The Holy Spirit And Mary
It is sometimes said that many spiritual writings today do not sufficiently reflect the whole doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit. It is the task of specialists . . . to meditate more deeply on the working of the Holy Spirit in the history of salvation, and to ensure that Christian spiritual writings give due prominence to His life-giving action. Such a study will bring out in particular the hidden relationship between the Spirit of God and the Virgin of Nazareth, and show the influence they exert on the Church. From a more profound meditation on the truths of the Faith will flow a more vital piety.1
Thus wrote Pope Paul VI in 1974 in Marialis Cultus, his Apostolic Exhortation "For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary." What the Supreme Pontiff may or may not have known is that St. Maximillian Kolbe (1894-1941) spent much of his life developing a Marian theology which revealed "the hidden relationship between the Spirit of God and the Virgin of Nazareth"; a theology that is rich in insights, unique in approach, and contributes to "a more vital piety" for the members of Christ's Mystical Body.
St. Maximillian Kolbe, in keeping with Catholic Tradition, sees Mary as holding a preeminent place in God's plan of salvation; of being a conscious cooperator with all the grace which comes from God to man. But while Sacred Tradition, represented by writers such as St. Louis de Montfort, emphasize Mary's Divine Motherhood as being the basis for this teaching, Kolbe views Mary's universal mediation of grace as primarily being linked with and drawn from her intimate and hidden relationship with the Holy Spirit.
All grace, says the Polish saint, ultimately comes to us from God the Father, through the merits of Jesus Christ, his Son, and is distributed by the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit, in distributing all grace, works in and through Mary not because he has to do so, but precisely because in his plan of salvation, God wills to do so. And God wills to do so for a reason: Jesus, the Source of all grace, came through Mary via the work of the Holy Spirit; therefore it is fitting that all grace continue to come through Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Further, Kolbe says the path by which God's grace comes to us from the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit is inversed upon our return to God. The return to God on our part, which is our loving response to his love and grace, goes from the Holy Spirit (who operates through Mary), through the Son and back to the Father.2
Kolbe sees Mary's preeminent role in this divine ordo of grace and love coming from God to man, and of love returning from man to God as flowing especially from her unique and intimate union with the Holy Spirit. He says that the Holy Spirit dwells in Mary's soul in such an ineffable manner that it goes beyond and is deeper than the union achieved between the Holy Spirit and souls by sanctifying grace in Baptism.3
To convey this deep union between Mary and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Kolbe, in keeping with Sacred Tradition,4 refers to Mary as the "spouse" of the Holy Spirit. But at the same time Kolbe expresses dissatisfaction with this term, saying that "spouse" is really inadequate to describe this intimate and mysterious relationship. In matrimony a man and woman become united through sacramental grace so as to become, in a mystical way, "one flesh." But Kolbe sees the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit being even more intimate than that of spouses in marriage:
Among creatures made in God's image, the union brought about by married love is the most intimate of all. In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very being.5
What accounts for Mary's special relationship with the Holy Spirit? Kolbe says it is her Immaculate Conception, which was accomplished through the direct work (via appropriation) of the Holy Spirit. With Mary's Immaculate Conception, God the Father and the Son willed that Mary be united to their common Spirit of Love in such a close and intimate manner that would allow the Holy Spirit to bring about the Incarnation of the Word within her womb, making Mary the Mother of God; and further, that this union would enable Mary to be the instrument or vessel through which the Holy Spirit would distribute all the graces merited by Christ. Kolbe emphasizes that the precise meaning of "Immaculate Conception" is a great mystery, too deep and mysterious to be fully understood.
Kolbe's approach, particularly his emphasis upon the relationship between Mary's Immaculate Conception and her universal mediation of grace, finds support in Marialis Cultus and other writings in Sacred Tradition. In Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI says that in addition to the Christological orientation of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, it is fitting to give "prominence in this devotion to one of the essential facts of the Faith: the Person and work of the Holy Spirit." In the same paragraph he goes on to point out that,
Theological reflection and the liturgy have noted how the sanctifying intervention of the Spirit in the Virgin of Nazareth was a culminating moment of the Spirit's action in the history of salvation. Thus, for example, some Fathers and writers of the Church attributed to the work of the Spirit the original holiness of Mary, who was as it were "fashioned by the Holy Spirit into a kind of new substance and new creature" . . . they saw in the mysterious relationship between the Spirit and Mary an aspect redolent of marriage . . . and they called her the "Temple of the Holy Spirit," an expression that emphasizes the sacred character of the Virgin, now the permanent dwelling of the Spirit of God. Delving deeply into the doctrine of the Paraclete, they saw that from Him as from a spring there flowed forth the fullness of grace (cf. Lk. 1:28) and the abundance of gifts that adorned her . . . Above all they had recourse to the Virgin's intercession in order to obtain from the Spirit the capacity for engendering Christ in their own soul, as is attested to by St. Ildephonsus in a prayer of supplication, amazing in its doctrine and prayerful power: "I beg you, holy Virgin, that I may have Jesus from the Holy Spirit, by whom you brought Jesus forth. May my soul receive Jesus through the Holy Spirit by whom your flesh conceived Jesus . . . May I love Jesus in the Holy Spirit in whom you adore Jesus as Lord and gaze upon Him as your Son." (Footnote citations omitted.)6
Throughout all of his adult life Kolbe tried to penetrate Mary's unique and hidden relationship with the Holy Spirit. In particular, he looked to Mary's words to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, "I am the Immaculate Conception," as having a special revelatory significance in this regard. One could say that Mary's words to Bernadette haunted Kolbe; for he strived ceaselessly to better grasp the profound mystery lying hidden therein. Kolbe says these words of Mary
point up not only the fact that she was conceived without sin, but also the manner in which this privilege belongs to her. It is not something accidental; it is something that belongs to her very nature. For she is Immaculate Conception in person." (Emphasis added.)7
In his last writing, a few hours before his final arrest by the Nazis on February 17,1941, St. Maximillian arrived at a profound insight which not only helps us to better understand the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit, but also gives us a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit as the divine Person eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son, and a better grasp of Mary's role in the distribution of all graces from God to man in his plan of salvation.
In this writing Kolbe says that while Mary is the created Immaculate Conception, created through the love of God and the work of the Holy Spirit to be a creature uniquely filled with grace and destined to be the Mother of God, the Holy Spirit is the Uncreated, Eternal Immaculate Conception, who is "conceived" from the love which flows eternally between God the Father and the Son; a love so perfect that it is personified. Hence, Kolbe says that Mary is the created Immaculate Conception; and she is so by the direct work of the Uncreated Immaculate Conception. Both conceptions are fruits of God's love; the former created and in time; the latter uncreated and eternal. Significantly, it was here, in his last words ever written, that Kolbe first gave the name "Uncreated Immaculate Conception" to the Holy Spirit, and first distinguished this "Immaculate Conception" from Mary's created Immaculate Conception.
It is clear from his writings that St. Maximillian had a firm grasp of Thomistic theology. He knew that we can name God only from creatures; for as St. Thomas Aquinas says in the Prima pars of his Summa Theologiae,
words are signs of ideas, and ideas the similitude of things . . . It follows that we can give a name to anything in as far as we can understand it . . . we know God from creatures as their principle . . . In this way therefore He can be named by us from creatures, yet not so that the name which signifies Him expresses the divine essence itself.8
Kolbe also knew that St. Thomas gives no proper name to the second procession of the Blessed Trinity, because in creatures generation is the only principle of communication of nature, and generation is attributable only to the procession of the divine intellect (the Word); it cannot be applied to the procession of the will (of Love). Hence, the procession which is not generation, being without a proper name, is called "spiration," as it is the procession of the Spirit.9 Further, Thomas says that because the procession of Love in God has no proper name of its own, the Person proceeding in that manner has not a proper name10 though he goes on to give this Person the proper names of "Love"11 and "Gift,"12 while at the same time admitting a "poverty in the language" in so doing.
In Kolbe's last writing he goes on to say,
Everything which exists, outside of God himself, since it is from God and depends upon him in every way, bears within itself some semblance to its Creator . . . because every created thing is an effect of the Primal Cause.
It is true that the words we use to speak of created realities express the divine perfections only in a halting, limited and analogical manner. They are only a more or less distant echo as are the created realities that they signify of the properties of God himself.
Would not "conception" be an exception to this rule? No; there is never any exception.13
What the Polish saint proceeds to do in his final writing is, from a Thomistic point of view, simply brilliant. Kolbe knew that Mary defined herself at Lourdes as being Immaculate Conception. Though not fully understanding the meaning of these words as they pertain to Mary, he understood them sufficiently to mean that she is Immaculate Conception; that Immaculate Conception belongs, one could say, "to her very nature." In his last written words, after saying that the Father eternally begets and the Son is eternally begotten, he applies the idea or name with which Mary as a creature defines herself, to God; specifically, to the Holy Spirit:
And who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine "conception." The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the "uncreated, eternal conception," the prototype of all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.14
"To conceive," as Kolbe notes, can be used in two ways in regard to the divine processions. First, as an act of the intellect whereby one "conceives" an idea or concept; and this is the way Thomas uses it to describe how the Word proceeds from the Father.15 Second, as an act of the will, which Thomas describes as an "impulse and movement toward an object."16 Thomas says "the procession of the will [of Love in the Trinity] is . . . by way of impulse and movement toward an object." In this way we may say that love is "conceived" between two persons. This is the way Kolbe uses the term to describe the procession of Love in Holy Trinity. This procession, he says, can be given the proper name of Uncreated, Eternal Immaculate Conception, which describes the act of love (an act of the divine will) flowing eternally between the Father and the Son.
Further, the terminus or end of this act of love flowing eternally between the Father and the Son, being perfect because it is divine, is personified. Kolbe calls this Person who is the Fruit of divine love by the proper name of Eternal, Uncreated Immaculate Conception.
"We can name God only from creatures," says St. Thomas. "As in creatures generation is the only principle of communication of nature, procession in God has no proper or special name, except that of generation. Hence the procession which is not generation has remained without a special name."17 But the Immaculate Conception of Mary identifies not only the manner in which she was conceived (signifying an action); the name also identifies her very person. As Kolbe says, the Immaculate Conception "is not something accidental; it is something that belongs to her very nature. For she is Immaculate Conception in person."
What precisely does Kolbe mean when he says that Immaculate Conception "belongs to [Mary's] very nature"? He himself admits that when considering this subject, we are dealing with an ineffable mystery. Back in 1933 he wrote:
Who and what is the Immaculata? Who can understand her perfectly? . . . We all understand what "mother" means; but "Mother of God" is something that our reason and our limited intellect cannot really grasp. So too, only God really understands what "immaculate" means. "Conceived without sin" we can fathom up to a point; but "Immaculate Conception" is an expression that abounds in the most consoling mysteries.18
And in his final writing on February 17, 1941, he again asked: "Who then are you, O Immaculate Conception?"
Let us first delineate what Kolbe is not saying with his statement that Immaculate Conception "belongs to Mary's very nature." Clearly he is not saying that Mary does not have a human nature received through human generation. Mary is fully human. She received her human nature from her natural parents by human generation. The present writer is of the opinion that Kolbe likewise is not saying that Mary has a "superhuman" nature or that at her Immaculate Conception something was "added to" her human nature. The effect of such an "addition" would make her something other than a human being. No; essentially, Mary is fully human, just as we are fully human. The difference between Mary and the rest of the human race concerns grace; it lies in the fact that at the first instant of her creation/conception, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, she was given a singular grace and privilege which, as Pope Pius IX stated in his encyclical defining the Immaculate Conception, Ineffabilis Deus, preserved her from all stain of Original Sin.
The Polish saint certainly knew that grace builds on nature. To say that Immaculate Conception refers to something in Mary essentially, as part of her human nature, rather than a singular grace, would contradict the definition of Pius IX; for if Mary was by nature, essentially, "Immaculate Conception," she would not have needed the singular grace to make her so. Hence, Kolbe's words about Immaculate Conception belonging to Mary's "very nature" must be qualified; he must have used this expression to convey the sense that Immaculate Conception is something so much a part of Mary that she can define herself by these very words.
It is by reason of that singular grace and privilege, given to no human being other than Mary, that she can say, "I am the Immaculate Conception." That singular grace which united her in an ineffable way to the Holy Spirit, enabled her to be the Mother of God, and provides for her active and conscious cooperation with all the grace coming from God to man is so closely identified with Mary's very being that she truly can identify this grace with her very self, her very being.
An analogy may help to clarify the point. Jesus Christ can truly say, "I am the Eternal Priest." He is the Eternal High Priest by reason of the hypostatic union in which he as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity united to himself a human nature, and from the fact that he offered himself as both Priest and Victim on the Cross at Calvary. No one else can make this claim (though those ordained to the ministerial priesthood, by sharing in Christ's priesthood, can say, "I am a priest"). Similarly, Mary can truly say, "I am the (created) Immaculate Conception," because this singular grace and privilege has been given to no other creature but her. It is as if she is telling us, "I, and I alone, was preserved free from all stain of sin from the moment of my conception. I alone am united in a hidden, mysterious way to the Holy Spirit. I alone am the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. And I alone cooperated with all my Immaculate Heart in my Son's redemptive death, and now cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the distribution of all the grace merited by Jesus."
Another way of looking at this singular grace given to Mary is to compare it to a sacramental grace which makes an indelible mark on the soul, and thereby affects the powers of the soul. Baptism makes us children of God and enables us to enter into his Kingdom; Holy Orders makes men sharers in Christ's eternal priesthood, configures them to Christ and enables them to exercise the threefold priestly function of preaching, sanctifying and governing. In a similar way, the singular grace given to Mary at the moment of her conception unites and configures her in a special and ineffable way to the Holy Spirit, and this singular grace empowers or enables her to reflect within her soul the most essential attribute appropriated to the Holy Spirit: the divine power of fruitful love. The Holy Spirit is Love in Person; Love that is both receptive and fruitful. The Holy Spirit is totally receptive to the love that eternally flows between the Father and the Son, and he makes this love fruitful by pouring forth, returning, in infinite superabundance, the love received. Mary's receptivity is later seen in her freely-willed "Fiat," by and through which she opens herself up to the creative love of the Holy Spirit and thereby brings forth superabundant fruitfulness: she becomes the Mother of the God-man, Jesus Christ; and as spouse of the Holy Spirit she shares in the distribution of all the grace her Son merited. [Author's note: Kolbe only speaks of Mary reflecting the "fruitful love" of the Holy Spirit; the notion of "receptivity" is the author's own commentary.]
In essence, Pius IX taught this truth in Ineffabilis Deus when he wrote that Mary is "singularly holy and most pure in soul and body . . . the only one who has become the dwelling place of all the graces of the most Holy Spirit"19 (emphasis added). And St. Maximillian clearly expresses this sublime truth in his last writing when he says:
He [the Holy Spirit] makes her fruitful from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity. This eternal "Immaculate Conception" (which is the Holy Spirit) produces [conceives?] in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the womb (or depths) of Mary's soul, making her the Immaculate Conception, the human Immaculate Conception. And the virginal womb of Mary's body is kept sacred for him; there he conceives in time . . . the human life of the God-man.20
Now we can grasp more clearly what Kolbe means when he refers to the Holy Spirit as the Uncreated Immaculate Conception, and to Mary as the created Immaculate Conception. The Holy Spirit immaculately produced or "conceived" in Mary's soul, at the instant of her conception, the singular grace which preserved her from all stain of Original Sin; and further, through this singular grace he united Mary to himself in a most ineffable manner and communicated to her, a creature, the capacity to become, as Pius IX says, "the dwelling place of all [His] grace." This singular grace which unites Mary so closely to the Holy Spirit enables her to reflect within her soul (with her freely-willed cooperation) the Holy Spirit's most essential attribute: love that is superabundantly fruitful. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, this singular grace of divine love bears fruit in Mary: in her womb, with the Incarnation; and in her cooperation with the Holy Spirit in the distribution of all graces merited by Christ. As Kolbe says, "He makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity."
This Immaculate Conception of divine live and fruitful love within Mary's soul is accomplished by an act of love, an act of the (divine) will, which St. Thomas describes as "impulse and movement toward an object." Thus, the Polish saint is able to go from the creature, Mary, to God the Holy Spirit, and give the name "Immaculate Conception" to both: The act of the divine will/love of the Holy Spirit which produces or "conceives" the singular grace in Mary by which she is conceived (generated) without stain of Original Sin and is made his fruitful spouse; and the act of divine will/love flowing eternally between the Father and the Son, which produces or "conceives" the procession of Love in the Holy Trinity (which Thomas calls active spiration).
Furthermore, Kolbe says the Holy Spirit "produces [conceives] in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the depths of Mary's soul, thereby making her the human Immaculate Conception." For Kolbe, then, the Immaculate Conception (in Mary) refers to both the act of divine love by the Holy Spirit, which "conceives" the singular grace in Mary's soul, uniting her with him; and the singular grace itself, which Mary so clearly identifies with her very being that she can truly define herself by saying, "I am the Immaculate Conception." And because the Holy Spirit proceeds, or is conceived, in an immaculate manner from the love flowing eternally between the Father and the Son, he can be given the proper name of Uncreated, Eternal Immaculate Conception.
St. Maximillian Kolbe used Mary's words at Lourdes not with the purpose of developing a Trinitarian theology in regard to the Holy Spirit. This was only a means to an end. His ultimate purpose was to gain a better understanding of Mary in light of those beautiful words spoken by her to Bernadette, and to attempt to answer the question which consumed so much of his prayer and meditation: "Who are you then, O Immaculate conception?"
Kolbe's reflections help us to understand better Mary's universal mediation of grace. As Kolbe stated, "Mary's mediation is a consequence of the dogma of her Immaculate Conception."21 The singular grace given to Mary at her conception preserved her from all stain of Original Sin and united her in a hidden way to the Holy Spirit, who, says the Polish saint, "makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity." These final words of Kolbe echo those of St. Louis de Montfort, who says that the Holy Spirit "chose to make use of our Blessed Lady, although he had no absolute need of her, in order to become actively fruitful in producing Jesus Christ and his members in her and by her"22 (emphasis added); and who says that the same Holy Spirit chose Mary "as the dispenser of all he possesses, so that she distributes all his gifts and graces to whom she wills, as much as she wills, how she wills and when she wills."23
These two great Marian saints agree that Mary is Mediatrix of all graces merited by Christ, and they essentially agree on the reasons for Mary's special place in God's plan of salvation: that she is Mother of Jesus Christ and spouse/instrument of the Holy Spirit. They merely differ in their emphasis, de Montfort's emphasis (and the majority of the writers in Sacred Tradition) being on Mary's Motherhood, and Kolbe's being on Mary's intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit which derives from her Immaculate Conception.
One can attempt a synthesis of the two approaches: the singular grace and privilege granted to Mary which unites her in an ineffable manner with the Holy Spirit and is given in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, is ordered toward a dual end: first, Mary will be the Mother of God, and through her will come Jesus Christ, the Source of all grace; and second, Mary will be the living human instrument of the Holy Spirit through whom he will distribute all the graces merited by Christ. Of course, the latter end is achieved in and through the former.
This truth may be phrased in another way: just as the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is ordered toward the Incarnation of the God-man, Jesus Christ, so the mystical union between Mary and the Holy Spirit, begun at her Immaculate Conception, finds its ultimate meaning and purpose when the Spirit forms the flesh of the Eternal Word in her spotless womb. But because of Mary's Divine Motherhood and her mystical union with the Holy Spirit, Mary's role in God's plan of salvation does not end with, but goes beyond, the Incarnation to include her conscious and freely-willed cooperation with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the work of redemption and salvation at the foot of the Cross, during the remainder of her life on earth, and now in heaven.
Mary: Spouse Of The Holy Spirit
Of the two ways of explaining Mary's universal mediation of grace (Motherhood of Christ vs. mystical union with the Holy Spirit), the reflections of St. Maximillian Kolbe seem to be the more persuasive. If the distribution of the graces merited by Christ's redemptive death are appropriated to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, then Mary's role as Mediatrix of all grace is seen more clearly in relation to her union with the Holy Spirit (accomplished in and through her Immaculate Conception). Kolbe summed it up well when he said: "As Mother of Jesus our savior, Mary was the Co-redemptrix of the human race; as the spouse of the Holy Spirit, she shares in the distribution of all graces."24 Thus, we can see that Kolbe's emphasis on Mary's relationship with the Holy Spirit in explaining her universal mediation of Christ's grace both complements and provides a fuller understanding for the approach taken by Church Tradition, as enunciated by de Montfort and others.
A proper understanding of Mary's role in the distribution of all grace specifically, from the standpoint of her relationship with the Holy Spirit will assist greatly in ecumenical dialogue with our non-Catholic brethren in regard to the Church's Marian teaching. Catholic Tradition teaches that we go "to Jesus through Mary." While this statement is true, it must be correctly explained to be properly understood.
St. Maximillian rightly points out that all grace ultimately comes from the Father, through the merits of Christ, and is distributed by the Holy Spirit. Our response to God's freely-bestowed love and grace is in love; and our return to God follows the same (inverted) order: we go through the Holy Spirit to Jesus, and through Jesus to God the Father. In the ordo God has established, Jesus came to us and continues to come to us through the freely-willed cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; furthermore, the Holy Spirit, in distributing the grace of Christ, uses Mary as his "living human instrument" for the reasons explained earlier. In this sense, it is true to say all graces merited by Christ come to us through Mary; through her motherly help and prayerful intercession.
Likewise, we respond to God's love and grace and go to the Father by following the same divine ordo: by going to Jesus through the Holy Spirit; and because in God's plan the Holy Spirit has chosen to operate through his spouse, we go to Jesus through Mary. Therefore, when people (non-Catholics and Catholics alike) object to the teaching, which says that we go "to Jesus through Mary," in one sense they have a valid objection but their objection is misplaced. Their objection is often based on the false notion that this teaching diminishes the mediation of Jesus. Rather, their objection should be that the statement "to Jesus through Mary" tends (at least in the minds of some) to neglect or obscure the role of the Holy Spirit in the distribution of the graces merited by Christ. In actual fact, however, once the ineffable union between the Holy Spirit and Mary is clearly understood, neither the statement "to Jesus through Mary," nor the teaching embodied in this statement, causes problems. For as St. Maximillian Kolbe says, when we say "to Jesus through Mary," we mean essentially the same thing as "to Jesus through the Holy Spirit." Why? because the Holy Spirit acts only in and through his beloved spouse, with whom he is so closely united by reason of Mary's Immaculate Conception. As St. Maximillian correctly points out,
the Holy Spirit manifests his share in the work of Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin who, although she is a person entirely distinct from him, is so intimately associated with him that our minds cannot understand it. So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary's action is the very action of the Holy Spirit. For Mary as the spouse of the Holy Spirit is raised to such a height of perfection above all other creatures that she accomplishes in everything the will of the Holy Spirit who dwelt in her from the first instant of her conception.25 (Emphasis added.)
A proper understanding of Mary's relationship with Jesus in God's plan of redemption, and her relationship with the Holy Spirit in God's "plan of applied redemption" (i.e., in the distribution of grace merited by Christ), will help both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to see that we do not pray to Mary to Jesus, but through Mary to Jesus, and through him to the Father. And in light of what was said above about Mary being the Holy Spirit's "living human instrument," we realize that when we pray through Mary to Jesus, in a true sense we are praying through the Holy Spirit (and Mary) to Jesus. Furthermore, with Kolbe's theological framework and his emphasis on Mary's relationship with the Holy Spirit as the reason for her being Mediatrix of all grace, the hypothetical necessity of going through Mary becomes more readily apparent: if we know that the grace of Christ comes to us through the Holy Spirit and that we must respond to God's grace by going through the Holy Spirit to Jesus, and if we also know that the Holy Spirit works only in and through Mary, his beloved spouse, then we realize the (hypothetical) necessity of having recourse to the Blessed Virgin.
This raises the question: Why does God act in this manner? Our God is a God of reason, and his actions have a foundation in reason. Why does God ordain that the Holy Spirit act only through the Blessed Virgin in distributing all graces? Kolbe offers an explanation:
Just as the Son, to show us how great his love is, became a man, so too the third Person, God-who-is-Love, willed to show his mediation as regards the Father and the Son by means of a concrete sign. This sign is the heart of the Immaculate Virgin, according to what the saints tell us, especially those who love to consider Mary as the spouse of the Holy Spirit. This was the conclusion drawn by St. Louis de Montfort, in accordance with the teaching of the Father . . . Since the death of Christ, the Holy Spirit acts within us too, by means of Mary.26
Kolbe offers us a profound insight here as to why God ordains that the Holy Spirit operates through the Blessed Virgin, by using the analogy of the Incarnation in the work of redemption. God could have ordained that our redemption be effected without his Son becoming incarnate and dying on the Cross. But because all our knowledge comes through the senses, God was better able to reveal to us the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and his merciful love for us through the Incarnation by the fact that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). In an analogous manner, God is better able to reveal to us the Third Person of the Trinity, God-who-is-Love, and to reveal how this Person distributes the graces merited by Christ, through a concrete, sensible sign a human person; and that person is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
While having taken care to stress that the union between the Holy Spirit and Mary "is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ," Kolbe had written, in formula style, in Latin: "Filius incarnatus est: Jesus Christus. Spiritus Sanctus quasi incarnatus est: Immaculata. "(The Son is incarnate: Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is quasi incarnate: the Immaculata.)27 In his book, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, Fr. H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., offers a thoughtful commentary on Kolbe's use of the term, "quasi incarnate":
Bold words indeed! But, faced with the words Mary spoke at Lourdes: "I AM the Immaculate Conception," there is really nothing else to say, unless we wish to suppose that Mary was then giving herself only a symbolic name. Moreover, these bold words are those of an expert theologian; he uses the necessary restriction, "quasi incarnates," which forces the mind of the believer to open itself up to the mystery, while not disturbing its faith. He constantly maintains that the Son alone was truly made man, not the Holy Spirit. The task of the theologian is not to demonstrate the ineffable, but to try to express it if he can in terms, which will provoke the heart of the believer to go beyond what the mind can understand. The Holy Spirit is "quasi" (in some manner) incarnate, without being really and strictly incarnate; for Mary the Immaculata is, as such, taken up by the Holy Spirit in all her being, as a woman and a mother.28
Although Mary's words to Bernadette at Lourdes, being private revelation, would not hold much persuasive force for the non-Catholic, Fr. Manteau-Bonamy's comments about the meaning of "quasi incarnate" may help one to understand better why God wills that the Holy Spirit operate through his spouse, the Blessed Virgin.
We can even say this profound truth that Mary is the "living human image/ icon" (or, using Kolbe's term, the "quasi incarnation") of the Holy Spirit is revealed in Scripture in Mary's own words: "My soul doth magnify the Lord" (Luke 1:46). Mary's soul magnifies the Lord; specifically, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, because she is (to use Kolbe's description) the created Immaculate Conception, formed through the power of the Uncreated Immaculate Conception. As a creature she is the most perfect expression by the Creator of created, fruitful love, intended by him to reflect or image the divine Person who is Uncreated Love, the Fruit of the love flowing eternally between the Father and the Son.
1. Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus (Apostolic Exhortation For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary) (Feb. 2, 1974), No. 27.
2. Fr. H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit (Kenosha, Wisc.: Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, 1977), 3-5, from Final Sketch by St. Maximillian Kolbe, Feb. 17, 1941. This book has been republished recently by Ignatius Press.
3. Ibid., 52, from Conference by Kolbe, April 9, 1938.
4. In Marialis Cultus, No. 26, Paul VI says, "The Fathers and writers of the Church . . . [in] examining more deeply the mystery of the Incarnation, saw in the mysterious relationship between the Spirit and Mary an aspect redolent of marriage, poetically portrayed by Prudentius: 'The unwed Virgin espoused by the Spirit.'"
5. Manteau-Bonamy, 57, quoting from Final Sketch by Kolbe.
6. Marialis Cultus, No. 25.
7. Manteau-Bonamy, 7, quoting from Letter by Kolbe from Nagasaki to the Youth of the Franciscan Order, Feb. 28, 1933.
8. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 13, a. 1
9. Ibid., q. 27, a. 4, ad. 6.
10. Ibid., q. 36, a. 1.
11. Ibid., q. 37, a. 1.
12. Ibid., q. 38, a. 2.
13. Manteau-Bonamy, 2-3, quoting from Final Sketch by Kolbe.
14. Ibid., 3, quoting from Final Sketch by Kolbe.
15. S.T., I, q. 27, a. 1 and a. 3.
16. Ibid., q. 27, a. 4.
18. Manteau-Bonamy, 6, quoting from a Letter to Fr. Anthony Vivoda by Kolbe, April 4, 1933.
19. Pope Pius IX, Encycl. Ineffabilis Deus (Apostolic Constitution Defining the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception) (Dec. 8, 1854) (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul), 17.
20. Manteau-Bonamy, 4, quoting from Final Sketch by Kolbe.
21. Ibid, 90, quoting from Miles Immaculatae, I, by Kolbe, 1938.
22. de Montfort, True Devotion, No. 21, 8.
23. Ibid., No. 25, 9.
24. Bonamy, 97, quoting from Sketch by Kolbe, 1940.
25. Ibid., 91, quoting from Miles Immaculatae, I, by Kolbe, 1938.
26. Ibid., 90-91.
27. Ibid., 63, quoting Kolbe.
28. Ibid., 63-64.
© 1993 Catholic Polls, Inc.
© 1993 Catholic Polls, Inc.
This item 4270 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org