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Mary's merit and the Incarnation

Canisius | 01 January, 2006 20:39

In Vol. 2, Bk. 1, p. 386, a prayer for Mass of the Roman Rite says (with reference to Mary), "Grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience her intercession, by whom we received the Author of life, Jesus Christ our Lord."

The translation omits one phrase, though: the original says, "Grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience her intercession, by whom we have merited to receive the Author of life, Jesus Christ our Lord." Mary is the one "by whom we merited to receive" Jesus! What does it mean?

It cannot possibly mean that Mary merited the Incarnation, because the Incarnation is itself the source of all merit; try to have Mary merit that, and you'll find yourself in a very, very vicious circle. (Grrrr.)

However, we can distinguish between the Incarnation itself and mankind's reception of the benefits of the Incarnation. Clearly not everyone receives the benefits of Jesus' Incarnation, so this is a valid distinction, and the text in question does say that by Mary we merited to receive Jesus. We could say that Mary merited this for us in some sense. But what sense?

The "mediatrix of all graces" camp would no doubt say that Mary merited that the graces flowing from the Incarnation be granted to everyone who receives them. This is a complicated argument to get into, and I don't want to take sides on it.

A more likely interpretation of the particular text in front of us is that Mary stood in for humanity as a kind of spokeswoman. On our behalf, she was worthy to receive the Word and be his mother. So the text probably does not mean that Mary merited that I should receive the graces of the Incarnation, but that Mary was found worthy to represent humanity (of which I am a part) in welcoming the Word.


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