Eucharistic Mystery and Mary's Mysterious Presence
The Church is Marian not for the "mystery of the Incarnation" alone,
because in Nazareth Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Word of God,
but also for the "mystery of compassion", because Mary, who
participated in the Redemption at the foot of the Cross, was
entrusted with the Apostle John and with all of us. Thus, the Church
is born of the wounded heart of Jesus and of Mary. It can be said
that Mariology is part of ecclesiology.
Charles Journet (1891-1975) based his work on the Church Fathers
whom he repeatedly cited as he employed theologians' arguments,
following St Thomas' existential realism as well as the poetic
intuition of Charles Péguy and Paul Claudel.
Journet sought to understand these mysteries as much as possible
using images drawn from the world of natural science and mathematics
in the five volumes of his treatise The Church of the Word Incarnate
But to gain a knowledge of his theological reflections, perhaps his
numerous spiritual retreats, Entretiens, would be more helpful.
These were held in convents. Cardinal Georges Marie Martin Cottier,
O.P., who took Journet's place in editing his magazine, Nova et
vetera, is now publishing these reflections with the Swiss
publishers: Word and Silence.
In his Treatise and Meditations, Journet reflected at length on the
nature of the Mass, affirming that during the short period after the
Consecration, we are, for a brief moment, truly present in the
unique sacrifice of Christ on the Cross just as Mary was at Calvary.
We are participants in an "ascending mediation", in which Mary
sacrifices her Son to the Father for the salvation of humanity, and
a "descending mediation", in which Mary "disposes our hearts to
The Eucharist is considered from two perspectives: in time, as a
"sacrificial sign", at the central moment of the Mass, which makes
us present at the death of Christ, and in space, as a "sacramental
sign", in the consecrated Bread where the risen Christ is present,
in which the "precise and natural appearances" of the Species are
The theologian develops two interesting observations. In the first,
he writes: "The priest who abstains from celebrating to content
himself with solely receiving communion disregards that for which
the Church ordained him".
In the second, he emphasizes that the Church is not so much a place
in which Christians assemble as much as it is a place for the
personal presence of Christ among us, who make up his Body, which
continues on in history.
Mary is the "prototype of the Church", and the Swiss theologian
dedicates an entire chapter of his Treatise to this theme precisely
in order to define the modality of Mary's role and the role of
Christians in the process of redemption.
"The merits of Christ give rise to the merits of the Church, not by
'addition' but by participation, not by way of a 'juxtaposition' but
in the manner of 'permeation', as the Being of God gives rise to the
existence of the universe".
Christ is the unique Redeemer, because grace "resides first and
foremost in him, as in its Source, and in the Church, whose growth
from its first appearance is dependent upon him".
Thus premised, Journet's reflection makes an analysis of the
differences between the "collective co-redemption" of the Church,
which concerns the people of each historical period and each social
group, and the "personal co-redemption" of Mary, which "is
absolutely universal and concerns the people of all times, to whom
it is anterior and concerns the mediation of the Church"; even if
she herself is absorbed in the redemption of Christ.
Journet exemplifies this relationship, observing that St Monica's
behaviour is in direct reaction to St Augustine's, but this is
sustained by the redemptive action of Christ — as the moon is in the
gravitational orbit of the earth, which in turn is a gravitational
orbit of the sun.
These images are not only an intellectual aid to better understand
the mystery, but to refer to the reality of the communion of saints:
"There are souls that sustain other souls, just as a planet sustains
All redemption is in Christ, and does not increase with time.
Journet observes, in the same way that "after the Creation there is
not, intensively, more being, but only greater participation in the
The difference between redemption and co-redemption is a question
not of quantity but of quality. Christ's action is an ontological
fact; only he can be the Mediator and can merit — on a level of
justice — our salvation.
The action of Mary, of the Church, of individual Christians, is a
moral act, which participates in the redemption through love and for
love. In the spiritual universe Mary is the first redeemed, but in
an absolutely unique manner, because she was preserved from original
sin by the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, before the Church
and in view of the Church.
The maximum co-redemption is in Mary, and Journet even employs
mathematics as an explanatory example, saying that the Church in its
becoming tends towards this maximum, which is Mary, like "a curve
approaches its asymptote".
Reflecting upon the Apocalypse, Journet also considers Mary's role
as Christ's spouse more as an eminent part of the Church than as the
mother of Jesus, because it would be incorrect to mix these two
perspectives — mystical and ontological.
Mary is the spouse of Christ from the evangelical perspective of
"whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother"
Journet's theology is always attentive to these subtle but important
distinctions, pushing intellectual theological reflection to the
extreme without resolving it in the language of mystical experience.
After this argument Journet concludes that "Christ is our brother
because our sister Mary is his mother", and states that salvation
occurs in history, since Mary and the Saints in heaven cannot
acquire any more merit but can only distribute it.
Thus "an undeserving intercession in heaven is dependent upon a
well-deserved intercession on earth, in order to lift up the whole
of the universe's history and consequently, the whole universe of
He leaves the last word to St Augustine: "A great mystery has
granted that death came to us through a woman and that life was
restored to us through a woman, and that the devil was conquered by
our double nature, both feminine and masculine" (De agone christiano,
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