Understand Marian Titles Correctly

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Six Pneumatological Titles of Mary – Part II

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Six Pneumatological Titles of Mary – Part II

Read Part I Here

Mary Is the Theotokos

Most Catholics know that Protestants often challenge Our Lady’s prerogatives, honors and titles. They consider them ‘provocative’ or even scandalous. As an example, consider the greatest of Our Lady’s privileges, from which all others flow, that She is the Theotokos (Greek for ‘God-bearer’), or in common English, the Mother of God. When this title is misunderstood, objections are certainly understandable.

God has always existed, He is “I Am Who Am.” He has no beginning and no end. He is the Alpha and the Omega. If we focus on these truths, then it makes absolutely no sense to claim God has a mother. Further, we know that salmon birth salmon, tigers birth tigers, and humans birth humans. Mothers don’t give birth to beings of a different species. Logically that means the Mother of God would have to be God Herself. Yet there is only One God and Mary is a human, so Protestants think themselves correct in denying Her this title. We also know that God is pure spirit, yet we recognize mothers to give birth to a corporeal being, so how could God have a mother if He does not have a body? There are surely other objections of this sort, but hopefully the reader recognizes the flaw in all of these objections.

The solution lies in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity and the Mystery of the Hypostatic Union. Namely, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity assumed a human nature, while remaining a Divine Person, and took His human nature, body and soul, from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Therefore, Mary really is the Mother of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ truly is God. And the logic of a basic syllogism permits us to say, “Mary is the Mother of God.” We can qualify that and say, “Mary is the Mother of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity according to His Humanity.”

Understand Marian Titles According to the Sensus Fidelium

Nevertheless, the great truths (mysteries) of the Faith mean it is correct and laudable to address Our Lady as the Mother of God. This has always been the faith of the Church. It was even dogmatically and infallibly defined at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD). If we misunderstand or misinterpret the title “Mother of God,” then we could obviously be promoting a falsehood. So we have to understand what the words actually mean in the context of the title. Our understanding must remain consistent with all the truths of our holy Faith. Since Catholics have grown up calling Mary the “Mother of God,” we take no issue with this title. It is, as we say, second nature. In fact, we honor Her with this title every time we pray the Hail Mary.

However, once we begin to study St. Maximillian Kolbe’s Mariology, we encounter titles of Our Lady to which we are not so accustomed. Yet we can avoid being scandalized – and instead deepen our knowledge and love of Our Lady – if we understand these titles in their proper context and in harmony with the entirety of the Deposit of Faith. Also, always bear in mind the three principles mentioned in Part I, as well as the parallel example of the Protestant who erroneously resists the title “Mother of God.”

Dear Reader, now we are ready to “roll up our sleeves” and dive deep into St. Maximilian’s “provocative” titles of Our Lady.

First Title: “Spouse of the Holy Ghost”

St. Maximilian repeatedly refers to Our Lady as “Bride of the Holy Ghost”; or as St. Francis of Assisi called Her, “Spouse of the Holy Ghost.” St. Maximilian wrote that from the first moment of Her existence the Holy Ghost “established His dwelling in Her soul.”

To what can we compare this indwelling or union of the Holy Ghost and Our Lady? Probably the most relatable human example would in fact be the marital bond, in which the two become one. Our Lady honors, respects and loves the Holy Ghost perfectly. She certainly obeys the slightest promptings of the Holy Ghost more promptly and completely than even the ideal human wife. Just as a wife shares the concerns of her husband and works towards the good of the family, so Our Lady shares the solicitude God has for all His creation. And as the wife shares the authority of her husband, so Mary shares in the very power of God. As St. Louis de Montfort quotes the saints, “All that belongs to God by nature belongs to Mary by grace.”

This title has a long-standing in Christian tradition and has been expressed in many prayers. For example, St. John Eudes composed his “Salutations to Mary,” which begins with: “Hail Mary, Daughter of God the Father! Hail Mary, Mother of God the Son! Hail Mary, Spouse of the Holy Ghost!”

Second Title: Mary Is the “Created Immaculate Conception”; The Holy Ghost Is the “Uncreated Immaculate Conception”.

St. Maximilian Kolbe spent the majority of his life contemplating the words Our Lady of Lourdes spoke to St. Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The Church had always held that Mary was immaculately conceived; and four years prior to Lourdes, Pius IX infallibly defined that Mary was immaculately conceived. But Our Lady waited patiently for the Church to render its definitive judgment before She expressed an even deeper reality about Herself. At Lourdes, She said, “I am the Immaculate Conception” (emphasis added).

Mary identifies Herself as “The Immaculate Conception.” This means: (1) No other human person was immaculately conceived, as She is not “an” Immaculate Conception.[i] It also means Her very person, Her essence, is “The Immaculate Conception.”

Now, St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church, called the Holy Ghost the “Uncreated Immaculate Conception.” The word “conception” is used here analogously as a synonym for spiration (the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son).

The Creed states that the Son is the only or eternally ‘begotten’ of the Father. He is not “made” (factum) but begotten (génitum). And as the Athanasian Creed emphatically states, He is uncreated. The Holy Ghost proceeds (procédit) from the Father and the Son. He too is uncreated. Because the Third Person spirates (eternally breathed forth, we might say) from Two Divine Persons, it more closely resembles ‘conception’ than does the eternally begetting of the Second Divine Person from the First Divine Person. This is why St. Bonaventure can refer to the Third Person as the Uncreated Immaculate Conception but will not refer to the Second Person in that manner.

As spouses in this world share the same name, it is reasonable, even appropriate, that a Divine Spouse choose to share His name. Mary therefore is fittingly called the “Created Immaculate Conception.”

Third Title: “Complement of the Trinity”

Hesychius of Jerusalem, a 5th-century priest, in a sermon on Our Lady, used the term “Complement of the Trinity” as a title for the Holy Ghost. In the unity of supernatural charity, the Holy Ghost so to speak ‘completes’ the Blessed Trinity.

St. Maximilian applies this title to Our Lady due to Her inseparable union with Her Son Jesus, the God-man. Kolbe, an excellent student of science, writes: “The wonderful law of an action and an equal and opposite reaction, inscribed by the Creator in all the work of creation as a seal of the life of the Most Holy Trinity, also operates here.” Through Christ, Mary is the contact point where all of the love of the Trinity meets all the love of creation. In is in this sense that Mary analogously completes, or complements, the Trinity in the created order.

St. Bonaventure calls Our Lady “Triclinium[ii] Trinitatis.” You have to smile at this thought of Mary as the three-seated formal dining place (or in contemporary English parlance, recliner) of the Blessed Trinity.


To be continued tomorrow: Part III, “Our Lady and the Holy Ghost.”


[i] Jesus Christ was certainly conceived without sin. However, in precise theological language, He is not a human person but a Divine Person with a human nature. Original Sin only affects human persons, not Divine Persons and not angelic persons. Thus, the concept of “conceived without sin” does not apply to divine or angelic persons. Eve was created without sin but she was not conceived in the womb of any mother. God specially created her out of a rib from the side of Adam. Likewise, Adam was created without sin, but he too was not conceived, rather created out of the dust of the earth. The Genesis account of creation is the infallible, inspired, and inerrant Word of God – this has been taught de fide and must be believed by all faithful Catholics.

[ii] A triclinium is a formal dining room in an ancient or Roman building. It was adopted from the Greek triklinion, a short u-shaped couch around which meals were eaten. Christ shared His Last Supper with the Apostles around such a triclinium in the famed Upper Room (see Fr. Couture’s presentation on the Shroud of Turin for more of these details.) The Eucharistic overtones of calling Mary “Triclinium Trinitias” are intentionally meant by St. Bonaventure.

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