What Did Our Lady Do on Calvary?: Saturday, July 11, 2015

J.M.J. More than fifty years after the publication of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the topic of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s position and significance in that document still grabs considerable attention.

The famous Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium, entitled “Our Lady,” treated in some detail the specific relationships that Mary has with Jesus and the Church. No ecumenical council has ever provided as developed a “Marian treatise” as Vatican II.

The question that especially has surfaced repeatedly during the last twenty-five years concerns the role of Mary in the human race’s long-awaited redemption by Jesus on Calvary. Recent conferences and books have been devoted to analyzing her part in the Messiah’s salvific death. 

What, if anything, did Our Lady do at the foot of Christ’s cross?

One may look to Chapter Eight for some help. Although not a complete description of Mary’s activity on Calvary, much less a systematic Mariology, article 58 presents a valuable, insightful teaching. Mary “faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, associated herself with His sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to His disciple, with these words: ‘Woman, behold thy son’ (Jn. 19:26-27).”

Taking our cue from the Council, we conclude that Mary accomplished two primary things near her Son suspended in His last agony.

First, she intimately participated in our reconciliation with God when she, surrendering to the Almighty’s desire, offered Jesus to His Father as the necessary and perfect holocaust for the many sins of the world. The sacrifice of Jesus became Our Lady’s, too. She promptly yielded to what any mother would find excruciatingly difficult—her child’s torture and death. Yet, Mary acquiesced because, steeped in a resolute belief in her Creator and in his extraordinary concern for her and for the entire “Chosen People,” she recognized that this heroic act was what God mercifully required.

Second, she accepted the unique “maternal office” held out to her by her Son by becoming the Spiritual Mother of Christ’s disciples. From now on, she would exercise a particular and lasting vigilance towards the brothers and sisters of Jesus by way of her intercession, good example and distribution of graces that Jesus won for us on Calvary. God confided in Mary the demanding task of caring for His needy flock.

The Madonna had her own dying and rising experience on Calvary. In giving Jesus back to his Father, her remarkable gesture of trust opened her to the fresh possibility that came from God’s own hand: to be a genuine mother for the Faithful.

Our Lady raised the disfigured Body of Jesus to His beloved Father and, in turn, received the life-bestowing apostolate of service—namely, Spiritual Maternity—on behalf of the friends of the soon-to-be Risen Lord.

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