After confession this morning I recited Matins and Lauds, and in so doing was reminded, it being the prayer to-day, of the Marian Collect Deus qui salutis æternæ on which I blogged earlier:
Deus, qui salutis æternæ, beatæ Mariæ virginitate fœcunda, humano generi præmia præstitisti: tribue, quæsumus; ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitæ suscipere, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit...
(God, Who didst grant unto the human race the reward of eternal salvation through the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, grant, we beg, that we may feel her to intercede for us, through whom we have deserved to receive the Author of life, Our Lord Jesus Christ: Who with Thee liveth...)
This prayer is used on the Octave Day of Christmas, marking it out as a Marian feast - the Novus Ordo has aptly renamed it the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God - as well as the recapitulation of the Christmas mystery and the remembrance of Our Lord's Circumcision. But it is also used on the ferias of Christmastide from the 2nd to the 5th of January; and for Saturdays when Our Lady's Office and Mass is said from the Saturday after the Octave of Christmas until the Saturday before the Purification of Our Lady (which again is now styled the Presentation of Our Lord) inclusive; last but not least, it is the oration appended to the Alma Redemptoris Mater after Compline every day from the 24th of December (Christmas Eve) until the 1st of February (Eve of the Purification) inclusive, for a total of 40 days, a tithe of the year.
What of this Collect? It teaches the doctrine that Our Lady is the Mediatrix of All Graces.
What this doctrine? That, as from all eternity God freely and almightily chose to bring into the world His Son Incarnate - the very Source of all grace - from the Virgin's spotless womb, she is therefore the Porta cæli, the Gate of heaven, and so is the Mediatrix of Grace, which is nothing other than to call her by her right name Mother of God; and further, as a corollary, it is entirely reasonable and religious to acknowledge that God, Who does nothing by caprice, but all things in harmony, has not changed, but likewise wills to grant all graces at her maternal intercession with her Son and God, our one Redeemer and Mediator between God and man (I Tim. ii, 5): for at the Annunciation, Our Lady stood in the place of all mankind when she graciously consented to God's plan for restoring lost creation, and in this place she stands still, just as she stood stedfast beneath the Cross, and stedfast prayed in the Upper Room for the coming of the Promised Paraclete to vivify and sanctify the nascent Church.
Does this make of her a goddess or sorceress? By no means! She waves not her hands as if to work lying wonders on her own like some pagan pretender, but she as every Christian most humbly supplicates that the Divine Will may be done, as in heaven, so on earth, as her Son hath taught is to be ever our rule of prayer (St Matthew vi, 9f). This is her actual intercessory coöperation with the granting of every grace. For surely every man knows that the saints in heaven are ever worshipping the Lord and in their undying charity a-praying for us!
Indeed, if we one and all are co-redeemers with Christ as the Apostle teaches (cf. Col. i, 24), and if one and all are to cease not from petition, supplication and intercession, are we not even here on earth mediators in the One Mediator (cf. I Tim. ii, 1-5)? And much the more so are God's elect and chosen angels and saints; and supremely so is she who alone is Virgin Mother of the Word made flesh. For as St Gregory the Great said, God has determined from all eternity to grant graces in response to prayer.
Our Lord God delights to work through secondary causes, as the great chain of causality in His Creation all about us shews; likewise with things spiritual - as instanced by His care of us at the hands of ministering angels, and at the hands of our lawful pastors, and through His Revelation mediated to us "whether by letter or by word of mouth" (II Thess. ii, 15) - that is, via Scripture and Tradition - and through His Sacraments which are real contacts with the grace won for us on Calvary by His bleeding, dying Son. It is the same with the united ceaseless intercession of all the saints, and by simple logic the preëminent prayer of the Mother of Our Lord, her special and uniquely maternal solicitude for us all, seeing that we were all given her as children in the order of grace by Christ from the Cross, in the person of St John (St John xix, 26f).
Does not Catholic piety, the sensus fidelium, the feeling of the faithful, confirm this? Is she not styled Mother of Perpetual Succour, and a thousand other titles illustrating her office? In every anguish and distress, every faithful Christian turns at once and says an Ave:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.