ps 51:5). Mary’s moral participation contributed to our reconciliation to God and restoration to the life of His grace. Her sorrow beneath the Cross temporally restored a measure of balance on the scales of the Divine justice by counteracting Eve’s selfish pursuit of vain glory – her wish to be like God but apart from God and before Him. It wasn’t enough for Eve to be created in the divine image and a partaker of the divine nature by aligning her will with God’s. Mary’s will was God’s will for her despite the motherly sorrow she must endure for our salvation.
“For it was necessary Adam should be summed up in Christ,
that mortality should be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality;
and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor,
and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away a virgin’s disobedience.”
The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 33
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was
already dead, they did not break his legs.
Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear,
and at once blood and water came out.
John 19, 33-34
The Greek translation for “and a sword shall pierce your own soul” is ψυχὴν διελεύσεται ῥομφαία. The nominative noun ῥομφαία (a sharp blade) can be taken both literally and figuratively. Thus, we have a play on words in this verse. Just as the Son’s body was pierced by a sharp blade when the soldier struck his side with his spear, so also should the Mother’s soul or heart be pierced by a sharp blade. Luke’s message is clear: God desired Mary to participate in her Son’s suffering to complete His plan, though Christ’s suffering alone was more than sufficient to make reparation for the sins of the world. The nominative noun is a metaphor for the shared anguish of the Son and the Mother which was required for the redemption to be perfect in the Divine order.
What Jesus, therefore, merited in strict justice, Mary merited by her maternal right and friendship with God. Unless the Mother would make temporal satisfaction for the world’s sins against God, the Son would not make eternal satisfaction. So that the hearts of many shall be revealed, a sword should pierce Mary’s soul – and not only the side of her deceased Son. Mary’s participation cannot be excluded. The truth of this revelation is emphasized by the juxta-positioning of the Son’s rejection and physical suffering and the Mother’s interior suffering in verses 34-35 of Luke’s gospel.
“She stood before the Cross and looked up full of pity
to the wounds of her Son, because she expected not the death
of her Son but the salvation of the world.”
De Institutione Virginis
(c. A.D. 392)
And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you,
though the more abundantly I love you,
the less I am loved.
2 Corinthians 12, 15
In His wisdom and justice, God chose Mary to associate her with His dispensation of grace for the salvation of souls in and through the merits of Christ. Our heavenly Father acted purely on His own initiative, which was then followed by Mary’s free act of faith working through love in collaboration with the Holy Spirit. In the Christian life, the merit of our good works done in grace is first attributed to the grace of God and only then to the faithful “whose good works proceed in Christ” by cooperation with divine grace (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2008). And since we are created in the image of God and have free will, we can either accept or reject God’s grace (Acts 7:51).
The application of the salvation formally gained for us by our Lord and Saviour by his merits more than sufficiently ultimately depends on how well we respond to His grace. Our salvation is conditional. And despite our having been forgiven and our collective guilt removed, temporal reparation is still required of us individually to completely satisfy God’s justice, and this often requires spiritual works of mercy done in charity and grace (Eph 2:8-10). His righteousness demands it. ‘He shall judge the world in equity, he shall judge the people in justice’ (Ps 9:8).
With the fall of Adam, mankind incurred eternal separation from the Beatific Vision of God. And in consequence of the fall, man needed a satisfaction to God for his sins of infinite value to be released from this eternal debt of sin. Of course, only God Himself could make such infinite satisfaction, which he did in the person of Jesus Christ, the Divine Word made man. Nevertheless, temporal satisfaction for sin is still required of us for the temporal remission of the debt of sin and the conferral of sanctifying or justifying grace. This finite satisfaction of ours has supernatural value and confers supernatural merit provided it is joined with Christ’s eternal satisfaction to the Father in and through his merits. Mary made this satisfaction on behalf of humanity when she united her interior suffering with the suffering of her divine Son in his Passion.
“Eve brought in sin by means of a tree; Mary,
on the contrary, brought in Good by means of
the tree of the Cross.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa
Sermon on the Nativity of Christ
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering
on the sacrifice and service of your faith,
I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
Philippians 2, 17
Sin is a transgression against the order of the Divine justice with which God rules the universe. He has arranged all things by measure. Thus, Christ had to counter-balance the eternal consequences of sin and restore the equality of justice between God and mankind. But our Lord had no intention of acting entirely alone (sola Christo). God willed with necessity that his blessed mother should counter-balance the temporal consequences of sin by uniting her suffering with his to restore the equality of friendship and justice between God and man. God required a just measure of satisfaction from her on behalf of humanity to restore equilibrium in His Divine order of creation.
The infinite satisfaction made by Christ made Mary’s finite satisfaction possible, since she had acted in union with him in charity and grace. When Adam sinned against God, he did not sin as an individual person, but as the natural head of an organic whole, viz., humanity. The human race is like a human body: Once the head falls of, all the lower members are destroyed with it. So, when Adam sinned against God and fell from the supernatural life of grace, the whole human race fell with him. We are all members of this single organic whole, and as such, we have all fallen from grace in Adam. And as members of this one organic whole, we have all inherited the penalties of Adam’s sin, suffering and death, inasmuch as we all have sinned (Rom 5:12).
In the order of grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the “neck” that joins us with our Head. She is the Second Eve and Dispensatrix of Grace who channels the grace that proceeds from Christ and flows to the members of his body. Through Mary’s maternal mediation, we receive the life of grace which our primordial mother Eve lost for all her offspring. Mary’s obedience and her being made perfect through suffering for the sake of appeasing an offended God in His grace counter-balanced and undid Eve’s rejection of God and disobedience in her fall from grace by an inordinate love of self in the pursuit of selfish gain. The Virgin Mary appeased the Divine justice by acting contrary to her natural maternal instinct, that is by joyfully offering her Son back to God in faith despite her sorrow for the salvation of the world. She “rejoiced” in God our savior in the depths of her pierced soul and wounded heart.
“The cross and nails of the Son were also those
of his Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother
was also crucified.”
Of Holy Virginity
(c. A.D. 401)
Wherefore I pray you not to faint
at my tribulations for you,
which is your glory.
Ephesians 3, 13
Mary’s divine vocation was much more than being a natural mother of Jesus. As a member of her Son’s Mystical Body, Mary was called to participate with her Son in his redemptive work, which required that she, too, suffer to repair the offense mankind committed against God and amend its broken relationship with Him. The suffering Mary endured drew its supernatural value from the suffering her Son had to endure in his passion. Only by suffering would Christ merit the grace of redemption for mankind. And since her Son suffered to provide this channel of grace, Mary’s suffering could also serve as an instrument of the dispensation of grace by being joined with her Son’s suffering, since it is originally a penalty for our sins. As Head of his Mystical Body, of which Mary was a member, Christ could suffer in his blessed mother. As one member of a body suffers, so too, the other members are affected.
It was by his own suffering as Head of his Mystical Body that our Lord merited redemptive grace for humanity. So, by suffering, Mary could also merit grace as a member of her Son’s Body and being joined with him. This grace that she merited for mankind was channelled to her from her divine Son. Her willingness to suffer had a supernatural effect for mankind, for she participated with her Son in his redemptive work as a member joined with the Head in one Mystical Body. St. Paul tells us:
‘As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special honor.’
1 Corinthians 12:20-23
Since ancient time, the Catholic Church has honoured Mary for her vital contribution in the dispensation of redemptive grace as a member of Christ’s Mystical Body. Presently, she is the neck that transmits all the signal graces from the Head to all the lower members of the body. As “the mother with (cum) the Redeemer,” the Blessed Virgin Mary is our co-Redemptrix. Being both Head and Body, Jesus desired his mother Mary, the most vital member, to collaborate with him, simply because he chose it to be this way in concurrence with the will of his heavenly Father. All members of his Mystical Body serve the Head in some capacity in the order of grace, each according to their spiritual gifts (See 1 Cor. 12). Mary’s gift is the Divine Maternity which belongs to the higher hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation. Her co-operation in and through the merits of her divine Son, by her pleasing love of God, immeasurably exceeds that of any of his apostles in the redemption. Our Blessed Lady is the spiritual mother of all Eve’s offspring in her co-redemptive participation with her Son – the new Adam. Jeremiah prophesies: “A woman shall compass a man” (Jer. 31:22).
“Oh, womb so holy that welcomed God,
womb in which the writ of sin was torn up.”
St. Basil of Seleucia
Homily 39 on the Annunciation
(ante A.D. 460)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect
and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1, 2-4
Mary co-operated in the principal act of Christ’s priesthood when she consented to the sacrifice of the Cross. She offered up her Son to God spiritually in her wounded love for Him as his loving mother. True, the priestly power effectively rested with Jesus, but the oblation and immolation of her Son which she acceptably offered in her motherly sorrow bestowed on her the character or spirit of the priesthood. Mary offered up her Son to God in conformity with his suffering, by the interior suffering of hers because of a mother’s love for her Son – the God-man. Spiritually, our sorrowful Mother was the first among the royal priesthood of believers to offer up the Eucharistic sacrifice to God in union with our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek and sacrificial victim.
Indeed, her presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple was a pre-presentation of her sacrificial offering for the expiation of sin on Calvary in union with her Son’s pre-presentation of his self-sacrifice on the Cross at the Last Supper. The fruit of Mary’s womb (her offering of peace and reconciliation) was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Jesus offered himself as the ultimate propitiation of sin, but he chose to do so in union with his blessed mother. Our Lord chose to be “made of a woman” so that she should have an active priestly role to perform as a member of his Mystical Body.
Thus, her sorrow for the God-Man (the most perfect and pleasing oblation offered up to God the Father for the sins of the world) temporally appeased God’s justice. It was under the shadow of the cross that Mary consecrated her firstborn and only Son to God when she presented the infant Jesus in the Temple in commemoration of Abraham’s consent to offer up Isaac as a fragrant oblation (Gen 22:1-19). Fittingly, it was on this occasion Simeon prophesied that a sword would also pierce her soul. The prophecy was fulfilled at the instant the soldier pierced Jesus’ side with his lance, drawing out blood and water, which represent justification and regeneration, symbolically marking the birth of the Church (Jn 19:34). This incident on Golgotha happened after Jesus had redefined Mary’s motherhood from the Cross and designated her Mother of the Church, just before he drank the fourth (hallel) Passover cup of the sacrificial wine of his wedding banquet on the Cross, which he deferred from drinking at the Last Supper, and gave up his spirit, having consummated the new nuptial covenant between God and redeemed humanity (Jn 19:26-30).
Through Mary we are redeemed
from the curse of the Devil.”
St. Modestus of Jerusalem
PG 86; 3287
(ante A.D. 630)
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God,
one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it,
you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure,
this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been
called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example,
so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2, 19-21
God willed that His Only-begotten Son be “made of a woman” rather than be formed out of the clay of the ground, as the first Adam had been at the time of creation, partly so that a woman could make temporal satisfaction to Him in view of Eve’s transgression. Mary had, in fact, vindicated the entire human race by her faith working through love. Together with the infinite satisfaction that the Son alone made in strict justice, since its value and dignity was derived from his divine Person, Mary offered for us a satisfaction of becomingness and friendship with God, whose value rested on her obedient act of faith and charity in God’s grace in and through Christ’s merits. The immeasurable love she had for her divine Son – the God-man – could only please God, without which the merits of our Lord’s sacrifice should not be formally applied to the human race in the Divine plan.
What our Lord and Saviour accomplished in his passion and death was more than sufficient and super-abundant, but his work would have lacked perfection and completeness without his blessed mother’s moral participation. Mary, on the other hand, would have lacked perfection and completeness in God’s grace if she had lost faith in God beneath the Cross. The collaboration between the Mother and her Son had to be faultless and lacking in nothing for God’s plan of salvation to be fulfilled.
“The Virgin after giving birth to her Son, was never separated from Him in
His activity, His dispositions, His will… When He suffered, not only was she everywhere present beside Him and even realized especially then His presence,
but she even suffered with Him.”
St. John the Geometer
The Life of Mary
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of
all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3, 8-11
In Catholic theology, Mary made a satisfaction de convenientia, whose value was derived from the dignity of her divine motherhood and the plenitudes of grace she was endowed with. Thus, her interior suffering made satisfaction to God on our behalf, since she suffered in proportion to her love for her crucified Son who was also God – a human love which was perfect in that it held supernatural value. As the Mother with the Redeemer, Mary was intimately united with him in his work of redemption by her perfect command of the will in conformity with the Divine will, her poverty of spirit, and suffering for the sake of God’s infinite love and goodness in emulation of her Son in his loving obedience to the Father. Both the Son and the Mother suffered to propitiate God the Father who was offended by sin and for humanity which was ravaged by sin. “God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The Mother and the Son also suffered in unity so that God’s antecedent will might be fulfilled, for “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16).
Moreover, Mary made a temporal satisfaction of becomingness on our behalf through her obedience to God’s will. The aim of making satisfaction to God is to repair an offence against God and make him favourable to us again. This can only be achieved by suffering pain or loss and being in the state of grace. Mary’s consent to be the mother of our Lord was a meritorious deed, since it was made in charity and grace. But what made it a means of satisfaction and temporal expiation was the suffering that would be involved. Her satisfaction was perfect, since it proceeded from a love and oblation which was more pleasing to God than the sin of Eve was displeasing to Him. It was made by a woman who was full of grace and with the Lord as His fellow worker in the vineyard (Lk 1:28; 1 Cor 3:9).
“Her toil is in her manifold birth-giving and in her distress of sighing. Hers are the pains as of ‘a woman in labour.’ Her loving care is for the holy children, whom she conceived by the Holy Spirit, for them the warmth of her love, for them her motherly concern and untold sorrow over the dangers and temptations which assail them.”
Adam of Perseign
(ante A.D. 1221)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you
to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But
rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice
and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4, 12-13
Hence, Mary’s interior suffering had the character of satisfaction in that like her divine Son and in union with him she suffered because of sin and the offence it offers to God. As the late Catholic theologian, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange tells us: “Her suffering was measured by her love of God whom sin offended, by her love of her Son who was crucified for our sins, and her love towards those who do sin.” God honoured her suffering in accord with her state of grace and the affinity which had existed between them. It was through Jesus that the inner thoughts of many might be revealed, but only if it involved the wounded love of his sorrowful mother because of sin. So that the inner thoughts of many might be revealed, a sword should pierce her heart.
Mary’s participation in her Son’s suffering was ordained by God. She had to stand before the Cross and feel the pangs of tremendous sorrow to vindicate Eve and her fallen offspring and make temporal restitution for the sins of the world together with her Son’s eternal expiation which undid the sin of Adam and opened the gates of Heaven. But for us to pass through these gates, we must willingly offer up our suffering to God for our sins and the sins of others to temporally make satisfaction for offending Him. Jesus did not temporally remove suffering and death by his passion and death in order to give these penalties for sin redemptive value by our sharing in his paschal work.
In this sense, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our co-Redemptrix, Reparatrix, and Advocatrix of grace. She shouldered the moral responsibility of humanity for its sins and temporally restored the equality of justice between God and His fallen created children by her act of reparation, which universally relieved mankind of the temporal debt of sin, forgiven by the merits of Christ through his passion and death on the Cross. Since God judges the world in equity, he shall judge the world in justice. Mary had to stand beneath the Cross and feel its full weight upon her on behalf of all Eve’s offspring, which was indebted to God for its sins, if her Son were to be crucified on the Cross for the dispensation of the grace of justification and forgiveness. As our co-Redemptrix, the Virgin Mary is indeed the spiritual mother of all the living, she who gave birth to redeemed humanity through the labour of her sorrow.
And so, God decreed with necessity that our sorrowful mother take up her cross together with her Son’s for mankind’s redemption. Mary helped reveal the glory of the Lord for all mankind by sharing in her Son’s suffering. This she did by making up for what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions in her sorrow and anguish through the Cross. Our Blessed Lady suffered the loss of her maternal right so that the world might gain Christ and be restored to the life of grace.
Mary’s endurance in suffering for the sake of God’s love and goodness, which had been violated against, was a gracious thing to God, and so He honoured her suffering and was propitiated by it insofar He could forget about mankind’s unworthiness to be forgiven because of her faith and love. Mary’s obedient act of faith counter-balanced mankind’s infidelity and disobedience, its cold-hearted indifference and hatred, thereby temporally restoring the equality of justice between God and man by her act of reparation. And temporally she made satisfaction for mankind’s sins by suffering because of them and for them, so that God may be fully appeased for the sin of both Adam and Eve.
Thus, by showing herself to be worthier than Eve, Mary made temporal satisfaction to God for our sins with a strong appeal to the Divine justice and mercy which her love and sorrow satisfied to completion. She, being a human creature, concretely represented the human race as worthy of being redeemed by the blood of the Cross in strict justice. Unlike the rest of humanity, Mary was not alienated from God, having never fallen from grace. So, for his mother’s sake more than for ours, Jesus delivered himself into the hands of ungrateful and unworthy sinners, through which act he designated her Mother of the Church and redeemed humanity because of her perseverance in faith together with him in his obedience to the will of the Father, despite all the suffering they should bear for the sins of the world.
As Eve prompted Adam to disobey God, so Mary encouraged her Son in his suffering humanity to fulfill the will of his heavenly Father by standing sorrowfully by his side and enduring suffering together with him so that the grace of redemption could be channelled to the world and mankind be reborn. Both the human wills of the Mother and the Son were aligned with the Divine will, albeit the suffering that was required of them to appease God who was greatly offended by the sins of humanity.
“She is a ship laden with priceless treasures,
which has brought heavenly riches to the poor.
The dead have received gifts from her,
who had carried life itself within her.”
Hymn to the Virgin Mary, 2
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman
clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet
and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant
and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
Revelation 12, 1-2