The Lord Is With Thee

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“I AM WITH YOU and will watch over you wherever you go,
and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you
until I have done what I have promised you”
Genesis 28:15

And the angel being come in, said unto her:
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women.
Luke 1, 28
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In Catholic theology, merit is that property of a good work which entitles the doer to receive a reward from God for having done His will in cooperation with His grace. This is something God has ordained in His mercy; and since God is just, He won’t withhold a reward which may include an increase in faith and charity needed for our sanctification and justification. “The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God’s gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2026). “Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life” (CCC, 2027).

Justification includes not only the remission of sins and sanctification, but also the renewal of the person. Hence, by the fact that our good works in faith and charity originate from Divine grace, we can merit actual graces either for ourselves (condign merit) or others (congruous merit) by our prayers and acts of self-denial for the salvation of souls. When Mary gave her consent to be the mother of the divine Messiah, she didn’t simply seek the gift of the Divine Maternity for herself, which would have been selfish of her, but rather sought the fruit that should increase to humanity’s credit by the personal sacrifices she might have to make for the sake of mankind’s redemption (Phil 4:17).

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Theologically, condign merit designates the kind of goodness that is bestowed on a person because of their actions done in grace. It assumes an equity between service and return (commutative justice). It is reward for having accomplished good works in collaboration with the Holy Spirit, and a reward that the doer deserves for having freely consented to act in faith. If the reward due to condign merit is withheld, then there is injustice, for God has willed to obligate Himself to those who love Him (Deut.5:33; Prov.3:3-4; Amos 5:14; Mt.25:21; Lk.6:33,38; Rom.2:6 13:11; 1 Cor.2:9; 15:58; Col.3:23:34; Gal.6:9; Phil.3:14; Heb.11:6; Jas.1:12; 1 Pet.5:6). Condign merit contrasts with strict merit, which must do with some goodness that is owed by legal agreement or the equity of justice.

It is in the strict sense of justice Christ has merited for us the initial grace of justification and forgiveness which we receive when baptised (Eph 2:8-9). Only he could infinitely and eternally restore the equity of justice between God and ‘mankind’ because of his divine nature and being one with the Father in substance and essence (Jn 10:30). The most Mary could merit for herself (condign merit) and humanity (congruous merit), by freely cooperating with divine grace and doing good works under its influence, was a promised reward, viz., God’s gift of salvation. Now in heaven, where our Blessed Mother prayerfully intercedes for us, our rewards may include subsequent actual graces (i.e., faith, hope, and charity, etc.) needed for our growth in sanctification and justification (2 Cor.3:18; 4:16; 10:15; Col.3:10; Phil.2:13).

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It is important that we distinguish between the nature and extent of Jesus’ and Mary’s merits, which in the context of grace is properly called supernatural merit. First, there is a third kind of merit which belongs exclusively to our Lord and Saviour. This highest kind which is perfect and most worthy of a reward is called perfect condign merit: the act of charity of the Divine Person made man. Jesus’ act of love is at least equal in value to the reward, since it is the act of a Divine person. And even though Jesus did not merit the reward for himself, but for mankind, he could still condignly merit it in strict justice, since in his humanity he acted charitably as the new Head (Adam) of mankind in the fullness of grace which he possessed by divine nature (Jn 1:14), that we all might receive his grace through his merits as he was given it in his humanity.​

On the other hand, the human merit which applies to Mary with respect to her acts of charity and grace is congruous merit. She could perform her acts of love in a manner worthy of a supernatural reward for others. But this is not in the sense that it was proportionate to the reward, since her meritorious acts proceeded from the fullness of habitual grace with which she was completely and perfectly endowed by Divine favour and not from any natural merit of hers outside the order of grace (Lk 1:28;1 Pet 2:5, etc.).

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This lower kind of merit assigned to human creatures is founded on charity and friendship with God rather than on strict justice. What this implies is that Jesus chose to come into the world more for his righteous mother’s sake than for sinful mankind’s (the principle of predilection) when she meritoriously offered up her body as a living sacrifice by consenting to be the mother of our Divine Lord (Rom 12:1). Mary merited for us, by right of friendship with God, all that Jesus merited for us in strict justice. Though Mary could not merit anything for us de condigno, since she was not constituted head of humanity, she nonetheless could cooperate in our salvation by her congruous merits in God’s grace. None of us can merit condignly except for our own rewards.​

Mary’s meritorious act of faith in charity and grace conferred a right to a supernatural reward for mankind, even though she didn’t herself produce it. Christ’s perfect merits, by his substantial grace of union with the Father, have produced our temporal rewards of grace and our eternal reward of salvation. Still, by Mary’s Fiat, what her Divine Son has gained for humanity is now something we can all hope for and receive provided we persevere in faith just as our Blessed Lady did. Mary heard the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28). And so, she had cause to proclaim: “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour!” (Luke 1:47). She rejoiced in conceiving God who is salvation not only for Israel but also the entire world.

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Jesus teaches us in the Parable of the Talents that the amount of grace we have received, no matter how bountiful, is worthless like dead money unless we invest ourselves by spreading this grace to others through spiritual works of mercy and self-sacrifice. Our eternal rewards are commensurate with the amount of labour we put in for the conversion of sinners by our acts of charity and grace. Christians who bury their talents or gifts of the Holy Spirit in safe keeping out of servile fear of infringing upon the prerogatives of their Master are like the presumptuous servant who buried the one talent he received and was admonished for his retention (Matt 25:14-30). Paul rued that none of the other “fellow-workers with God” in the field could match Timothy’s zeal for saving souls. ‘For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 2:21).

The passive servant in our Lord’s parable, therefore, presumed that he was looking after his master’s interest by keeping his money safely tucked away, and all the while feared he had no right to use what originally didn’t belong to him. But, on the contrary, he would have better served his master’s interest if he had invested his single talent instead, so that it should increase to his merit. Certainly, it isn’t enough for Christians only to conform their minds to Christ’s way of thinking and to no longer live for the flesh and for the sinful passions, but for the will of God. What is also required of Christ’s disciples is that they use the graces they have received to serve others as good stewards of God’s grace (1 Pet 4:1-7).​

Jesus had no intention of sacrificing himself all alone for the conversion of sinners by the grace of redemption only he alone could produce for humanity. We invest the graces we have received by being “fellow workers with God” (1 Cor 3:9). Mary wouldn’t have increased in charity and sanctification or receive further plenitudes of grace if she were content only with having given birth to our Lord and Saviour. She was also called to suffer and die in union with him for the temporal remission of mankind’s debt of sin. A sword should pierce her soul that the grace of conversion would be produced and granted by her divine Son in the redemption. It wasn’t enough for Mary to be the natural mother of our Lord in his humanity to have cause to rejoice in God’s gift of salvation.

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The initial grace of justification and forgiveness, which Christ alone has merited for us as the God-man, marks the beginning of our journey in faith towards life ever-lasting (Eph 2:8-9). This has all been prepared for us by God from the beginning (Gen 3:15). Mary is the sign of humanity’s restoration to the life of grace because of her charitable act of faith (Isa 7:14). By her Fiat, our salvation is nearer than it was. Following our Blessed Lady’s example, she who precedes us in the order of grace, we mustn’t slumber, now that we do believe (Rom 13:11). Saving faith is an active faith. Our salvation is something that we must “work out in fear and trembling” because of our deficiencies of love for God and neighbour. Mary opened her heart to God, and for that she had found grace with Him (Lk 1:30) and helped gain the grace her Son had produced for all human souls by his life and death on the cross as his “fellow-worker”. The Incarnation wouldn’t have happened by default if Mary had been deficient in love of God and humanity. Nor could she have endured the road to Calvary together with her Son without the fire of the Holy Spirit’s love kindled in her heart.

Divine grace is a supernatural asset which we are expected to invest by collaborating with the Holy Spirit in the life of charity and grace for our increase in sanctification or justification. Grace is added to grace, as St. Paul puts it, by our bearing fruit (merit) through faith in God’s grace. The holding of our spiritual gifts of grace, beginning with faith working through love, is a co-operative enterprise between God and us. We must invest our share in what our Lord has contributed for our salvation in his humanity by his just merits, if we hope to reap the eternal benefits which he alone has produced for us. It isn’t enough for us to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior while passively doing nothing and leaving all the labor up to him as we sit idly by, if we hope to be saved.

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This being the case, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in the month of Nisan (Lk 1:27). Indeed, she had found favour with God because she was His handiwork of grace, created in her divine Son to do good works, which God had prepared for her to do (Eph 2:10). Faith through grace is the foundation of our justification before God, Yet, St. Peter tells us that we “as living stones are built up a spiritual house” on this foundation “to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). We are not justified by faith alone; the foundation is practically useless unless the house is erected on it.

Mary had faith in the words of the angel Gabriel. She believed in what he spoke of the incarnation and was the first human being to know about the Holy Trinity. Her Fiat marked the foundation of her new pilgrimage of faith, but she had to be constructed as a spiritual house upon this foundation if the grace of redemption were to be gained for all humanity by her Son. And this should require much spiritual sacrifice of her in union with her Son on behalf of all living souls. In the order of grace, Mary stands pre-eminent among the common priesthood of believers in Christ’s mystical Body. Because of her moral and physical participation in the redemption, we too have been offered and received this grace of divine adoption.

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Thus, Mary helped gain countless souls for her Lord by the singular gift that he had graced her with, viz., the Divine Maternity. By pronouncing her Fiat in charity and grace, she brought the living Font of all grace into the world for the salvation of souls as her Son’s chief steward of grace. And this entailed that she should sacrifice herself for the sake of God’s goodness and love and for poor sinners so that they might be reconciled to God. In the order of grace, Mary led the way for all Christ’s disciples to gain souls for him. And she did so by taking up her cross after her Son and carrying it with him in spirit along the Via Dolorosa.​

Our Lord’s handmaid didn’t presume to look after only her own interest, the blessed and joyous state of being the mother of the Lord and the moral responsibility of raising her divine Son. Rather, our Blessed Lady understood very well that, by her decision, she was called to collaborate with God in His redemptive work; she would have to make many great personal sacrifices in union with her Son for the welfare of human souls.

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Mary knew that her faith wasn’t something that she was expected to put into safe keeping for the benefit of her soul alone, but that God required her to spread the faith she had to others even at the cost of having to endure many trials in the spirit of the Christian martyrs who followed her (Rev 7:14). The Divine Maternity wasn’t the eternal reward that Mary sought, but rather eternal life with God. She believed that this reward could be obtained only by suffering and dying to self for the sake of spreading God’s word and helping to make His truth known to everyone, including the Gentiles.​

In the depths of her soul, Mary perceived what her divine Son would bring to light with the establishment of his heavenly kingdom: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken way” (Matt 25:29). Mary couldn’t condignly merit her maternal blessing or eternal life if she buried the talent she received in and through the merits of her divine Son by refusing to make sacrifices to God her spiritual worship and suffer for the sins of the world and the conversion of sinners.

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When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you,” she was perplexed by the meaning of the angel’s greeting, for she intuited that God must have sent His messenger to ask something very demanding of her for a divine purpose of tremendous proportion. After all, Mary must have been familiar with the Jewish traditions of God appearing to the patriarchs, judges, and prophets and calling them to engage in daunting tasks.

When God appeared to Jacob and ratified the covenant He had initially made with Abraham and now entrusted to his grandson, he said: “I AM WITH YOU and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen 28:15). Likewise, when God called Moses from the burning bush to lead His people from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, He said: “I WILL BE WITH YOU. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain” (Ex 3:12). Taking Moses’ place, Joshua was called by God to lead the Israelites into battle as to possess the land God promised them with these words: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I WILL BE WITH YOU; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Josh 1:5).

Further, when God placed David, a humble shepherd boy, on the throne as head of His everlasting kingdom in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, reminding David of His faithfulness to him, He said: “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I HAVE BEEN WITH YOU wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth…When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Sam 7:9,12). And, finally, when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet for the nations, He said: “Do not be afraid of them, for I AM WITH YOU and will rescue you” (Jer 1:8).​

Thus, the words “the Lord is with you” must have signalled to Mary that God was calling her to a great mission which could be as difficult and demanding as it was for the Hebrew heroes who went before her. Sensing her uneasiness, the angel Gabriel assured her not to fear, for she “had found grace with God” (Lk 1:30). The good news Mary received from the angel dispelled all her uneasiness (vv.31-33), but what she feared in her humility was whether she might not be up to the task. It wasn’t that she dreaded what she might have to suffer, or she didn’t trust God. So, when she pronounced her Fiat joyfully, she did affirm that God would be her “refuge” and “fortress” in whom she could “trust” (Ps 9:12), for God alone was her “help” and her “salvation”, in whom she had nothing to fear (Lk 1:46-49; Ps 27:1). In God alone was her soul at rest.

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Indeed, Mary was conversant with the bloody history of her people, and so, as she pondered on the words of the angel, the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem under the authority of Sennacherib could easily have come to mind in the words of the Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps 46:10). On this historic occasion, God is commanding the Israelites to quietly wait upon Him without fear or diffidence. There is no reason for the Jews to tremble before the invaders, for their vain idols are no match for YHWH who shall exalt over the heathen and their false gods.​

In the Psalm’s primary context, the command to “be still” is a call for warriors to stop fighting. The word ‘still’ is translated from the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” It connotes two people fighting until someone separates them and makes them drop their weapons. It is only after the fighting has stopped that those who have been fighting can acknowledge their dependence on God and need to trust in Him despite the seemingly hopeless odds against them.

Hence, Mary’s soul was at peace when the angel called her to engage with God in His work of salvation. God sent His messenger to Mary because He had an impact on her stillness. In her spiritual state, she saw that God was the only one she could trust: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. God would certainly exalt Himself over His enemies which were hers as well. All Mary could do, in the meantime, was surrender herself to God and trust in His plan, whatever trials and hardships she might have to endure together with her divine Son. Her greatest enemy must never be herself by losing her trust in God and relying on her own strength and personal resources. If she faithfully co-operated with God like her ancestors before her did, all should work for the greater good. We can be sure that our valiant Lady implicitly expressed these thoughts of hers in her Magnificat (Lk 1:50-55).
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A faithful saying:
for if we be dead with him,
we shall live also with him.
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.
2 Timothy 2, 11-12

Since Pentecost, the Catholic Church has infallibly taught that Christ alone redeemed the world by suffering and dying for its sins. It was he who liberated us “from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). In other words, to satisfy His justice, God willed that Jesus be made an object of His wrath by laying “the iniquity of us all” on him (Isa 53:6). Unless Jesus was “smitten by God and inflicted” for its transgressions, mankind couldn’t be reconciled to Him and delivered from the stain of original sin, the deprivation of the original justice and sanctity which Adam had forfeited for all his descendants. Nor could our own personal sins be forgiven, and our common guilt be removed unless Christ was “bruised for our offenses” (Isa 53:5).

Still, Jesus wasn’t punished for our sins, or else our personal sins would now be non-sequitur. But our Lord and Saviour did take the punishment we all deserve upon himself to propitiate the Father for our offenses against Him. This required that he suffer and die unjustly so that he could restore the equity of justice between God and man. And by doing so, he merited all the graces we need for our regeneration, as to be sanctified and reckoned as personally just before God in his likeness (2 Cor 5:21).

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About two millennia later, we still see that our Lord desired to work together with his blessed mother so that “everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1-4). The apostle Paul writes: ‘We then, as workers “together with” (sunergountos) him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain’ (2 Cor 6:1). And the apostle adds: ‘God “works for good with” (sunergei eis agathon) those who love Him’ (Rom 8:28). God desired to work for the good of all mankind with a young maiden by the name of Mary when he sent the angel Gabriel to her with His kind proposal (sunergei/ συνεργέω). And God prepared the mother of our Lord with a complete and perfect endowment of His grace so that she would be completely faithful and up to the task (Lk 1:28).

Mary would have received God’s grace in vain if she decided to bury her talent or gift of the Divine Maternity by being content only with giving birth to Jesus and nurturing him in his childhood. She was called to be a disciple and take up her cross after him. By having done this, she was further or truly (menoun/μενοῦνγε) blessed (Lk 11:28). Mary understood that her faith was an on-going process which required good works done in grace for the sanctification or justification of her soul to be saved. In the order of grace, our Blessed Mother has exemplified what we must do to inherit eternal life: acts of sacrificial love (Mt 19:16-22).

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Thus, God’s messenger greeted “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [her] to do” (Eph 2:10). This was all made possible in anticipation of her Son who, through his suffering and death, merited the grace of justification and forgiveness for her by no preceding natural merit of her own outside the system of grace (Eph 2:8-9). And since no soul can ever hope to enter Heaven without having to suffer and die to self, Mary’s Fiat carried with it all the suffering and personal sorrow she would have to endure by her moral participation in the Incarnation in temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world.

Our Blessed Lady didn’t receive the grace that was bestowed upon her in vain but invested it in the salvation of souls which required that she suffer in union with her Son’s suffering and anguish for the ungratefulness of sinners. Mary’s first trial of faith came so soon after Jesus was born, when she and her infant Son were forced to flee into Egypt because of King Herod’s decree (Mt 2:13-23). The shadow of the Cross descended on Mary in Bethlehem where her pilgrimage of faith enshrouded in obscurity began. The manger was the door she stepped through after it had been opened at the Annunciation. Her joy in giving birth to the Messiah had to be qualified by her sorrow in giving new birth to humanity (Rev 12:1-2).

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Mary’s association with her Son required that she too suffer and die to her maternal self. For the redemption to be completed, Mary had to willingly endure all the sorrow which only a loving mother could for her offspring. And to make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world, her love was the only means by which God’s justice could be fully appeased. Our Blessed Lady was called through the angel to make up for what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions in her own afflictions (Col 1:24).

Jesus would make both temporal and eternal satisfaction to the Father for mankind’s sins, but not without the temporal satisfaction his mother must make to repair man’s broken relationship with God. Mary satisfied God, for she suffered in filial love of God who was offended by sin, with a motherly love for her Son who suffered and died because of sin, and with the love our heavenly Father had had for all humanity which was ravaged by sin ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.

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The truth is, by gladly accepting our suffering in steadfast love of God in acknowledgement of our sins, our pain or loss becomes a fragrant offering to God and thereby a means of temporal satisfaction to Him for them. In fact, through suffering and dying to self, we may repair our broken relationship with God by restoring a measure of balance that was upset by the selfish pursuit of sinful gratification. God wills us to endure temporal punishments for our sins because His absolute justice and holiness demands it. “God rules the world in justice, and he judges the people with equity” (Ps 9:8).

Human suffering is a temporal consequence of original sin, but Jesus has conferred redemptive value on this penalty for sin by his passion as the new Head or second Adam of humanity. We the members of his Body must follow our Lord and Saviour on the path that leads to Calvary if we hope to enter heaven by being cleansed of all remnants of sin and remitting our entire temporal debt of sin.

In and through Christ’s merits, our suffering has redemptive value provided we offer it to God in union with our Lord and Saviour for our sins with humble and contrite hearts over and against our natural desires which often result in the commission of sins. Mary helped make temporal reparation for the sins of the world possible by leading the way in the order of grace. The Lord was with his blessed mother when the angel greeted her because she was already willing to endure any cross God might present her with as a sin offering for others.

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It was by means of suffering “that man should not perish but have eternal life.” By Christ’s death on the cross, spiritual death has been conquered and the second death is no longer an irrevocable prospect facing mankind. Suffering and death are in themselves evil in character, but our Lord and Saviour has made them a basis of something good. Suffering involves pain and loss because of sin, but when offered to God in union with Christ’s suffering and death, it can serve to reconcile us to God. Whenever we suffer or face death, we can give back to God that which we denied Him, viz., our love for the sake of His love and goodness. Those who have truly acknowledged their guilt before God and are contrite in spirit, accept their suffering and death to this world which temporally appease the Divine justice and renders the eternal satisfaction Christ has made for them personally applicable (Dan 12:10; Sirach 2:5; Zach 13:8-9; 1 Cor 3:15-17; Jude 1:23, etc.).

The Virgin Mary was sinless from the time God created her and endowed her with a fullness of sanctifying grace, but she could congruously merit for us temporal satisfaction to God for our sins because she accepted her pain and loss and offered her sorrow to God for them on our behalf. In our stead, she was sorry for the sins that had offended God and willing to make reparation for them because of her love of God who was grieved by our sins. God was pleased with her spiritual sacrifice and accepted it as a sweet oblation which was sufficient to temporally restore the equity of justice between Him and mankind in union with Christ’s temporal satisfaction in his humanity. Being the new Eve and helpmate of the new Adam, Mary is our co-Redemptrix: “Mother with (cum) the Redeemer,” having merited the grace of redemption, not in co-ordination with her Son’s just merits but in co-operation with them.

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Sin and death no longer have absolute power over us because of Christ’s work on the cross, and so we must now take up our own cross together with him if we hope to be saved (Matt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). The faith that we must have to be saved is a repentant faith that involves doing penance by willingly making personal sacrifices and suffering for God because of our sins and those of others. We owe God so much for our offenses against His love and goodness. Jesus did not suffer and die for us so that we should no longer owe God what He rightly deserves from us and receives by our acts of self-denial – our “spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1-2).

Mary’s painful walk along the Via Dolorosa to the top of Calvary was her greatest act of worship to God. By having to sorrowfully watch her beloved Son suffer and die a cruel and shameful death, she offered up the greatest sacrifice to God any mother could have. Her Son’s suffering and death proved to be the heaviest cross she would ever have to carry so that everyone might be saved. Our Blessed Lady was chosen to be the mother of our Lord so that a sword should pierce her soul to temporally appease the Divine justice and open the gates for the formal application of her Son’s work of salvation. What Mary’s Son victoriously achieved by his passion and death was instrumentally applied to his most Blessed Mother because of her faith working through love which required suffering and dying to self.

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We must emulate Mary, if we hope to have Christ’s merits instrumentally applied to us, since she emulated her Son and shared in his paschal sacrifice of himself for the expiation of sin. Our Lady of Sorrows suffered and died with Jesus on Calvary that we, too, might be saved through the many trials we may face in our lives. Our Lady of Fatima told the three shepherd children as a reminder to us all that no soul can enter heaven without having first suffered.​

The women and the beloved Disciple who were with Mary also suffered much anguish because of their love for Jesus, but with a love that paled in comparison with the perfect and unconditional love of a mother for her offspring. Our Blessed Mother had offered a sweet oblation that completely satisfied God and appeased Him for the sins that grieved Him: the blessed fruit of her womb. Thus, the temporal satisfaction she made for the remission of mankind’s temporal debt of sin was unsurpassed. In the order of grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our Mother of Mercy. And because of her impeccable perseverance in faith and moral courage in collaboration with God in His saving work, she is rightly the Queen of Apostles.

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St. Paul teaches us that we all have an active share in the work of redemption through suffering (subjective redemption). His teachings, together with those of St. Peter, provided hope and fortitude for the early Christians who were barbarously persecuted by the Romans. The apostle assured his listeners that what they might suffer because of Christ’s name was all for a greater good. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor 1:5). The “comfort” he is referring to is the share in Christ’s glory which can only be attained through suffering as our Lord suffered for the sake of God’s goodness and love in a humble spirit of self-sacrifice (objective redemption) – that is for the remission of the temporal debt of sin in union with our Lord’s eternal expiation.

Just as the apostle bore his tribulations in and through Christ together with all the faithful who had to suffer from persecutions for their “praise, honour, and glory”, so too was Mary called to endure the sorrow she had to face at the foot of the Cross to complete what only her Son could have gained for the world all alone if he had chosen. Her participation in her Son’s suffering was a spiritual service to mankind no less than the persecutions the apostles had to suffer in Christ’s name and for the sake of his gospel were. Yet our Blessed Lady’s collaboration with her Son was of immeasurably greater import, for it belonged to the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation. Her spiritual work of mercy extended beyond ecclesial communities and embraced all humanity.

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And so it was that God ordained the world’s redemption should require Mary standing before the Cross and take it up herself by having to suffer interior anguish because of her love of God and hatred of sin. Temporally, she restored the equity of justice between God and mankind by collaborating with God in her sorrow in union with her Son’s afflictions. Mary’s sacrifice for sin in praise and thanksgiving was made on humanity’s behalf by restoring moral equilibrium between God and man, since her sacrifice was made in humbleness of heart and in a broken spirit of humanity.

Our sorrowful Lady completed an act of contrition on behalf of us all while valiantly standing erect against the powers of darkness on Golgotha. Mary is the Queen of Virgins whose lamp never dimmed and became extinguished (Mt 25:1-13). The sanctifying light of faith that radiated her soul strengthened her to overcome and defeat the dark spiritual forces that be. And so, Mary’s final perseverance in grace helped deliver humanity from the snares of death and restore it to new life with God.

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The temporal remission of our debt to God because of sin which Mary gained for us beneath the Cross completed the eternal debt paid for us by her divine Son on the Cross. If the temporal atonement for sin Jesus made for mankind was all that was required, albeit its all-sufficiency, Mary’s suffering couldn’t have had any redemptive value. Her role as a mother and how she felt at the cross would have been strictly natural and moral in character with no supernatural and saving merit. In that case, our Lord wouldn’t have needed a mother at all to become man. The dust of the earth could have served sufficiently for the creation of the new Adam (Gen 2:7).

Yet God willed that the Son should have a helpmate like the first Adam had, only she would be at enmity with the serpent and undo Eve’s transgression by crushing the head of the Serpent with her “immaculate foot” (Gen 2:18; 3:15). Mary was chosen to repair all the minor incidents that led to Adam’s catastrophic fall from grace. The super abundance of God’s plan to redeem mankind wouldn’t have been perfect and complete without her moral participation. The Serpent’s head couldn’t have been crushed if his victory over the Woman and Adam’s helpmate had remained unresolved and he could forever gloat over it in his pride against God. The woman herself, too, would then remain interminably at enmity with the Serpent with no final resolution ever having been reached in Eve’s transgression. She did, after all, greatly contribute to the fall of her husband Adam as his unfaithful bride.

So, it had to take God’s faithful virgin bride to untie the sinful knot which Eve had made (Lk 1:35). The new Adam chose to justify mankind with the new Eve’s vindication of the woman. Eve stood before the tree which bore the forbidden fruit, and then something terrible happened to our spiritual detriment; the new Eve stood before the tree which bore the fruit of her womb so that where sin abounded, grace would abound even more to our spiritual benefit (Rom 5:20).

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Mary is the proto-type of the Church, for she was a woman of faith which was tried and proved to be as genuine as gold through suffering. When she stood beneath the Cross in sorrow by having to gaze upon her Son, who was “wounded for our transgressions”, she looked to him and tried to be like him: meek and humble of heart. Only then could our Blessed Mother have the fortitude and moral courage to take up her cross together with Jesus so that the Church should be born and comprised of redeemed humanity.

By being made of a woman, Jesus offered himself to the Father for the eternal expiation of sin, but his mother was called to suffer with him to cover its temporal debt on behalf of mankind. God forgave David his mortal sins of murder and adultery, but He still took David’s child from him because of his sins (2 Sam 2:14). This was done to restore an equity of justice between them. David still owed God something in return for having taken something from Him, viz., His sovereign dignity, although his sins were forgiven. Our Blessed mother restored what sinful humanity had taken from God through pride and selfishness by suffering for our sake.

Even though Jesus atoned for mankind’s sins more than sufficiently, suffering and death remained. This was because temporally mankind was still indebted to God for all its sins (past-present-future) which required that reparation be made for the remittance of its temporal debts. The purpose of satisfaction is to repair the offense given 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 or one must suffer loss.

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Hence, in all righteousness and wisdom, God chose a morally courageous woman who would serenely and happily accept all the sorrows that should come her way so that He would be appeased in His justice. The Son should not have to redeem the world all alone with no moral responsibility on man’s part for his sins (sola Christo). And so that this woman should satisfactorily make reparation for the world’s sins temporally together with the Son’s eternal expiation, she had to be a spotless ewe, a woman worthiest to be associated with the holy Lamb of God as his helpmate and the anti-type of Eve, our co-Peccatrix: “woman with the sinner.​”

The Blessed Virgin Mary was completely dead to this world and wasn’t the least bit anxious over anything we might naturally be obsessed with, such as honours, personal profits, and vain pleasures. Since the time Mary was of moral age and centred her life on the Torah, she was ever-mindful of the things of God and not the things of man. Living her life in a manner pleasing to God was always first and foremost on her mind. The glory of God was always the primary objective of whatever she did (1 Cor 10:31). Thus, since earliest time, Christians have hailed Mary as the new Eve or spiritual “mother of all the living” who comprise redeemed humanity restored to the life of grace and the preternatural gifts of the Holy Spirit (Jn 19:26-27). It was from the Cross that our Lord gave her as mother to us, since she gave birth to us by the Cross after having conceived and borne her Son and our brother in its shadow.

“Adam had to be recapitulated in Christ, so that death might be swallowed up in immortality, and Eve in Mary, so that the Virgin, having become another virgin’s advocate, might destroy and abolish one virgin’s disobedience by the obedience of another virgin.”
St. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 33
(AD 190)
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Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,
says the Lord.
Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.
Isaiah 54, 1-3
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Salve Regina!

 

And Thy Own Soul a Sword Shall Pierce

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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
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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).

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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).

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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.

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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. Partaking of the divine nature as God’s adoptive daughter was not enough for her.

“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.”
St. Irenaeus
The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 33
(A.D. 190)
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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.”
St. Ambrose
De Institutione Virginis
(c. A.D. 392)
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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
(A.D. 395)
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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.”
St. Augustine
Of Holy Virginity
(c. A.D. 401)
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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)
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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)
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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
(A.D. 989)
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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
Sermo 5
(ante A.D. 1221)
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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 who were indebted to God for their 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.

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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.

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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.”
St. Epiphanius
Hymn to the Virgin Mary, 2
(A.D. 370)
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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
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Salve Regina!