At RCIA the question arose tonight about Mary being called ‘Mediatrix’.
“Don’t you Catholics know that the I Timothy 2:5 says, ‘There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus?’ ” Why do you need Mary as mediator?
Now when a Protestant throws a verse to a Catholic as a proof text that the Catholic has got something wrong there is a curious lack of logic happening. Considering the Protestant’s protestations there can only be four conclusions:
1. Catholics (if they read the Bible at all) do not know this particular verse, otherwise they would not have Mary the Mediatrix.
2. Catholics do read the Bible, and have come across this verse and deliberately ignore it, or even worse, deliberately disobey it.
3. Catholics do read the Bible and they have read this verse, but they have a different interpretation of it
4. Catholics do read the Bible and do know this verse and accept it as God’s word, but what they mean by ‘Mary the Mediatrix’ is something different from what I think they mean.
Now the first conclusion certainly seems possible at first glance. Sadly, it is true, that most Catholics are not as immediately knowledgeable about their Bibles as most Evangelical Protestants. But we are talking about Catholic theologians here, and it is unthinkable that a theologian would be ignorant of this verse. We can therefore put that conclusion on one side.
The second conclusion we must dismiss. No sincere Christian (Catholic or otherwise) intentionally denies or disobeys the Scripture. The third conclusion is possible, but the verse in question is so clear and transparent in its meaning that it is difficult to find other interpretations than that there is one mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus.
The fourth conclusion is all we are left with: Catholics must mean something different by ‘Mary Mediatrix’ than Protestants think they do. Indeed, Catholics never believe that Mary is the mediator between God and Man as her son is.
Instead we believe she is a mediator in the way that all Christians are called to be mediators. We are all called to mediate the gospel to the world through preaching and our holy example and suffering. We are given ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ which Christ shares with us. We mediate his love to others through our lives, our prayers, our ministry and our example.
Mary does this too, and in this same say, but in a magnified dimension. She does so in this magnified dimension because of who she is. Her role from the beginning was not to be a mediator between God and man, but between her son and the world. After all, that is exactly what she did. She was the bridge between her son and the world because she conceived him, gestated him and bore him to the world, and this action and her character is therefore one of mediation in that respect.
I hope I do not labor the point, but this is but one example of how apologetics might be done.
Protestants do not very often disagree with what Catholics believe, but they do very often disagree with what they think Catholics believe.
I have to take one issue with your comment, Father, and that is here:“but the verse in question is so clear and transparent in its meaning that it is difficult to find other interpretations than that there is one mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus.”The problem is that if this verse is “so clear and transparent” than we would have to throw out Scriptural inerrancy, since the “clear and transparent” meaning of this verse is clearly and transparently false.By no means is Jesus the “one mediator” between God and man by the normal definition of the term “mediator.”According to Easton’s 1897 Bible dictionary: “one who acts as a medium of communication between two contracting parties.” Now, clearly, we have more than one “medium of communication” between us and God, most clearly of all St. Paul, without whom neither your nor I nor your Protestant interlocutor would have ever heard the words, “there is one mediator between God and man”!!!We can, without too much effort, list numerous mediators between God and man:St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John, St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, St. Jude, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David et al just to take the human authors of Sacred Scripture into consideration.Nor are these men somehow optional. It is safe to say that there is not a single human being anywhere in creation t that has a “medium of communication” between themselves and God which does not include these men, because without these men not a single person now living would have ever heard of Jesus Christ.Nor is the issue any different when look not just at “communication” in terms of information, but “communication” in terms of the communication of grace.Clearly, many people other than Jesus Christ have communicated grace to us: the priests who Baptized us, absolved us, administered Holy Communion to us, anyone who ever prayed for us, our guardian angels, Mary who brought about the Incarnation and therefore the Redemption, et al.Whenever we pray for, say, the conversion of a sinner, we are very clearly offering ourselves to God as a mediator between Him and this sinner. To pretend otherwise does total violence to the definition of the word “mediator.”So respectfully, Father, I have to disagree with you. Of your four cases, it is case #3, not case #4. Catholics mean by the title Mary Mediatrix exactly what Protestants think they mean. It is the Bible that doesn’t mean what Protestants think it means – because if the Bible meant what they think it means, it would be teaching falsehood.
Good point. It is perhaps better to say that the verse in I Timothy means that there is one (unique) mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus.In fact it is that ‘one mediation’ that Christ provides that enables the other ‘lesser mediations’ that you rightly point out, and which I referred to as our ‘ministry of reconciliation’. However, i stick to my point that the Protestants don’t understand what we mean by Mary Mediatrix. We say she is a lesser mediator. They think we place her on an equal level with her son, and thus contradict Scripture.
Its also important to note that just a few verses before, Paul instructs Timothy that Christians are to intercede (mediate) for each other.This is classic case of a single verse being taken well out of context.God bless…
In Spanish (at least in Spain), we normally use a different words for Christ’s role, “Mediador”, and the Holy Virgin’s, “Medianera” (and not “Mediadora”), trying to emphasize that Christ’s mediation and the mediation of everybody else (including Our Lady) are of a different order.
Dear Father, your excellent posting reminded me of an essay I’d once had to write on this subject, which I’ve put on my blog for any who may be interested:http://psallitesapienter.blogspot.com/2008/11/maria-mediatrix.html
I personally just dislike the word mediatrix. It has the cacophony of a hacked up furball, and a subliminal link to other unmentionables. It riles up Protestants. And what does it do for Catholics? Isn’t she the same person regardless of what you call her? I’ll take the titles Elizabeth and Gabriel gave her, and study her ongoing witness to the world. The name mediatrix seems to come with too great a price, IMHO.
The lack of understanding and acknowledgement of secondary causes contributes to the misunderstanding of this scripture and the role of Mary and the saints in the life of the church. God is the first cause but delights in using secondary causes. Does he have to? No, but it is His pleasure to use us as instruments because love is fostered and grown in relationships.By the way, I listened to the Journey Home podcast yesterday where you were the guest. Great job! Thanks!
The Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy (of St. John Chrysostom)repeats several times:”Let us remember our all-holy, spotless, most highly blessed and glorious Lady the Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary with all the saints, and commend ourselves and one another and our while life to Christ God.”I love thinking of Mary, the saints of ourselves this way… keeps it clean, dignified, and less subject to argument, I think.
Mary has been the mediator (of graces) between men and Jesus since she bore Him for us in Bethlehem. Later at Cana she was the model intercessor (advocate) prompting Him in His ministry to the people of God. Finally, on the Golgotha, she offered her son’s sacrifice for the redemption of all, she herself the first one to be redeemed from her creation.Or am I way off?Thanks.
However, i stick to my point that the Protestants don’t understand what we mean by Mary Mediatrix. Granted, Father. However, I also stick with my point, in that Protestants tend to interpret Timothy here to rule out any form of mediation by the saints, even a lesser kind.So while we must take pains to point out to them that no, we don’t think there is anything remotely resembling equality in the roles of Our Lord and Our Lady, we must also take pains to point out to any would-be apologist that just saying, “Oh, but she’s a lesser mediator,” isn’t going to seal the deal. It is the entire Protestant concept of non-mediation which must be refuted.Excellent blog, btw, Father.I personally just dislike the word mediatrix…It riles up Protestants. And what does it do for Catholics?…The name mediatrix seems to come with too great a price, IMHO.I would answer the following:1. Whether we like a term or not, if we discard one, we consign the writings of generations of saints and theologians to the fate of being incomprehensible to future Catholics, and consign those Catholics to being unable to read their writings.2. Our intellectual heritage seems a treasure worth preserving, even at the price of riling up Protestants.
Also, before we go off and get too carried away saying the Bible adamantly teaches the idea of there being but one exclusive mediator between God and man, we might have to re-interpret (or tear out) some other passages from our Bibles. For example, in Galatians 3:19, what are we going to do with Paul, where he is suggesting that somebody else (Moses, presumably) was ordained as a mediator between God and man(“Wherefore then serveth the law? It … was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”). OK, so were there two mediators, one for the Old Covenant and one for the New? Think again. If you go back far enough into the Old Testament, you will find Job, who actually lends support the view that the correct answer to the question, “How many mediators are there between God and man?” is “Zero!”, because Job says “For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both.” (Job 9:32-33)
“Whether we like a term or not, if we discard one, we consign the writings of generations of saints and theologians to the fate of being incomprehensible to future Catholics, and consign those Catholics to being unable to read their writings.”No, I do not think we need throw out the baby with the bath water. The writings are fine, we can just stop throwing the term around. As usual, Shakespeare said it best….”What’s in a name? That which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet.”Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)