Mary as Co-Redemptrix
Our Lady has many titles. She is Mother of God, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Ark of the Covenant and Queen of Angels to name just a few. With May being her month, we shall begin this weekend by crowning her statue at each of the Masses because she is also Queen of Heaven and Earth. She has another title, “Co-Redemptrix” which originated in the fourteenth century, but she was always recognised as such in the early Church. This has been talked about a bit recently, so it seems a good opportunity to try and explain it.
JESUS Christ is the one Redeemer of the world and yet we call Mary Co-Redemptrix. The first thing to understand is that, ‘co’ means ‘with’. In other words she is Co-Redemptrix only when she is united with Christ. Our Lord, Who is God, redeemed us by suffering and dying on the Cross for our sins, but He shared the pain of His Passion with His Mother when she stood at the foot of the Cross. She participated in His pain by her compassion. And when Our Lord’s Heart was pierced with a lance by the Roman centurion, a sword of sorrow pierced Mary’s heart too, just as Simeon had foretold when the baby JESUS was presented in the Temple (Luke 2:35). Just as Our Lord in His Passion became “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3), Mary became “Our Lady of Sorrows”.
Our Lady is also Co-Redemptrix because she distributes the graces won by Christ. After all, what is on the Miraculous Medal? An image of Our Lady with Christ’s graces shining forth brilliantly from the rings on her fingers. All the fruits of the Redemption and all graces come to us through Mary – not from her but through her. It was through her that the Author of Grace Himself, Our Lord JESUS Christ came into this world. Then through her role which is secondary and totally dependent upon Christ, she is part of the actual work of salvation itself. How? Because she provided the actual material of Christ’s Body for the Redemption, His Flesh and Blood by which we are saved. Without Mary there would be no human Christ and therefore no Redemption. Hence she really is the Co-Redeemer. But this does not mean she saved herself. That would be impossible. As St Irenaeus (130-202 AD) put it, “by yielding obedience, [Mary] became cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race” (Adversus Haereses, III,22,4). This is the teaching of the Catholic Church. Let us always try and imitate Our Lady in offering up our sufferings for the salvation of souls.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC