The following is excerpted from Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner’s St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity: Pneumatologist, His Theology of the Holy Spirit (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2004).
Transubstantiation into the Immaculate
This usage, to many curious, of a term from Eucharistic dogma and doctrine by St. Maximilian, once in a letter and once in a conference, far from being the dangerous formula some see in it, is an original, yet deeply traditional insight of St. Maximilian. It describes very exactly the Marian mode of Eucharistic communion, or better the Eucharistic dimension of Marian mediation in the soul, precisely because it is the mediation of the Immaculate.
The first known instance of the saint’s use of this phrase occurs in a letter to Fr. Vivoda (1) where he is discussing total consecration to the Immaculate in a context clearly Trinitarian, where total consecration makes us property of the Immaculate, just as being Immaculate, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, makes her property of the Father (viz., Daughter and Handmaid) and Mother of the Father’s Son. In some ineffable way by becoming her property we share in the Trinitarian life and in the missions of the Son and Holy Spirit. Being her property he defines as our being annihilated in Her, changed into Her, transubstantiated into Her, so as it were to be Her. We are her possessions as She is God s and as She comes to give birth to the Son of God, so transubstantiated into Her we come to give birth to the same Son in the hearts of belong to or will belong to the Immaculate. Divinizatio hominis usque ad Deum-hominem per Dei-hominis Matrem. A few years later in a radio address on the twentieth anniversary of the M.I. he summarized the same notion of total consecration as “transubstantiation” into the Immaculate thus: The Militia of the Immaculate is a global vision of Catholic life under a new form, consisting of our bond with the Immaculate, our universal Mediatrix with Jesus (2).
By this “transubstantiation” into the Immaculate St. Maximilian means expressly a personal or spousal union of love with the Immaculate on the part of those totally consecrated to her, a spousal union whose exemplar is the spousal union of the Immaculate with the Holy Spirit, which in a conference of 1938 (3) he describes as her transubstantiation into the Holy Spirit, whose name is later declared Immaculate Conception. It is this merging of personality and name which constitutes the “new form” for the life of grace and mission.
The choice of terminology is interesting, seemingly inspired from on high. For it pinpoints the Marian mode of our incorporation into the Body of Christ and of our communion with Him, above all in the Eucharist. The miracle of consecration of bread and wine via their total conversion or transubstantiation into the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass is the basis for our total transformation or analogically “transubstantiation” into Christ, a “conversion” which remains imperfect until it is fully activated in a Marian way, viz., analogically via transubstantiation into the Immaculate, so that the Church might be “immaculate”: sine macula, sine ruga. The personality of the Church as distinct from that of Christ her head is precisely the personality of the Immaculate. And so it must also be for each member, actual and potential. Whence we may speak not only of a kind of presence of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ, but also of a Marian presence, whereby every aspect of the Church, including the hierarchical and Petrine is animated. Pope John Paul II often spoke of this presence (4).
To promote this Marian presence in the Church is to “incorporate” the mystery of the Immaculate into the Church and into the whole of creation (5). To come under the influence of that presence is to be “transubstantiated” into the Immaculate, as by her Immaculate Conception she was “transubstantiated” into the Holy Spirit, becoming as it were one “personality” with that divine Person, so in relation to the Father enjoying the privilege of being Mother of God, with the Son Handmaid and Coredemptrix, Instrument of the Father for the redemption of the world, effected in the Church by the sanctificatory mission of the Holy Spirit-Immaculate Conception. Thus the mystery of the Immaculate is at the heart both of a Christian cosmology, but above all a Christian angelology and anthropology. Another word to describe this promotion of the cause of the Immaculate is marianization, or the Fiat, which with that of the Creator effects the re-creation or new creation. In this context Mary Immaculate qua Immaculate is the new creature, the measure of every new creation made “in the sanctity and justice of truth” (Eph 4:24) (6).
This doctrine is best understood, organized and communicated in the context of the Marian pneumatology and pneumatological Mariology of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, an aspect of that larger spirit of Marian prayer and devotion to which all things temporal should be subject—or perfected in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart.
The use of this term suggests one other avenue of reflection. Kolbean usage is at once Marian and pneumatological. Could this not furnish a very fruitful means of understanding correctly the oriental stress on epiklesis of the Holy Spirit in the celebration of the Mass and the equally prominent stress of the Virgin Mother of God in the traditional Roman Canon? In the light of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, created and uncreated, there would seem to be here a marvelous convergence instead of opposition (7).
Fifth conclusion or axiom (of a Franciscan-Scotistic-inspired pneumatology): to invoke or call upon—epiklesis—the Holy Spirit (Veni, Sancte Spiritus; Veni, Creator Spiritus) is to invoke or call upon Mary Immaculate and to invoke Mary Immaculate is to call upon the Holy Spirit in every moment of Christian life, from Baptism to the Eucharist, and in every circumstance. This invocation or epiklesis is at the heart of the new creation and is closely related to the mystery of the Ecclesia or Church (i.e., the “called out of” by Christ through Mary), the Body of Christ, whose members, like their Head, are to be crucified with Him in being totally transformed into Him. That transformation: dying to self (the old man or personality) in living to Him in the Spirit and in Mary, entails a process analogous to that of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus and bound up with it.
Communion: Marian Pneumatology and Ecclesiology
The use of the term “transubstantiation” to describe the ultimate perfection of the union of love between divine and human will known as the Immaculate Conception recalls a pane rei the connection between the mystery of Mary on the one hand (and derivatively any type of Mariology, whether “Christo” or “ecclesio” typical) and that of the Eucharist, whether in reference to the Head of the Church or in reference to the members of the Body of Christ perfectly incorporated into that Body (8).
The transubstantative action whereby the Eucharistic sacrifice and presence is realized, a sacrifice and presence directed to the perfect communion of the member of the Church and so to the realization of a Church sine macula et sine ruga (Eph 5:27), is by the will of God linked to the mediation of the Mother of God and to the virginal maternity of the preeminent member of the Church, the Immaculate Virgin. That link is not only per Mariam in the sense that without a devotion to her and without her mediation we will not be properly and/or sufficiently disposed to be fully incorporated or transformed into Christ as members of His Body, but also in Maria, in the sense that when our participation in the mystery of the Eucharist as Sacrifice and Sacrament is all that it should be, then the communion of the members with the Head and with each other is Marian in mode. What St. Bonaventure calls the Marian mode of the Incarnation and Redemption (9), applied to the Church as its realization, might be called the Marian personality of the Church (10), or the triumph of the Immaculate Heart, effectively the transubstantiation of all the members of the Church into the Immaculate so as to share in the Spirit of the Father and the Son, to be one as they are one (cf. Jn 17), a transformation in this life consummated in the Eucharist (11).
It is by intensifying this Marian mode, an effort called by St. Maximilian “incorporation” or “implanting” of the mystery of the Immaculate into the life of the Church and of all mankind (12), that the missionary goals both of personal conversion to Christ through incorporation into the Church and of ecumenical union in the Church of the separated brethren will be reached. Downplaying that Marian mode will always be counterproductive.
The Marian presence in the Church in pilgrimage, to which John Paul II so often referred in Redemptoris Mater, is the root reason for the all pervasive Marian character of any ecclesiology as it is also for the all pervasive character of any Christology. That presence, metaphysically speaking, rests on the grace of the Immaculate Conception and is made effective by the mystery of the Coredemption. This presence is absolutely fundamental to every other aspect of the Church, including the Petrine, as this Pontiff, elaborating on the title Mater Ecclesiae, frequently repeated (13). It defines, in other words, what has been rightly termed the mystical personality of the Church as Bride of Christ, without spot, without wrinkle, which defines the Virgin Mother’s place in the Church as her “preeminent member” (LG 53) and the Church’s fundamental character and dynamism as “virginal-maternal” (LG 63-65), that generic sacramentality which conditions every other dimension of the Church, especially the seven Sacraments and the hierarchical priesthood (14). It is this presence which explains why far from being directly and immediately involved in the sacramental-hierarchical dispensation of grace that dispensation never occurs, nor can it in the actual economy of salvation without her dynamic presence, a presence exquisitely engaging the notion of personal-dynamic-exemplary causality (15).
To this St. Maximilian often alludes, in particular in the solemn formula of consecration to the Immaculate where he speaks of victory over Satan through the Immaculate, a reference that can only refer to the Marian dimension of Calvary and the Eucharist where the victory over Satan is definitively effected for the entire Church and all of her members, actual or potential; and where he also refers specifically to her direct involvement with the hierarchical Magisterium in guarding the Deposit of Faith—through her every heresy is crushed, that is, every deceit of the master liar and murderer (cf. Jn 8:44) is blunted and put to naught (16). The priority of the Marian to every other aspect of the Church, that is, the direct and immediate influence of her maternal mediation on every other aspect of the Church in such wise as to leave on each the imprint of her person, is surely present in this formula of consecration, which the saint regarded as a kind of synthesis of his thought and practice. Apart from any discussion of sources, it is this view which has been so trenchantly and repeatedly articulated by Pope John Paul II, without the slightest doubt a significant contribution to the progress of Marian and ecclesial reflection (17).
To incorporate the mystery of the Immaculate, viz., the mystery of the created and uncreated Immaculate Conception, into the Church is but the practical formulation of what it means to be transubstantiated into the Immaculate by way of total consecration, to live by that same mystery of charity which constitutes the heart of communion and fellowship, the charity which is the distinctive feature of the Holy Spirit. We may say that the role of charity in the Church animating every other dimension of the mystical Body is to make real in all the members the personality of the Immaculate, that is, to make them her property and possession. Without this the Franciscan ideal of “repairing the Church” is impossible of attainment. For as St. Francis, anticipating Vatican II in deriving the virginal-maternal character of the Church from the dynamic presence of the Virgo Mater in her, says in his Salute to the Virgin the Virgin Mother is the Virgo Ecclesia Facta. She is that, as the Poverello says in the Antiphon for the Office of the Passion because she is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, in her being and in her operation. To have the Holy Spirit and his holy operation (cf. St. Francis, Regula Bullata, ch. 10), above all that revealed in the Incarnation of the Word, is to have Mary Immaculate.
And it is to the concrete, Marian character of this mystery of charity, the meeting point of divine and perfect created love, in the consummation of the redemptive Incarnation, on Calvary and on the Eucharistic Altar, that the Martyr of Charity gave witness with his death as with his life and for which he continues to labor “with both hands” from heaven (18).
Sixth Conclusion or axiom (of a Franciscan-Scotistic-inspired pneumatology): a Marian pneumatology resting on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception provides the only secure basis both for missionary and for ecumenical endeavor.
(1) Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe (abbreviated SK) (Italian edition: Rome, 1997) 508.
(2) SK 1220.
(3) CK (Ascetical Conferences: Konferencje ascetyczne. Notatki sluchaczy Ojca Maksymiliana Kolbego, Niepokalanow, 1976) Nov. 26, 1938, P. 312.
(4) Cf. J Schneider, “Virgo Ecclesia Facta” …, pp. xxvii-xxxi. In this connection Mary is often called the memory of the Church. Transubstantion into the Immaculate is closely related to another term long common to spiritual theology: melting or liquefaction of the heart: cf. the remarks of Schneider, Ibid., pp. 343-352.
(5) SK 487.
(6) SK 1282; 1293; 1295; 1326.
(7) Cf. A.M. Geiger, Marian Mediation as Presence and Transubstantion into the Immaculate, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross III(New Bedford, MA, 2003), pp. 127-171.
(8) Cf. P. Fehlner, Mater Unitatis, in Mary at the Foot of the Cross III, pp. 1-24.
(9) Breviloquium, p. 4, c. 3.
(10) Cf. the excellent presentation of this theme by Fr. Ferrer Arellano in Marian Coredemption and Sacramental Mediation, pp. 109 ff. Archbishop A. Amato, Maria nell’itinerario spirituale … cit., pp. 822-827, reaches analogous conclusions concerning Mary and the Eucharist in the life and writings of St. Maximilian.
(11) Cf. A.M. Geiger, Marian Mediation as Presence and Transubstantion into the Immaculate.
(12) SK 487.
(13) Cf. Ferrer, op. cit., p. 104; Geiger, op. cit., pp. 141 ff.
(14) St. Bonaventure refers to this generic sacramentality in his analysis of the “all-male” character of the ministerial priesthood and the link between major orders and celibacy in basing his analysis on Eph. 5:22 ff. Cf. P. Fehlner, La Corredenzione e il sacerdozio maschile … cit., in Immaculata Mediatrix 3 (2003), 107-130.
(15) Cf. P. Fehlner, De Metaphysica Mariana Quaedam, Immaculata Mediatrix 1 (2/2001) 13-42.
(16) SK 1331.
(17) In many addresses, but above all in Redemptoris Mater and Mulieris Dignitatem, two major documents treating Marian presence in the Church.
(18) Among many other studies of St. Maximilian dealing with the practical aspects of his Mariology cf. S. Ragazzini, Maria vita dell’anima. Itinerario mariana alla SS. Trinità; and his La Spiritualità Mariana di S. Massimiliano M. Kolbe (Ravenna 1982); also J. Domanski, For the Life of the World: St. Maximilian and the Eucharist (New Bedford, MA, 1993).