8. Christ’s mediation

Mediation of grace and glory

             Having established the headship of Christ over all the elect, both men and angels, and His absolute primacy in all creation, we can now unveil the beauty of God’s plan in relation to us men in particular.  When we realize that Christ was the first predestined to grace and glory, and that the elect were predestined to grace and glory in Him, it becomes apparent that Christ came as our Mediator, sin or no sin.  God’s eternal plan was that our entire spiritual life be centered upon the mediation of the God-Man.

Two types of mediation

According to Scotus, Christ mediates in two ways: ex unione and ex gratia.

Christ’s very existence as the God-Man mediates between God and men ex unione, namely because of His union with the Word.  He is the Son of God made man, “the Head of the heavenly court,”[1] the Church.  It is in this strict sense of mediation as Head by virtue of the hypostatic union that “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, Himself a man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5; cf. Heb. 8:6).  Because Christ’s sacred humanity alone is personally united to the Word, no other creature can share in this unique mediation of Christ ex unione as Head.  Scotus points out that “there could never be but one Head in the Church from which there is derived the influx of graces upon the members.”[2]  So Jesus is the Head (Col. 1:18); in Him dwells the fullness of Divinity corporally (2:9); from Him, as the Head, the whole body is supplied and built up (2:19).

But He is also the Mediator of grace to the elect ex gratia, that is, from the fullness of grace He possesses as the Son of Man.  St. John tells us that the Incarnate Word was “full of grace…  And of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (Jn. 1:14,16).  Unlike His mediation ex unione as Head, His mediation ex gratia is shared by other creatures in varying degrees.  Here His mediation flows from the plenitude of grace He possesses as true man.  In this sense Jesus is the fountain of graces from which all graces flow to the elect.

Christ’s mediation elevates

The principal blessing that men receive from Christ as Mediator is their elevation to grace and glory.  By humbling Himself to partake of our created nature He makes us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt. 1:4); in the first place He saves us from our metaphysical deficiency by elevating us from mere natural creatures to the sublime heights of supernatural creatures.  The grace of man’s elevation comes through the Incarnation: “For you know the graciousness of our Lord Jesus Christ—how, being rich [divine], He became poor [human] for your sakes, that by His poverty [humanity] you might become rich [divine]” (2 Cor. 8:9).  Through faith and Baptism we are justified, raised to the dignity of the children of God: “But to as many as received Him He gave the power of becoming sons of God; to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12; cf. Jn. 3:5).

Redemption presupposes mediation

Given the fact of the eternal and absolute predestination of Christ and the predestination of the elect in Him, Christ’s mediation is invaluable quite apart from any consideration of Adam’s fall.  In fact, sin can only be understood as a sequel to grace.  So sin or no sin, Christ is predestined to be Mediator of grace and glory to both men and angels.  After the fall, He works out our redemption by His sacrifice on the Cross.  Jesus Christ becomes the Redeemer because He is the Mediator; not vice versa.  While His work of mediation has value and meaning in its own right; His work of redemption, on the other hand, presupposes His coming as Mediator through the Incarnation.  Note well that redemption necessarily depends upon the Word becoming flesh—if Jesus did not come in the flesh there would be no possibility of His redeeming us.  However, the Word becoming flesh does not depend upon the redemption, or anything else for that matter.  Jesus comes as the Mediator of grace and glory; because of sin we speak of the redemptive Incarnation.

Fr. Dominic Unger writes:

“Christ is the First-born and the Head of all the elect.  That is the unmistakable doctrine of St. Paul (cf. Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Eph. 1:3-6; and also Prov. 8:22).  But that predestination in which Christ is First-born and the Head, is the original predestination of all men: according to St. Paul there is only one predestination; not two—one at the creation without Christ, and one after the fall with Christ.  There was only one plan of divine adoption and that was before the foundation of the world and in Christ Jesus.  God wanted to elevate men to grace and glory; but He never willed to do that except through Christ.  So Christ was in the very first picture of predestination and there is no longer rhyme or reason in speaking of His coming merely to redeem.”[3]

Now included in that “very first picture of predestination”—united with Christ in God’s plan above all angels and men—was the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Alongside the New Adam there was foreseen the New Eve—the Woman with her Offspring (cf. Gen. 3:15), the Virgin with Child (cf. Is. 7:14).

The place of Mary—joint predestination

The Franciscan thesis upholds that the Immaculate was predestined in Christ par excellence, chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world… [to] be holy and without blemish in His sight in love” (cf. Eph1:4).  She is chosen prior to all the other elect because she is jointly predestined with Christ as His Mother.

Bl. Gabriel M. Allegra writes:

“Since God the Father has chosen us in Christ before the creation of the world, it is simply logical that the first willed, the first loved, the first elected one of the Father is Jesus Christ.  Now since Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word and Lord of the universe and particularly of humanity, is Himself a man and, therefore, our Brother, He had to have a Mother.  And, as Pope Pius IX appropriately said, by the same eternal decree in which God willed the Incarnation of His Only-begotten Son, He also willed specifically His Son’s Immaculate Mother…

“What God has determined from all eternity before the creation of the world is fulfilled in time.  And what is fulfilled is nothing else than the carrying out of God’s decree from the beginning, before He created the angelic spirits, the earth, and mankind.  The action of God, like His Word, is an infallible and creative action.

“In reference to the Immaculate Mother of the Incarnate Word, the Holy Trinity performed this miracle of miracles 2000 years ago.  But this work, the creation of Mary, which together with the Incarnation of His Word is the first and ‘greatest work of God’ (Bl. John Duns Scotus) and coterminous with God’s life, is hidden in the eternity of His eternal design.”[4]

Exalted above all creatures

According to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan school after him, the Holy Virgin was predestined to be the beloved Daughter of God the Father, the loving Mother of God the Son, the holy Spouse of the Holy Spirit—the one chosen, predestined and exalted by the Most Holy Trinity above all other creatures.  St. Francis speaks of her exalted place in God’s plan in his beautiful Antiphon for the Office of the Passion:

“Holy Virgin Mary, among women there is no one like you born in the world.  You are the Daughter and Servant of the Most High and Supreme King and Father of Heaven; You are the Mother of our Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ; You are the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for us with St. Michael the Archangel and all the powers of the heavens and all the Saints to your most holy, beloved Son, our Lord and Master.”[5]

In his Salutation to the Blessed Virgin the Seraphic Patriarch writes:

“Hail, O Lady, Mary, holy Mother of God: You are the Virgin made Church, chosen by the most holy Father in Heaven, whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son and with the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.  In you there was and is all the fullness of grace and every good…”[6]

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe exclaims:

“I adore You, O our heavenly Father, for having placed in the most pure womb of Mary Your only-begotten Son; I adore You, O Son of God, because You condescended to enter her womb and became truly her actual Son; I adore You, O Holy Spirit, because You deigned to form in her immaculate womb the body of the Son of God; I adore You, O Most Holy Trinity, for having ennobled the Immaculate in such a divine way.” [7]

In the same passage St. Maximilian speaks to the Immaculate saying:

“Allow others to surpass me in zeal for your exaltation, and me to surpass them, so that by means of such noble rivalry your glory may increase ever more profoundly, ever more rapidly, ever more intensely as He who has exalted you so indescribably above all other beings Himself desires…  For you God has created the world.  For you God has called even me into existence.”[8]

The Franciscan school, then, is a harmonious chorus singing of how God foreordained the Immaculate, before any consideration of sin, to be “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apoc. 12:1).  Without sin, she would have been all this, but she would not have had to cry out “in her travail and… the anguish of delivery” (Apoc. 12:2) when bringing forth the body of Christ, the Church, by way of coredemption.

The place of Marian mediation

Since God, who wills in a most orderly fashion, placed the mediation of Jesus Christ (the God-Man) at the center of creation, it follows that immediately under Christ, the Head of the Church, He placed the Immaculate.  She is the most exalted creature (after Christ) because of her Immaculate Conception.  She is truly “full of grace” (Lk. 1:28) and all the graces of Christ the Head are found in her in their fullness as in no other human person.  While no one, not even the Mother of God, can participate in Christ’s mediation as Head ex unione; she does share in His mediation as the fountain of divine grace ex gratia and this in a unique fashion above all the elect.  St. Bernard writes, “God has placed in Mary the plenitude of every good, in order to have us understand that if there is any trace of hope in us, any trace of grace, any trace of salvation, it flows from her.”[9]

The Virgin Mary as mere creature is under the headship of Christ as God-Man (Christ’s mediation ex unione); but as Mother of God she stands with and subordinate to Christ who, as true man, is the fountain of all graces (Christ’s mediation ex gratia).  For this reason Our Lady is sometimes referred to as the ‘neck’ through which flow all the graces of Christ the Head to the members.  From the divine perspective, then, the Creator wills to bestow grace and glory on the elect through Christ the Mediator and Mary the Mediatrix.  All grace and glory for men and angels alike flows by irrevocable divine decree through the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.[10]  God’s well ordered plan, therefore, is that in the created realm He will bestow all good things upon Jesus Christ and, through, with and in Him, upon His Immaculate Virgin Mother.  Through the Sacred Hearts we receive every grace, which in the first instance is an elevating and divinizing grace that makes us children of God (after the fall that grace becomes redemptive as well).

Action and reaction

“Action and reaction”[11]—this was St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s way of summarizing Scotus’ thought on mediation.  God acts; He creates in an orderly manner.  The creature “reacts” (responds) to His love and grace.  We see this first and foremost in the human nature of Christ which, once created, burns with unspeakable love for the Most Holy Trinity—action and reaction.  We see this again in the Blessed Virgin Mary who is, after Christ, the summit of God’s creative action and who burns in all her created personhood with love for Jesus and for the entire Trinity—action and reaction.  We also see this in the angels and the saints.

With regards to mediation, then, St. Bonaventure sums it up nicely when he writes that Our Lady “is Mediatrix between us and Christ, as Christ [is Mediator] between us and God.”[12]  As God acts through Them to bless the elect, so the elect must return through Them to God.

St. Maximilian explains the descent of divine grace to man (i.e. “action”) in this way:

“The Immaculate Virgin is the most perfect among creatures, She has been elevated above every creature and is a ‘divine’ creature in an ineffable manner.  The Son of God, in fact, descended from the Father by means of the Spirit, He dwelt in Her, He became incarnate within Her and She became the Mother of God, Mother of the God-Man, Mother of Jesus.  From that moment every grace—which comes forth from the Father through Jesus, the Incarnate Son, and the Spirit who dwells in the Immaculate—is distributed precisely through the Immaculate.”[13]

God’s action towards us, then, is to bestow grace upon grace through Jesus and Mary, a reality that is visualized in devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Our “reaction” must be a love ascending along the same path by which His love descended to us.  Stated concisely, man’s return to God his ultimate end occurs through the mediation of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Thus St. Maximilian writes, “Every man’s end is to belong to God through Jesus, the Mediator before the Father, and to belong to Jesus through the Mediatrix of all graces, the Immaculate.”[14]

The Sacred Hearts

Tying this into our theme, this means that Jesus and Mary were predestined absolutely to the maximum grace and glory and that all the elect were predestined to grace and glory in and through Them.  Sin or no sin, God’s design is that all graces come to men and angels through the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and that they return to Him by these most Sacred Hearts.   Mediation of grace and glory through the Incarnate Word and His Immaculate Mother is at the heart of God’s creative plan; the elect are predestined “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) in Jesus and Mary.  We might illustrate God’s perfect plan for our salvation and sanctification as follows:

All the positive blessings of the Incarnation are realized in this way.  Jesus and Mary are predestined absolutely and placed at the center of God’s creative purpose.  Thus, through Their Sacred Hearts man is elevated to a participation in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4; 2 Cor. 8:9); he is transformed into a child of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17; Eph. 1:5); he is predestined “before the foundation of the world” to be “holy and without blemish in His sight in love” (Eph. 1:4); he is shown the truth about God (Jn. 1:18; 12:45; Mt. 11:27; Heb. 1:1-2; etc.).

The Divine Mercy

This is God’s plan from the beginning and it is immutable.  However, because of Adam and Eve’s sin we find ourselves in an insurmountable predicament.  A barrier has been placed between us and God through our sin in Adam.  Thus through original sin man chose to disobey God’s designs of mediation and a barrier was set up that we finite creatures could not break through.  God extends mercy and wills that the Mediator and Mediatrix of all graces shatter the barrier that thwarts His plan in our regard.  Jesus and Mary become the Redeemer and Coredemptrix of the human race; Their Hearts are pierced through and redeeming love gushes forth for the whole world.  Although the Incarnation would not have been redemptive (quoad modum) if Adam had not sinned; nonetheless, the fixed plan of God remains entirely intact (quoad substantiam)—all graces come to men and angels from God through the mediation of Jesus and Mary; only now the Mediator and Mediatrix are also Redeemer and Coredemptrix of the human race.

The purpose of God is not altered in its substance—Christ and Mary are predestined to the maximum grace and glory; the elect are predestined to grace and glory through Their mediation.  But the mode of the Incarnation and Divine Maternity becomes redemptive.  Consequently, Scotus and the entire Franciscan school proclaim that, after the fall, all graces come to us through the Sacrifice of Jesus and Mary on Calvary (Mary’s role being always secondary, subordinate to and dependent on that of Christ).  The Passion of Christ and the Compassion of Mary are at the center of any authentic Christian spirituality, but especially any authentic Franciscan spirituality.

Contrasting consequences of the thomistic thesis

It is worth noting that the thomists uphold the doctrine of the mediation of Christ and His Mother through redemption; however, their position draws markedly different conclusions about the reason for Christ’s mediation.  They hold that the sole reason for the Incarnation is redemption from sin.  In subordinating the Incarnation to Adam’s fall, they necessarily subordinate the whole of Christ’s mediation to sin.  If one accepts this position, then all of the blessings of the Incarnation would be occasioned by sin.

Allow me to spell this out… participating in the divine nature through the mediation of Jesus Christ would be occasioned by sin; being coheirs with Christ, occasioned by sin; being adopted children of God in Christ Jesus, occasioned by sin; the revelation of the Trinity through Jesus and the unveiling that God is love through the Incarnation, occasioned by sin.  The consequence of the thomistic thesis is that Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the pinnacle of all creation, the greatest work of God ad extra, is Himself occasioned by sin and we should rejoice in Adam’s fall—in fact, the humanity of Christ should rejoice in Adam’s fall—because without original sin there would not have been an Incarnation at all.

Taken a step further, this position subordinates the privileges, the mediation, and some would say even the existence of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Adam’s fall[15]—no sin would mean no Mother of God, no maternal Mediatrix of graces, no spiritual Mother, no Queen of the angels and saints.

Scotistic Mariology, on the other hand, refuses to subordinate Mary’s maternal mediation to sin.[16]  Thus in Mariology maternal mediation has the primacy and coredemption is subordinate to it; although it must be noted that coredemption is a supreme manifestation of Mother Mary’s mediation.  What makes this possible, and indeed the very concept of Marian coredemption plausible in the light of the matchless dignity of the Redeemer, is precisely Scotus’ principles and the Franciscan thesis on the absolute, joint predestination of Jesus and Mary, a mystery making possible our cooperation in the work of redemption via the unique cooperation of Mary as Mother of God.  St Maximilian writes: “Mary, by the fact of being the Mother of Jesus Savior, became the Coredemptrix of the human race, while, by the fact that She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, takes part in the distribution of all graces.” [17]

With and subordinate to Christ the one Mediator, the Immaculate is absolutely predestined as Mediatrix of all graces.  Her predestination and her role of Mediatrix is not relative to sin; rather, because of sin Christ the Mediator takes on the role of Redeemer and the Immaculate the role of Coredemptrix.  And for Their fiat to the work of redeeming mercy: that of Mary at the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1: 38) matching that of Christ coming into the world at the same moment (cf. Heb 10: 5-10), we are forever grateful.


Ave Maria!

[1] Bl. John Duns Scotus, Reportatio Barcinonensis, II, d.7, q.3.

[2] Bl. John Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, III, d.13, q.4, n.8.

[3] Fr. Dominic Unger, OFM Cap., Franciscan Christology, in FS vol. 23 (N.S. vol.2) no. 4  (1942).

[4] Ven. Fr. Gabriel Allegra, OFM, Mary’s Immaculate Heart: A Way to God (Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1982) 19-20.  He dedicates an entire chapter to Our Lady in relation to the Trinity; cf. p.I, c.3.

[5] St. Francis of Assisi, Antiphon for the Office of the Passion, in Bibliotheca Franciscana Ascetica Medii Aevi, Tom. XII: Opuscula Sancti Patris Francisci Assisiensis (Grottaferrata, 1978) 193; cf. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents I (New City Press, New York, 1999) 141.  Cf. Fr. Johannes Schneider’s commentary in Virgo Ecclesia Facta: The Presence of Mary in the Crucifix of San Damiano and in the Office of the Passion of St. Francis of Assisi, (Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, 2004).

[6] St. Francis of Assisi, Salutation of the Blessed Virgin, in Bibliotheca Franciscana Ascetica Medii Aevi, Tom. XII: Opuscula Sancti Patris Francisci Assisiensis (Grottaferrata, 1978) 299; cf. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents I (New City Press, New York, 1999) 163.

[7] St.  Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Scritti (ENMI, Rome, 1997) 1305.

[8] Ibid.

[9] St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Hom. in nativitat. BVM, n.6, PL 183, 441.

[10] The Hearts of Jesus and Mary traditionally represent Their persons—all graces flow to us from God through the mediation of Jesus and Mary as represented by Their Sacred Hearts.  Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion to the physical heart of Jesus, the God-Man, which is adorable (latria) by virtue of the hypostatic union; it is a devotion to that which is symbolized by the heart, namely, the interior, moral center of the person—hence, devotion to the burning love of Jesus towards God in His sacred humanity and His burning love for men in both His sacred humanity and divinity; ultimately, it is a devotion to the Person of the Word who has assumed our human nature.  With regards to devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it is a devotion to the physical heart of the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God which is venerable (hyperdulia) by virtue of her Immaculate Conception and Divine Maternity; it is a devotion to her burning love for the Most Holy Trinity and for mankind; ultimately, it is a devotion to the most exalted person of Mary, created by God above all angels and men.

[11] Cf. St. Maximilian Kolbe, Scritti 1291.

[12] St. Bonaventure, III Sent, d 3, pars 1, a 1,q 2: (Maria)… “Mediatrix est inter nos et Christum, sicut Christus inter nos et Deum.”

[13] St. Maximilian Kolbe, Scritti 1224.

[14] Ibid. 1329.

[15] See footnotes 10 and 11 in this study.

[16] Cf. Fr. Ruggero Rosini, OFM, Mariologia del beato Giovanni Duns Scoto, c.III, art.I; he dedicates 4 pages to coredemption within the 50 page section on Mary’s mediation.  Nonetheless, in terms of the doctrinal premises establishing the very possibility of Marian coredemption the contribution of Scotus to the theology of coredemption is a major and decisive one.

[17] St. Maximilian Kolbe, Scritti, 1229 (the italics were added); cf. 1224.