Mary, Our Mother by Grace

During Advent, we await the coming of the Savior – Son of God and Son of Mary. As God the Father has one natural Son, Jesus Christ, and a multitude of adopted sons, to whom He gives a real participation in His nature; so Mary has one natural Son, the same Lord Jesus Christ, and as many adopted sons, in whom she reproduces Jesus Christ by sanctifying grace. Christmas not only commemorates the coming of Jesus in time but must accomplish it again, spiritually, within the souls He came to save.

Poor Children of Eve

It was first Eve who, having believed the words of the serpent, disobeyed God, and ate of the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:6); then Adam, the father and representative of the whole human race, joined the woman in her disobedience. So it happened that “by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death” (Rom 5:12).

We are children of Eve according to the flesh, “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3); and unless God had redeemed us, we would be “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18), subject to “the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief” (Eph. 2:2), unhappy, “having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world” (Eph. 2:12). Such are the bleak words of St. Paul on this subject.

Liberating a Subjugated Race

Christ, the second Adam (1 Cor 15:47), came to restore the divine life to us; and as the sin of the first man was occasioned by a woman, so our restoration to life began with a woman. For Eve, believing the words of the serpent, disobeyed the commandment; Mary consented to the words of the angel, and, “obeying, became the cause of salvation to herself and the whole human race” (St. Irenæus †202) (1).

For “when the fullness of time had come, God sent His son, made of a woman, made under the law: that he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). He predestinated us “to be made conformable to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).

The Virgin Mary, by her cooperation in the mystery of the Redemption, has given us Jesus Christ, and with Him, we might say, she has given us all things (cf. Rom. 8:32). Her role in the dispensation of grace, which has its roots in her Divine Motherhood, extends to the forming of Jesus Christ in each individual soul, for she exercises an immediate and universal mediation, covering all the graces given to men since the fall of Adam (2). For she merited, by a title of fittingness, all the graces that Christ won for us in strict justice (3). These graces were given to the just of the Old Testament in a general way, by anticipation of the joint-work of the new Adam and the new Eve (4); but since her assumption into heaven, Mary adds her actual intercession (5). This is due, on Mary’s part, to her great charity and motherly concern for us; and on our part, to our wretchedness; “Since you were unworthy,” says St. Bernard, “to receive the divine graces, they were given to Mary, so that whatever you would have, you would receive through her” (6).

Mary, Mother of the Mystical Body

Mary’s spiritual motherhood of all Christians is no recent doctrine; St. Augustine (354-430), for instance, taught it as a necessary consequence of the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ. Mary is the physical mother of the Savior, who is our Head. But the same body does not have one mother for the head, and another for the members. Spiritually, then, Mary is “plainly the mother of his members—which we are—since by charity she cooperated so that the faithful might be born into the Church” (7).

If St. Paul could say to those to whom he preached the Gospel, “My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19), with how much more justice can Mary say the same. Let us, poor banished children of Eve, cry to her, our heavenly Mother, that after our exile she may show to us the divine fruit of her womb, Jesus.


(1)  Adverus hæreses 3, 22, 4. Quemadmodum illa [Eva]…inobediens facta, et sibi et universo generi humano causa facta est mortis: sic et Maria…obediens, et sibi et universo generi humano causa facta est salutis…Sic autem et Evæ inoboedientiæ nodus solutionem accepit per oboedientiam Mariæ. Cf. also St. John Chrysostom, homilia De interdictione arboris, tom. 1.

(2)  Tanquerey, The Spiritual Life, nn. 161-162.

(3)  So teaches Pope St. Pius X in his encyclical Ad Diem Illum, Feb. 2, 1904; cf. Denzinger 3034.

(4)  Garrigou-Lagrange, The Mother of the Savior, part 2, ch. 2, footnote 42.

(5)  Tanquerey, as cited above; Garrigou-Lagrange, The Mother of the Savior, part 2, ch. 3.

(6)  St. Bernard, Sermo III in Vigilia Nativitatis Domini, n. 10. St. Louis de Montfort adduces many profound reasons for the blessed Virgin’s exalted role in the economy of salvation; see especially chapter one, article two.

(7)  Illa una femina, non solum spiritu verum etiam corpore, et mater est et virgo. Et mater quidem spiritu, non capitis nostri, quod est ipse salvator, ex quo magis illa spiritaliter nata est, quia omnes qui in eum crediderint, in quibus et ipsa est, recte filii sponsi [Mt 9, 15] appellantur, sed plane mater membrorum eius, quod nos sumus, quia cooperata est caritate, ut fideles in ecclesia nascerentur, quæ illius capitis membra sunt, corpore vero ipsius capitis mater. St. Augustine, De sancta virginitate, C. 6, n. 6.