31 May 2021

Mediatrix of All Graces: the importance of being ecumenical

If you look in your ancient but admirable English Missal, you can find our Lady as Mediatrix of all Graces in the Appendix of Masses Proper to England and Wales. This is because in Durham, Northumberland, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Herefordshire, and all Wales, this feast was on the Calendars of the corresponding RC dioceses. The date is May 31, except that in later editions of the English Missal, printed after the institution in 1955 by Pius XII of the feast of the BVM, Queen, on May 31, the older feast of our Lady, Mediatrix, had to be shuffled onto June 1. (The Mass can, of course, be said as a votive any day when votives are permitted.)

Happily, one of the Office Hymns of this beautiful Feast appears in the Liturgia Horarum. In the Common of the BVM, it is the hymn at First Evensong; and it may be used at the Office of Readings as an alternative to Quem terra pontus aethera. Its first line is Maria quae mortalium.

Sadly, for those who say the Office in English, it is not available; it is one of the many hymns for which ICEL decided not to bother to commission English translations. (Whereabouts did Sacrosanctum Concilium mandate this wholesale disparagement of the treasures of Christian Latin Hymnography?) It may be found, with an English version, in versions of the Monastic Diurnal for the Feast of our Blessed Mother of Perpetual Succour. Its (nineteenth century) author is not known.

The Mass and Office for our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces were authorised in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV, and among the countries for which they were authorised was Belgium. The Feast had been requested by that dear friend and  supporter of ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Patrimony, Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines, him of the 'Malines Conversations'. Perhaps we ought to make Mercier and Malines more prominent in our recollections of the pre-history of the Ordinartiate!

It is my instinct that Papa Pacelli in 1955 deliberately put Maria Regina on May 31 because his own Marian preoccupations had other priorities which rather overshadowed her title as Universal Mediatrix. Did he wish to  discourage the growing enthusiasm among dioceses and countries to petition for this feast? But Wales and the ancient, mighty See of Hexham had got in first!

So the whole Latin Church has now ended up with either Maria Regina (EF) or the Visitation (OF) today, the last day of the Marymonth. I feel the Pius XII (EF) propers are a trifle unsophisticated; they emphasise the old literary topoi of Royalty. No harm, I suppose, in that ... 

... But the older liturgical understanding of Mary's glorification, in both West and East and Further East, connected it with her role as Mediatrix for all the Church. The only element in the Pius XII office which directly relates to this theme is lectio ix, where S Bonaventure proclaims Mary as the New Esther and as the aquaeductus through which the Grace of God comes to us.

On the other hand, the Benedict XV propers very neatly and ecumenically brought the Semitic, Hellenic, and Latin traditions of Christianity together, especially in the Second Nocturn (a lection each from S Ephraim, S Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople, and S Bernard). And the use of Typology is richly suggestive; very much in line with the Mariological perspectives which S John Henry Newman came to discern in his last weeks as an Anglican.


Unknown said...

From Martin Hartley

Dear fr John OT request

If you feel it in your theological competence, would you explain what you understand by the expression "the mark of the Beast "
I ask because in your seminary training both Anglican and then subsequently Roman, this subject must have been touched on. There seems to be little available that is not evangelical/Pentecostal protestanism
I will understand if at this time you feel unable to comment on this subject
Martin Hartley

Fr. Brian O'Donnell said...

The Pius XII propers are also marred by the use of the dreadful Bea psalter.

frjustin said...

Dear Martin Hartley: The consensus among scholars is that the beast symbolizes the various Roman emperors who persecuted the early Christians, but mainly is a symbol of Caesar Nero (whose name in Hebrew has the numerical value of 666). The so-called “mark of the beast” is presumed by most scholars to allude to the coins of the Roman Empire that bore the image of the emperor.

The Book of Revelation states quite clearly that this mark was forced upon all the people; there is no mention of its being voluntary. The only thing that Revelation mentions regarding the Book of Life and the beast is that those who choose to worship the beast do not have their names in the Book of Life. However, this is quite distinct from the forced mark of the beast.

There is a good article at https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-beast-in-revelation

Peter said...

Ecumenism is a zero sum game for Catholics, as there is zero in Protestant theology that can be admired.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Peter

I am totally mystified. Who said anything whatsoever about Protestantism?

I applauded the inclusion of readings from the authentic Syriac, Greek, and Latin traditions within the Catholic Church.

If you find this objectionable, you are the uncatholic ... and ignorant ... one.

Try looking at the Marian encyclicals of Pius XII and other pre-Conciliar popes.

Being 'smart' and 'snappy' just makes your error worse.