Objection 4: To call Mary a co-redemptrix or to call Christians in general "co-redeemers" is to have a human being actively participate in redemption, which is a divine or, more specifically, a "theandric" activity, accomplished by Jesus Christ in his divine and human natures alone, and thus forbidden by Christianity. Such would only encourage paganism, since it places a human person, Mary, as part of a divine redemptive action which only Jesus Christ can accomplish.
In many ways, the response to this objection can be found in the same foundational evidence from Christian Scripture that responds to the previous objection to any subordinate or human participation in the one mediation of Jesus Christ (a mediation which includes redemption). But let us example the specific objection regarding Mary's active participation in the divine act of Redemption.
The full objection to Mary's active participation as Co-redemptrix in the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ has been set out as follows. Theandric activity refers to an action by Jesus Christ that is accomplished through both of his natures, divine and human. Since the act of redemption by Jesus Christ was a theandric activity, and Mary was merely human, her actions were not theandric and therefore she cannot actively participate in redemption. Hence, Mary cannot be properly called a "co-redemptrix," a term which means she "bought back" humanity with the Redeemer. Nor should any Christians be called "co-redeemers" since no creature can participate in theandric activity.
To best address this objection, we must return to the essential etymological meaning of the term, "co-redemptrix." The Latin prefix, cum, means "with," and not "equal to." The Latin verb, re(d)-emere means, "to buy back," and the suffix -trix, meaning "one who does something," is feminine. In its complete form then, the term co-redemptrix refers to the "woman with the redeemer," or more literally, "the woman who buys back with (the Redeemer)."
As used by the Catholic Church, the term co-redemptrix expresses Mary's active and unique participation in the divine and human activity of redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ. Again, radically dependent and subordinate to the theandric redemptive action of Jesus Christ, the very perfection of this divine and human redemption provides for, rather than prohibits, various levels of true and active human participation.
While it is legitimate to distinguish theandric actions from human actions, it runs contrary to Christian Scripture and Christian Tradition, both ancient and developed, to reject active human participation in the theandric activity of Jesus Christ.
To actively participate in a theandric action does not require that the participator also have a divine and human nature. Such is to misunderstand the distinction between "being" in possessing the essence and specific attribute as part of who you are, from "participation" in sharing in the essence and specific attribute as possessed by another. Thus, Mary as a human creature can actively share in the theandric redemptive action of Jesus Christ without herself possessing the essence of divinity as a specific attribute. In a similar way, all Christians share in the divine nature of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Pet 1:4), without being gods; participate in the sonship of Jesus Christ (cf. Gal 4:4) without being divinely begotten; share in the mediation of Christ (cf. Gal 3:19, 1 Tim 2:1) without being the one divine and human Mediator (1 Tim 2:5).
Once again, Christian Scripture attests to Mary's singular active participation in the Redemption of Jesus Christ. With Mary's free and active "fiat" to the invitation of the angel Gabriel to become the mother of Jesus, "Be it done unto me according to your word" (Lk. 1:38), she uniquely cooperated with the work of redemption by giving the divine Redeemer his body, which was the very instrument of human redemption. The prophecy of Simeon reveals the unparalleled co-redemptive mission of Mary in direct union with her Redeemer son in their one unified work of redemption, "and a sword shall pierce your own soul, too" (Lk. 2:34-5). And the climax of Mary's role as Co-redemptrix with and under her divine Son takes place at the foot of the Cross, where the total suffering of the mother's heart is obediently united to the suffering of the Son's heart in fulfillment of God the Father's plan of redemption: "Woman, behold your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'behold, your mother!" (Jn. 19:27).
The earliest Christian writers and Fathers of the Church explained Marian participation with and under Christ in "buying back" the human family from the slavery of Satan and sin in the first theological model of Mary as the "New Eve." These ancient writers attested to the unity of Redemption by Christ and co-redemption by Mary by articulating that as Eve, the first "mother of the living"(Gen. 3:20) was an instrumental cause with Adam, the father of the human race in the loss of grace for all humanity, so too Mary, the "New Eve" was an instrumental cause with Jesus Christ, the "New Adam" (cf. 1 Cor. 15: 45-48, 20-25), in the restoration of grace to all humanity.
In the words of St. Irenaeus: "Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary, too, espoused yet a virgin, Mary... became by her obedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race."
Explicit teachings of Mary's active participation with Jesus Christ in redeeming or "buying back" humanity from the slavery of Satan and sin are present throughout early and later Christian Tradition, for example:
Through Mary, we "are redeemed from the tyranny of the devil." (Modestus of Jerusalem, 7th century);
Hail thou, through whom we are redeemed from the curse (St John Damascene, 8th century)";
Through her, man was redeemed (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th century);
That woman (namely Eve), drove us out of Paradise and sold us; but this one (Mary) brought us back again and bought us;
Just as they (Adam and Eve) were the destroyers of the human race, so these (Jesus Christ and Mary) were its repairers;
She (Mary) also merited reconciliation for the entire human race;
She paid the price (of redemption) as a woman brave and loving—namely when Christ suffered on the cross to pay that price in order to purge and wash and redeem us, the Blessed Virgin was present, accepting and agreeing with the divine will (St. Bonaventure, 13th century);
To her alone was given this privilege, namely a communication in the Passion...and in order to make her a sharer in the benefit of Redemption, He willed that she be a sharer in the penalty of the Passion, in so far as she might become the mother of all through re-creation...(St. Albert the Great (or Pseudo-Albert), 13th century);
God accepted her oblation as a pleasing sacrifice for the utility and salvation of the whole human race...He foretold to thee (Mary) all thy passion whereby he would make thee a sharer of all of his merits and afflictions, and thou would co-operate with him in the restoration of men to salvation (John Tauler, 14th century);
...as one suffering with the Redeemer, for the captive sinner, Co-redemptrix would you be (14th century).
The Christian teaching on Co-redemptrix continues consistently from the middle ages on into the modern period, as evidenced in this representative selection of examples:
Saints and doctors have united in calling our Blessed Lady co-redemptrix of the world. There is no question of the lawfulness of using such language, because there is overwhelming authority for it... (Faber, 19th century);
We think of all the other extraordinary merits, by which she shared with her Son Jesus in the redemption of mankind....She was not only present at the mysteries of the Redemption, but was also involved with them (Pope Leo XIII, 19th century);
To such extent did she suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to such extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man's salvation, and immolated Him—insofar as she could—in order to appease the justice of God, that we may rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ (Pope Benedict XV, 20th century);
From the nature of his work the Redeemer ought to have associated his Mother with his work. For this reason, we invoke her under the title of Co-redemptrix (Pope Pius XI, 20th century);
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her" (Second Vatican Council);
Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God....her role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son (Pope John Paul II, 1985);
The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread through prayer and sacrifice. Mary instead co-operated during the event itself and in the role as mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ's saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of mankind (Pope John Paul II, 1997).
The teaching of Christian Tradition upon Mary's unique co-redemptive role continues into the third millennium with this recent papal teaching of John Paul II, where Mary's intimate participation in the death of her Son at Calvary is compared with the Old Testament sacrificial offering made by Abraham (likewise of his own son, offered in an obedience of faith to God):
The summit of this earthly pilgrimage of faith is Golgotha where Mary intimately lives the paschal mystery of her Son: moved in a certain sense as a mother in the death of her Son, and opens herself to the "resurrection" with a new maternity in relation to the Church (cf. Jn. 19:25-27). There, on Calvary, Mary experiences the night of faith, similar to that of Abraham on Mount Moriah ....
Again, without question of the total and radical dependency of Mary's participation in redemption upon the divine work and merits of Jesus Christ, Church fathers and doctors, along with later and contemporary Christian Tradition, do not hesitate to teach the active participation of the woman, Mary with Jesus Christ in the theandric "buying back" or redeeming of humanity from the slavery of Satan and sin. This Marian sharing in redemption reflects the ancient Christian teaching that as humanity was lost or "sold" by a man and a woman, so it was God's will that humanity would be redeemed or "bought back" by a Man and a woman.
In what way then does Mary's participation as Co-redemptrix in human differ from the general call of Christians to participate in the redemption of Jesus Christ?
Indeed Christian Scripture calls all Christians to "make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church" (Col. 1:24). This teaching of St. Paul is not speaking of a participation of all Christians in the historical and universal redemption on Calvary where Jesus Christ acquired the graces of Redemption by his passion and death (sometimes theologically referred to as objective redemption. If so, this would incorrectly infer that something was "lacking" in the historic redemptive sufferings and concurring saving merits of Jesus Christ, which were in itself infinite and inexhaustible.
Rather, St. Paul's teaching refers to the Christian imperative through free co-operation, prayer, and sacrifice to participate in the release and distribution of the infinite graces acquired by Jesus Christ on Calvary to the human family (theologically referred to as subjective redemption. Just as every human heart must actively respond in freedom to the saving grace of Jesus Christ for their own personal, subjective redemption, so too the Christian is called to actively participate in the release and distribution of the graces of redemption for others as well, and, in this way, to "make up" what St. Paul calls "lacking" in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of Christ's body. In this regard, all Christians truly participate in subjective redemption, this saving distribution of grace as "God's co-workers" (1Cor. 3:9) or "co-redeemers" to use the expression of 20th century popes.
Mary's redemptive participation differs from this general Christian call to participate in the distribution of saving graces in individual and personal subjective redemption in so far as she alone also participated, once again subordinately and entirely dependent upon the Redeemer, in the objective, historical and universal redemption as well, as the New Eve with and under the New Adam. This is why the title Co-redemptrix in the first place refers exclusively to Mary. As once again articulated by John Paul II in an 1997 Address:
The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread through prayer and sacrifice. Mary instead co-operated during the event itself and in the role as mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ's saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of mankind.
Therefore, the title and truth of Mary Co-redemptrix as seen in Christian Scripture and Christian Tradition underscores the legitimacy and spiritual fruitfulness for active human participation in the theandric redemptive action of Jesus Christ. For Mary Co-redemptrix, this participation in redemption constitutes a participation in both acquisition and distribution of redemptive graces; and for all other Christians a participation in the distribution of redemptive graces as co-redeemers in Christ. As summarized by Vatican theologian Jean Galot in the official Vatican publication, L'Osservatore Romano:
The title (Co-redemptrix) is criticized because it would suggest an equality between Mary and Christ. The criticism has no foundation...Co-redemption implies a subordination to the redemptive work of Christ, because it is only a cooperation and not an independent or parallel work. Hence any equality with Christ is excluded...The word "co-redemption," which means "cooperation in redemption," can be applied to every Christian and to the whole Church. St. Paul writes: 'We are God's co-workers' (1 Cor. 3:9).