“For there is one God, and One Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5)
In the minds of Protestant apologists, these words of St. Paul are the ultimate “talisman,” a charm which is supposed to “protect” Bible-believing Christians from the terrifying Catholic practice of Marian devotion. This narrow method of reading Scripture as a series of disparate phrases devoid of internal coherence turns the sacred texts into a book of “Familiar Quotations,” out of which phrases can be plucked, memorized and parroted as “vindications” of any number of erroneous agendas.
Attempting to read the Scriptures without the guidance of the Church founded by Christ to write, preserve, and interpret them is like trying to sail around the globe without any knowledge of navigation. One may avoid disaster on occasion, but this would result from mere happenstance, not insight. Our Lord said quite clearly, “If thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee (Mt. 18:9).” St. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).” If Protestants were truly the literal followers of Scripture that they claim to be, then one should never encounter a Protestant who still has both eyes in his head. But, of course, we do. Therefore, even those who reject the Catholic teaching that the true Christian faith rests upon a twin base of both Scripture and Tradition — claiming, instead, adherence to the old “reformer’s” battle-cry of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) — must employ some standard of Scriptural “interpretation” which complements the written word.
What is “mediation?” The term has two distinct meanings, which complement each other. The mediator, or intermediary , works with opposing sides in order to resolve a dispute or effect a settlement; this first meaning focuses on the PERSON of the mediator, one who must be able to represent properly both sides in a conflict. In a fable involving a dispute between wolves and sheep, we would not expect a wolf to be a proper “mediator” for both sides of the conflict. “Mediation” also includes the bringing about, influencing, or transmitting (as a physical process or effect) by acting as an intermediate or controlling agent or mechanism; this second meaning focuses on the WORK of the mediator, one who acts towards a beneficial end on behalf of another.
“The man Christ Jesus” is the One Mediator of God and men, wrote St. Paul. This is very carefully worded. It is God incarnate , God Who became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, Who became the One Mediator. As both True God and True Man, Our Lord was the only Person Who could properly intercede between God and humanity when the time came for the debt of Adam to be paid. He was the One Mediator because God in His Divinity could not die for mankind, and a man in his mortality could never offer up a Sacrifice of infinite merit, to atone for an offense committed against God ; and so, “God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). His humanity made Him one of us by nature , allowing Him to be the Saving Victim: “He hath reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unspotted, and blameless before Him” (Col. 1:22). His Divinity raised that nature from death to life: “The first man Adam was made into a living soul: the last Adam into a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).
However, the present tense must also be used in this connection, for Jesus is , still and always, the One Mediator between God and men:
“And therefore He is the mediator of the new testament: that by means of His death, for the redemption of those transgressions, which were under the former testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). “We have such an high priest, Who is set on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens, a minister of the holies…. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is necessary that He also should have something to offer” (Heb. 8:1-3).
It is the duty of a priest to offer sacrifice: For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices . Jesus offered Himself on the Cross and, as a result, He had “something to offer” the Father on behalf of mankind — the infinite merits and satisfaction of His Passion and Death. The Scriptures also teach that we have a High Priest in Heaven, that the Priesthood of Jesus did not cease when He entered the true “Holy of Holies.” Therefore, He still intercedes as High Priest , and the ministry of Catholic priests (the offering of the Mass, the administering of sacramental absolution, etc.) participates in His priesthood.
The “superabundant” Sacrifice on Calvary effected a principal, never-to-be-duplicated act of mediation which requires nothing to complete or augment its efficacy or scope: “Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). Jesus Christ, consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is the quickening spirit , the meritorious Cause of grace: “Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ, unto Himself… . In Whom we have redemption through His Blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:5,7).
The Redemption won for mankind by Jesus bestows the “adoption of children”; it makes redeemed souls “heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17) of the Kingdom promised to the Son by the Father: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:34). A brother of Jesus, His “joint heir,” will have the same Father as Jesus: “You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father)” (Rom. 8:15). A brother of Jesus will also have the same Mother as Jesus:
“When Jesus therefore had seen His Mother and the disciple standing whom He loved, He saith to His Mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, He saith to the disciple: Behold thy Mother” (Jn. 19:26-27).
These words were not meant to apply solely to St. John and the Blessed Virgin, for Our Lord had said previously: “When you shall have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall you know, that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself, but as the Father hath taught Me, these things I speak” (Jn. 8:28). The Crucifixion on Calvary was the culmination of the Redeemer’s labors, not a time to make “arrangements” for the welfare of Mary after the death of her Son. His words to His Mother and beloved disciple had a universal application.
At the Incarnation, a radical change in the relationship between God and man was initiated in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, where the Eternal One took to Himself human nature, the very nature of man: “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4)….Who was made to Him of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3).
Because of this Incarnation , this unprecedented union of divinity and humanity in the womb of Mary, a new, profoundly intimate relationship between Creator and creature was made possible: “For as the Body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of the Body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ…. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one Body” (1 Cor. 12:12-13).
St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) wrote: “There is no reason why certain others should not be called in a certain way mediators between God and man, that is to say in so far as they cooperate by predisposing and ministering in the union of man with God.” If the members of the Church are truly one body and spirit… one Body with Jesus as Head… one Body quickened by the Spirit of Christ… then, of course, all acts of mediation performed for the good of the Church and its individual members will be a sharing in the One Mediation of Jesus. This is brought out in the verses of St. Paul which appear before his “One Mediator” declaration, and which are conveniently neglected by the Protestant apologists:
“I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men…. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:1,3-5).
Our Lord desires that all men learn and accept the Truth, and, as the One Mediator , the “controlling agent” who brings about, influences or transmits, He has chosen to employ subordinate mediators: “It is one man that soweth, and it is another that reapeth…. I have sent you to reap that in which you did not labor” (Jn. 4:37-38). The mediation of these subordinates will be efficacious insofar as they advance the work of the One Mediator. Therefore, it is accurate to say that, while Jesus is the sole Mediator between the Father and men, there are other mediators who stand between men and Jesus :
“He that receiveth you, receiveth Me: and he that receiveth Me, receiveth Him that sent Me” (Mt. 10:40).
The claim of the Catholic Church that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a “Mediatrix” is, therefore, Scripturally based. But, how can she be called the “Mediatrix of All Graces…”? A statement by St. John Damascene (+c.750) makes for a concise reply to this question: “There is an infinite difference between the Mother of God and the servants of God.”
On Calvary, Jesus publicly proclaimed the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of His Church , and she can be this spiritual Mother only because she was first the natural Mother of Christ, the “Head” of this Mystical Body, for, as in the natural sphere, “in the order of grace likewise the head and the members are born of the same mother (St. Louis de Montfort).” This motherhood is not intended to be a merely symbolic one, for the works of God on behalf of mankind are directed towards a definite, concrete end, salvation : “For the Son of Man is come to seek, and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). If Christ made Mary the Mother of His Church, He did so for the good of the Church. She is, therefore, an active mother, taking an active role in the salvation of each and every Catholic soul. A mother provides for all the needs of her child. She does not say, “I will feed my son, but not clothe him,” or “I will clothe my daughter, but not educate her.” On the contrary, the mother is all things to her children, a dispenser of whatever mercies, kindnesses, assistance, nourishment and chastisements are needed to raise and protect the child. When Jesus rested in His Mother’s womb, He derived all His bodily sustenance from her. She gave life to His human body, sustained it and nourished it. As man, an Infant in the womb, Christ deigned to be completely dependent upon His Mother, and He did not consider this dependence in any way demeaning: “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be Himself equal to God: But emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made to the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man” (Phil. 2:6-7).
This same Mother to whom Our Lord made Himself subject in His infancy and youth has been given to us as our Mother. She is the “Mediatrix of All Graces” because God has ordained that she “mother” the entire Church, and a mother supplies all beneficial things to her offspring. “To every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7), taught St. Paul. Mary was indeed Full of Grace , having already received at her Immaculate Conception “the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of His divinity (Bl. Pope Pius IX).” This unique privilege prepared Our Lady to become the Mother of God; it also prepared her to become the Mother of all those men and women who would be called the “brethren” of her Divine Son.
Our Lady’s mediation is universal because, as Mother of God, her given place in the created order is unique. Mary alone, of all creatures, can say to the Incarnate Word: “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). She was a direct participant in the Hypostatic Union , where-by the Divine and human natures of Jesus were united in her immaculate womb. When the Blessed Mother intercedes with her Son, He gazes into the eyes of the one He loves as a mother; He also gazes into the eyes of the one He has proclaimed Mother of His Church. “Of His fulness we all have received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:16). Our Lord is the Fountain and Source, “the fulness,” of grace. But Mary, who has been given the means by which to mother all the members of her Son’s Mystical Body, is the “Aqueduct” through which the waters of this Fountain flow.
This stream from the heavenly source descends to us through an Aqueduct; it does not indeed exhibit all the fulness of the Fountain, but it serves to moisten our dry and withered hearts with some few drops of the waters of grace, giving more to one, less to another. The Aqueduct itself is always full, so that all may receive of its fulness, yet not the fulness itself…. Let us, therefore, look more deeply into this matter, and let us see with what sentiments of tender devotion the Lord would have us honor Mary, in whom He has placed the plenitude of all good; so that if there is anything of hope in us, if anything of grace, if anything of salvation, we may feel assured it has overflowed unto us from her who “went up from the deserts flowing with delights.” (St. Bernard +1153, Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity of the BVM )
The “Aqueduct” is not the Source, but there is nothing to stop the refreshing waters from pouring through it constantly, inundating those below with an abundance of all necessary graces:
“For if by one man’s offense, death reigned through one; much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).
It would be illogical for Jesus to have made the Blessed Virgin the Mother of the Church, then limit the means by which she could spiritually nurture and defend her children. “It is not the will of your Father, Who is in Heaven,” said Our Lord, “that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt. 18:14). On another occasion, He said, “Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18:3). The Spiritual Motherhood of Mary, so powerfully exercised in her role as Mediatrix of All Graces , is not an optional component to authentic Christianity. The words spoken by Jesus during His agony on the Cross, during the Passion which restored mankind to friendship with God, are not to be taken lightly, or cast aside on a whim. Behold thy Mother was not a pious sentiment; it was a decree issued from the mouth of the Redeemer as He consummated His saving work. Therefore, St. Louis de Montfort (+1716) could rightfully assert:
“All true children of God have God for their father and Mary for their mother; anyone who does not have Mary for his mother, does not have God for his father.”
To have Mary for a mother, in obedience to Jesus, is to regard her with affection and turn to her daily, in necessities as well as in times of tranquillity. It is to have confidence in her Immaculate Heart, and to regard her wholeheartedly as the “Mediatrix of All Graces,” without doubt, scruple, or specious arguments to the contrary. It is to understand, and to take comfort in, the sentiments expressed in Dante’s prayer to the Virgin, from his Paradiso :
“Lady, thou art so near God’s reckonings that who seeks grace and does not first seek thee would have his wish fly upward without wings.”