Meditaions for Day Three of the PilgrimageBy: Michael J. Matt | Editor
By Original Sin, man imposed on God the violence of a divorce. He proclaimed himself to be self-sufficient and pretended to become his own God. In so doing, man cut himself off from his beginning and his end, and denied his own self. For what is a creature without its creator? What is man, separated from God? A world without God is always a world against man. After the Original Sin, our first parents did not have to wait long to see their sin rebound upon them. The world, which had been subject to them, became hostile: nature became difficult to domesticate; their own powers were shaken, their flesh seeking to dominate their spirit; relationships between men were changed, with the original domestic harmony lost and Adam and Eve’s children quarrelling to the point where Cain murdered Abel… The Old Testament shows the sad state of humanity under the reign of sin, a state of nature deposed, just as we experience it if we live a life cut off from the grace of God.
Far from reconciling Himself to this rupture, God, from the very beginning, conceived a plan of salvation for men. Man, of course was completely incapable by his own efforts of crossing the pit of sin in order to regain the divine friendship. God’s dignity is infinite, so the gravity of the offence against Him was likewise infinite. That meant that it was impossible for man to accomplish a reparation that would truly make satisfaction for his sin. His capacity for reparation was limited by his status as a creature. Even the best, the most heroic, human actions are limited, contingent; and they can only offer a finite response to the infinite disorder of sin. As St Thomas Aquinas affirms: ‘The satisfaction offered by a mere man cannot be sufficient, because all human nature was damaged by sin, and the good works of one person, or even several, could not compensate in an equivalent fashion for the damage wrought to the natural state of all men. Moreover, the sin committed against God acquires a certain infinity, because of the infinite divine majesty; for the gravity of an offense relates directly to the importance of the person offended.’
God’s plan of salvation is revealed from the start, proclaimed by the book of Genesis immediately after the account of the Fall; the promise of a saviour who is to be born of a woman and who will conquer Satan. The redemptive incarnation of the Son of God made man, born of the Virgin Mary is the fulfilment of that promise. St John’s Gospel proclaims that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that all men who believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.’ Christ entered the world to be that Saviour for whom generations had longed. He fulfilled the prophecies which had been made of Him in the Old Testament: Jesus is the awaited Messiah, whom St John the Baptist hailed as the Lamb of God, who had come to take away the Sin of the World. In this way, he recognised Jesus as the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah in his description of an innocent and spotless lamb, offered in sacrifice: ‘the punishment, the price of our peace, has fallen upon him, and by his bruises we have been healed.’
The New Testament demonstrates that the goal of the Incarnation, its profound purpose, is our redemption: ‘ The Son of Man is come to find and to save that which was lost,’ as St Luke’s Gospel proclaims; ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners,’ as St Paul put it in his first letter to Timothy.
St Augustine addresses the question of whether God could have saved us by any other means than the sacrifice of His Son: ‘God, to whose power all things are equally subject, had the possibility of using another means, but there was none so fitting for our misery and our healing.’
By offering Himself in Sacrifice, Christ has effectively shown the depths of His love for us. ‘Nothing was more important for the re-kindling of hope in us than showing us how much God loves us,’ St Augustine says. As Christ Himself said: ‘There is no greater love than to give your life for the one you love.’ From the height of the Cross, Jesus draws all men to Him. St Thomas Aquinas explains that ‘our charity is revealed at its maximum in this mystery,’ and he cites St Augustine: ‘If we have delayed in coming to love Him, let us not now delay in returning love for His love.’
The sacrifice of Christ is the perfect oblation which corrects the disorder of sin and re-establishes man in the divine friendship. The satisfaction brought by Christ in the offering of His sacrifice on the Cross is perfect because, on the one hand, He is truly man: Christ suffers in His humanity and offers Himself as a victim in the place of all us poor sinners; and on the other hand because He is truly God, this satisfaction has an infinite value; it has the power to make reparation for all the sins of man. Clearly, this is not a sacrifice limited by the status of being a created being, as any sacrifice we could offer would be. Rather, it is an oblation offered by the Son of God, endowed with the divine dignity of the One who offers it: Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
The power of the sacrifice of Christ is so great that its fruits can be applied to the souls of all men, in all places and in all times. That means that the just who were born before Christ entered this world are not saved by some other sacrifice, but are pulled up from Hell by Christ who opens the door of Heaven. Likewise, for us, who were born after Christ accomplished His sacrifice, His saving virtue flashes back on our souls, which are washed of their sins in the blood of Christ. Baptism plunges us into the bath of regeneration in the Passion of Christ, so that we are sanctified, and accomplish our Easter in Him: that is to say, our passage from death to life. Dead to sin, we are born into new life as children of God, destined for life in Heaven. The Sanctifying Grace that we receive at our Baptism is the germ of eternal life which prepares us for the glorious life in Heaven. This germ has a vocation to grow; grace taking root in our soul, increasing as our supernatural life grows. The sacraments, which are all founded on the Passion of Christ, have a decisive role here, as they increase sanctifying grace in our souls, assuring our growth in Christ, until we attain that sanctity which is God’s desire for us. Moreover, each of them has its own sacramental grace, which is proper to it.
Baptism, for example, causes us to be reborn as children of God. Confirmation ensures our growth, so that we may become adults, and making us capable, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to witness to our Faith, even to the extent of martyrdom.
Should we lose the divine friendship by committing a mortal sin, the sacrament of penance applies the fruits of Christ’s sacrifice to our soul, so as to heal us and restore us to the State of Grace. The sacrament of penance also washes away all our venial sins, and endows us with the specific graces necessary for spiritual combat.
The sacrament of the Eucharist is the substantial food that nourishes our soul and stops it from growing weak just as normal food is necessary to sustain our body. It is the way-bread, the food of pilgrims who pass through this world with their eyes fixed on their heavenly home.
The sacrament of Matrimony sanctifies human marriages, so that they may be filled with the presence of Christ, just as the marriage at Cana was. In this sacrament, a man and a woman are united indissolubly, and obtain the graces they need to fulfil their duties as spouses and as parents.
Extreme Unction, which is also called the sacrament of the sick, gives our soul the necessary support when we are so ill that we are near to death. This sacrament prepares us to die well, and may also, if such be the Divine Will, restore us to health, so that we may resume our pilgrimage here below for as long as God wants us to do so.
Finally, the sacrament of Holy Orders obtains for the Church bishops and priests who are called to act in Persona Christi (in the person of Christ) for the sanctification of the Christian people. Pope Pius XII explained this noble reality of the priesthood: ‘It is the same Priest, Jesus Christ, whose role the minister truly shares. If in truth the priest is assimilated into the Sovereign Priest, on account of his sacerdotal ordination, he thereby has the ability to act in the power of Christ Himself, whom he represents.’ St Thomas Aquinas makes it clear: ‘Christ is the source of all priesthood; since the priest of the Old Law is a figure of Christ and the priest of the New acts in the person of Christ.’
In particular, priests offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the unbloody renewal of the Sacrament of the Cross on the Altar. It is the heart and the summit of their priesthood. In doing this, they are obeying the command given by Christ to His Apostles: ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Do this: it is not just a matter of remembering, but of accomplishing in the person of Christ, the same actions and words which on that Thursday evening Christ used in celebrating the first Mass. It is a matter of offering the bread and wine changed into His Body and Blood for the remission of sins. This change is called Transubstantiation, to signify that it is the entire substance of the bread which is changed into His Body, and the entire substance of the wine which is changed into His Blood.*
(*Translator’s note: of course, each of the bread and the wine is entirely changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Blessed Lord – as is stated below)
Nothing remains of the bread and the wine, except their external appearances, which we observe via our senses. We call these the ‘accidents’ of bread and wine, to distinguish them from the substance that has given way to the Body and Blood of Christ. To describe this presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Church uses the term Real Presence, so as to be quite clear that we are not talking of some symbolic presence, but of the presence of the Person of Christ, living and complete in the sacrament.
The Real Presence distinguishes the Eucharist from all of the other sacraments, for while they all obtain grace for us, only the Eucharist gives our souls the author of that grace, Our Lord Jesus Christ. That treasure is won for us by the celebration of the Mass, which was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ on the evening of Maundy Thursday, so as to make His sacrifice present to the end of time, and to give us the Bread of Life, the Real Presence of Our Lord among us, and the food of our souls.
The Mass allows each one of us to enter into a personal and immediate contact with the redeeming sacrifice, the source of our salvation.
The double consecration of the Body and the Blood manifests that Christ died on the Cross, immolated for our sins: His Body and His Blood were separated, for He poured out the very last drop of His Blood. One sole consecration would have sufficed to obtain the Real Presence of Our Lord, since Jesus is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in each of the consecrated species. Nonetheless, there is a double consecration at every Mass, first the bread, and then the wine, so as to make clear in a mystical fashion the separation of the Body and the Blood which happened on the Cross: the immolation of Christ who died for our sins.
However, the Mass is not absolutely identical to Calvary. Yes, it is the same victim who is offered – Christ – and it is the same priest who offers it – Jesus Christ through the actions of the minister who is acting in His Person; but the manner of offering the Sacrifice differs: the Sacrifice of Calvary was bloody, and the Sacrifice of the Mass is unbloody. Christ does not suffer and die in the Mass: that is Catholic doctrine as affirmed by the Council of Trent. ‘In the divine sacrifice which is accomplished in the Mass, this same Christ who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross, is present and offers Himself in an unbloody fashion.’
In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is living, in that glorified state which is His since the Resurrection. It is precisely because Jesus is living in the Eucharist that this sacrament is life-giving to our souls, and makes the life of Christ live in us, so that whoever receives Holy Communion can say, with St Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in me.’
Meditation no 9: At the foot of the Cross stood Mary, His Mother
Introduction: The Gospel affirms the presence of Mary at Calvary
Jesus, seeing His mother, and the disciple whom He loved, said to His Mother: ‘Woman, behold your Son.’ Then He said to the disciple: “Behold your mother.’ And from that day, the disciple took her into his home. (John 19, 26)
1 ‘At the foot of the Cross’ The Co-Redemption is the real meaning of Mary’s presence at the sacrifice of her Son.
Objection: Mary, like all mankind, is saved by Christ: therefore she cannot save with Him.
For example: The eye cannot see itself.
Answer: Mary is saved by Christ.
Mary is saved by Christ, she needs the Cross in order to be at friendship with God, definitely. But this salvation is applied to the Blessed Virgin in a different way to us. We are saved by being cured (grace makes us well again), while Mary is saved by being preserved from sin (grace preserves her).
Example: She does not attain health by medicine; she is in good health from the very start.
Explanation: Salvation takes place in two ways.
There is nonetheless a relationship between the two ways of being saved. Christ wanted first of all to redeem Mary (she is the first to be saved) and then, with her, involving her in His activity, he allows her to participate in His saving work.
Example: A mountain guide sets out to find some walkers, lost in a storm. On setting out, he meets someone who is not lost but is waiting for him. He takes that person with him to help him find the others. It is still the guide who is the only person who can save them: it is he who knows the path and leads them back to it, but both of them are involved in accompanying the lost walkers back to the safety of the house.
Even though Salvation is One Work
Redemption, salvation, is one act of Christ, the Saviour of all mankind; that is the salvation of Mary and of all of the rest of us. At the foot of the Cross, Mary is not saving herself, nor is she creating an alternative redemption. Her salvation comes from Christ. But in assisting Him, she also gains merit, alongside him, for all of the rest of us.
In our Christian life, the first grace is always a gift, freely given and unmerited. However, all the others will be given to us if we love God, freely, willingly and with all our human strength. So we become co-operators of grace in ourselves, we work out our own salvation. For Mary, it is the same thing but on a larger scale. The first grace, completely freely-given, was the Immaculate Conception. Then by her own efforts, she united herself to that grace, so as to become a co-operator in the salvation of all. That is the Co-Redemption.
Important precision: it is not the same grace of salvation merited by Christ and by Mary.
The grace which Mary merits for us at the foot of the Cross is not like the grace that Christ merits. Jesus is, in fact, the Head of all humanity, and He is God; the grace which He obtains is absolutely not for Him: He has no need of it. When Jesus forgives from the Cross, opens heaven to the good thief, calls souls to His love, that is a gift of mercy. Whereas the grace merited by Mary is a call to mercy: not the magnificent gift of the Head. But it is the humble present of the handmaid, who takes what she has to give from the Head, and benefits from it herself.
The moon reflects the light of the sun: it is from the sun that the moon takes its light.
Conclusion of this section
In brief, the Co-Redemption does not obscure the Redemption: it is its brightest reflection. It shows how God’s goodness is so great that He wishes others to give alongside Him. It is not enough for Him to be a generous Father, He wants others to open their hands to distribute His blessings with Him.
God is also calling us to that greatest of all goods: the salvation of all. Let us seek out in our own lives those places where the Cross is to be found, where His love is awaiting us, to transform suffering into growth, poverty into treasure, death into life, and earth into Heaven.
2 Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your Mother: the meaning of the Co-Redemption is found in the divine maternity of Mary.
Now that we have accepted the reality of this Co-Redemption, there is another objection to answer.
Objection: Mary distributes graces, but she does not acquire them
Mary may well apply the graces she receives by assisting at the Cross, but she is nothing more than the distributor, never the cause. She plays a role in the dispensation of graces (the subjective redemption which considers what each person receives) but she has no power to acquire that grace (the objective redemption, which is the work accomplished by Christ).
Answer: God does not only wish to give goodness, but also to give the capacity to do good.
God does not just seem generous. He truly is. He gives us all good things, but as we have already said, He also gives us the capacity to do good things ourselves.
That means that He calls us to work towards our salvation, just as He commanded man to make the earth fruitful by his work. As St Augustine put it, God created you without your co-operation, but He will not save you without your co-operation.
Mary is truly a cause in the Redemption, just as she is in the Incarnation.
In the case of Mary, as well as her eminent place in the order of grace exemplified by the Immaculate Conception, it is in the light of her divine Maternity that we understand her role in the accomplishment of Salvation.
Her Maternity accompanies Christ from His conception to the end, because it is a divine maternity
In fact, there is a greater love still: to give one’s life for the person one loves. This self sacrifice is what Christ accomplishes perfectly on the Cross; and the martyrs have copied Him; apostles, bishops, priests having given their lives for the sheep entrusted to them. How, then, could one even imagine that the most perfect of saints, the Blessed Virgin, should not have this crown of the supreme offering? How could one doubt that it is at the foot of the Cross that she accomplishes it?
And there is more: because she is the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church, giving human life to the Son of God, and bringing divine life to the Church, how could we hesitate to believe that her maternity is fulfilled in this Co-Redemption, where her Son Jesus becomes, by His Passion, the first-born of a multitude of brothers?
Comparison with St Theresa
St Theresa of the Child Jesus, enfolded in the hidden life of Carmel, felt called to a significant action, a true work of help for the missionaries. Was that the simple idealism of a young religious? No: the Church has in fact authenticated that mission of St Theresa’s declaring her the patron saint of the Missions. In the same way, we can understand that Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of Salvation, that is Jesus, is truly she who gives eternal life, who gives salvation, just as she gave earthly life to Christ.
We find in the Scriptures a parallel between two expressions used by Christ and Mary. First, when she accepts the Angel Gabriel’s message, Mary says: ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word.’ Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
And in the Agony in the Garden of Olives, Jesus says, ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass by me. However, not my will, but thy will be done.’ Pater, si fieri potest, transeat a me calix iste, verumtamen non mea voluntas, sed tua fiat.
The two phrases are similar, and both reflect the same spritual attitude: submission to the will of God, the desire to place oneself entirely at the service of His plan of love and salvation.
Let us ask Mary, the Co-Redemptrix, to help us to direct our hearts towards God so that we may be ready to do His will.
New Objection: Nothing can be added to the work of Christ.
But then, what is she adding to the salvation achieved by Jesus?
Answer: The work of Christ is perfect and achieved; nonetheless, Mary co-operated with it.
Mary adds nothing to the Redemption; or at least, nothing substantial, nothing extra… but perhaps a quality, an ambiance: that of a sympathetic humanity. Clearly, Jesus could not sympathise with Himself: He was the one suffering, hurting. So one dimension of human suffering was borne by Mary at the foot of the Cross: suffering the hurt of those whom we love.
Also, Mary was accomplishing at Calvary the mystery of the new Eve, showing how Christ is the new Adam, the definitive and perfect head of humanity. Beside Him is a woman, of the same flesh, and who, paradoxically, has taken her supernatural life from Him (whilst it is she who gave Him His natural life). In that way, Mary shows us a woman, faithful, strong and sensitive, who is that half of humanity, who is associated with the unique Saviour, with the head of the redeemed, with the perfect, though not solitary, man who is the First Born of God and of the elect of the earth.
The disciple took her into his home: the fulfilment of the Co-Redemption is the Church.
The Gospel passage we quoted ends with St John’s welcoming of Mary into his home. Here we touch on the final aspect of the Co-Redemption: its ecclesial dimension.
Question: How far does the Co-Redemption extend?
Answer: Over all the Church, and more precisely over all those who are saved.
In its declaration Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council reminded us: ‘This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix.’
Illustration: unbelievers protected or converted at the moment of their death by Mary.
There are many stories of astonishing conversions, or sinners repenting at the moment of their death, due to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. That should not surprise us: just as Christ is the Saviour of all, so Mary is the Co-Redeemer of all.
The Church is the privileged place of Salvation, because Mary is at the heart of the Church.
All the same, Mary’s mediation, like Christ’s action, takes place within and through the Church: Mary, of course, was entrusted to one of the apostles, St John, a priest and faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
This welcoming of Mary into the Church also shows us that it is Mary who is at the heart of the Church to build it up and strengthen it. St Luke, before telling us about Pentecost, explicitly states that: “all of them, with one heart, persevered in prayer, with the women, and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.’ (Acts 1, 14)
Persevere in prayer: in this time of Pentecost, we have an invitation from Mary, Co-Redemptrix, as well as her example, surrounded by the apostles, in those days of uncertainty and doubt which followed the Ascension. That is a good resolution for our pilgrimage: persevere in prayer.
Conclusion: Prayer of St Ephraim
Let us conclude with a prayer to Mary, the first of the saved, and Co-Redeemer alongside the Unique Saviour:
Sovereign Virgin, Mother of God, health of the whole family of Christians, you never cease to look down on us as a tender mother. You love us as if we were your children, always wanting to cherish us, and bestowing ineffable benefits upon us. You protect us and you save us; watching over us with solicitude, you deliver us from the dangers of temptation, and from the crowds of sinners who surround us. Full of gratitude, we thank you, we celebrate your generosity, and we proclaim your blessings, we sing of your marvels at the top of our voice, and we praise your care, your foresight. We sing hymns to your powerful teaching, and we forever tell of your boundless mercy.
Sovereign Mother of God, who raised the child Jesus Christ, our Saviour, I place all my hope in you, who are above all the powers of heaven. O Virgin, symbol of purity, strengthen me by your divine grace. Be my guide in this life and lead me according to the will of your great Son, our God. Obtain for me the remission of my sins, be my refuge and my protection, my deliverance and the hand that guides me to eternal life.
May your heart be moved on my account: for are you not the Mother of a God who is all-good? Look with bounty upon me, welcome my prayer with favour, answer my request, and quench my thirst. Unite me to my family, to my companions in service, with all men of peace, in the sanctuary of the just, in the choir of the saints.
Michael J. Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000. Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.