Petitions for the Holy See to proclaim as a doctrine of Faith that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Co-Redemptrix in union with Jesus, her Son, has been viewed by some as a major new obstacle to ecumenical dialogue. Although carefully nuanced to emphasize that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, alone was capable of effecting the salvation of humanity by His saving life, death and resurrection, there is a lingering uneasiness on the part of many about accepting Mary's title as Co-Redemptrix in any more than a figurative or poetic sense. I would like to take this opportunity to address this difficulty in a way that, by God's grace, may serve to help this teaching to promote ecumenical dialogue, rather than provide an obstacle to Church unity.
The underlying basis for this reflection is the fact that our culture needs to seriously re-examine its understanding of the nature of man in the light of Divine Revelation. By using the conventional term "man", I wish to indicate the individual human person as well as the collectivity of human society. A major problem that Western anthropology has with regard to man is that it tends to see each human person as a unique individual, while the covenantal bonds that form society are seen primarily as structures for the orderly development of human life and relationships. Although this may be helpful in philosophical and legal deliberations, it does tend to create a distorted image of integral humanity by viewing the human person's being as somewhat aloof from any real self-investment into the human family.
The individual is seen as contributing to society and benefiting from the contributions of others in a somewhat healthy symbiotic relationship. Such a functional perspective of man, however, tends to overlook a more profound ontological perspective of man presented in Holy Scripture, a perspective which presumes that man's relationships are not merely a mode of his functioning in the world, but rather an integral aspect of his very being. The following reflections will seek to show that, in Holy Scripture, man is seen as essentially a covenantal being.
In order to appreciate this perspective, it is important to note that Scriptural portrayals of integral humanity are only given in the first two chapters of Genesis, in some of the wisdom writings and in the Gospel accounts of Christ and His ministry (In the Gospel accounts, however, it should be noted that the integral humanity is not in the Sabbath rest of a completed creation, but rather is profoundly engaged and disfigured in a struggle against the power of evil, whereby humanity is being re-created in the image and likeness of God). All other accounts of human life and endeavor in the Scriptures portray individuals and societies that are caught up in the power of sin and struggling to come to terms with the call and grace offered to them by God.
We see what God originally intended man to be dramatized in the very beginning of the Torah. This follows a basic wisdom, which affirms that, in any discourse, one should clearly define the meaning of terms in order to ensure that no misunderstandings develop in the sharing of ideas and perspectives. And so it is that, in Genesis 1:26-27 and again in Genesis 5:2 (cf. also Mal. 1: 14-15), "man" is defined as being God's image and likeness precisely in being "male and female". The intriguing thing about this is to be seen in light of the fact that the Mosaic Law was very insistent on the fact that there is only one God. In light of the prevalent pagan religions of Israel's neighbors, especially the cults of the god, Baal, and of the goddess, Astarte, it is difficult, at first, to reconcile the strict monotheism of Israel with the idea that God's image and likeness is male and female. The sacred author is definitely not trying to affirm that there are two varieties of God.
The only way this dilemma can be reconciled is by a deepening appreciation of the covenant theology, which is so central to Israel's spirituality. Since God's image and likeness is not "male or female", but "male and female", the image and likeness of God is not proclaimed to be found in some sort of rugged individualist, nor is it manifested in a glorified version of the turf battles between the sexes, but rather in the covenant relationship, into which individuals invest themselves in obedience to God's call. By way of analogy, we should call to mind the fact that the covenant relationship we allude to under the title, the Holy Trinity, is not merely a functional relationship of the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is God, and each distinct Person in the Godhead is God. Likewise,
in the original plan for both creation and redemption, God's image and likeness is also to be one humanity, in which many individual human beings share through their communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit.
This covenantal nature of man is reaffirmed in the second chapter of Genesis, in which God, after forming Adam from the dust of the earth and breathing His own life breath into him, declares, "It is not good for the man to be alone.” God finally forms the woman from a rib taken from Adam's side. Note, however, that He does not breathe life into woman, the life breath is already in her as she is being formed from the rib. Thus, the life she has is a life she shares with the man - a self-emptying (kenosis) covenant life. The two become one flesh, not in a Platonic sense, in which the soul is divorced from the flesh, but in a way that enables the whole being of each to be perfect gift to the other and, with the other, to God.
The account of the Fall in Genesis 3 also echoes the covenantal nature of authentic humanity. God had told the man in Genesis 2 that at the very moment he ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would die. However, when the woman and the man ate of this fruit, they did not drop dead on the spot. But their beautiful covenant relationship of love, respect, trust and mutual support did die as they realized they were naked, as they hid from God in a spirit of alienation, and as the man blamed the woman and God, Who had given her to him, for his sin. (As an aside, it is worth noting that sin is portrayed as a perverted covenant relationship with the evil one by God’s question, “Who told you that you were naked?”, not “How did you realize you were naked?”) This alienation from the covenant relationship is the death that took place as a consequence of their sin. Biological death was merely a delayed effect of this consequence, in a manner analogous to the delayed demise of bodily organs after the brain dies.
Here we can also see the beginnings of our distorted, individualistic and non-covenantal understanding of man succinctly expressed. The man and woman are no longer united in a covenant of mutual respect. Instead, the woman will long for the man and he will be her master. In a "sour grapes" attempt to ratify the meaning of life in terms of the domination, manipulation and exploitation that sin has brought into their relationship, the man names his wife "Eve"; i.e., the mother of all those "living" in accordance with this perverted condition. Likewise, God's clothing them in animal skins reveals that, because of their rejection of a covenantal humanity, they have fallen into a condition analogous to the man's situation when he was frustrated in his quest for a helpmate by his finding merely a functional relationship with the animals. But, to emphasize again that the original and normative nature of man is still covenantal, Genesis 5:2 again points out that God Himself named the male-and-female covenantal being "man".
From this point on, salvation history entails God's fidelity in bringing to realization His original word of commitment to form man in His image and likeness (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). In the face of human pride, sin, perversion, stubbornness, cruelty and blindness, God faithfully reaches out to, wrestles with and forms a people, which is to image the reality of a covenantal life to the rest of fallen humanity. (It is intriguing to note here that the covenantal and dialogical nature of man, in opposition to an individualistic interpretation of salvation history, is indicated in Exodus 32:15-16, where the commandments of the covenant are described as being inscribed by God on both sides of the tablets given to Moses. Thus the commandments could not be seen at any moment by one person alone. A communal activity was required to come to a proper appreciation of the full truth of God's covenant with Israel.)
Detailed exegesis of other Scriptural passages which point to this renewal of a covenantal humanity is impossible in the space of this short article. Suffice it to say, however, that outside such a covenantal life, hope is quickly suffocated by the anxieties stirred up by preoccupations with the world, the flesh and the devil. As Genesis 3:14 and 19 point out, man will ultimately return to being the “dust” that will be the food/prey of the serpent. Likewise, all human efforts to form community will degenerate into a form of complicity, wherein certain moral evils will be embraced as both normal and normative by the group.
The above considerations are important in that they emphasize that God's original creation of man was the creation of a covenantal being, not the creation of a loose-knit group of individuals, who relate to one another merely out of an enlightened self-interest. In line with this, we can see that each person is created as a gift to grace the lives of others (note that for Adam, the woman was not just his wife, but also was the rest of humanity at that time, and vice versa), so as to image that Love, which is the very Life and Being of God Himself. These considerations also help to clarify the fact that human dignity is to be found not in a superficial self-centered spiritual stagnation, but rather in one's being more purely and perfectly gift to God and neighbor.
Thirdly, they point out that alienated humanity is desperately in need of God's gracious Self-Revelation and Covenant grace in order to come to a truly integral life (We are not able to pull ourselves out of the quagmire of sin by our proverbial bootstraps).
Finally, since sin is a choice to distort one's perspective before it is a distortion of actions and relationships, salvation from sin requires that man, by God's grace, be willing to embrace a persevering obedience of faith in the truths and disciplines revealed by God, even when those truths do not conform to the perspective of the predominant culture of his age.
The understanding of integral man as a covenantal being helps to bring into focus the profound spirit of self-abnegation (kenosis) to which the God the Son committed Himself in the sacred mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption (It needs to be emphasized here that the Incarnation and Redemption are sacred mysteries, and not merely sacred historical events.
As mysteries, they continue to engage and transform humanity throughout all of history). If God originally created man as a covenantal being, then the mystery of the Incarnation would require that God the Son take to Himself a covenantal human nature. In such a nature, the work of redemption is a covenantal mission and ministry. (It should be noted that this covenantal human nature, which God the Son embraced, was in stark contrast to the more aloof and hermetically-sealed type of spirituality embraced by many of the Pharisees) And it is shared in such a way that both Jesus and His beloved disciples participate in the struggles, sufferings, frustrations and glorification involved in the mystery of human redemption from the power of sin. As scandalous as it may seem to minds clouded by the distorted perspectives of sin, Jesus did not want to be glorified alone, either on the cross or on His heavenly throne. His glorified covenantal humanity is to be an ongoing invitation for all to share in that grace, with which His divine nature invested our frail and fallen human nature.
And so, as His Father's Word of loving commitment to unfaithful humanity, Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, perfectly takes to Himself a covenantal human nature by gracing the life of one woman in particular to purely and perfectly participate in a covenantal communion with Himself in every aspect of her life and being. Only in this way could it be effectively shown to the world that salvation was not merely to be a change of our condition as humans, but rather a transformation of our very being - our total humanity in all dimensions of its life and relationships. And so it is that the Church proclaims the unique and sinless covenantal bond of Mary with her Son as a truth that must be proclaimed and appreciated by all Catholics. The redemptive gift of Jesus was perfectly given to and received by His Mother from the first moment of her existence. Or, to put it more concisely, the Immaculate Conception of Mary does not just entail her total freedom from original sin, it also involves her being given the grace to be perfectly receptive to and filled with God's gracious gift of Himself, commonly referred to as sanctifying grace.
This gift was ratified by her act of total consecration to God's will for her, which is reflected in the Annunciation. It is important to note here that, when the archangel, Gabriel, came to Mary in Nazareth, he did not ask her if she was willing to become the mother of the Messiah, but rather informed her of the way in which God was calling her to live out her consecration of her life for the salvation of her people. Thus, by her fiat, she reaffirmed her perfect consecration to God by freely giving the totality of her being as woman to Him, so as to allow the Spirit to form the humanity of God the Son within her very being. Mary's fiat was a participation in the kenosis of her Son, in that it required that 1) she, whose life was consecrated to inspire, encourage and edify all the people in her community, become a source of scandal for her family, friends and fiancee as they discovered her to be pregnant out of wedlock; 2) her reputation in her community be irrevocably tainted by her acceptance of Jesus into her life and her world; 3) she risk complete ostracization, and even death, for the sake of conforming herself and her life to the will of God.
In deference to those who legitimately point out that Mary and her words are rarely mentioned in the written gospels, it should be noted that the complementary nature of her covenant relationship with Jesus makes this lack of Scriptural emphasis quite understandable. If Jesus is God's Word become flesh, the proper reception of that Word would entail a quiet and vigilant, yet dialogical, receptivity to that Word. Scriptural silence concerning the deeper dimensions of Mary's relationship with the Person, life and ministry of her Son is merely a reflection of the attitude of reverent and receptive recollection needed to properly participate in an authentic covenant relationship with Christ.
It should be noted here that the new covenant humanity actuated in history by the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Incarnation was not a closed relationship. Just as the first man and woman were commanded to be fruitful and multiply, so the new covenant-humanity of Jesus and Mary, formed by the power of the Holy Spirit, was given the command to totally give of itself (to empty itself) in order to embrace and form all peoples into a renewed covenantal humanity. Just as in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity there is only one God in three divine Persons, so in the new redeemed humanity, there is to be one Christ, one Church, one new human covenant community committed to an irrevocable obedience to the will of our loving Father, into which many human persons, through the grace of Baptism, invest their lives and very being.
From this covenant perspective, a beautiful dimension of the mystery of the Redemption becomes more evident. Scripture is quite clear in stating the fact that Jesus died for us because God loved us (John 3:16, Rom. 5:10, I Jn 4:19). Jesus' death on the cross did not cause God to love us, since God is beyond the control of the cause-effect dynamic. Thus the Redemption is not an act of appeasing the anger of a wrathful God, but rather the epiphany of the merciful God in the midst of the mercy-less condition that festers in the heart of sinful humanity. This condition of the human heart is the consequence of our free choice to reject a covenantal life with God and with one another.
In the mystery of the Redemption, each human person is given the opportunity to break away from the power of sin and, by God's mercy, be restored to the status of membership in His covenant family. In the process, the redeemed are given the strength to break away from the corrupting "covenant" of sin; i.e., the tendency to commit one's self to the perverted fellowship of complicity with the spirits of evil, such as lust, envy, pride, avarice, anger, gluttony and sloth for the sake of some transient pleasure or advantage. The righteousness of God, then, is not fulfilled by compounding the evil of sin with the evil of death and damnation. Rather, God's justice is realized by His overthrowing the oppressive power of those evil spirits, which keep us from recognizing and reverencing the image of God in ourselves, in one another and in the covenantal communion of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church.
Thus, the intensity and variety of sufferings which Jesus endured in His saving passion were not an indication of how intense was the Father's wrath toward sinful humanity. Rather, they revealed to us how perduring and intense is God's desire to reconcile us to Himself in spirit and in truth. In spite of the repeated and horrific abuses endured in His passion, Jesus continues to affirm His merciful love for us. He was telling us, by word and example, "No matter how terrible, festering and numerous are your sins and the evil they bring upon others, I want to forgive, heal and renew you in My grace". Our sinful humanity expects that enough abuse will show that there is a limit to God's desire to forgive and heal us. Yet, through the long ordeal of crucifixion, Jesus continues to reaffirm that His love is greater than the cruelty and perversion of our sin. And in rising from the dead, He again continues to reaffirm His call for conversion, reconciliation and healing.
It is important to stress here the unique participation of Mary in the sacrificial death of her Son on Calvary. It must be emphasized that only the Person of the God-Man, Jesus, was capable of effecting our redemption by emptying Himself in an eternal sacrifice of praise, since of all human beings. Jesus alone is God. But the fact that His humanity is a covenantal humanity, in which His Blessed Mother, by His grace, is intimately invested, required that His death for our salvation be not an individualistic task, but a covenantal ministry of unconditional and irrevocable obedience to the will of the Father.
Thus, His sufferings and death for our salvation are fruitful ministries, in which all the faithful, especially His Blessed Mother, are called to obediently participate. And so it is that we see Mary standing in torment for six long agonizing hours at the foot of the cross (Mk 15:25,33). In profound agony and grief, she witnesses the violation of the body of her Son by pagan soldiers, the leaders of her people sadistically ridiculing her Son as He helplessly endures the excruciating ordeal of crucifixion, the noticeable absence of most of His apostles, and the spiritual turmoil that came upon her Son and His disciples who wondered why God did not intervene to save His Chosen One. Mary was anything but immune from the sufferings endured by her Son that day. With a profound compassion that only a mother could fully appreciate, she was intimately united with her Son in His suffering and death and in His prayer, "Father, forgive them! For they know not what they are doing."
Since this is such an important aspect of the mystery of the Redemption, we should again address the issue of the relative silence of the Holy Scriptures concerning Mary's unique relationship with both her Son and His mission. It should be pointed out that, although the Sacred Scriptures proclaim to us the mystery of God's gracious gift to us in Christ, they do not claim to exhaust that mystery. Rather, they clearly testify that the vast majority of Jesus' life was spent in the obscurity of Nazareth and that all the books in the world could not contain a full accounting of the ministry and mystery of Christ.
The truths of the Holy Scriptures are given in a way that requires the believer to be constantly and totally receptive to the transcendent dimensions of Divine Revelation, since spirituality is a divinely guided art of discerning subtleties that are pregnant with new and more profound possibilities. One seeking impressive arguments or spectacular signs in order to believe would be rejecting the prayer, struggle and suffering required by authentic discernment. For example, the reaction of the Jews in Nazareth to Jesus' preaching strongly indicates that He was not especially noted for extraordinary holiness in His younger days. Thus He was rejected, since He would not indulge their lust for excitement and novelty.
Likewise, cynics legitimately point out that one of the central mysteries of our Faith, the Resurrection of Jesus, was actually witnessed by no one. The guards saw the empty tomb revealed when the stone in front of it was rolled back during an earthquake. And all that the disciples saw were the empty tomb, the angels announcing the Resurrection and the risen Christ showing them that He was alive. But no one saw the actual event. And so the lack of Scriptural texts addressing a particular article of faith cannot, in itself, be used to deny the validity of that truth.
From the above, we can see that, by understanding of Mary's ministry as Co-Redemptrix in the light of the covenantal nature of integral humanity (reflected in the nuptial "meaning", not just "function", of the human body), we can discover an important corrective for the tendency to image Jesus as a kind of altruistic rugged individualist, Who merely condescended to allow others to share in His ministry. Such a misunderstanding of Jesus has tragically lead many to either an alienated frustration or an arrogant superficiality in their spiritual lives.
Although each human is called to participate in the new covenant humanity in a way that reflects his/her unique personal situation, the uniqueness of one's personal participation is never to be seen as a reason to glorify spiritual alienation by saying, "I did it all by myself". The Jesus proclaimed in the Gospel is not one who hoards all the glory He receives. Rather, He continues to give His glory to His Heavenly Father, to graciously bestow His glory on His Blessed Mother and on His bride, the Church, and even to reach out to stubborn sinners with that call to repentance whereby they can come to share in the joys of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. His living out of the New Covenant with His Blessed Mother points out dramatically that true spirituality does not build up pride, but rather nurtures a more profound and authentic covenant communion of love.
In light of this covenantal nature of man and of redemption, we need to re-examine some serious spiritual errors with regard to the nature of the ministries to which we are called by God. Contrary to the literalistic interpretations poetic expressions of one's desire to be totally at the disposal of God's will, Jesus does not "use" believers like inanimate tools to accomplish His plans. Instead, He invites them into a deepening communion with Himself in His ministry of reaching out to sinful humanity with His saving grace. He calls upon His faithful disciples to manifest in their lives the presence of God's faithful and eternal Love. Such communion and ministry necessarily requires one to participate in the redemptive sufferings of Jesus.
But by centering one's attention not on the pain of the cross, but rather on Jesus, with Whom one has the privilege of being crucified, a person is renewed in the Spirit of love, joy and peace even in the face of the most difficult forms of suffering. Similarly, true believers are not merely spiritual parasites, which draw life from Jesus but do not invest themselves into His life and mission. Rather, they are, through Baptism, actually members of the Body of Christ. Each one participates in a unique way in the sacred mysteries of the life, sufferings, death and resurrection of God the Son, and thus comes to fully participate in that new covenant-humanity, which is the image of the covenantal Triune God.
We could continue by examining how this covenantal nature of integral humanity would shed some intriguing new light on some interesting dilemmas in Sacred Scripture - such as, why does the genealogy of Jesus end with Joseph (who is a father to Jesus not by flesh, but by a marriage covenant with Mary, whose relative, Elizabeth, was not of the Davidic line, but "from the daughters of Aaron", a Levite [Lk 1:5]); why did Jesus' humanity need to be perfected (Heb 5:9) through His suffering and death; how do we understand the divine inspiration of the human authors of the Holy Scriptures, which seem to have gone through a redaction in the covenant community of God’s people); and why is the Church's self-emptying evangelization of all humanity not merely an extraneous charitable work, but a necessary ongoing dynamic for the healthy development of a covenant community of believers.
But for the sake of brevity, we must simply repeat that God's creation of man in His image and likeness was the creation of a kenosis covenant communion of persons freely giving themselves to one another in love, respect, trust and gratitude in obedience to the will of God. Sin brought alienation and death into this covenant communion, which God called "man". Grace, given to us through repentance and faith by our baptism into covenant communion with Jesus in His saving life, death and resurrection, enables us to break free of the alienation and deception of sin. In this way, we can live in the freedom of God's children, and the grace of God continues to build up the covenant community of redeemed humanity in authentic repentance, reconciliation, faith, hope and love.
I mentioned earlier that the solemn declaration that Mary is Co-Redemptrix would foster, rather than inhibit, further ecumenical dialogue. The reason for this optimism is that the perfection of Jesus' work of redemption is manifested in the consequences of that work. Perfect salvation is not evidenced by a soul still caught up in the power of sin and concupiscence. Thus for us to affirm that Jesus has saved us must also affirm that He has not merely engaged in a sophisticated cover up, whereby our sins are hidden from the Father's scrutiny. Such divine deception or duplicity would be impossible for an all-knowing God.
For Jesus to perfectly attain salvation for us would require that this perfection of salvation be manifested from the beginning in at least one person's life. Otherwise, it would only be a partial, theoretical or imaginary salvation. The person who manifests to us how absolute is the salvation Jesus has won for us is His Blessed Mother. Furthermore, if one aspect of this salvation is a complete authentic communion with Jesus (rather than remaining alienated from, though “redeemed” by, Jesus), then Mary must also intimately share in a fellowship of life and ministry with her Son.
He Who perfectly fulfilled the commandment, "Honor your father and your mother", by being obedient to the Father unto death, also honored His mother by blessing her with the highest degree of Divine intimacy a creature could possibly receive. And this intimacy necessarily involved her intimate cooperative participation in the mission of her Son - to glorify the Father by bringing the image and likeness of God to perfection in all aspects of our shared humanity. Those who find it difficult to accept Mary's cooperative participation in the mystery of the Redemption may be able to appreciate it in light of the broader context of the mission given by Christ to evangelize the world. Most Christians accept the fact that evangelization is a necessary ministry of the Church.
But they often overlook the fact that the human cooperation of the evangelist, is a necessary aspect of the ministry of making the salvation won by Christ available to individual souls. Yet this truth contradicts the erroneous idea that Jesus "alone" saves us. Jesus is the unique God-Man, the sine qua non of Redemption, but His uniqueness does not alienate Him from us, rather it enables Him to enter into a communion with us in a way that transcends the superficial and corrupt "mess of pottage" offered by those who define community in terms of complicity, rather than of conversion. To deny the validity of human cooperation in the work of redemption, and thus the validity of the ministry of evangelization, since Jesus "alone" saves souls from sin, would be to deny the very words of Jesus, Who sent His apostles and disciples to proclaim the Gospel and to baptize people of all nations.
To endorse the denial of the need for human cooperation in the work of redemption would be to assert that one's proclaiming the Gospel is a "sin" of affirming the need of human cooperation for the mystery of redemption to be effective in a person's life. It is rather obvious that such a perspective of the Church's mission would be seriously flawed, in that it would distort the doctrine of salvation by Jesus alone into a doctrine of salvation by Jesus aloof from all human cooperation. The denial of the need for human cooperation in the mystery of redemption would even call into question the validity of one's accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord, which require a minimum act of human cooperation, in order for Christ's saving power to be effective in a person's life.
And so all that the Church would be affirming in the doctrine of Mary as Co-Redemptrix is that, by the grace of God, Mary cooperates in a pre-eminent, perfect and perfecting manner in the mission and ministry of her Son. Her words, "Do whatever He tells you" are the foundation of all authentic Christian spiritual direction. Likewise, such a doctrine would help to remind us that the fruit of a truly Christian spirituality, as exemplified by Our Savior Himself, is not a pharisaical pride in one's accomplishments, but rather a deepening communion with Christ in seeking to do the will of our Heavenly Father. In a special way, such a doctrine would help to emphasize that Christians are, by the gracious love and mercy of God, members of the Body of Christ, and not merely parasites sucking life from Christ. In light of such a great salvation given to us by our Lord and already perfectly received by our Blessed Mother, all Christians can rejoice in the fact that God, Who is mighty, is indeed doing great things for us, in us and through us by the grace given to us through our communion with Jesus, His Son.
As a concluding thought, it should be noted that, in God’s plan of salvation, the Good News and saving mystery of the crucified and risen Christ are ministered to humanity in and through His Church by the grace of the Holy Spirit. But the Person of Jesus has come to the world through Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is that we profess that the human nature taken by God the Son in the mystery of the Incarnation is the fruit, and not merely a product, of her womb - since fruit comes from the very being of another and is not merely something processed through another.
Since no one comes to the Father except through the Person of Jesus, and the Father, in His infinite wisdom, has ordained that the Person of Jesus come to the world through Mary (living fully in the covenantal life of sanctifying graciousness), it is only through a holy union with Mary that we will be able to properly receive and appreciate the gift of the Father offered to us in Jesus. Indeed, it is only through her, with her and in her, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that God the Father bestows the greatest honor and glory on us in the Person of Jesus Christ, her Son and Our Lord.
The spiritual awareness aroused by this truth will help us to avoid the danger of "Gospel principles" becoming divorced from the Person of Jesus, and thus tarnished by accommodation with the social conventions of secular society. Likewise, it will enable us to be renewed in a spirit of grateful reverence, which will keep sacramental actions from being seen as merely empty rituals that have only subjectively functional value in the midst of our modern culture of short-sighted pragmatism.
Spero columnist Rev. Thomas R. Collins is a Catholic priest who serves the people of Virginia.