More Frequently Asked Questions
Do we find support for
this proposed Dogma in the faith of the early Church?
in the early Church
Marys 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.
Marys 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
Mediatrix in the early Church
By the fourth century, the Church
Fathers manifested a profound understanding of Marys 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
Advocate in the early Church
The early Church was quick to confirm
Marys role as Advocate in Gods 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 Marys
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 Marys 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."
Marys 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 childrens ever since the early days of
the Church, as can be seen with the Sub Tuum prayer.