Cana and Mary's role as mediatrix

The marriage feast at Cana marks the formal introduction of Jesus’ public ministry. His mother plays an important role here, as it is her request that initiates the miracle of the transformation of water to wine.

The wine ran out at the wedding feast, which elicits a dialogue between Mary and Jesus. This conversation is rich with mystery, and each phrase evokes amazement the more deeply the phrases are considered.

Identified again as “the Mother of Jesus,” she simply states that “they have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Note her sensitivity to the situation and its impact on others. It would be a great source of embarrassment for the hosts to be unable to provide wine at a wedding feast, and the mother of Jesus is concerned about them. Notice, too, that she does not tell Jesus to get wine for her or take her home before the feast gets boring. Rather, she focuses attention on the hosts’ need to provide refreshment for the guests. At the same time, this statement of need implies a request, and Jesus will respond to her in those terms.

Her approach to Jesus introduces the notion of her role as Mediatrix (the feminine form of “mediator”). Mediator and mediatrix are Latin words derived from the word “medium,” which means “middle.” For that reason, a mediator or mediatrix is a person who stands “in the middle.” Three references in Scripture ascribe the role of Mediator to Jesus Christ (See 1 Tm 2:5-6, Hb 9:15, Hb 12:34).

However, Vatican II speaks of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a “comediatrix” in Lumen Gentium (n. 62):

By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix.

Having noted this, it is extremely important to remember that Mary’s titles are to be understood in the context of her son, Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and humanity. This neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.

Study both Old and New Testament texts that are relevant to Marian doctrine.

Lumen Gentium (n. 62) goes on to explain the way we can understand Mary’s role in relationship to Jesus Christ, just as all other Christians also have some share in Christ’s role as the Savior and in God’s goodness that is shared by his creatures:

For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to 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.

Finally, the goal of Mary’s subordinate role as Mediatrix is to help Christians come closer to Jesus Christ: “The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer” (Lumen Gentium, n. 62).

In John’s Gospel, Mary approaches Jesus as the one between the human need for wine and her son’s ability to act upon the need.

Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., is a popular host on EWTN Catholic television network and founder and president of Ignatius Productions, a Catholic media production apostolate.

This is an excerpt from "Mary — Virgin, Mother, and Queen: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics."