Published on February 11, 2012 by Fr. H. M. Manteau-Bonamy in General Mariology
If the Virgin Mary was created by God and “fashioned as a new creature” by the Holy Spirit, it was… so that she might become the mother of God. Henceforth she lives with the very life of the Holy Spirit, and together with him is sent on a mission: to complete within us the efficacious Redemption brought about by our sole Mediator, Jesus. In a certain sense the definitive glory that Mary enjoys, “carried up to Heaven in body and soul,” manifests how perfect was the Redemption Jesus effected in her. When Christ presents Mary to the Father he hands over to him for eternity the masterpiece of creation, of human redemption. In Mary who is glorified the Church is made perfect. When Christ returns at the end of ages there will not be a more perfect Church. But, joined to their Immaculate Mother in the deepest recesses of her maternal bosom, the countless members of Christ who have been formed in her by the Holy Spirit will share with her, each individually and all together, her Son’s eternal glory.
Thus to share Mary’s glory in heaven, every member of the Church must on earth share her special grace; without this universal mediation of Mary the Immaculata it is impossible for anyone to attain divine life in close intimacy with God, the One in Three.
Immaculate Conception and Mediation
This mediation of Mary’s was, for Father Kolbe, the other pole of his contemplation, the first being her Immaculate Conception. But these two poles are reciprocally related. Here is what he says:
Everyone knows how closely the various truths of Christian doctrine are intertwined with each other. The dogmas of Catholicism grow out of each other and constantly enrich each other. Here is an example: Basing themselves solely on Catholic doctrine concerning the hypostatic union of the divine and the human in the person of the Word, the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s divine maternity.
Once it had been realized what relationships united Jesus with Mary his mother, the Catholic faith was led to conclude that there could be no original sin in the mother of the Savior. No Catholic could have dared to suppose that at any moment of her existence she might have been a slave of Satan.
In the same way, when they considered the important mission confided to the Most Blessed Virgin, and her unspeakably close union with the Holy Spirit (the Immaculate Conception), the faithful were led to place themselves with full confidence under the gentle protection of Mary.
Up to the present our relationship, within the whole scheme of redemption, to Mary, the Co-redemptrix and Dispensatrix of all graces, has not been fully and completely understood. But in our time faith in her mediation grows day by day. We should like to show here how the truth of Mary’s mediation is a consequence of the dogma of her Immaculate Conception.
The work of human redemption depends immediately on the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, who through his blood reconciled us with the Father, who made up for Adam’s sin, and merited for us the gift of sanctifying grace and the various actual graces we need, along with the right to heaven.
However, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity also shares in this work. By the power of the redemption wrought by Christ the Holy Spirit transforms the souls of men into temples of God; he makes of us the adoptive children of God and the heirs of the heavenly kingdom, as St. Paul declares: “But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11).
Penetrating the depths of our souls, the Holy Spirit, God-who-is-Love, unites us to the two other divine Persons. So St. Paul writes to the Romans: “We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asks for us with unspeakable groanings” (Rom. 8:26).
Similarly, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians we read that the distribution of grace depends on the will of the Holy Spirit: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit; to one indeed, by the Spirit is given the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit. To another faith in the same Spirit; to another the grace of healing in one Spirit. To another, the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discerning of spirits, to another diverse kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of speeches. But all of these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to everyone according as he wills” (I Cor. 12:7-11).
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 Fathers… Since the death of Christ, the Holy Spirit acts within us too, by means of Mary. The Creator’s word spoken to the serpent about the Immaculata: “She shall crush thy head” (Gen. 3:15), must be understood, as the theologians maintain, as applying to all times.
Till the end of the world it will be the task of the Holy Spirit to form the new members predestined to glory in the mystical body of Christ. And as St. de Montfort shows, this task is carried to completion with Mary, in Mary and through Mary.
We are led to this conclusion, namely that the Holy Spirit acts through Mary, by considering various texts of Holy Scripture and the sayings of saints, who are the best interpreters of Holy Writ. “I shall ask the Father, and he will send you another Paraclete, who will abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth…” (Jn. 14:16-17). “But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send you in my name, he will teach you all truth, and will recall to you all that I have told you” (Ibid., 26). “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will lead you to all truth … he will glorify me” (Jn. 16:13, 14).
Just as the second divine Person appears in his Incarnation as the “seed of the woman,” so the Holy Spirit manifests his share in the work of the 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 the 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.
If we consider all these truths together we can conclude that Mary, as Mother of Jesus our Savior, was made the Co-redemptrix of the human race; as the spouse of the Holy Spirit she shares in the distribution of all graces. This is why theologians are justified in saying (following the great tradition of the Fathers): “Even as the first Eve brought ruin upon us by acts which were truly free, a ruin which therefore is attributed to her, so Mary took part in the reparation by her own fully free actions… so that one can with certainty speak of a true mediation, in the strict sense of the term.”
In these last days especially we contemplate the Immaculata, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, in her role as Mediatrix in our regard.
In 1830 the Most Blessed Virgin appeared to Sister Catherine Labouré. From the account given by this novice we learn the purpose of Mary’s appearing: she wished to affirm her Immaculate Conception and her extraordinary power with God. “The Most Blessed Virgin cast her eyes on me and at the same time I heard her voice say: ‘The globe of the world represents each and every human being.’ Further, she said: ‘This is the symbol of the graces which I give to all those who call upon me.’ Next I saw an image, oval in shape, which surrounded the figure of the most Blessed Virgin; on it, in golden letters, the following invocation was written: ‘O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.’ At the same time I heard a voice say: ‘Have a medal struck according to this model; all those who wear it will receive many graces.’”
At Lourdes the Immaculate Virgin called on all to do penance; then, to show us so to speak the source whence we would obtain protection, she recited the beads. From that time on, at Lourdes, the Immaculata began to carry out her role as Mediatrix: she invited the sick to come to her; she gathered together the lame and infirm to heal them and to show us how much we depend on her even in our natural life. Tenderly, she drew to herself the spiritually infirm, unbelievers, sinners whose hearts were hardened; she diffused in their souls the grace of supernatural life, to convince them of the power she has to give supernatural life. What is remarkable is that these miracles are performed by Christ in the spot chosen by his Mother.
Everything that has happened at Lourdes through the Most Blessed Virgin illustrates the truth of these words of St. Peter Damian: “by a woman the curse was brought upon the earth, and by a woman a blessing descended upon earth”; and these other words of St. Augustine: “the ruin of mankind came about through the poison injected by a woman; the regeneration of mankind is the salvation brought about through a woman.”
What St. Bernard said has been translated into deeds by the Immaculate Virgin: “Such is the will of God, who decreed that we should obtain everything we need through Mary.” (1)
If we insist on these truths: that Mary is the sign of the mediation of the Holy Spirit, and the instrument in the hands of this second Paraclete sent to us by Christ, we shall be able to grasp all the better the thought of Father Kolbe in the light of the teaching of Vatican II.
The Immaculata, Sign of the Holy Spirit’s Mediation
One proves that movement is possible by moving. Instead of harping on theological arguments to prove the possibility of a dogma of Mary’s mediation—given the absolute and unique mediation of Jesus—Father Kolbe prefers to stress the fact that such Marian mediation actually takes place.
He begins with a principle which is very simple, and which is based on fact: “Catholic dogmas grow out of each other and constantly enrich one another.”
A few examples will suffice to show how true this principle is.
As regards the mediation of Mary, let us look at the way certain facts follow from each other. Consider how after centuries of theological discussion the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was finally defined, and how it was obviously confirmed at Lourdes by Mary herself, four years later. This opens up a new approach for looking at the question of Mary’s mediation, an approach which gives added strength, clarity and precision to the traditional arguments on this topic.
What we mean is this: By saying “I am the Immaculate Conception,” Mary clearly showed that she is intimately united with the third Person of the Trinity whose privileged sanctuary, whose image she is; we can truly say that her life is the very life of the Holy Spirit in her.
Now, the Holy Spirit did not come to the Church only at Pentecost, after the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. True, on Pentecost he manifested himself to the Apostles and disciples, thus inaugurating the Church in its members.
But by fashioning the most Blessed Virgin as a new creature, the Holy Spirit from that very instant made her the obvious sign of his personal presence in the world; Mary’s Immaculate Conception is also the immaculate conception of the Church. From that very instant, then, the Holy Spirit was sent and given to the world through Mary the Immaculata. By preparing our Lady for her divine maternity he prepared the way for the coming of the Son. Hence, we may say that the Immaculata’s life, naturally and supernaturally, is the sign of the living presence of the Holy Spirit in the world.
Once the Son of God had become incarnate in Mary, the Holy Spirit manifested through her in a sensible manner all the wealth of maternal love which he is in God, and which made Mary such a perfect mother, always drawing her closer and closer to her Son. At Cana, the Holy Spirit through Mary provoked the response of Jesus when she said: “They have no more wine”; for Jesus knows full well that everything his mother says and does is inspired by the Spirit of truth and love. So, when Mary told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” Jesus obeyed the Spirit which thus launched him definitely on the mission which would lead him to Calvary. From that time on he considered his mother as the new Eve associated with himself, the new Adam: “Woman, what is that to me and to thee?” The Most Blessed Virgin did not lose her title as his Mother, but her maternity began reaching ever farther out, becoming the universal motherhood which had been promised in vain to the first Eve.
When the one Savior purifies and justifies all men who are sinners in Adam, the Holy Spirit also purifies and justifies them by giving to the new Eve the whole weight of love that will fill the heart of the new Adam, thus repairing the deadly seduction practiced by the first Eve, who instilled the poison of disobedience into the heart of the first Adam. Christ suffered and died, not in his divinity, but in his humanity. So too the third Person, the Holy Spirit, the Gift of God, does not experience compassion in his divine nature. But what compassion does he not experience in the heart of Mary Immaculate, the Mother of sorrows! Since the union between the Holy Spirit and Mary is so much more than a merely moral union, their compassion reached a depth such that it approximated the infinite degree of divine Love itself. Father Kolbe does not hesitate to write: “The Immaculata personifies the mercy of God.” (2)
Intimately associated as she is with Christ suffering and dying, the Virgin is, by the same Spirit, a true mediatrix in the sense in which the Holy Spirit himself is a mediator with regard to the unique Mediator, Jesus Christ. All of us are redeemed by the divine Love which, through the united hearts of the new Adam and of the new Eve, offers reparation to the Father for the sin committed by our first parents, Adam and Eve.
For just as the Son is the eternal Mediator between the Father and the Holy Spirit (in the divinity itself—the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son), (3) so too Jesus the incarnate Son of God becomes the direct Mediator between the Father and the Holy Spirit who, so to speak, is “quasi-incarnate” in the Immaculata, the representative and spiritual Mother of all humanity. (4)
Here Father Kolbe shows clearly that the most Blessed Virgin is not considered either as a mediatrix or a redeemer by herself. She was fashioned by the Holy Spirit because the redemptive act of God’s Son had redeemed her in advance, in a most sublime manner, by exempting her from Original Sin; and since as St. Paul teaches, we are purified by Jesus and his Spirit, the Virgin too is created immaculate, totally spotless, in anticipation of the Cross.
But on Calvary this redeemed creature becomes, thanks to her ineffable union with the Holy Spirit, truly a Co-redemptrix.
As the 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.
In the Trinity the Spirit urges the Son to give himself in love to the Father; he does the same thing for us, God’s adoptive children. So too on the cross the Holy Spirit urges Christ as a true man to yield himself up in love to his Father. The Immaculata participated in this urging on the part of the Spirit of love, since she lived by his divine life. She repeated the “yes” she had uttered at the Annunciation. The love which burst from the Heart of Jesus dying on the Cross, when he “yielded up his spirit,” was gathered in by the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be handed on to all men. John was the first one to benefit by this maternal gift, John who represented the whole of humanity redeemed by Jesus and by Mary the Immaculata united to the Spirit of her Son. “Woman, behold thy son—son, behold thy mother!” And “from that time forth the disciple took her unto his own” (Jn. 19:26-27).
Speaking of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, Father Kolbe said:
She loved us even to the point of sacrificing her divine Son for us; at the Annunciation she had already deliberately accepted us as her children. (5)
Along with the Holy Spirit who cooperated in the task of the Redemption, the Immaculata obtains for us the privilege of being adoptive sons of God and heirs of the heavenly Kingdom.
She is the “Mother of the Living,” the new Eve, called to be some day the “New Jerusalem.”
The Immaculata, Instrument of the Holy Spirit
Father Kolbe had been deeply impressed by the apparitions of our Lady at the Rue du Bac and at Lourdes. In them he saw the fact of the Immaculata’s mediation, because she was totally united to the Holy Spirit at every moment of her life. The same Spirit which overshadowed her when the Word was made flesh, continued to associate her with himself in his task of sanctifying each member of the Mystical Body, a task confided to the second Paraclete by Jesus himself.
The Word became flesh as a result of the love of God and of the Immaculata. Thus did he become the first-born, the God-Man. In the same way do souls come to a new birth in Christ: thanks to the love of God for the Immaculata, and in her. No word ever becomes “flesh,” no virtue assumes concrete shape in a human person, except through divine Love and the Immaculata. Since Christ, the source of grace, has become her “property,” she has the right to distribute grace…. Every grace comes from the Father in consideration of the Son whom he begets from all eternity. And the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and from the Son uses these graces to shape souls to resemblance with the First-born, the God-Man; he does this in the Immaculata and by her. (6)
Father Kolbe therefore declares, with complete assurance:
The Immaculata has left this earth; but her life has only grown deeper and richer; it grows and flourishes more and more in the lives of Christians. If all the souls that have lived on this earth, and all those that still struggle here could make known the all-powerful influence the Immaculata has exercised over them, and her maternal solicitude for these souls redeemed by the precious Blood of her divine Son, what an incalculable number of volumes would be required! All these persons would relate only what they had been able to discover as special graces received through Mary. But in fact every grace that comes to a soul comes from her hands, for she is the Mediatrix of all grace; and at every moment new graces penetrate into the souls of men. There are graces which enlighten the intellect, which strengthen the will, which draw us toward what is good. There are ordinary and extraordinary graces; some graces directly concern our natural life, and others have to do with the sanctification of our souls. Only at the last judgment, only in Heaven will we discover with what loving attention our Heavenly Mother watched over each one of us without ceasing, over every soul individually, because all are her children. She strives to shape them after the model, Jesus, her first-born, the archetype of all sanctity, the Man-God. (7)
It would take too long to cite all Father Kolbe’s statements concerning Mary as mediatrix and distributrix of all graces. Here is a resume of his thinking on the subject, found in a letter to one of his Brothers, who had inquired after the possibility of such mediation.
The union between the Immaculata and the Holy Spirit is so inexpressible, yet so perfect, that the Holy Spirit acts only by the Most Blessed Virgin, his Spouse. This is why she is the Mediatrix of all grace given by the Holy Spirit. And since every grace is a gift of God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit, it follows that there is no grace which Mary cannot dispose of as her own, which is not given to her for this purpose. (8)
The late Father H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., was a “peritus” at the Second Vatican Council and one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Mariology of St. Maximilian Kolbe. This article was excerpted from Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Franciscan Marytown Press, 1977.
(1) Miles Immaculatae, I, 1938.
(2) Taken from material written by St. Maximilian which he was collecting for a book, hereafter referred to as Sketch, followed by the year, in this case 1940.
(3) Even in the divine life of the Trinity Father Kolbe loves to see the Son as Mediator between the Father and the Holy Spirit.
(4) Sketch, 1940.
(5) Sketch, 1940.
(6) Conference given by St. Maximilian, summarized by Brothers who heard it.
(7) Sketch, 1940.
(8) Letter to Father Mikolajczyk, July 28, 1935.