When Mary was predestined in one and the same decree with Jesus Christ by the design of God—before the creation of angels or the universe, and before the existence of sin or evil—she was predestined to be the Spouse of the Holy Spirit … to hold within herself all the love of creation.
In the return of all created things to God the Father (cf. Jn 1, 1; 16, 28), “the equal and contrary reaction,” says St. Maximilian Kolbe, “proceeds inversely from that of creation.” In creation, the saint goes on to say, the action of God “proceeds from the Father through the Son and the Spirit, while in the return, by means of the Spirit, the Son becomes incarnate in (the Virgin Mary’s) womb and through Him, love returns to the Father.” 1 The Saint of Auschwitz goes on:
In the union of the Holy Spirit with her, not only does love bind these two beings, but the first of them (the Holy Spirit) is all the love of the Most Holy Trinity, while the second (the Blessed Virgin Mary) is all the love of creation, and thus in that union heaven is joined to earth, the whole heaven with the whole earth, the whole of Uncreated Love with the whole of created love: this is the vertex of love. 2
The form of the diagram shown in Figure 1 is not found in the work of St. Maximilian. However, it accurately represents the state of equal and opposite action and reaction, that occurs when two bodies make contact. In this case, the “bodies” represent heaven and earth: the uncreated and created orders, God and his creation. The first point I would like to make is that the state of equal and opposite contact forces in Newtonian mechanics requires “force equilibrium.” It may then seem very wrong to use an image like this one, because how can the state shown between God and his creation be in equilibrium? Isn’t God’s act of love so much greater than the return of his creation that no “equilibrium” would be possible? This would certainly be the case if it were not for Emmanuel, that is, God with us. Jesus, who is truly man, and truly God, belongs to both the created and uncreated orders simultaneously. In his person, Jesus is both the son of Mary, fully human and like us in all ways except sin, and the Eternal Son of God the Father, infinite and equal in all ways to the Triune God.
Figure 1: The return of all created things to God the Father.
Thus, the love of Jesus, the Word Made Flesh who is God, is by itself enough to “balance” the love of God. However, there is even more in the equation of love’s equilibrium than the love of the Son, infinite and sufficient in itself, though it is. According to St. Maximilian, the perfect love of the Trinity meets an adequate response in the perfect love of the Immaculate, which is the name St. Maximilian gives to the Blessed Virgin Mary. How is it possible that Divine Love can find an adequate response in the love of a creature? It is possible precisely because of the name that the Virgin Mary can claim for herself. In 1854, the Blessed Virgin Mary proclaimed to St. Bernadette Soubirous: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” In the words of St. Maximilian, the Blessed Virgin is the created Immaculate Conception, as in the words of St. Bonaventure, the Holy Spirit is the uncreated Immaculate Conception. 3 The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Son ,as the perfect and infinite love between the Father and the Son in the eternal interior life of the Blessed Trinity. Thus, the Holy Spirit is truly all the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is also called the “Complement” of the Blessed Trinity, because he is the completion of the Trinity, not in “number” (quantitatively), but in essence (qualitatively).
When Mary was predestined in one and the same decree with Jesus Christ, 4 by the design of God—before the creation of angels or the universe, and before the existence of sin or evil—she was predestined to be the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. So she was predestined to hold within herself all the love of creation. Thus, St. Maximilian says that the Blessed Virgin Mary “inserted into the love of the Most Holy Trinity becomes, from the very first moment of her existence, always, forever, the Complement of the Most Holy Trinity.” We may paraphrase the thoughts of St. Maximilian Kolbe on the spousal relationship between the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the words of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner:
In virtue of this spousal union formally denoted by the title, Complement, Mary is able to enter, as no other, into the order of the hypostatic union, her soul being wholly divinized, because by the grace of the Immaculate Conception, it has been ‘transubstantiated’ into the Holy Spirit. 5
It is for this reason that Mary—though she is a creature in both her person and her nature—is herself the created Immaculate Conception, and, therefore, all the love of creation. She can actually provide an adequate response to the love of the Holy Spirit, who is the uncreated Immaculate Conception, and, therefore, all the Love of God. Thus, the equation of love’s equilibrium is balanced again.
Now that we have balanced the equation of love’s equilibrium twice over, we could certainly stop. However, there is reason to continue. St. Maximilian does not expressly mention St. Joseph in the context of these reflections. However, the diagram in Figure 1, based entirely on the saint’s own reflections, certainly suggests the presence of St. Joseph in the order of the response of creation to God the Father. The order of Father, Son, and, Holy Spirit, shown in the diagram, reflects the order of God’s loving act of creation. This was initiated by the zeal of the Father, designed by the wisdom of the Son, and effected by the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the order referred to by St. Maximilian when he says that: “the equal and contrary reaction (i.e., the return of all creation to God) proceeds inversely from that of creation.” We see this reflection in the diagram, where the reaction “force” of love is inverted, and the order of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the “action force,” is reversed to give the order of Holy Spirit, Son, and Father.
Notice, however, that in the return to God, it is creation that is reacting. Thus, the individuals reacting—while reflecting the Holy Spirit, Son, and Father to greater or lesser degrees—are all creatures. We have Mary, who is the perfect similitude (St. Bonaventure), transparent icon (St. Maximilian), or even quasi-incarnation (St. Maximilian) of the Holy Spirit, but who is still a created person, with a created human nature. We have Jesus, who is the Word Incarnate, the same Person as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, but who is still in possession of a created human nature. St. Maximilian stops here, but must we stop here? I would dare to say that the analogy we have carried out so far on the inspiration of St. Maximilian suggests an obvious completion. We have St. Joseph, who has been called the “perfect icon of God the Father” by more than one saint. 6 In the words of Fr. Joachin Ferrer Arellano:
In the light of the Scotistic thesis on the Primacy of Christ, to take one example, one discovers (…) how the virginal marriage of Mary and Joseph was predestined “ante mundi constitutionem” (before the constitution of the world), as an essential part of the one decree of the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of the Immaculate “ante praevisa merita” (before any consideration of antecedent merit). Such is the saving plan, “the mystery hidden before the ages in God,” (cf. Eph 3:9) to be accomplished at the high point in the history of salvation. That high point is the fullness of time (cf. Gal 4:4) when God sent his Son into the most pure bosom of Holy Mary Ever Virgin, espoused to a man of the house of David (cf. Lk 1:26) in fulfillment of the prophecy of Nathan. God acted thus, that through the obedience of the Spouses of Nazareth the Son might be freely welcomed into history on behalf of all mankind in order to save it. This welcome took place in the virginal womb of Mary, the Daughter of Zion, and in the house of Joseph, in the family home established by the marriage of the two Spouses (Mary and Joseph), “sanctuary of love and cradle of life.” This is the theological foundation of the holy Patriarch’s greatness as virginal, messianic father of the Only-begotten of the Father: shadow and transparent icon of Him who wished to make Joseph unique partaker of his fatherhood in order to prepare the human nature of Christ for the holocaust of Calvary. In this way, He made Joseph Father and Lord of the Church gushing forth from Christ’s opened side and born of the sword of sorrow of the Woman. 7
In addition to being the transparent icon of God the Father, St. Joseph was the true, virginal husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 8 In fact, it can even be said that St. Joseph is the virginal father of Jesus Christ. For, again in the words of Fr. Joachin Ferrer Arellano:
Although singular, unique, and not univocal with fatherhood as this is ordinarily understood and commonly found among men, the position more common and traditional among theologians upholds the truly real fatherhood of Joseph in relation to Jesus, based 1) on his marriage to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and 2) on the right of the husband over his wife. He, therefore, who is born virginally of Mary, by reason of his birth, intimately pertains in some manner to Joseph as father. … In view of the dignity of Joseph as husband of Mary, to whom belongs the fruit of his wife’s womb, one is not permitted to overlook … how the indivisible virginity of both spouses—not simply that of Mary, but also that of her husband, the son of David—is ordered to the virginal fatherhood of Joseph according to the Spirit, in virtue of the obedience of faith to the saving plan of God. This plan includes the messianic fatherhood of Joseph as son of David in relation to his virginal Son, constituted Son of David, the messianic King, because He was Son of Joseph. 9
In the return of all created things to God the Father, it is under the leadership, and in imitation of, St. Joseph, our patriarch, that the individual members of the Church must, by the merits gained for us through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, be transubstantiated into Mary, who is the Virgo Ecclesia Facta (Virgin-Made-Church). 10 It is only by being transubstantiated into Mary, the created Immaculate Conception, that we can be united to God as she is uniquely united to God, being transubstantiated with her into the uncreated Immaculate Conception, who is the Holy Spirit. In virtue of this transubstantiation, we are possessed by the Immaculate, and we are thereby formed into a single community, or Church, sharing her personality. To St. Maximilian, this is the only way that we can be members of Christ’s Church, and thereby united to God. In the words of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner:
To this dynamic union of love in which not only the being of the Holy Spirit and that of Mary are united, but the entire love of heaven and that of earth touch, merge and become one so as to culminate in the Incarnation, in the birth of the Son of God, the Man-God, and then in the incorporation of the members of the Church into that Body conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Saint of Niepokalanow and Auschwitz (St. Maximilian Kolbe) ascribes the fecundity of the Holy Spirit, precisely because Complement of Father and Son. … Whence the importance of Mary’s possession of those who wish to be incorporated into Christ, conformed to him in life and in death: except through her it cannot be achieved (emphasis added). This mysterious mutual possession, then, is the basis of all other cooperation in the work of salvation, the reason for rejecting the Protestant solus, and “passive” ecclesio-typology, and affirming the universal Marian mediation of grace or active ecclesio-typology. 11
Thus, in accordance with St. Maximilian’s principle of action and reaction, what was first reversed in the order of God’s creative act, in the fullness of time, in the objective order of salvation, is reversed again in the subjective order of salvation. What was first reversed in the objective order of salvation means that, through the action of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ was incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and became man, and through him, love returned to the Father. What was reversed again in the subjective order of salvation means that, in imitation of our patriarch and leader, St. Joseph, through the merits gained for us by the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, we can be transubstantiated into the Immaculate, and thereby form one Church, sharing her personality. Consequently, we share in her unique union with God in eternity, which is the Beatific Vision. This can be illustrated in the diagram shown in Figure 1, if one imagines traveling from the top of the diagram to the bottom, and then returning from the bottom of the diagram to the top again.
Our final meditation on the diagram shown in Figure 1 is the point of contact between heaven and earth, the vertex of love, where all the love of God, and all the love of creation, meet and are joined: “in that union heaven is joined to earth, the whole heaven with the whole earth, the whole of Uncreated Love with the whole of created love.” 12 This point of contact, between the whole heaven and the whole earth, is, according to St. Maximilian, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why is this? Why is the vertex of love not the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is love? Indeed, the Saint of Auschwitz has been sharply criticized, and even ridiculed by some theologians, for what they have called “a heresy” along the lines of that of Joachim of Fiore. 13 It is claimed that, by making the vertex of love the Immaculate Conception, the centrality of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is denied. However, precisely the opposite is true. For, in the words of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner:
Today, this joachimite tendency generally reveals itself in constant anxiety about Catholic proneness to “exaggerate” Mary, and a downplaying (emphasis added) of the active role of Mary in the work of salvation as Mother of God, and co-redemptress so as to exalt the “mediation” of the Holy Spirit as principal “co-redemptor” (and for some “mother”) of whom Mary is but the instrument (as are we), or so as to speak of the suffering of the Father. … But such historical trends have always been the prelude of Unitarianism: not an affirmation of the Trinity, but its denial, a denial which must ultimately lead to some form of pantheism. … The significance of St. Maximilian’s reflections on the Holy Spirit, and Mary, and of his preferred terminology cannot be underestimated. 14
It is the relationship of Mary to her Divine Son, which is the relationship of Mother of God, or Theotokos, which is the source of all her dignity, unparalleled among creatures. This dignity so far transcends the dignity of every other created being as to make her a “quasi-part” of the Blessed Trinity. It is in this very dignity, however, that the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is central, which is why St. Maximilian Kolbe’s reflections on the Blessed Virgin Mary are directly opposed to the joachimite heresy. Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner paraphrases St. Maximilian Kolbe on this subject as follows:
Thus, Mary’s self-definition is: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Only Mary can say this, because only of Mary Immaculate, jointly predestined with Christ for an absolute primacy in creation, can it be said that the whole world and each of us was made “for her”. 15 Therefore, of no other just person can it be said as it was said to Mary “The Lord is with thee.” 16 For no other than the Immaculate can be Mother of God (emphasis added). Indeed, she remains only a creature; nonetheless in virtue of the Immaculate Conception she far transcends the supernatural perfection of even the greatest saints and of all the saints together, for as “quasi-part” of the Trinity, she not only participates in the divine perfections, she is “inserted into the very bosom of the Trinity and into the order of the Incarnation.” 17 … 18 To be part of the Trinity, then, in so singular a way revolves about the divine Maternity, and by extension the spiritual maternity as well. For in loving the Immaculate the divine Persons love us. 19
In the famous Roman conference of 1937, St. Maximilian defined sanctity with an equation: “S: v = V”. The letter “S” stands for sanctity, the lowercase letter “v” stands for the will of a creature, and the uppercase letter “V” stands for the will of God. It is Mary Immaculate who is the perfect image, or icon, of sanctity, because it is only she who satisfies Kolbe’s equation. “We may add with the Saint: perfect sanctity is perfect charity or Immaculate Conception.” 20 This is the meaning of the vertex of love, and why that vertex is the Immaculate Conception, rather than the Incarnation. Mary is a created person, and yet her will is perfectly united to the will of God: “v = V.” In the words of St. Maximilian:
The Immaculate, the full of grace, was always united to the will of God. From all eternity, she was in the thought of God who had willed her so holy and perfect, to correspond with his will in a manner so complete. Hence, we can say that to do the will of God, means to do the will of the Immaculate, and to do the will of the Immaculate means to do the will of God, because she is always united to God: the Lord is with thee; because she is always docile to the call of God: be it done to me; because she is always solicitous for the glory of God, always adoring, praising and thanking: my soul magnifies the Lord. 21
We know well from St. Thomas Aquinas that love is in the will. 22 Thus, in the equation, “v = V,” we see that all the love of creation (in the will of the Immaculate Virgin Mary) is united to all the love of the Most Holy Trinity (in the will of the Holy Spirit), and, in the words of St. Maximilian, “in that union heaven is joined to earth, the whole heaven with the whole earth, the whole of Uncreated Love with the whole of created love: this is the vertex of love.” 23
Oh sweet heart of Mary, be our salvation.
- SK 1318. All citations from the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe in this paper, with the exception of the Roman Conferences, are abbreviated SK and taken from Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe (Roma 1997). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Regarding the Mysteries of the interior life of the Blessed Trinity, St. Bonaventure said that the Son can be properly said to be “a conceived”, but only the Holy Spirit can be properly said to be “conception” (in I Sent.). St. Maximilian added the word “Immaculate” (perfect, holy) to the name given the Holy Spirit by St. Bonaventure, an addition St. Bonaventure would surely have approved. ↩
- The following is an excerpt taken from the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX Ineffabilis Deus, issued on December 8, 1854, in which the Holy Father solemnly declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception: “From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully. … And hence the very words with which the Sacred Scriptures speak of Uncreated Wisdom and set forth his eternal origin, the Church, both in its ecclesiastical offices and in its liturgy, has been wont to apply likewise to the origin of the Blessed Virgin, inasmuch as God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom.” Here Blessed Pope Pius IX makes use both of the Scotistic thesis on the Absolute Joint Primacy of Jesus and Mary, both of whose existence were ordained before God’s act of creation and before any consideration of original sin (cf. R. Rosini, O.F.M., Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus, translated by P. Fehlner, F.I., New Bedford 2008), and the formulation of St. Anselm, who said that Mary “shines with a purity greater than which none can be imagined” (De Conceptione Virginis). ↩
- P. Fehlner, F.I., St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity – Pneumatologist (New Bedford, 2004). ↩
- St. Theresa of Avila and St. Bernadette Soubirous are among these (cf. A. Dozè, “Le mystère de Saint Joseph révéle a deux femmes: Therèse (d’Avila) et Bernadette”, in Actas simposio de Kevelaer 2005), as well as St. Peter Julian Eymard (Month of St. Joseph). ↩
- J. Ferrer Arellano, “The Virginal Marriage of Mary and Joseph according to Bl. John Duns Scotus”, in Bl. John Duns Scotus and His Mariology, Commemoration of the Seventh Centenary of His Death, Acts of the Symposium on Scotus’ Mariology, Grey College, Durham – England (New Bedford, 2009). ↩
- Blessed John Duns Scotus and St. Maximilian Kolbe are both clear on this point, as are many other saints, including Blessed Pope John Paul II (cf. Redemptoris Custos). The fact that Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the fact that their perfect spousal love results in Mary’s transubstantiation into the Holy Spirit, does not imply that the Holy Spirit is the “husband” of Mary, or that the Holy Spirit is the “father” of Jesus. To approach an understanding of the perfect spousal union of love between the Holy Spirit and Mary, it must be understood that highest experience of spousal love, which is between husband and wife within the holy sacrament of marriage, is but an imperfect reflection of the source of spousal love, which is the Love between the Father and the Son in the Blessed Trinity, both of Whom in the inner life of the Trinity are, of course, without “gender” in the human sense of the term. This Perfect Spousal Love is the Holy Spirit, and it is as a fruit of this Spousal Love that the Blessed Virgin Mary is one with the Holy Spirit; transubstantiated into the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit quasi-incarnate. (P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity…) ↩
- J. Ferrer Arellano, “The Virginal Marriage of Mary and Joseph…” ↩
- The title “Virgo Ecclesia Facta,” or Virgin-Made-Church” is applied to the Blessed Virgin by St. Francis of Assisi in his Antiphon for the Office of the Passion (cf. J. Schneider, O.F.M., Virgo Ecclesia Facta: The Presence of Mary in the Crucifix of San Damiano and in the Office of the Passion of St. Francis of Assisi, New Bedford 2004). The phrase “transubstantiation into the Immaculate,” though surprising, is used twice by St. Maximilian Kolbe to describe the total consecration to the Immaculate he demanded of his priests (cf. A. Geiger, F.I., “Marian Mediation as Presence and Transubstantiation into the Immaculate”, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross – III: Mater Unitatis, Acts of the Third International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, New Bedford 2003). ↩
- P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity… ↩
- SK 1318 ↩
- Joachim of Fiore was a theologian (c. 1135 – 1202) who de-emphasized the central role of the Incarnation in the Salvific Order. His theories were declared heretical at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and at the Synod of Arles (1263). ↩
- P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity… ↩
- SK 1305. ↩
- SK 1295 ↩
- SK 1320; 1305; 1295; 1288. ↩
- Father Fehlner continues: “While this personal communion or inexistence of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate is absolutely unique in its perfection (a hierarchy or sacred order of its own kind), it is nonetheless the ontological basis making possible the sanctification of the Church as Bride of Christ, as sharing in the redemptive sacramentality of the Incarnation. This mediation of Mary qua created Immaculate Conception is the source of that mystical personality of the Church qua Bride, a personality of virgin and mother underlying and permeating every other dimension of the Church, including the petrine, hierarchical, sacramental-liturgical.” (P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity…) See also J. Ferrer Arellano, “The Triple and Inseparable Mediation of the Immaculate, the Eucharist and the Petrine Ministry in the Building Up of the Church Until the Parousia (The Three Whites)”, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI: Marian Coredemption in the Eucharistic Mystery, Acts of the Sixth International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, 2007). ↩
- P. Fehlner, St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity… ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- St. Maximilian Kolbe, in Roman Conferences of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, translated with introduction and notes byFr. Peter Damian Ma. Fehlner, F.I. (New Bedford, 2004). ↩
- Despite the objections of Dietrich von Hildebrand (cf. Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love). ↩
- SK 1318. ↩