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The title "Mediatrix" is used in Roman Catholic Mariology to refer to the intercessory role of the Virgin Mary as a mediator in the salvific redemption by her son Jesus Christ, and that he bestows graces through her.
Mediatrix is an ancient title that has been used by a number of saints since at least the 5th century. Its use grew during the Middle Ages and reached its height in the writings of saints Louis de Montfort and Alphonsus Liguori in the 18th century.
A general role of mediation or intercession is attributed to Mary in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy, and the term "Mediatrix" was applied to her in the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council.
The use of the title Mediatrix and the doctrine of Mary having a higher level of saintly intercession (owing to her special relationship with her son Jesus) is distinct from the theological issues involved in the establishment of Mediatrix of all graces as a dogma, which is still being debated among Catholic theologians, but has not received Vatican approval.
Mediatrix is an ancient title. A prayer attributed to Ephrem the Syrian in the 4th century calls her "after the mediator, you (Mary) are the mediatrix of the whole world" The title was also used in the 5th century by Basil of Seleucia. By the 8th century the title Mediatrix had found common use and Andrew of Crete and saint John of Damascus used it.
These early notions place Mary's mediation on a higher level than that of other forms of intercession of saints. Her position as the mother of Jesus Christ the redeemer and source of grace makes her preeminent among others who may be called mediators.
In the 13th century Saint Thomas Aquinas noted that only Jesus Christ can be the perfect mediator between God and humankind. But this does not hinder that others may be called mediators, in some respect, between God and man, because they assist and prepare union between God and man
The same notion was stated in the 16th century, by the Council of Trent which declared "that the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, (and) help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our alone Redeemer and Saviour; but that they think impiously, who deny that the saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invocated; or who assert either that they do not pray for men; or, that the invocation of them to pray for each of us even in particular, is idolatry; or, that it is repugnant to the word of God; and is opposed to the honour of the one mediator of God and men, Christ Jesus; or, that it is foolish to supplicate, vocally, or mentally, those who reign in heaven".
Louis de Montfort's approach (which later influenced Pope John Paul II) emphasized that Mary is the natural path to approaching Jesus, due to the special relationship she has with him. This reliance on the intercession of Mary is based on the general Montfortean formula:
"...to do all our actions by Mary, with Mary, in Mary and for Mary so that we may do them all the more perfectly by Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus and for Jesus..."
In his book Treatise on Prayer Alphonsus Liguori reviewed the writings of Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux on the intercession of saints, and Mary's role as Mediatrix, and strongly supported the title.
The title Mediatrix has been used by a number of popes. Leo XIII used it in 1896 and Pius X in 1904. This continued in the 20th century with Benedict XV and Pius XI. However, Pius XII avoided the use of the title, although he urged reliance on the intercession of Mary.
Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself "in the middle," that is to say she acts as a mediatrix, not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she "has the right" to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary "intercedes" for mankind.
In September 2012, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, claimant visionnaire Emma de Guzman stated that the Virgin Mary revealed her maternal role as "Mediatrix before the Mediator", a special Marian title associated by many Filipino Catholics as in reference to Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces.
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Among Catholic theologians, it is undisputed that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and the human race, especially in the salvific role of redemption as exhibited by the crucifixion on Mount Calvary. Accordingly, the word "mediator" in the strict sense fits Jesus alone in relation to God, but in a subordinate sense Christians exercise a mediation "that is effective through, with, and in Christ. The subordinate mediator never stands alone, but is always dependent on Jesus."
With special reference to Mary, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting the Second Vatican Council, which in its document Lumen gentium referred to Mary as "'Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix", says:
"Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. ... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix" (Lumen gentium, 62). "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men ... flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it" (Lumen gentium, 60). "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source" (Lumen gentium, 62).
Going further than expressing belief in Mary as Mediatrix, proposals have been made to declare that Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces. Pope Benedict XV allowed the dioceses of Belgium to celebrate the feast of Mary Mediatrix of all graces on May 31. In printings of the Roman Missal from that date until 1961, the Mass of Mary Mediatrix of All Graces was found in the appendix Missae pro aliquibus locis (Masses for Some Places), but not in the general calendar for use wherever the Roman Rite is celebrated. Other Masses authorized for celebration in different places on the same day were those of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of All Saints and Mother of Fair Love and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Belgian celebration has now been replaced by an optional memorial on 31 August of the Virgin Mary Mediatrix.
Use of the title Mediatrix and the doctrine of Mary having a higher level of saintly intercession (due to her special relationship with her son Jesus) are distinct from the theological issues involved in the establishment of Mediatrix of all graces as a dogma, which is still being debated among Catholic theologians, but has not received Vatican approval.