St Maximilian Kolbe is the second Marian teacher referred to in a previous blog post, the other being St Louis de Montfort. Kolbe is stunning in his approach to Mariology. While neither one of these great saints is exclusive with regard to the following topics, Kolbe explores the depths of the gifts given to Mary, whereas de Montfort focuses more on showing us the way and gives us the reasons why to give ourselves to Mary. Thus we continue to expand our understanding of Mary’s relationship with the Holy Trinity and Her participation in salvation history.
In his last writings before being imprisoned at Auschwitz, we find the quintessence of Kolbe’s Marian teachings. It is the consequence of his perennial question: “Who are you, O Immaculate Conception?” A question best understood from his own answer: “The path of creation goes from the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit; this return trail goes from the Spirit, through the Son back to the Father. In other words, by the Spirit, the Son becomes incarnate in the womb of the Immaculata and through the Son, love returns to the Father. And She (the Immaculata), grafted into the love of the Blessed Trinity, becomes from the first moment of Her existence forever thereafter the ‘complement of the Blessed Trinity'” (Sketch, 1941, Feb. 17).
This is why when we describe the Great Circle of Love, Mary is included in the way back to the Father, not as a devotional reality but in Her very essence; that is, as the Immaculate Conception. It is admitted that such a concept can be rather overwhelming to our understanding, so it is fitting that it becomes the continuous subject in our contemplation of Mary, as it was for Kolbe. We need to keep bringing back these truths into our heart of hearts, in order not to dilute our veneration of Mary as “only a stepping stone” or to practical devotions, as valuable as the latter are. Kolbe, in fact, superlatively plumbs the depths of Mary’s union with the Holy Spirit – astonishingly so – by explaining the Holy Spirit as the “uncreated eternal conception” and His relationship with Mary as the “created Immaculate Conception” (ibid.). Through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, with her divine Son, becomes an integral reality towards our return jouney to the Father.
This same Holy Spirit is active in our lives, which will be our next consideration in understanding the journey back to the Father: that is, the Great Circle of Love. In an article written before his election to the papacy, Benedict XVI said: “The Holy Spirit is recognizable in the way in which He forms human life. A life formed from faith is in turn a sign of the Holy Spirit. To speak of ‘Christian spirituality’ means to speak about the Holy Spirit. He makes himself recognizable by gaining a new center for human life. Speaking about the Holy Spirit includes looking at Him in man, to whom He has given himself” (Ratzinger, J. 1998. Communio [Summer ed.]).