The first thing to be said about Our Lady's divine maternity is that it has been there from the beginning and will be there forever. It encompasses the entire sweep of the story of salvation. She is present in the beginning when, after the Fall, God promises to set her and her offspring in deadly opposition to the serpent for all time. She is there at the end - in the Apocalypse - where she appears as the glorious woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars.
She is elusively but really present in all of Scripture, wherever her Son is present either directly or in prophecy, symbol or type. St Bonaventure, the Great Franciscan Doctor of the Church from the 13th century, assures us that "wonderful things are said in the Scriptures concerning the Mother of God, because in all the Scriptures she is alluded to in relation to her Son."
The Dominican, Saint Vincent Ferrer, goes even further: "The Blessed Virgin is contained mystically, directly or indirectly, in all the Sacred Books, and in all the canticles, even in every verse."
Mary was predestined from all eternity - not merely as we might be predestined, by God's design, to possess grace and glory, but as the one who would share in actually establishing the whole order of grace and glory through her divine maternity. From this come those strange- sounding but true ideas that arise from the dogma of Our Lady as the "Theotokos" or "God-Bearer". Pope John Paul II, in Redemptoris Mater, reminds us that "Mary receives life from him to whom she herself in the order of earthly generation, gave life as a Mother."
Not only was she predestined to be Mother of God, but she was equipped from all eternity with all that such a divine office required. The dogma of her Immaculate Conception - like other dogmas - resided in the minds and hearts of the faithful from the beginning. Mary's Immaculate Conception is God's way of preparing the immediate ground for our salvation.
St Bonaventure writes: "Mary is that being than which God cannot make a greater. He can make a greater earth and a greater heaven, but not greater mother." It is quite unthinkable that God could plan that his Son should be born of a mother conceived with original sin, even if she were to be born without its taint; that the hypostatic union of the divine with the human in the person of Christ, should happen in the womb of a woman whom sin has touched even momentarily.
Mary is truly God's masterpiece. She is his only perfect creature, towering above all other realms of creation and reaching, after the human nature of Christ, the upper limits of God's creative intention. Not only was she conceived without original sin, but she avoided throughout her life all sin - even the most venial. And not only this, but through a special assistance of divine providence, she was preserved from every fault. And beyond this, again, there was in her no concupiscence to sway her desires from their sole object - God.
Mary's fullness of grace comprises not only sanctifying grace and all the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, but other extraordinary graces as well. St Antonine makes a summary of Our Lady's graces: "Firstly she had, in the highest degree, all the graces, general and specific, given to all creatures; secondly, she had graces that no other creature has ever had; thirdly, all these graces were in such a high degree that a creature cannot possibly receive more; fourthly, she contained within herself the uncreated grace, that is God, full and complete. In all ways therefore she was full."
Mary had the infused theological and moral virtues and the gifts from the first instant of her conception. Father Garrigou-LaGrange sums it up very simply: "Her faith, lit up by the gifts of wisdom, understanding and knowledge, was unshakeably firm and most penetrating. Her hope was unconquerable, proof against presumption and despair alike. Her charity was most ardent. In fine, her initial holiness, which surpassed that of God's greatest servants, was born with her, and did not cease to grow all through life."
Mary's title of "Mediatrix of all graces" is justified by reason of her total co-operation in the Incarnation and in the Redemption. She gave the world the source of all grace - Christ Our Lord. She co-offered with him his sacrifice on Calvary. How, then, shall any grace coming from his Incarnation and Redemption be conceived as not coming through her - at least in this sense?
Her mediatorship, which began at the Annunciation, when she "said yes for all mankind," showed itself publicly at the marriage feast of Cana and reached its peak of earthly intensity on Calvary, continues in heaven. Assumed into heaven at the conclusion of her earthly life, the Mother of God, of Christ's Mystical Body and of all men, is truly Queen of Heaven and earth, yet still mother. There is no true need that escapes her maternal eye, no grace for which she does not intercede and no intercession on her part which goes unanswered by her son.
Sr Mary Augustine Lane OP is Superior of the Conventual Sisters of St Dominic, Ganmain, Wagga Wagga Diocese.