There are days when I belong remedial Catholic education of some sort. Those are the days where I know, to some extent, what the Church teaches, but as it starts to dawn on me what the teaching actually means I realize that I am a Catholic flunky and have been for years. This is no more obvious than in the way that I left Mary in the box.
I assented to the teachings of the Church. I felt that Mary should be honored. I knew that we didn't worship her. At the same time, I always had a vague discomfort about Mary. I didn't like the way that she was treated as some sort of "super creature". These things seem a little contradictory, but I got around it by ignoring it. Oh the beauty of unexamined thoughts! No need to worry about whether they make sense or not.
This only worked until it became glaringly obvious that I was facing a contradiction in my thoughts and actions. I could say that Mary should be honored, but I ignored her. I also fully recognized that honor of Mary should never interfere with our relationship with Christ, yet I belong to a Church that unabashedly calls Mary "Mediatrix" of graces.
I have not been a fan of that title. Outwardly, I could explain that Mary is a conduit of Christ's grace, and not the source. Therefore, it does not interfere with fact that Christ is the one mediator (1 Tim 2:5). Inwardly, my reaction was more along the lines of, "What. The. Heck. Just because you technically can call her that, why would you?"
In the last month or so, the whole thing started to make a lot more sense. One thing that helped me a lot was Young Mom's post here, as well as some of the great comments that she got. In the last couple of weeks, I am moving past seeing this title as merely acceptable, and starting to see how it is an amazing gift.
It is true that Mary has special graces and privilege; she is the Mother of God. There is no other. There is another part of the reason that we honor of Mary that I have somehow missed. The clue is in Luke 11: 27-28:
"As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, 'Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.'
"He replied, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'"
We do and should honor Mary as the Mother of God, a unique role that no one else can fill. However, our greater honor is due to her words recorded in Luke 1:38:
"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
It is her faithfulness we prize most highly; her "yes" to God that holds nothing back. That utter abandon to His will does not make her something other than human, it is what makes her perfectly human. It is what we strive for as well. We honor her as we hope to emulate her and become a conduit of His grace to the world as she was.
When I thought of Mary as Mediatrix, I was stuck on this verse:
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
As a Catholic, I am very familiar and comfortable with intercessory prayer. One of the words in the thesaurus for "mediator" is "intercessor". If Paul is saying that we have no part in Christ's mediation, then he would be saying that we should never be praying for anyone else. Clearly he is not saying that, especially since verse one of this very chapter says, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone." He is talking about prayers to bring all to salvation in Christ, "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth." (v. 4). I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds like we are all to have a part in the mediation of Christ. The source of salvation is always Christ. I could finally see that Mary was not something different than this type of mediation, but rather the perfect human example of it for the rest of us to emulate. That is why she was honored with that particular title.
These is something else. In a general audience given by John Paul II in October of 1997, he said, "We recall that Mary's mediation is essentially defined by her divine motherhood." She is Mediatrix because she is mother. She is the Mother of God; as such, her "yes" is intimately connected with Christ's life on the earth and therefore all of the graces that come from Him. It is true that God did not need her, but He chose her.
She is also my mother in a spiritual sense. Think for a moment of physical motherhood. A woman receives a seed of new life. For the next 9 months, she nurtures that life within her, and when that child is born, she continues to nurture that life. She will do anything for that child, including giving her life if necessary. How many mothers do you know of that spend hours on their knees for their children? Interceding for them. Mediating for them. Because of their love for that child. Our spiritual life is only possible in Christ, but Mary's mother-heart is constantly interceding for us, nurturing us. Again, we do not need her like we need Christ, but what an amazing gift!
There you have it. Suddenly a title that has bothered me for years has led me to a greater understanding of Mary, which in turn leads to a greater understanding of who we are to be in Christ. What do you think of this title? I love to hear thoughts of those that agree and can lead me to deeper understanding, but I also really love to hear thoughts from people that don't agree or understand. Either way, I think further discussion would help my understanding of this!
Note: I also recommend Lumen Gentium, chapter VIII, if you want to see a little more about what the Church actually says about this title.