Easter Week 2020 is destined to go down in history - for its exceptional nature - like that day in February 2013, when Benedict XVI announced his renunciation of the Papacy. A mysterious thread seems to link these two events. The same sense of emptiness connects them.
Benedict XVI juridically renounced the Petrine Mandate, without explaining the legitimate moral motives that might shed light on his extreme act. Pope Francis, for his part, juridically conserves this mandate, but doesn’t exercise it and even seems to want to strip himself of the highest title he holds, that as Vicar of Christ, transcribed, in the latest edition of the Pontifical Yearbook, as a historical title, and not constitutive. If Benedict XVI renounced the juridical exercise of the Vicariate of Christ, it almost seems that Pope Francis has renounced the moral exercise of his mission. The suspension of religious ceremonies all over the world, afflicted by the Coronavirus, seems to be a symbolic, but real, expression of an unprecedented situation, in which Divine Providence has taken away from the Pastors – the very people they abandoned.
We do not know what the political, economical and social consequences will be of the Corona- virus, but we can measure its consequences on the Church these days. A veil seems to have been lifted: it is the hour of emptiness; of the flock deprived of their Pastors. St.Peter’s Square, empty on Palm Sunday, will also be empty on Easter Sunday. “The Holy Father – the Vatican communicated – will celebrate the Rites of Holy Week, without a congregation, as a result of the extraordinary situation we are in, caused by the diffusion of the Covid-19 pandemic".
According to the philosophia perennis, nature abhors a vacuum (natura abhorret a vacuo). In the hour of spiritual emptiness, the souls of those who have faith, turn instinctively to the One, Who is never empty, since She is filled with all the graces: the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Only in Her, can the soul find the spiritual and moral fullness, that St. Peter’s Square and the countless closed churches now no longer offer. But Pope Francis, instead of fostering devotion to Mary, wants also to strip Her of the titles due to Her. On December 12, 2019, the Pope liquidated the possibility of new Marian dogmas ( like that of Maria Co-Redemptrix) stating: “when stories come whereby this or that should be declared, or this dogma be done, let’s not get caught up in foolishness.” And on April 3, 2020, he reiterated that Our Lady “didn’t ask to be a quasi –redemptrix, or co-redemptrix. No. There is only one Redeemer. [She is] only a disciple and mother.”
These words were expressed on the eve of Holy Week, the time Our Lady fulfills Her mission on Calvary as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces. Pope Benedict XV, explains it in this way: “As She suffers and almost dies with Her suffering and dying Son, so she renounced Her rights as Mother of this Son, for the salvation of men, immolating Him to placate the Divine justice, so that it can be said, rightly, that She redeemed mankind along with Christ. Manifestly, for this reason, all the different graces from the treasures of the Redemption are also distributed through the hands of Our Lady of Sorrows” (Apostolic Letter Inter sodalicia, March 22, 1918).
According to some theologians, the word Co-Redemptrix absorbs that of Mediatrix; according to others, like Father Manfred Hauke, the words universal-mediation of Mary lend a wider meaning to that of co-redemption, containing that [idea]in them (Introduzione alla Mariologia, Eupress FTL, Lugano 2008, pp. 275-277). She integrates the “descending “ aspect, whereby graces reach men, with that “ascending” aspect expressed in the co-redemption, through which Our Lady is united to the Sacrifice of Christ. The two titles, in any case, are complementary, as Monsignor Brunero Gherardini teaches in his paper La corredentrice nel mistero di Cristo e della Chiesa (Viverein, Roma 1998), and are linked to that of Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Need we say more? St. Bernard says: “De Maria numquam satis» (Sermo de Nativitate Mariae, Patrologia Latina, vol. 183, col. 437D and St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori states: “When an opinion is in any way honorable to the Most Holy Virgin, and has some foundation, and is not repugnant to the faith and the decrees of the Church, and to the truth, the rejection of it, and opposition to it, because the contrary may also be true, indicates little devotion to the Mother of God. I would not be one of the number of these, nor would I see you, my reader, one of them, but rather of the number of those who fully and firmly believe all that can be believed, without error, concerning the greatness of Mary” (The Glories of Mary, Chapter V, § 1).
Those devoted to Mary are a spiritual family which has its prototype and patron in St. John, the Evangelist, the beloved apostle, who, on Calvary, received an immense legacy from Jesus. Everything is summed up in the words of Jesus, when, from the Cross, “[He saw] his mother and the disciple standing whom He loved, He saith to His mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, He saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother”((John, 19, 26-27). With these words Jesus established a divine and indissoluble bond, not only between Our Blessed Mother and St. John – the representative of mankind - but between Her and all the souls following the example of St. John’s faith and fidelity. St. John is the model of those, who, in the hour of betrayal and renunciation, remain faithful to Jesus, through Mary. “God-Holy Spirit, wants to form the elect in Her, and through Her and says to Her: ‘in electis meis mitte radices’ (Siracide 24, 12)”, writes St. Louis de Monfort (Treatise on the True Devotion to the Holy Virgin, n.34), assuring us that Her devotees will receive firm and unshakeable faith rendering them steadfast and constant amidst all the storms (ivi, n. 214).
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira demonstrated how Marian devotion, not exterior and inconstant, but firm and perseverant, is the decisive factor, in the battle between the Revolution and the Counter-Revolution which will intensify increasingly in the dark times awaiting us. Mary, the Universal Mediatrix, is in fact the channel though which all graces pass and graces will rain down in abundance upon those who pray to Her and fight for Her. (Rivoluzione e Contro-Rivoluzione, ed. it. Sugarco, Milano 2009, pp. 319-332).
The great Arch-Deacon of Évreux, Henri-Marie Boudon, whose spirituality formed St. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort, wrote that in public calamities, such as wars and epidemics, we blame others, while we should blame ourselves and our sins: “Gods strike us in order that He be be contemplated and we, instead, do not raise our eyes from creatures” (La dévotion aux saints anges, Clovis, Condé-su-Noireau 1998, p. 265).
In these unsettling days, let’s not tire ourselves by searching for the human hand behind the pandemic. Let us be glad in perceiving the hand of God. And since Our Lady, besides being Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix, is also Queen of the Universe, let us not forget that God assigned Her the mission of intervening in history, to oppose the action the demon exercises on us. For this reason then, when the Lord chastises mankind, our sole refuge is Mary. Those who don’t abandon their post, draw strength from Her and stay on the field to fight the last battle: the battle for the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart. (by Roberto de Mattei)
Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana