Theology of the Heart- Life of the Saints
Who THEN ARE YOU, O
by St. Maximilian Kolbe
Just a few hours
before his second and final arrest, St. Maximilian Kolbe on
February 17, 1941, wrote down
his last reflections on the Immaculate Conception. The question,
"Who are you, O Immaculate Conception?"
occupied his priestly mind and heart forming him to be a living
witness of the power of the Immaculate
and to die as a living offering of love.
“IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. These
words fell from the lips of the Immaculata herself. Hence, they
must tell us in the most precise and essential manner who she
Since human words are incapable of expressing divine realities,
it follows that these words: “Immaculate,” and “Conception” must
be understood in a much more profound, much more beautiful and
sublime meaning than usual: a meaning beyond that which human
reason at its most penetrating, commonly gives to them.
St. Paul wrote, quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “Things that the eye
has not seen, that the ear has not heard, that the heart of man
has not imagined” (Is. 64,4), such are the good things that God
has prepared for those who love him (I Cor. 2,9). Here, these
words apply fully.
However, we can and should reverently inquire into the mystery
of the Immaculata and try to express it with words provided by
our intelligence using its own proper powers.
Who then are you, O Immaculate conception?
Not God, of course, because he has no beginning. Not an angel,
created directly out of nothing. Not Adam, formed out of the
dust of the earth (Gen. 2,7). Not Eve, molded from Adam’s rib
(Gen. 2,21). Not the Incarnate Word, who exists before all ages,
and of whom we should use the word “conceived” rather than
“conception”. Humans do not exist before their conception, so we
might call them created “conceptions.” But you, O Mary, are
different from all other children of Eve. They are conceptions
stained by original sin; whereas you are the unique, Immaculate
Everything which exists, outside of God himself, since it is
from God and depends on him in every way, bears within itself
some semblance to its Creator; there is nothing in any creature
which does not betray this resemblance, 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 such exception.
The Father begets the Son; the Spirit proceeds from Father and
Son. These few words sum up the mystery of life of the Most
Blessed Trinity and of all the perfections in creatures which
are nothing else but echoes, a hymn of praise, a many-hued
tableau, of this primary and most wondrous of all mysteries.
We must perforce use our customary vocabulary, since it is all
we have; but we must never forget that our vocabulary is very
Who is the Father? What is his personal life like? It consists
in begetting, eternally; because he begets his Son from the
beginning, and forever.
Who is the son? He is the Begotten-One because from the
beginning and for all eternity he is begotten by the Father.
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.
The Father begets; the Son is begotten; the Spirit is the
“conception” that springs from their love; there we have the
intimate life of the three Persons by which they can be
distinguished one from another. But they are united in the
oneness of their Nature, of their divine existence.
The spirit is, then this thrice holy “conception,” this
infinitely holy, Immaculate Conception.
Everywhere in this world we notice action, and the reaction
which is equal but contrary to it; departure and return; going
away and coming back; separation and reunion. The separation
always looks foreword to union, which is creative. All this is
simply an image of the Blessed Trinity in the activity of
creatures. Union means love, creative love. Divine activity,
outside the Trinity itself, follows the same pattern. First, God
creates the universe; that is something like a separation.
Creatures, by following the natural law implanted in them by
God, reach their perfection, become like him, and go back to
him. Intelligent creatures love him in the conscious manner;
through this love they unite themselves more and more closely
with him, and so find their way back to him. The creature most
completely filled with this love, filled with God himself, was
the Immaculata, who never contracted the slightest stain of sin,
who never departed in the least from God’s will. United to the
Holy Spirit as his spouse, she is one with God in an
incomparably more perfect way than can be predicated of any
What sort of union is this? It is above all an interior union, a
union of her essence with the “essence” of the Holy Spirit. The
Holy Spirit dwells in her, lives in her. This was true from the
first instant of her existence. It was always true; it will
always be true.
In what does this life of the Sprit in Mary consist? He himself
is uncreated Love in her; the Love of the Father and of the Son,
the Love by which God loves himself, the very love of the Most
Holy Trinity. He is a fruitful Love, a “Conception.” Among
creatures made in God’s image the union brought about by married
love is the most intimate of all (cf. Mt. 19,6). 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
bring. He 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 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- because everything that is material occurs in time- the
human life of the man-God.
And so the return to God (which is love), that is to say the
equal and contrary reaction, follows a different path from that
found in creation. The path of creation goes from the Father
through the Son 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 this 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 and
forever thereafter the “complement of the Blessed Trinity”.
In the Holy Spirit’s union with Mary we observe more than the
love of two beings; in one there is all the love of the Blessed
Trinity; in the other, all of creation’s love. So it is that in
this union heaven and earth are joined; all of heaven with all
the earth, the totality of eternal love with the totality of
created love. It is truly the summit of love.
At Lourdes, the Immaculata did not say of herself that she had
been conceived immaculately, but, as St. Bernadette repeated,
“Que soy era immaculada councepciou”: “I am the Immaculate
If among human beings the wife takes the name of her husband
because she belongs to him, is one with him, becomes equal to
him and is, with him, the source of new life, with how much
greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, who is the
divine Immaculate Conception, be used as the name of her in whom
he lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole
supernatural order of grace?”
(Sketch: Feb. 17, 1941)
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