The Blessed Virgin Mary is Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Mother Mary’s Relationship to Each of the Blessed Trinity is thus intertwining
The Holy Trinity is by far the most complex mystery found within the Deposit of Faith held by the Church. It is difficult for any creature to fathom the depths of God’s Trinitarian life. Many Church Fathers and even still theologians today have spent much of their life’s work pouring over the understanding of the Most Holy Trinity. Many of them have spent their entire lives on the work of the Trinity and were still unable even to scratch the surface. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, because of its transcendent inapproachability, has maintained the sense of mystery in a faithful Church ever seeking understanding. The sense of mystery in the Trinity has never been lost and will never be lost. Above all other creatures, the Blessed Virgin Mary enjoys the fullness of relation to the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, as Daughter, Mother, and Spouse.
Though the Trinity is complicated, the relationships that the Blessed Virgin Mary shares with each person of the Trinity help to reveal the Trinity to humankind. The Father is first revealed to the people of faith in the Old Testament, the Son is revealed in the New Testament, and the Holy Spirit is made known in the Church. It is a slow revelation of something that is too complicated for mere humans to understand. If God were to have revealed the idea of a Triune God in the Old Testament it could understandably be concluded that we would have most likely been a polytheistic religion. Just like salvation history which is revealed over time so that we may better understand it, so too the Trinity is revealed to us. Dei Verbum illuminates on this idea by saying, In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4).1 In the New Testament one of the greatest testimonies to the Trinity is revealed greatly in the Annunciation to Mary in the Gospel of Luke. The Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin not only announced the Incarnation to the world but also revealed the entire mystery of the Trinity. In the Annunciation the Father is revealed by the Angel. It is revealed in the Annunciation that the Father has chosen Mary as the Mother of His Son and that He has blessed her above all others. Secondly, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is revealed in the Annunciation. He is announced by the Angel as a holy Child from God. Also revealed in the Annunciation is the Holy Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit that Mary shall conceive and bear the Son of God, who is God incarnate. It can only be said that the Holy Spirit is truly God if He is the cause of the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary.
Each person is made in the image and likeness of God, but all fall short in the face of God’s greatness. The Blessed Virgin Mary does, however, show the perfection of God’s greatness, and it is she alone, besides her Son, who can stand before God in her very creation free from all stain of sin. Above all creatures did God so loved her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight.2 She was created unlike any other creature that came before her or would come after her conception. She alone shared in the intimacies of the Spirit of God from her very conception. She receives God’s objective redemption as full of grace, God’s life, and becomes subjectively redeemed and sanctified as the virgin, the surrendering servant, that becomes the mother of God and the mother of all reborn by His Spirit.3 This privilege is singularly enjoyed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. To the early Church Fathers, To them Mary is an almost infinite treasury, an inexhaustible abyss of these gifts, to such an extent that she was never subject to the curse and was, together with her Son, the only partaker of perpetual benediction.4
Mary’s relationship with the Trinity is what brings humanity to a better relationship with the Trinity. To Mary the Most Holy Trinity was revealed to her in the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is in this participation in the inner life of the Trinitarian God that the process by which the Trinity works is revealed. The process is that the Father acts through the Word to the Holy Spirit. Mary is found at the end of the action seen in the life of the Trinity, which passes from the Father through the Word to the Holy Spirit; and he finds her at the starting point of the reaction in which we see divine life flowing back from the Holy Spirit through the Incarnate Word to the Father.5 This process which has Mary at the end does not indicate that Mary is in any way a member of the Triune God. It does reveal, however, that she was chosen from among all humanity (blessed are you among women) to have a special role in the mediation between God and His chosen people, a type of mediation which is also revealed to us in the Old Testament.
After the breaking of the Sinai Covenant, Moses acts as a mediator between God and the people of Israel. The Lord had once communicated personally with His people but after their repeated breaking of the covenant God no longer spoke openly to them. Mary, in the New Testament, is the creature through whom God renews mediation with His people. Not through words does Mary mediate God’s message to His people, but through her flesh, through which she passes on His Eternal Word to all the world. Mediating the Word in flesh rather than through words alone shows the importance of Mary’s relationship with the Holy Trinity. The reason this shows Mary’s important role is because she alone was chosen and created to bear the Son of God.
The relationship between Mary and the Holy Trinity is easily understood because it is through Mary that God wishes to bring the Font of Grace into the world. It is fitting that the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of God Incarnate, and the Chosen Daughter of God the Father should be included in the participation of the Trinity. Again, participation in the Trinity does not mean that she is part of the Holy Trinity. Each person is called to communion with God. As The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.6 We are each called to fulfill ourselves in this call but no person fulfills this call more so than Mary by bearing the Son of God. In Mary doing this in a more fundamental and quintessential way, giving her a sort of primacy of Communion with the Holy Trinity. It is this fundamental response of Mary that serves as a model for the rest of mankind. Each person who forms a covenant with God is brought into communion with him. In understanding this it follows that each child of God is brought into participation with the Trinity, although each act in participation with the Holy Trinity in some lower form compared to Mary. Mary is brought into this communion with the Trinity through her special role as the Mother of the Lord. It is in being the mother of the Lord that she is able to take part in the communion between the persons of the Trinity. Mary’s caring for her Son and her discipleship, her keeping and pondering all his words in her heart, will enable her to ‘penetrate more and more deeply into an understanding of the Trinity: of the Father whose daughter she is, of the Son whose mother and spiritual bride she is, and of the Spirit whose vessel she is.7 By vessel, however, one does not merely mean she just carried the Lord within her womb and shared nothing, rather she is the vessel of the Lord and He takes from her His humanity.
If Mary participates in such a special way with the Holy Trinity it can be said that she had to be God’s most perfect creation. By many Church Fathers and theologians Mary is considered the Lord’s great masterpiece. There is no creature like her nor will there ever be. She was created singularly special because she was predestined from the very thought of her being in the mind of God. It is through her, the world is able to see God’s greatness in her being. In Mary, God poured out His most plentiful graces in order that she may fulfill her role as mother more greatly. The ineffable and unique grace given to the Virgin Mary, to become the Mother of the everlasting Word, is the source of all the other graces which the heavenly Father gave to her, that she might provide ‘a worthy habitation for His Son.’8 It is necessary neither that Mary be filled with grace nor immaculate in order for Christ to be sinless but rather it is fitting that the Mother of the Lord be as sinless as He. She, the creature most completely filled with love, filled with God himself, is the Immaculata.9 God is Love: it is permissible to understand that Mary has been filled with this love to the very brim of her being.10 The Love that is poured into Mary is the very love that flows between the members of the Trinity. It is the love of the Father and the Son from which the Spirit springs forth. It is the love that is within each child of God but is amplified even more in the person of Mary. With the conception of Mary, the Love of God indwelled in her and sanctified her at her very conception.
According to many theologians, Mary is considered to have been conceived before all creation.11 By before one does not mean in a physical or temporal sense but rather her very being. God knowing everything and acting outside of time has the foreknowledge of the conception of all who are to come. In the same way God knew and planned Mary’s creation. God put careful planning into the person of Mary because of the important role she was to play in salvation history. Her role in salvation history was thought out before she was conceived in her mother’s womb. God intervened in a particular manner in the miraculous conception of Mary because, not only was she to give birth to the Son of God, but she herself was destined by God to be the first fruits of restored humanity. The thought of her creation was there at the very beginning of the thought of the Incarnation of God, which is eternal.
It is in her that God endowed much grace in order that she would fulfill her roles as Mother of God Incarnate and mother to the people of God. The Old Testament gives testimony to the thought of Mary in the earlier parts of creation. In Genesis 3, the Woman whose seed shall crush the head of the serpent, Satan, is no other woman but Mary.12 No other seed of woman has the power to abolish the serpent in this way. The seed must be Christ and therefore the Woman must be Mary. It is easy to identify the seed as Christ because the wording of the verse. No other person in the Bible is identified by their mother; they are always identified by the seed of the father. Seed is not a word that is usually identified as being of a woman. In the Gospel of John, Mary is always called the mother of Jesus or Jesus is always called the son of Mary. Christ is never identified as being the son of a man. We are able to look back into Genesis chapter 3 and see that Christ must be the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent, and by default Mary must be the woman who bears Him.13
The Fall of Man created a large rifted between God and man. The Fall of Man brought an entirely new meaning to the Incarnation. By this it is meant that the Incarnation would have taken place even if the Fall of Man had not occurred. It was involved in the divine plan for all eternity. The Incarnation after the fall then became the means by which God would redeem the world through His Son. After the Fall, God wished to use Mary as the means for the recapitulation of creation. Mary would be the one who would loose the bonds that the first Woman, Eve, had tied. Through woman came original sin and in right order through woman would the defects of original sin be removed. St. Justin Martyr was the first to mention the relationship that is found between Eve and Mary. Another way in which Mary fulfills the role of the recapitulation of all creation is through the fact that Eve is the Mother of All Creation, but is in Mary that this title is fulfilled. Only in Mary is there a true Mother of All Creation because the Son, whom she bore, is the source of all creation. God recapitulated his creation beginning with a woman who would freely consent to do what Eve refused to do; to be total woman, virgin, and mother14 Eve was created as the first woman and in her was the ability to fully accept and fulfill the will of God. But because of her lack of obedience to the Lord, Eve failed in her role as a woman.
The first creature to turn back to God was the Immaculate One, who is Mary. By to turn back it does not mean that Mary had sinned and turned back to God. It does mean that Mary was the first to completely give herself over to the Lord without hesitation. Before her all had fallen short in fulfilling their covenant with God. Since the time of the Fall of our first parents, the people of God had fallen time and time again when faced with keeping God’s covenant. After bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt and establishing a covenant with them the people soon broke the covenant and turned away from God.15 This would be a repeated action throughout all of the Old Testament. In the New Testament a New Covenant is formed and it begins with the Yes of a Virgin. It is not until the Immaculata that the covenant with God was truly followed. Mary does exhibit many of the good qualities of her forebears. Like many of the women of the Old Testament, Mary exhibits the faith to take what God has handed over to her. Mary is archetyped in Rebecca, Judith, Esther, and many of the other Old Testament women. Each of these women show great strength in the face of trial. The difference between Mary and these women is that they often led their men astray. This is definitely not the case of Mary. In Mary’s case, she greatly proclaims the name of the Lord and encourages those around her to do the will of the Lord. No creature before her was able to unite himself with God the way in which the Blessed Virgin Mary was capable. Her will never turned aside in the slightest from God’s will.16
One of Mary’s greatest relationships toward the Father is her role as Daughter. Each member of the people of God is considered an adopted daughter or son but no creature shares this relationship with the Lord as Mary does, other than her Son. She is not only considered the daughter of God but the first born daughter of God. It was necessary that she who was to conceive the ‘first born of every creature’ should herself have been conceived as God’s first born daughter.17 By first born it is not meant by her physical conception but her being first born hinges on the fact that she was thought of in God’s mind before all creation. This does not mean that Mary generated the Son into being.
The mysterious origin of the Blessed Virgin… was foreseen and ordained and the same decree with the Incarnation.18 No creature can ever say that they were brought into closer communion with Christ than the Blessed Mother. She alone has that singular privilege of being the Mother of Christ. There is no greater gift than that one which the Blessed Virgin Mary was so favoured to receive. She was chosen from the very moment of the thought of her creation. She was created by the Lord in order to be the mother of His only begotten Son. St. Maximilian Kolbe writes, She was immaculate because she was to become the Mother of God; she became the Mother of God because she was immaculate.19 This does not mean that she had to be Immaculate in order to become the mother of God; rather, she is Immaculate because it is right and proper for the Mother of Christ to be such. No prophet was as close to Christ as the Blessed Virgin Mary was to him, not even Moses. Moses carried the words of God on stone tablets while Mary carried the Word within her virginal womb. No creature has ever been given such a profound role of union with the Word. Mary is God’s gateway, the spotless mother of her creator, created by her own Son. The second virgin canceled the sin of Eve, and through her came the Mediator into the world, and took our flesh to the height of heaven.20 Through Mary, in Christ, our flesh is made more sacred than it had ever been.
Father Ackeren writes, the divine motherhood is not only Mary’s greatest privilege, but it is the key to the understanding of all her other privileges.21 The Incarnation of the Son of God is spoken of clearly it the Old Testament. The Christ would be the ‘seed of a woman’ (Gen. 3:15), a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom. 1:3; Acts 2:30), a shoot that would spring from the root of Jesse (Isa. 11:1), the fruit of a virginal womb (Isa. 7:14).22 The reason the Incarnation is so important in understanding Mary’s role in salvation is because in the Incarnation, God entered into the temporal sphere. History now has become sacred because God has entered into it through Mary. For without Mary, God’s entrance into history would not achieve its intended purpose.23 This is often looked over by many Protestant churches view Mary as a mere empty vessel rather than the source of Christ’s humanity. Mary is the vessel, a monstrance of the Word and Will of God become flesh.24 The idea of Mary playing a significant role in the entrance of God is made clear in the Profession of Faith. According to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the woman who called herself, lowly, that is, nameless, stands at the core of the profession of faith in the living God, and it is impossible to imagine it without her.25 So central is Mary to the Incarnation that we are unable to separate the two. Her singular and unique role in the redemption of man can be summed up easily by St. Augustine. According to St. Augustine, he who created you without you did not wish to redeem you without you.26
Difficulty does arise when calling Mary the Mother of God. Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. It can be clearly stated that Christ does not cease being God when He becomes Incarnate. Christ exists from all eternity and is fully God. When Christ is born of Mary, He does not become God after being born from her, nor does he start being God after His conception. He is a divine Person who is also man, who subsists not only in the divine nature which He receives in eternity from the Eternal Father, but also in the human nature He has received in time from His human mother.27 Rather He is fully divine from all eternity. Christ is born of Mary, from whom He receives all of His humanity. Since Mary carries Christ within her womb and brings Him forth it makes her His mother. A woman’s motherhood always refers to the person of her child. If Christ is fully divine and is born of Mary, then by default Mary is the Mother of God. Even though Christ’s humanity comes from Mary this does not mean that she is the source for His soul. Rather it is true, however, that a mother is not the cause of the soul or the personality of her child except in so far as she provides the matter disposed in such a way that it requires the creation of the soul of her child immediately by God.28 Mary is not the source of His personhood.
In St. John’s Gospel, Mary is never mentioned by her name but by the title of mother of Jesus.29 It is hypothesized that the Gospel writer did this purposely. So great and unique is the maternity of Mary to Christ that St. John feels obligated to make that the concentration of his Gospel whenever he speaks of Mary. In the prologue to this Gospel there is no mention of a mother to the Word Incarnate.30 This was most likely done in order not to subtract from the idea of the Incarnation and possibly to protect the divinity of Christ from any incorrect interpretation. The mention of Christ’s taking flesh and being born does however draw one to the conclusion that there was a woman involved since childbearing is a feminine action. Because Mary’s maternity is of such importance, the Gospel writer makes the point to focus upon it when there is any mention of her. Her very being and role are so linked to the Incarnation that the mention of Mary being the mother of Christ reminds the readers of the fact of the Incarnation. It reminds them of the fact that the Son of God has come down from Heaven and dwelt among us. He took his humanity from the most pure of all creatures, Mary.
Another area of Christ and Mary’s relationship involves the origin of His humanity. It must be understood that Christ is both fully human and fully divine. His divinity is easily understood when acknowledging that He is the Incarnation, which is God made man. His humanity, however, is troubling to many people, who will say that none of His humanity could have possibly come from Mary because she was a sinful creature and Christ was sinless; therefore, they claim, He had nothing given to Him from Mary. The Catholic Church teaches that Christ did receive all his humanity from Mary, who is sinless. It must be clarified though that Christ’s sinlessness does not depend upon Mary’s. Christ is sinless because He is God not because He came from Mary. Mary is sinless because it is right and proper that the Son of God should be born from such a creature. Mary’s openness to God could not have been completed by a person who was not sinless. Anyone affected in some way by original sin would be incapable of such a guileless openness to every disposition of God.31 Taking the understandings of St. Paul, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger explains the following, [the] preparation of a body happens through Mary because she, too, says ‘sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me…’ Behold I have to come to do your will.32 Mary does not offer up sin offerings or peace offerings, rather she offers over her total self, body and soul, to the will of God. The Lord has prepared the body of Mary to carry His Son and she has offered it back to Him to do His will.
The importance of Mary as mother was even given over to the Church by Christ Himself. At the crucifixion scene in the Gospel of John, Christ gives His mother over into the care of St. John the Evangelist and in return gives St. John into the care of Mary.33 St. John the Evangelist represents the body of Christ, the Church. It is in this passage that we see the motherhood of Mary reaching out to all of God’s children. Even though she is only a creature, she has been given the singular role to be the mother of all of God’s people, because she is the mother of God the Son. The reason that knowing Mary as the mother of the Church is related to her relationship with the Trinity is that God had formed her to be so. She was the perfect mother of God made man and only she is fitting to be mother to the rest of God’s children.
An additional relationship between Mary and Christ to be examined is her role as teacher. It is common knowledge that children learn much of their firsts from their mothers, especially in older times when women were still commonly seen at home with their children. Mary’s Presentation of Jesus in the Temple reveals that she had a great knowledge of the Scriptures and traditions of Israel.34 Mary introduced Jesus into the meaning and depths of Israel’s religion.35 In Mary’s own life the importance of Israel’s religion is seen. The traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover shows that she and Joseph obeyed the religious laws of Judaism. The first instance Mary is seen living out her faith is found in the Magnificat. The Magnificat shows to what degree her own life flowed from the heart of this tradition, which rested upon the promise of Abraham.36 As mentioned earlier Mary exemplifies the Abrahamic faith unlike the women who have come before her and have failed at keeping the commandments of the Lord. The yes of Mary is the finally full expression of the faith of Abraham and Israel as a whole.37 Ratzinger compares Mary’s sacrifice of her own Son to the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. Ratzinger explains that in Mary’s case, God goes to the end of this faith; on the cross, under which she stands, no angel intervenes to save and she must give back to God her Son.38 It is Mary’s great understanding of her faith that allows her to fulfill her mission in salvation history.
The faith of Mary is what helps to form the faith of Christ. The foreknowledge that Christ had as a young child is unknown to us. There is some hint of Christ understanding His origin when He is twelve in the Temple.39 It is the faith of Mary that brings her through all the trials that Christ would suffer through His life. Each time that Mary is mentioned in the scriptures it is always in the presence of Christ, which brings to mind that she was greatly involved in the ministry of Christ. It is Mary’s faith in her Son and His mission that gave her the strength to continue on to the cross.
In the reading of early Church Fathers, the introduction of Mary as Co-Redemptrix is found. Her role as Co-Redemptrix stems from the fact that Mary was chosen to take part in the salvation of man by becoming the Mother of Christ. When Mary accepted the motherhood of the Redeemer, she not only accepted His death, but also the daily trials throughout life in particular the more and more frequent and more and more painful loss of her child.40 Understanding this very statement makes Mary’s role as Co-Redemptrix more easily understood. The important role of Mary in the Incarnation is one of mediation. It is this role at the Incarnation that many scholars seem to overlook. When referring to Mary as a mediator most think of it after her earthly life had ended and she was assumed into Heaven and is now interceding on our behalf there. However, the first moment of Mary’s intercession for the people of God can clearly been seen at the moment of the Incarnation. Mary’s mediation is unique because it is maternal mediation, related to Christ who is always born anew into this world.41
Who could ever possibly deny the suffering of a mother for that of the life of her child? No greater suffering was ever endured by a mother than that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As she stood below the cross of her only Son and watched His life slip away from His body, the pain that she suffered was so great that it became united to His. In the Gospel, Simeon gives his prophecy in the temple that Mary’s soul will be pierced through by a sword. This sword would be the crucifixion and death of her only Son, the Christ. The mention of the sword piercing her heart at the moment of her Son’s death only begins to enlighten the biblical audience as to how the Mother will unite her sufferings to that of her Son’s.
Mary’s role as Mediatrix and Advocate are important positions that she holds due to her motherhood. From the Incarnation and forward, Mary becomes the Mediatrix and Advocate of the people of God. By Mediatrix, we are speaking here of her mediation in prayers. Mary is, in addition, our advocate in the fact that she goes before the Lord to ask things of Him for us. Her mediation thus represents the female dimension in salvation history; this female dimension is forever centered in Mary’s role.42 At the Incarnation Mary becomes our Mediatrix because she now is mediating the Word of God to the people. She is the cause for God the Son to come into being in human form, because He already exists eternally in spirit. This is her most important task in her job as Mediatrix. She would have no other mediating power were it not for the Incarnation. At the Wedding of Cana, Mary shows forth her roles both as Mediatrix and Advocate. She asks her Son to act in regard to the lack of wine at the wedding feast. Mary is asking on behalf of the bride and groom. Christ responds to His mother by fulfilling the request. Mary, then, tells the waiters to do whatever he tells you.43 She is always instructing the people of God to follow her Son more closely, even till this day. She does not cease bringing them to her Son.
To understand Mary as the Second Eve the order of creation must first be observed. In the beginning God created man. When God saw that the animals were not a suitable companion for man, God then created woman.44 The man and the woman of Genesis are both responsible for the Fall of Man. It is only fair to say that with the recapitulation of creation through Christ it must also come through Mary. No one can ignore that natural order. God did not create man to act singularly but together in union with woman. Just as Adam’s and Eve’s acting together caused the Fall of mankind, Christ’s and Mary’s acting together bring about the salvation of mankind. To clarify, Mary is not the principal cause for the salvation of mankind, because only Christ may accomplish that. She is however involved in the plan of salvation from eternity.
As early as the Patristic Fathers, the idea of Mary as the Second Eve has been a prominent teaching of the Church. In order to understand this teaching one must first have an understanding of Christ as the Second Adam. In many ways Adam is a typology of Christ and he finds his fulfillment in Christ. First, Christ is considered a Second Adam because he is the first born Son of God. If Christ is considered the first born Son of God it is proper to also say that Mary is the first born daughter of God. It can be easily said that Mary is the true helpmate of Christ.45
From before the beginning of creation the Holy Spirit has existed eternally. He sprang from the love of the Father and the Son. It is because of this that He is considered the eternal Immaculate Conception. His conception does not have a beginning but exists eternally. Through Him all graces flow and are bestowed upon God’s creation. The Holy Spirit is by far the most mysterious of all the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, and through Him one creature is honoured above all others. The creature which possesses this singular privilege is the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said that if the Holy Spirit had become incarnate it would have been in the Immaculate Mary. The same Spirit who from all eternity is the Immaculate Conception in the bosom of the Trinity, makes Mary another Immaculate Conception.46 The Holy Spirit had a hand in the creation of Mary from the very beginning of the thought of her existence. He designed her nature in such a way that she could proclaim to St. Bernadette, I am the Immaculate Conception.47 Mary’s very nature is so bound to her Immaculate Conception that it not only describes how she came into being but rather what she is. She was fashioned by the Holy Spirit to be His holy bride. In fashioning her this way, He poured out all graces upon her that she may shine unlike any other creature and be so submissive to God that she would never wish to stray her will from the Lord. The Holy Spirit was the one to pour forth these great graces into Mary because He is the source of all graces. He saw it fitting that His spouse should be a holy and grace-filled woman.
In St. Luke’s Gospel, the story of Mary’s being betrothed to another man can make the understanding of her being the Spouse of the Holy Spirit quite complicated.48 One must look at the idea of Mary as the Holy Spirit’s spouse from an objective point of view. The Gospel never informs us of an actual marriage taking place between Mary and Joseph. The fact that Mary is with child from origins unknown to Joseph comes as a shock, in which he even contemplates secretly divorcing her in order to save her from death. The shock Joseph experiences is because he is aware of Mary’s vow of virginity which she took in the temple.49 It is only revealed later to Joseph, in a dream, that the child Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he should have no reservations about taking her into his home. He did so only at the instruction of the angel of God and he had faith enough to trust that what was told to him was true. Joseph had to come to the realization that Mary had been created by God as the cause for salvation. By cause it is not meant to mean the main cause of salvation; rather she is involved deeply in the plan of salvation history from the very beginning. It is easy to conclude that St. Joseph had to have been a very grace-filled and holy person to have been able to accept and understand the role he would play in salvation history.
The idea of Mary as the spouse of the Holy Spirit and the betrothed of Joseph causes the issue of bigamy. On further deduction it can be explained that the Virgin Mary could not be guilty of bigamy. A marriage between a man and woman is only fully formed when the marriage is consummated in the marital embrace. Mary never had this marital embrace with Joseph because she had taken a vow of virginity at a very early age. The Holy Spirit in a sense consummated spiritually His marriage to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the moment of the conception of Christ. Since Mary never consummated the marriage covenant with Joseph, she can not be found guilty of bigamy.
In being the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary is the epitome of all creation. Mary reveals the presence of the Holy Spirit in her by all she is, by her words, her actions, her whole life.50 In her there is the perfection of every woman and spouse. She is so closely and perfectly bound to her spouse, the Holy Spirit, that she is the example for every woman and wife. Unlike Eve and the women who came before her in the Biblical text she is both a humble and meek servant of God. Most of the women of the Old Testament led their husbands into great sin and discourse. For example, Sarah, the wife of Abraham, in her own lack of faith caused there to be discord in the covenant between Abraham and God.51 Since the fall of man, there has been disunity between husband and wife. It is this disunity that caused such rifts in the Old Testament. Mary has complete unity with the Holy Spirit. United to the Holy Spirit as his spouse, in ineffable manner, she is one with God an incomparably more perfect way than can be predicated of any other creature.52
The union of Mary and the Holy Spirit is unlike any union that has ever existed. No creature has ever been so united to God. The only way to see a glimpse into this type of union is to understand the idea of love. In the union of the Holy Spirit with her, not only do we have the love of two beings in one of the two we have all the love of the Trinity itself; and in the other we have all of creation’s love.53 The love of the Trinity is encompassed all within the Person of the Holy Spirit. Out of that love the Holy Spirit created His spouse, and in her He poured out all of creation’s love. It was by this love that Mary grew to be the wondrous creature that she is. The love that flows in the very being of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the love that cared and nurtured for Jesus Christ, God made flesh. She was dominated by God’s love. All her other virtues, including her great infused knowledge and understanding and wisdom were permeated by the Spirit’s love in her.54 By dominated one does not mean overpowered by it nor overshadowed by it in order that she could not act freely on her own. Rather, Mary is so consumed in love that she can only act out of love of God. Love is not something that restricts a person but rather love is something that allows one to act more freely in union with God.
The dwelling place of the Lord is the most sacred of all places. Like the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant where God dwells. The Ark of the Covenant was made of the most sacred and pure of all materials. In the same manner, Mary was created of the most pure of all materials and filled with such graces that she was made Immaculate at her conception within the womb of St. Anne. Mary was made to be the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. Maloney writes in a dry and barren desert called earth, God’s Holy Spirit hovered over an oasis, fresh with God’s life. Mary was that ‘place’ over which God’s protective cloud hovered from her first moment of existence.55 This protective cloud was the Holy Spirit, which has a similar symbol in the cloud which hovered over of the Ark of the Covenant signifying the presence of God dwelling within. Hans Urs Von Balthasar was clear in saying that Mary is the vessel of the Holy Spirit. In the Incarnation of Christ, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and dwelt within her and conceived within her the Christ.
Mary’s participation in the Co-Redemption with Christ is revealed in the prophecy of Simeon. She is faced with the realization that her beloved Son is set for a fall, a fall that will end in his death. The prophecy of Simeon reveals to Mary also that she will suffer as well with her Son. As Simeon’s prophecy came to its realization and that sword of grief pierced Mary’s motherly heart, we know that she suffered in her inmost soul all that Jesus suffered in his body.56 She has been given the title of Co-redemptrix because her sufferings were in their own way and to their own degree redemptive for humankind and the fallen universe.57 When speaking of how Mary’s sufferings were redemptive does not mean that they in any way are in competition with the redemptive act of Christ. To understand Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix one must acknowledge that Mary’s role is not in competition with Christ. Rather, Mary’s co-redeeming acts are in participation with Christ’s redeeming act rather than in competition. She is the universal final cause of all creatures outside the hypostatic order, in the sense that she participates in a subordinate but true and literal way in her Son’s role as the world’s end and goal.58 When the prophecy had been revealed to her, Mary took all those things into her heart.59 The meaning of taking into her heart is bringing these things into the deepest part of her soul, which is already a step into her role as Co-redemptrix. Predestined to be the Lord’s Mother, Mary was by that very fact called to be his associate, his closest collaborator, in his redemptive mission.60 In her relationship with the Holy Spirit and through her role as Co-Redemptrix with her Son, Mary is the dispenser of all graces. It is through her that the source of all graces is brought into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the font of all graces. It is her union with the Holy Spirit that alone gives her this singular privilege of dispensing graces. Mary uniquely participated in the acquisition of the graces of Redemption by Jesus Christ and therefore, the Mother of Jesus, above all creatures, fittingly participates in the distribution of these graces of Redemption to the human family.61
Mary’s roles as Mother of God and Co-Redemptrix are what designate her as the Mediatrix of all graces. Mary’s role as dispenser or Mediatrix of the graces of the Redemption follows appropriately from her role as Co-redemptrix.62 It is through grace that Mary is the dispenser of all graces. Intrinsic to her role as Spiritual Mother is her function as Mediatrix of graces, in which she nurtures and nourishes her spiritual children in the order of grace.63 The relationship between Christ and Mary, which is formed by the Holy Spirit, is the answer to Mary’s reason as to why she has such a powerful role in the dispensing of graces. Dr. Mark Miravalle concludes that This union of will and suffering between Christ and Mary, ‘she merited to become in a most worthy manner the Reparatrix of the lost of the world’ and consequently, the Dispensatrix of all gifts which Jesus acquired for us through His death and blood.64
Many people mistake Mary’s role as Mediatrix of all Graces as meaning that the graces are coming solely from her. This is an untrue statement. The graces which Mary is privileged to dispense come only from the Lord. Mary is a mere creature and has no power to produce such graces. Mary is only secondarily the dispenser of grace since first these graces must come from God. One must be careful to understand also that Mary does not dispense these graces as she sees fit. Many misunderstand how Mary is able to dispense graces to people when she does not know the will of God. It is easily understood that Mary’s will is so closely connected with that of the Lord that she would never act outside of His will. Her acting in the will of God is clearly seen in the Annunciation and the Magnificat. The New Testament reveals Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces for us. With the Virgin’s free and active cooperation in the Incarnation, she mediates to us Jesus Christ, who is himself the Source and the Author of all sanctifying grace.65
The Trinity is found in every area of Mary’s role as Mediatrix of all graces. It is God the Father who is the Creator and Maker of the graces. The Son is the reason why the graces have found their way back into the world and through Him all grace flows. It is also through the Holy Spirit who acts through the Son and fills all with grace. God’s grace, therefore, flows from the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit and through the intercession of Mary.66 Mary has been brought into communion with the Most Holy Trinity in her participation in the Incarnation. She has become the vessel in which the author of grace has come into the world. God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation.67 The idea of Mary as the vessel through which grace has come into the world is an early Church teaching. The reason for this statement by the early Church is because Christ is understood as the source of grace and Mary is the channel through which Christ takes his humanity and comes into the human world.
Finally, Mary’s participation in the Trinity reveals to each person the relationship that they should strive for. Mary’s relationships with the persons of the Trinity reveal to the people of God the communion that each of us are called to have with God. From the earliest of Church Theologians to modern day scholars such as Pope Benedict XVI, the communion between Mary and the Holy Trinity will never be fully explored. No creature will ever be able to enjoy the fullness of relation to the three persons of the Holy Trinity as Mary. She alone is Daughter, Mother, and Spouse to the persons of the Trinity.