Friday, October 28, 2016

Managing Mediating Muddles

Yes, I’ve been arguing with Protestants again. There are many, many Protestants that I do really like, who appreciate that things aren’t as clear cut and with whom I disagree profoundly, yet know that they are visibly motivated by the Holy Ghost. There are others who tear their bibles to bits to prove their points and do so in a way in which they become as infallible as the Pope that they are demonising. These will rail at the “false teaching of the Roman Catholic Church” and declare that it is leading people into Hell. With the death of Jack Chick, that ardent and spectacularly ill-informed champion of all things anti-Catholic, this has been much on my mind. The tendancy that some Protestants have for throwing the baby out of the bathwater when declaring the Church of Rome "Hell-bound" is unhelpful and shortsighted.

If I believed that the Roman Catholic Church is never wrong, then I would be damnably (literally) foolish not to join her ranks. As an Anglican Papalist, though, while I stand alongside my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in many ways, there are issues which I simply cannot defend. In that sense, I believe that Rome does have false teaching which embellishes the faith more than necessary. Yet, if I were to accept the basic assumptions of the Papacy which go beyond the definitions of the Councils, logic would dictate that what the Roman Church teaches is necessarily true. It is because I believe that what she teaches is not necessarily true that I cannot accept those basic assumptions of the Papacy which go beyond the definitions of the Councils.

That makes me and the Pope mutual heretics in the technical sense of the word, but I strongly renounce any pejorative sense here.

One issue is that of the role of Our Lady. Pope St John-Paul II calls Mary the Mediatrix of all Graces, and this troubles the Protestant soul. There is also the notion of Our Lady as Coredemptrix which started out as a largely medieval expression of Our Lady’s role in our Salvation. It was this notion that certainly the Reformers took pains to reject and, it has to be said, even though it took on a louder voice at the time of the Second Vatican Council, it has never been dogmatic Roman Catholic Teaching.

The argument for the Mary the Coredemptrix can be summarised as:

1)      Mary agrees to become the mother of Jesus.
2)      Jesus is our Redeemer.
3)      In freely saying “yes”, Our Lady plays an active part in our redemption.
4)      In freely saying “yes”, Our Lady is uniquely united with her Son.
5)      Thus Our Lady shares the title of Redeemer with Our Lord.
6)      Therefore she is Coredemptrix.

The trouble is that this argument can be used of St Anne and St Joachim in respect of Our Lady, mutatis mutandis and, by an inductive argument, the whole lineage of Mary all the way back become Coredemptors and Coredemptriges.

The issues lie in 3 and 4. Our Lady is not the primary cause of our redemption. She is a secondary cause, just as her ancestry are all secondary causes. The primary cause of our redemption is Our Lord. I cannot say that the hammer is a co-smasher of the vase, nor can I say that it was my brain that smashed the vase. These are arguments that lead schoolchildren into detention!

As worthy as Our Lady is of all honour pertaining to her unique position as Theotokos, she simply cannot receive the title of Coredemptrix. This takes things too far. We are all participants in our own salvation, but not in our redemption. Lumen Gentium is very clear on the subordinate role of Mary in the ministry of Our Lord.

What about the troublesome Mediatrix of All Graces?

Again, this can be spun too much by some Catholics. Did Pope St John-Paul II go too far when he declared Our Lady to possess this title? This depends on what he means by mediation.

Catholic teaching is clear. There is only one Mediator between God and Man. St Paul, in writing to St Timothy says:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (I Tim ii.1-8)

Yet it seems there is a bit of a quandary there. At times, haven’t Moses and the prophets interceded for us? Have they not acted as mediators on our behalf? Mediation implies a two-way street between the two parties through the mediator (in the Greek literally the one standing in the middles). We have Abraham pleading for the city of Sodom. We have Moses pleading for the Israelites. Do these not count?

Not quite; they are indeed mediators in the sense of negotiation, but there is another mediation needed for our salvation. Remember that Our Lord is unique in His mediation: He stands between God and Man by being both! It is through this unique position that Man can be reconciled with God through the entirety of His Holy Incarnation and most visibly in His death on the Cross. This makes His mediation absolutely unique and absolutely effective for the salvation of all people. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, et c. could never make this mediation, nor could Our Lady.

This means that as Mediatrix, she can only ever act as a mediator between us and Christ the Mediator. She can only ever bring us to the Person who alone saves us through His mediation. This is actually vital, for St Paul in the above text urges prayer and supplication for all men. He urges all Christians to act as mediators, a knotted string of mediation that stretches back and forth through Time and Space binding people to God in Christ Jesus. This is why the Church that the Mediator built is necessary: both sides need to approach the Mediator for true mediation to occur.

But Mediatrix of All Graces? As we always say “Hail Mary, full of grace”. But how does that mean ALL graces? This, I contend, comes from her position of giving birth to Our Lord and through this act, bringing the Cause of all Grace into the world. Through this act of Our Lady’s mediation, we are given Him Who sanctifies the waters of Baptism by being Baptised, Who gives the sweet wine of Holiness to the wedding guests at Cana, Who forgives sins, Who calls disciples, Who gives the gift of the Holy Ghost, Who sanctifies the deathbed with His own body, Who gives us His very flesh and blood to eat and drink so that we might be truly whole. If there are any other graces to be received, then we receive them only at the hands of God Himself via Christ our Mediator and then through the mediation of the Church as the body of Christ.

The position of Our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces is clear and encouraging, for we in all things should seek to emulate her example by bringing the Great Mediator to all people so that they might receive His Grace, Salvation, and Blessing. Our Lady shows our duty and our joy by showing us Christ. May we learn to do the same!

No comments: