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Do we find support for this proposed Dogma in the faith of the early Church?

Coredemptrix in the early Church

Mary’s coredemptive role with our Lord in the work of redemption emerges as an important theme in the early Church, beginning with Sts. Justin and Irenaeus in the second century. They used the image of the "New Adam" (Jesus) and the "New Eve" (Mary): The life of grace that the first Adam and the first Eve had jointly lost for mankind, was jointly restored by the New Adam and the New Eve. The virgin Eve, through her disobedience to the Father, interiorly cooperated with Adam in the sin that lost the life of grace for the human family (cf. Gen 3:6); the Virgin Mary, in her obedience to the Father (cf. Lk 1:38), interiorly cooperated with Jesus Christ, the New Adam, in the salvation of the human family through his redemption.

Mary’s unequaled participation in the redemption of the human race as the New Eve was the universal Christian teaching in the early Church. In fact, the great Patristic scholar, John Henry Newman, said that "by the time of St. Jerome (331-420), the contrast between Eve and Mary had almost passed into a proverb." St. Jerome had remarked: "Per Evam mors, per Mariam vita" ("Death through Eve, Life through Mary").

Mediatrix in the early Church

By the fourth century, the Church Fathers manifested a profound understanding of Mary’s function as Mediatrix. In reference to the Blessed Virgin, St. Ephraem (373) said: "With the Mediator, you are the Mediatrix of the entire world" (S. Ephraem, Syri opera graeca et latine, ed., Assemani, v. 3, Romae, pp. 525, 528-9, 532). St. Cyril of Alexandria, in one of the greatest Marian sermons of antiquity, said: "Hail Mary Theotokos, venerable treasure of the whole world...it is you through whom the Holy Trinity is glorified and adored,...through whom the tempter, the devil is cast down from heaven, through whom the fallen creature is raised up to heaven, through whom all creation, once imprisoned by idolatry, has reached knowledge of the truth, through whom holy baptism has come to believers...through whom nations are brought to repentance...." (Hom. in Deiparam, PG 65, p.681). Antipater of Bostra, another Father of the Council of Ephesus (AD 431), wrote: "Hail you who acceptably intercede as a Mediatrix for mankind."

St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene, St. Germanus of Constantinople, St. Peter Damian, St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Bernardine of Siena all spoke either explicitly of Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces or of Marian mediation. Such citations became ever more frequent by numerous Doctors of the Church, mystics, saints, and writers throughout the Middle Ages up to the modern era. St. Bernard of Clairvaux stated: "God has willed that we should have nothing which would not pass through the hands of Mary" (Hom. III in vig. nativit., n. 10, PL 183, 100).

Advocate in the early Church

The early Church was quick to confirm Mary’s role as Advocate in God’s plan of salvation. By the second century, St. Irenaeus had said: "And whereas Eve had disobeyed God, Mary was persuaded to obey God, that the Virgin Mary might become advocate (advocata) of the virgin Eve" (Adversus Haereses V, C. 19, 1). St. Ephraem called Mary the "friendly advocate of sinners" (S. Ephraem Syri testim. de B.V.M. mediatione, Ephermerides Theologicae Lovanienses, IV, fasc. 2, 1927). Other Fathers of the Church referring to Mary’s advocacy were St. Germanus of Constantinople, Saint Romanos the Singer, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

It should also be noted that ancient Marian prayers manifested a confidence in Mary’s power of maternal intercession in difficult times for her spiritual children in faith. One such prayer was the Sub Tuum (3rd century): "We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin."

Mary’s advocacy in no way implies that we cannot pray directly to God ourselves; moreover, Jesus himself taught us to pray to "Our Father" in heaven. Notwithstanding, Christians have long known the powerful intercession of Our Lady before God, and therefore have invoked the Mother of Jesus to unite her prayers with her children’s ever since the early days of the Church, as can be seen with the Sub Tuum prayer.






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