This is a superb post on what is certainly a controversial subject and that is Mary’s role and title as Mediatrix of All Graces.
Is Mary the Mediatrix of All Graces? This a two-part question. First, is Mary a “mediatrix”? (the Latin suffix -tor denotes masculine agency and the Latin -trix denotes feminine agency – like waiter and waitress – Mediator and Mediatrix)? Second, if she is a mediatrix, is she the mediatrix of all graces?
Is Mary a Mediatrix?
Before addressing this title, let it be confirmed at the outset that Mary’s mediation does not violate the words of Saint Paul regarding the mediating priesthood of Jesus Christ, when he writes:
Jesus and Mary:
the New Adam and New Eve applying graces to humanity
“For there is one God: and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5, D-R)
Christ is the one mediator between God and men because He is both full God and fully human. Since He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to God, He alone can redeem mankind from sin. However, Saint Luke records that the Holy Simeon prophesied to Mary that she too would suffer with Her divine Son:
“And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35).
The Fathers of the Church identify the “piercing sword” in Mary’s soul as the moment when Mary beheld her dying Son on the cross, even more, when she held his cold, lifeless body in her arms. Her quiet and maternal presence with Christ’s high priestly sacrifice envelops her into the sacrifice of Christ in a unique way. Consider this, the Son of God acquired His flesh and blood from her flesh and blood. Jesus could die for us, because she gave to Him a body. Jesus and Mary at the cross are the redemptive Adam and Eve. Eve once looked up to a tree in order to seize its fruit unlawfully. Now, Mary as the New Eve, beholds the tree on which hangs the “Fruit of her womb.” She does not claim rights over this Fruit, but willingly offers It to the Father. The New Adam hangs suspended on the wood for every sinner. The New Eve stands by in sorrow. Mary’s mediation is based on her intimate union and consent to the Passion and Death of Christ. Moreover, we find in Scripture that Jesus comes to the world through Mary, literally. St Elizabeth and her baby St John the Baptist are filled with the Holy Spirit when St Elizabeth hears the voice of Mary. Jesus works His first miracle at Cana at Mary’s request. Furthermore, Mary is present at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Apostles. Just as Mary’s voice was the instrument that carried grace to Saint Elizabeth, so Mary is the personal instrument by which grace flows to us from Christ. St Bernard of Clairvaux called her the “aqueduct of grace.”
The Liturgical Feast: Mediatrix of All Graces
In 1921, Pope Benedict XV, responding to petitions from the bishops of Belgium, established the annual feast day of “Mary Mediatrix of All Graces.” This feast was included in the Missale Romanum under the title “Omnium Gratiarum Mediatricis” for the date May 31. If you have a pre-conciliar Latin Missal, you can usually find it there (look under Missae pro aliquibus locis). Two of my missals include the feast.
The first reading for this feast is Isaiah 55:1-3, 5 and the Gradual is the famous passage from Ecclesiasticus: “I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. ” (Sirach 24:24–25) The Gospel reading for the feast is the Marian passion account from John 19:25-27.
Pope Benedict XV’s inclusion of a feast for “Mary Mediatrix of All of Graces” popularized doctrine. By the beginning of the Second Vatican Council (1962), there was a push among the bishops to formally declare the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “Mediatrix of All Graces.” This attempt was eventually recast and she was instead declared “Mother of the Church,” a softer title, but beautiful all the same. “Mother of the Church” was was preferred since it defined the truth in a more ecclesiastical way.
You can find this definition of “Mother of the Church” in Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium. Nevertheless, Lumen Gentium 8 does refer to the Immaculate Mary as “Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix.” Notably, the qualifier “of All Graces” was not included in the final text of Lumen Gentium even though it was proposed.
Did Pope Benedict XV go to far?
So then, it is a matter of faith that our Blessed Mother is a “Mediatrix”…but is she the “Mediatrix of All Graces”? Most Catholics have no problem with the title “Mediatrix” though I do notice that some Catholics flinch when they hear “Mediatrix of All Graces.” Did Pope Benedict XV go too far in adding “of All Graces”?
The full title including “all graces” is controversial. Some protest that Mary could not possibly be the mediatrix of all the graces in the Old Testament since she did not yet exist. Moreover, could she have been the mediatrix of all graces while she was still on earth? Did she only become the mediatrix of all graces after Pentecost or perhaps only after her glorious Assumption? Even still, is she currently the mediatrix both of actual graces and sacramental grace? That is, does the grace of baptism and the Holy Eucharist also flow through her hands?
Two Difficult Questions regarding “of all graces”
These questions, essentially, raise two difficult questions:
- When did Mary become the mediatrix of all graces. From all time? At the Immaculate Conception? Crucifixion? Pentecost? Assumption?
- When we say “all graces” do we mean “each and every grace” or “all kinds of grace” or “all actual graces”?
I will reveal my hand at the beginning. I take the extreme position. I insist that she is the mediatrix of every single grace ever given to humanity, from Adam to the last moment of time. It is true that she didn’t yet exist, but she is nevertheless the mediatrix of all these graces.
The New Adam as Mediator. The New Eve as Mediatrix.
How can one say such a thing? The argument depends on Our Lady’s ancient status as the New Eve and upon Christ’s status as the New Adam. All grace is absolutely mediated through Christ since he is fully God and fully man. He is the mediator of humanity necessarily and absolutely. Yet, He mediates this grace to humanity by virtue of His Incarnation, His Death, and through the Holy Spirit.
Now then, Mary as the New Eve was the instrument of the Incarnation, and she held the primary role at the Crucifixion and at the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. So we discover that Scripture links her with these three moment of Christ’s absolute mediation.
We also know that all the graces of the Old Testament were mediated in anticipation of Christ’s Incarnation and Death. Since Mary’s flesh and cooperation are necessary for the Incarnation and Death of Christ, these graces are also mediated with her role in mind. This is why Pope Pius IX says that the decree of Christ’s predestination is one and the same with that of Mary.
So the graces of the Old Testament were mediated in light of her, though not actually dispensed by her. Here we distinguish the term “mediating” from the term “dispensing.” The Immaculate Mary has always been the Mediatrix of All Graces, but she became the Dispensatrix of All Graces at her glorious Assumption.
One could take an even more extreme and say that Mary became the Dispensatrix of every grace from the moment of her Immaculate Conception. This would necessitate that from her first moment, she had an enormous infusion of knowledge even while still in the womb of Saint Anne. I’m not so sure this happened, though I wouldn’t fault anyone for holding it. It seems that Saint Alphonsus Liguori may have held this position, though I can’t quite make it out (I’d be grateful if any Alphonsists could help me out on this point.)
What about Scripture?
We do know that the sanctification and confirmation in grace of Saint John the Baptist while still in his mother’s womb occurred through the mediation of Mary’s audible voice. “For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. ” (Luke 1:44, D-R)
Both the Latin and Greek liturgies apply Ecclesiasticus 24 as a prophecy of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It reads: “I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. ” (Sirach 24:24–25) Mary is the “Mother of Fair Love” and “in [her] is all grace.” Here then is an Old Testament prophecy of Mary’s title as Mediatrix of All Graces.
As discussed above, Our Lady’s presence at the Lord’s Conception, Nativity, Life, Death, Ascension, and then Pentecost reveal her mediating office under Christ.
Does Mary mediate Sacramental Grace?
As for sacramental grace, Saint Cyril of Alexandria, when addressing the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus (AD 431) stated that the grace of baptism, confirmation, and Holy Orders flow through Mary to the Church.
Just think about the seven sacraments and you’ll that this makes sense:
- Baptism removes the stain of Eve (Mary is the New Eve), gives us the Holy Spirit (the Spouse of Mary), and unites us to the death and resurrection of Christ (Mary mediates under the cross)
- Confirmation is the sacrament that confers the grace of Pentecost to each us. Mary is the Spouse of the Spirit and she was present at Pentecost
- Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. This flesh and blood of the Eternal Logos were derived from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No human Mother? No Body and Blood.
- Penance is the application of Christ’s merit and blood to the sinner. Mary’s mediating presence under the Cross confirms her role in this sacrament.
- Extreme Unction is the sacrament that prepares the believer for death. Christ gave Mary dominion over the “hour of death” and over Purgatory by her desire to die a human death even though she remained without sin. She desired to die in order to be conformed more perfectly to Christ. This is also foretold by Siracides: “I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord. ” (Sirach 24:45)
- Holy Orders is the mystery of the priesthood, and Christ became the High Priest of Humanity by virtue of His Incarnation. However, Mary was absolutely necessary for His assumption of the human nature. No Mother? No Incarnation? Again, Mary’s presence at the Cross also affirms her role here, since Christ manifestly exercised His priesthood on the Cross.
- Holy Matrimony was raised to the dignity of a sacrament at the Wedding of Cana. Christ’s miracle and blessing at the Wedding of Cana occurred through the direct mediation of Mary. Thus, she too is the mediatrix of the sacramental grace of Holy Matrimony.
So then, it’s easy to see that Scripture links Mary to all seven of the sacraments. While some oppose the position that Mary is the mediatrix of sacramental grace, I see every reason to affirm that she is the mediatrix of sacramental grace.
In summary, then, we have confirmed the following:
- Mary’s mediation does not conflict with Christ’s mediation but is the highest form of sub-mediation under Christ. She is the aqueduct that channels the infinite grace and merits of Christ.
- Pope Benedict XV institute a liturgical feast of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces
- Mary’s universal mediation is entailed by her title New Eve. Christ is the New Adam and his redemptive work is universal. Consequently, Mary’s sub-mediation is universal.
- All graces, even those of the Old Testament are mediated through the ministry of the New Adam and the New Eve. Although, Mary did not yet exist, the graces prior to the New Testament were granted in expectation of a New Adam and a New Eve – Jesus and Mary.
- Even sacramental graces are mediated and applied by the Immaculate Mary. Sacred Scripture shows that the graces and gifts associated with each sacrament (e.g. the pouring of out Holy Spirit in Confirmation) were accomplished through Mary (e.g. when Elizabeth and John the Baptist were filled with the Holy Spirit).
For more information, see also:
- Mary as Mediatrix in Church Fathers (Saint Cyril)
- Why Do Titles of Mary End with the “-trix” Suffix (as in Mediatrix
- Who Crushes Satan’s Head in Genesis 3:15? (Mary or Jesus?)