Father Peter Maria Fehlner sets the scene for a major conference next month
THE ANNOUNCEMENT of a symposium on Marian Coredemption
(to be held at Ratcliffe College, near Leicester, February 21-26) may come as a surprise to some.
Three years ago L'Osservatore Romano published the declaration of an
international mariological commission, advising caution in promoting the solemn dogmatic definition of this doctrine. This declaration was occasioned by a mass of petitions from all ranks of the faithful, asking the Holy Father for just such a definition. Many concluded — mistakenly
— that the title and the traditional theology attached to it had been relegated by Vatican II to the
dustbin of history.
Whatever the personal opinions of the redactors of this declaration, the document itself does not deny the truth of the
doctrine of Marian coredemption or the possibility of its solemn definition. Nor could it, for the doctrine has long since been acknowledged to be part of the deposit of faith. Whatever is part of
public revelation, eventually can be solemnly defined.
The declaration merely insists on the need for further study of and reflection on the ancient belief of the Church concerning the Mother of Sorrows on Calvary and her unique role in the redemptive sacrifice of Her Son and Saviour.
This is precisely what the symposium at Ratcliffe College proposes to do: stimulate understanding and appreciation of a privilege of Our Lady central to the belief and life of the Church and of all believers in the third millennium since the birth of the Redeemer just begun. The primary goal of the symposium is neither scholarly research nor theological debate, but a clarification of the doctrine of coredemption in the overall context of the divine salvific counsels and its implications for the Church.
Coredemption is a kind of theological shorthand, sanctioned by over five centuries of continuous usage in the Church — including that of the present successor of St Peter, Pope John Paul II. It refers to the unique role of the Mother of God in the work of Her Child, above all in the hour of His passion and death. Anyone familiar with the sequence Stabat Mater dolorosa (by the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi) sung so often in Masses for the deceased and during the Stations of the Cross, will easily recognise the ancient doctrine it connotes.
Is there a unique role of the Virgin Mother in the consummation of Her Son's life on the cross which parallels Her role at His Incarnation and birth and indeed completes Her maternal vocation? The doctrine of the coredemption replies in the affirmative. To use a happy phrase of the present Pope, the sacrifice of her maternal heart — recalled at every Mass fulfils Her role as Mother. Without the Mother no birth of the Saviour God, the Priest anointed by the Holy Spirit. Without the Mother no prayer that He work the great miracle of the hour of His passion whereby the trials of this vale of tears are changed into the wine of heavenly wedding feast. Without the transpiercing of Her soul in the hour of His passion no spiritual rebirth and nourishment unto life everlasting.
All this is prefigured in the account of the Saviour's infancy and private life: the circumcision, the presentation in the Temple, the flight into Egypt, the finding in the Temple after a loss of three days. In every instance a sacramental sign of the great redemptive sacrifice involves the presence and active participation of the Mother with the Saviour. No wonder She introduces Him to His hour at Cana and shares that hour as no other on Calvary and in the Eucharist.
FOR SIZE ALONE is preservatively redeemed, that is, immaculately conceived to be the one Mother of God. And for the same reason She and She alone can cooperate with Him in the accomplishment of our redemption. That work in its every moment is a joint work of Son and Mother. That God should be burn of a Woman, empty Himself to the point of becoming her little Babe, in no way detracts from His dignity as God. Similarly, that same concep
tion and birth in no way lessens but increases Her virginal sanctity. So, too, the active role of the Mother of the Priest in His redemptive work in no way detracts from or competes with what is distinctively His as priest.
Jesus himself clearly refers to this joint work of the new Adam and Eve, when at the beginning and end of His public ministry He addresses His Mother with the solemn tide of Woman. "Woman, what is this to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come" (Jn 2, 4). "Woman, behold thy Sun" (in 19,26). The sense becomes perfectly clear when we compare these texts to the great promiseprophecy of Gen 3,15: "I will put enmity between thee (the Serpent) and the Woman, between her seed and thy brood." Then compare these texts to the vision of the Woman with child and children in Ap 12.1. ff, and the pattern becomes perfectly clear in biblical tenns.
In the beginning the Creator God made man male and female, in order to prefigure the consummation of his creation in Christ and Mary. And just as the first woman Eve actively cooperated. indeed instigated the fall of Adam and in him all of us, so the new Eve, the Immaculate, actively cooperated, indeed precedes and instigates the work of the new Adam, her divine Son. We may conveniently designate her at this moment on Calvary as Core
demptress. And it is just this title which explains why our participation in the blessings of the redemption come via her maternal mediation, why the Saviour would consecrate us to her in the completion of His redemptive sacrifice. He was born of Her so that He might die on the cross. He died on the cross and rose so that we, too, might be born of her and share His divine life. She was compassionate with Him shared His passion as no other, experiencing His death without dying, says St. Bonaventure, so that She might beget us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
All this is centrally important to spiritual and cultural dimensions of human life. Appreciation of the redemptive work of Jesus, like appreciation for His divine person, is crucial to the resolution of the current crisis of faith and morals. The key to that appreciation is Marian. Christian theology, life, culture, civilization, spirituality and holiness is only such to the degree it is rendered Marian. Central to all this is the wisdom and mystery of the cross, especially today. That is why every effort to understand and appreciate the doctrine of the coredemption and spirituality of total consecration based on it is so important. For Marian coredemption is but the precise Marian character of the wisdom and mystery of the cross: a scandal to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, but to Jew and Greek alike who are called and believe the wisdom and power of God. (cf. I Cor. 23-24)
• A colour poster, information pack and booking form for the symposium are available by writing to "A Day With Mary", 11 Beechfield Road, London SE6 4NG. Or telephone 0181-690 5455 or fax 0181-690 8688. You can also visit the website www.marymediatrix.com and click on International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, or click to open the colour poster.