Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today Catholics of the Roman Rite celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation. Eighteen years ago today, bureaucrats at the State Corporation Commission in Richmond, Virginia, did God’s Will by incorporating the Kolbe Center on the feast of our principal patroness in the last days of the Jubilee Year 2000. Tomorrow, Catholics of the Byzantine tradition will celebrate the great Feast of the Immaculate Conception under the title of “the Conception of Saint Ann”; and, in a few days, Catholics of the Latin Rite will celebrate the related feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to the people of the Americas as the Immaculate Conception on the Feast of the Conception of St. Ann, December 9, 1531.
There is a close connection between the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the traditional doctrine of creation, and it is worth taking a few moments to examine this connection in detail as we have done in previous newsletters around this great feast. Outside of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, it is widely believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived in Original Sin and that She was not Immaculate. Those who hold this view, however, read the Bible outside of the living communion of the Church, whose liturgical prayers and sacred icons, as well as the writings of her greatest commentators on Holy Scripture, have always recognized the immaculate purity of the Holy Theotokos.
It is sad to meet Christians who see no contradiction in holding that Our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh from a Woman whose flesh was tainted and defiled by sin. To the classic question, “If you were God, and You could make Your Mother, would You make her tainted or immaculate?” they have no reasonable answer. The very title used by the Archangel Gabriel to greet Our Blessed Mother (Greek – kecharitomene – “you who have been made full of grace”) seems perfectly calculated to anticipate and refute the impious notion that Our Lord would have become incarnate in a tainted vessel. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church drew a parallel between the first Adam whose body was formed from the “virgin earth” in the first created world, and the body of the Last Adam, whose Body was formed from the Virgin Mary, beginning the New Creation in Christ. Indeed, if Our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh from a tainted vessel, then His Humanity would have been less noble than that of the first Adam. How could He “through Whom all things were made” assume a human nature less noble than that of the first Adam whom He created in His image?
But if it is impious to assert that God became man in a tainted vessel, it is also impious to assert that God allowed disease and deformity to exist before Original Sin – and all the more so to assert, as theistic evolution does, that God deliberately used millions of years of death and deformity to produce His handiwork, and even to evolve the bodies of the first human beings! In contrast to this impious notion, the living communion of saints has always held that the first created world reflected the perfect beauty, wisdom, and goodness of God before sin entered the world. In the liturgy of St. Bridget, dating back to the fourteenth century, the Bridgettine Sisters pray:
we know that in you the design and perfection willed by God
have come to be.
As He foresaw you,
so He has perfectly created you.
And of all His creation,
you most please Him.
God’s creation of the world and all it contains
took place in the instant of his will’s expression;
and with that design and perfection foreseen by Him.
Yet there remained still uncreated
another work of creation which would surpass what he had already done.
You, Mary, are, as it were, another world,
a world which God foresaw with greater joy,
a world the Angels were more pleased to contemplate,
a world of more benefit to those of good will
than the whole earth and all it contains.
Mary, we may see in God’s act of creation and in all created things
an image of your creating.
These prayers reflect the sensus fidelium that the perfect beauty of the first created world was exemplified in the perfect beauty of Eve, the last creative work of God, which was in turn a foreshadowing of the perfect beauty of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Second Eve. It is a principle of Catholic philosophy that “the first in intention is the last in execution,” and, in the light of this principle, one can see that Eve – the last creative work of God before the end of the creation period – exemplified and summed up in herself the beauty that God had diffused throughout the first created world. This explains the intimate link between the Sabbath rest of the Lord – on the first Saturday of the world – and the perfect beauty of Eve, fully realized only in the Second Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is because of this link that Jewish tradition personifies the Sabbath as a Queen, a tradition that finds its fulfillment in the Catholic tradition of honoring the queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday, and especially on the “First Saturday” of every month.
But there is more.
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us that Our Lord wishes to prepare a Bride for Himself, “immaculate,” without spot or wrinkle, like the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the first chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul writes:
Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his Will (Ephesians 1:3-5).
Here we see that St. Paul attributes to the Church the quality of being immaculate. Indeed, in the fifth chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians, he repeats the assertion, applying the same words to the Church that the Church has applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “holy and immaculate.”
Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).
The notion that the Church on earth is destined to share in the holiness and immaculate purity of the Blessed Virgin echoes the teaching of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and other great saints, that the Blessed Virgin embodies the perfection to which the entire Church is called. Those who deny the perfect beauty and harmony of the first created world or the immaculacy of the Blessed Virgin Mary inevitably find it more difficult to believe in the “beauty of holiness” that can be experienced here and now by any believer who wholeheartedly consecrates himself to Jesus through Mary. To deny the immaculacy of the first created world or of the Blessed Virgin also clouds our vision of the beauty of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and of “the era of peace” prophesied at Fatima – and of “the new heavens and the new earth” which God will ultimately establish in the future.
Yours in Christ through the Holy Theotokos,
P.S. Those who do not believe and understand God’s book of “beginnings” will not understand what God has revealed about the “eschaton,” the end of human history. Kolbe advisor Eric Bermingham’s new book The World from Beginning to End and the Era of Peace offers, in the words of the foreword, “a fascinating and logical connecting of the prophetic and historical dots from Adam to the Second Coming that shows us how the ‘good versus evil’ theme of human history will most likely play itself out. These are not his predictions; rather, Eric has gathered an incredible list of outstanding witnesses who, in one form or another, have been given a gift from God to tell us what to expect in the not too distant future and how to live through it.” Eric’s book is available in print or in e-book format from the Kolbe web store.