There are many nice images of the type I'm referring to. I couldn't get a great photo of the window in the light with just my phone, but I do want to share the one I have just because I think the color scheme of the robes of the Father, Jesus, and Mary (in rich purple, red, and blue) is so nice. (Before reading the rest of this post, it might help to read or re-read my post regarding Images of the Father in Christian art, where I argue that they're always really images of the Son in some sense):
It is specifically this which so appeals to me in the image of the Coronation, and which I was thinking about again today. One of my pet peeves, theologically, is the way Catholics popularly refer to Mary as "Spouse of the Holy Spirit." This is not untrue. However, this title usually is placed at the end of a triad of appellations relating her, in turn, to each of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity ("Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit.") The implication of this is that "spouse" is Mary's "specific" relationship to the Spirit in a manner making it equivalent to her relationships as "daughter" and "mother" with the Father and Son.
However, I would argue this is misleading. In reality, Our Lady is in some sense "spouse" of all three persons of the Trinity. The Father, exactly because she is the Mother of His Son, the Son exactly because she embodies His Mystical Bride, and the Holy Spirit because of His most perfect indwelling in her. However, if you are perceptive in following my line of thought, you will notice two interesting points here: the first is that I do not attribute her "spousal" status with the Holy Spirit primarily to the fact that she conceived by the Spirit, and the second is the question of what exactly (if "spouse" is her common relationship to all three persons) should we say is her specific/unique relationship to the Holy Spirit (parsed in human terms).
My preferred answer to this question is something like "Perfect Image" or "Perfect Icon of the Holy Spirit." St. Maximilian Kolbe, probably the greatest Mariologist of our age besides his heroic martyrdom of charity, went so far as to use the term "quasi-incarnation." This formulation may frighten orthodox ears, but I think it reveals a great mystery. There is much here to be unpacked, but I'd like to share a long quote from this article discussing St. Maximilian's thoughts on the matter:
In his writings on the "Immaculata" (the name he used for Mary under the title, Immaculate Conception), he would often ask, "Who are you?" For Our Lady did not say "I was immaculately conceived," but rather identified herself, her very being ("I am") with the "Immaculate Conception." Kolbe says these words of Mary "point up not only the fact that she was conceived without sin, but also the manner in which this privilege belongs to her. It is not something accidental; it is something that belongs to her very nature. For she is Immaculate Conception in person."
The above words are taken from the Polish Martyr's last writing, a few hours before his final arrest by the Nazis on February 17, 1941, when he would be taken to Auschwitz and eventually be killed by lethal injection after offering his life in place of a fellow prisoner. In this same "Final Sketch" Kolbe arrived at a profound insight, an "answer" it seems (at least in part) to his persistent question, "Who are you, Immaculata?": he calls Mary the created Immaculate Conception, created sinless and from conception uniquely filled with an abundance of grace, in order to be made superabundantly fruitful when she would become the Mother of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. As Kolbe says: "He [the Holy Spirit] makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity." Additionally, he calls the Holy Spirit the Uncreated, Eternal Immaculate Conception, who is "conceived" from the love that flows eternally between the Father and the Son; a love so perfect that it is personified. Kolbe explains:
Everything that exists, outside of God himself, since it is from God and depends upon him in every way, bears within itself some semblance to its Creator . . . 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 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 exception . . .
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.
In other writings the Polish friar attempts to describe Mary's deep, intimate union with the Third Person of the Trinity from her conception, by calling Mary the "quasi-incarnation" of the Holy Spirit. He is careful to stress that this union "is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ"; for he repeated often that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in Mary in the same way in which the Eternal Word is present in the sacred humanity of Jesus. The notion of the Holy Spirit becoming "in some manner" (quasi) incarnate in Mary may at first seem to be an extreme idea. However, it is somewhat analogous to the statement by St. Louis de Montfort, that "God the Son wishes to form himself, and in a manner of speaking, become incarnate every day in his members through his dear Mother." Along the same lines, St. Paul says: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).
With the term "quasi-incarnation" Kolbe means that Mary is so much like (quasi) the Holy Spirit, in that she reflects the Third Person of the Trinity especially in two qualities or attributes: receptivity and fruitfulness. The Holy Spirit is the Fruit of the Father and the Son. He was "eternally conceived," if you will, as the Fruit of the all-pure love which has forever flowed between the Father and the Son. He receives the mutual love of the Father and the Son and eternally fructifies it within the inner life of the Trinity. Mary's sinlessness from conception is the fruit of God's love. At Mary's conception the Holy Spirit conformed her to himself. The Blessed Virgin, by reason of the singular grace of her Immaculate Conception, is totally receptive to the love of God. At the Annunciation she receives God's love and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit makes that love fruitful — infinitely so — in conceiving the Incarnate Word.
Mary's receptivity and fruitfulness did not end with the Conception and Birth of Christ. Now in Heaven, Mary remains the living, human conduit for the graces that the Holy Spirit distributes to us. As Kolbe says:
[T]he Holy Spirit manifests his share in the word of Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin who, although she is a person entirely distinct from him, is so intimately associated with him that our minds cannot understand it. So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary's action is the very action of the Holy Spirit.
St. Maximilian sees Mary's ineffable union with the Holy Spirit from the very first instant of her conception as giving her a privileged place in God's saving plan. In keeping with what God has revealed in Scripture and Tradition regarding Mary's intercessory role in the order of grace, he says:
When we reflect on these two truths: that all graces come from the Father by the Son and the Holy Spirit; and that our Holy Mother Mary is, so to speak, one with the Holy Spirit, we are driven to the conclusion that this Most Holy Mother is indeed the intermediary by whom all graces come to us.
All of God's grace comes to us through Mary's intercession. This is the "descending" order of grace. For Kolbe, there is a corresponding "ascending" order, for Mary is our means for going to God: "Have no doubt that her will is entirely united to God's will. It is a matter, then, of uniting our will to hers, and thus we will be united to God through her." The Polish Saint sees uniting oneself to Mary as the means of conquering the world for Christ:
"The Knights of the Immaculata [members of the MI movement] seek to become ever more truly the property of the Immaculata; to belong to her in an ever more perfect way and under every aspect without any exception. They wish to develop their understanding of what it means to belong to her so that they may enlighten, reinvigorate, and set on fire the souls living in their own environment, and make them similar to themselves. They desire to conquer these souls for the Immaculata, so that in their turn they may belong without reserve and may in this manner win an ever greater number of souls to her — may win the entire world, in fact, and do so in the shortest possible time."
Perhaps what most attracted St. Maximilian to Mary is her beauty: the beauty of the deep and unfathomable mystery of her Immaculate Conception, and the beauty of her spotless purity throughout the entirety of her earthly life, which now radiates forth in heaven. St. Bernadette gives witness to this when, describing the apparitions at Lourdes, she says of Our Lady: "She is so beautiful, that one would be willing to die to see her again."
I mention Ecclesiology at the end there, and that is the one thing that disturbs me a bit about the emphasis: I think that the idea of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace, or the wonderful symbolism of the St. Louis de Montfort statement "God the Son wishes to form himself, and in a manner of speaking, become incarnate every day in his members through his dear Mother" are both true. But, as I said, my Marian devotion is subsumed into my concept of the mystical Ecclesia, of Mother Church as Christ's Bride and Body, and I think we risk a certain incompleteness or a certain imbalance in our emphasis on Mary personally if we forget, in these contexts, a typological principle something along the lines of "everything that can be said of Mary can be said of Ecclesia, and vice versa."
Mary is simply the perfect Type, the embodiment as it were, of the Church as Bride. Which is also, of course, Mother, and Christ's body. Not just because, as St. Paul says, "The husband is the head of his wife, and the wife the body of her husband," but because Christ becomes incarnate (either literally or mystically) through her/Her. (The symbolic integration of the Church as Body of Christ, and Holy Communion as the Body of Christ is something else I can only briefly note here, but which is likewise incredibly intricate and elegant symbolism).
And, likewise, Mary also represents simply the perfect degree of what all individual souls could be through divinization in the Church, taking Christ as bridegroom of our souls. I think it is important to keep this association or symbolic equivalence between Mary and Ecclesia (and, to more or less perfect degrees, both and the souls of the saints) in order to understand more fully the relation of both to Holy Spirit (whom we go so far as to call the "Soul of the Church.")
My point in emphasizing Ecclesiology at this point is simply that in calling Mary the "Perfect Image of the Holy Spirit" or even "quasi-incarnation"...I do not think we are elevating Mary to some status of her own as some sort of additional independent divine figure, the "Mariology as Side-Show" attitude I expressed concern about earlier. But rather we must think of all this in its broader typological (and specifically Ecclesiological) context, which I fear Marian devotees of the "private devotional" variety sometimes forget (in the same way they can form a cult of personality around the figure of the Pope without remembering his holistic ecclesiological-symbolic context).
In saying these things about the Virgin Mary, we are simply proclaiming a truth that in a broader sense belongs to the whole mystical Ecclesia, the whole Church (and each saint in it), about the process of divinization (in the East "theosis") and the relationship of the Holy Spirit to that (Trinitarian) process. What we say about Mary here does not set her apart from us, but rather should be indicative of a template that applies to our own souls in the Church (which Mary simply had to the perfect degree).
If we say that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Grace, we are saying that the Church is the Mediatrix of All Grace, and also that we can be mediators of grace for each other within it (though not to the perfect "complete" or "total" degree that Mary herself is.) And the reason it is mainly Mary who is the "stereotypical" private apparition, is because it is the Church which instantiates locally in each time and place and culture. That there are so many "local Maries," that each place has its own special Marian Title or Apparition or Image (or "avatar"), is representative of the fact that the universal Church appears as the local church in each given place. "Our Lady of..." is like "The Church of...[Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, etc]" as addressed in the Apocalypse of St. John.
I'd like to return now to the specifically Trinitarian/Pneumatological question. The great thing about Catholicism is how all the symbols ultimately "collapse" upwards into each other. This is one of the things that has always made Catholicism feel true to me and like its author must be Divine: the way that these symbolic resonances are inherent to the system in an internally consistent way, and yet have remained "undiscovered" sometimes by man (implying that they were designed into the system deliberately, and yet not designed into it by man; mathematicians call the corresponding trait in their field "elegance.")
I would like to point out a great article by Stratford Caldecott that specifically links the Coronation of Mary (as the final mystery of the Rosary) with Theosis, the Immaculate Conception, and the Holy Spirit. Many of my insights are the same as or similar to its own, especially as regards the need to integrate Mariology back into Ecclesiology and the other branches of theology. It is a truly excellent article. Read it!
Specifically I would like to share the following quote, which begins to get to the very heart of defining not just Mary's relationship to the Holy Spirit, but setting both in the Trinitarian context. About Kolbe's "quasi-incarnation" formulation, Caldecott says:
This formulation remains highly controversial, not least because it does not seem adequate to preserve the distinction between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. The phrase "Uncreated Immaculate Conception" would seem to apply more directly to the Person of the Son as the one "begotten" by the Father than to the Spirit "breathed forth". I would be inclined to defend Kolbe's phrase by arguing that "Conception" here refers rather to the act of conception than to the one conceived or begotten in or through the act. The Holy Spirit is thus the one "in whom" the Son is eternally begotten, the one "in whom" the Father contemplates and loves his Son. The motherhood of the Mother of God then becomes an image of the active conceiving of this Word in the bosom of the eternal Trinity - the Word carried on the breath of the Spirit, the wings of the Dove. She is the earthly image of the "hearing" or "understanding" of the Eternal Word. For the Word generated by the Father is understood by the one in whom it is received perfectly - by that person, in fact, who is the Immaculate Conception. The Mother of God is thus the earthly image not of the Father's generation of the Son, nor of the Son's generation by the Father, but of the Holy Spirit's conception of the Son as a gift for the Father and for the world. This means also that the Mother of God is an image of the way the Son is loved in the eternal Trinity, since in God to understand is to love and to love is to understand.Of course, to some this might sound like it is getting dangerously close to declaring the Holy Spirit as "Mother" in the Trinity. I do not think this actually follows from what is being said, however I do think it means that notions of the Holy Spirit as feminine (internal to the Trinity, not in His ad extra attribution necessarily) or as maternal may have some merit. After all, if there is a correspondance between Maria and Ecclesia and the Holy Spirit in our symbolic system, this would suggest itself.
The objection to the vision Caldecott presents above, of a maternal interpretation of the procession of the Holy Spirit, is usually to be found in, ironically, a particular form of "familial" interpretation of the Trinity that is another pet peeve of mine.
[Note that what I say in the rest of this article is from an unabashed Filioquist perspective, involving the "relations of opposition" within the Trinity. Nevertheless, remember, I've done a post before (and plan to do another following up on that sometime soon) on the Filioque and believe that the Orthodox and Catholic views are complementary and actually referring to two different "levels" of Trinitarian reality (in the former case to "hypostatic existence," in the latter to "eternal energetic manifestation"). In this case, however, I'm referring to the latter in which sense the Filioque is true, involving the Persons of the Trinity undestood as "relations of opposition."]
The familial interpretation of the Trinity that bugs me is related to the way that emphasizing Mary as specifically "Spouse of the Spirit" (when that is true of all three persons as discussed above) irks me. There is a certain popular (but hopelessly convoluted) explanation of the Trinitarian image within a human family as something along the lines of "Just like the Father's love for the Son overflows as the Holy Spirit, so does the husband's love for his wife overflow in a third person which is the child."
The mixing of metaphors here is grating to anyone with any critical thinking skills. It's not that I deny that there is a Trinitarian image in the human family. There is. In fact, in spite of certain Church Fathers' reluctance to place the Image of God in man in this relational aspect (as opposed to our intellect and will), to me it's pretty obvious that the very Revealed names of "Father" and "Son" imply just such a familial context for interpretation. That's not to say the intellect and will thing isn't true also, but God did not Reveal the Son as "Intellect" primarily or the Holy Spirit as "Will."
However, if the Trinitarian analogy is "Father+Son = Holy Spirit, just like Husband + Wife = Baby"...this is hopelessly confused. As it ends up turning the Son into the Mother, and the Holy Spirit into the Son. This is clearly mixed up. In any familial interpretation of the Holy Trinity, the relationship of Father generating Son can only possibly find its analogue in a father generating a child (duh).
This same sort of mix-up happens with how Catholics sometimes peak of Mary's relationship to the Holy Spirit. Specifically (once again "Spouse of the Spirit" understood improperly causing problems) there is this tendency to speak as if the Holy Spirit played the paternal role in the conception of Jesus. But again, obviously, this is terribly confused. Clearly, it is the Father who is the paternal force. The Father is the father of Christ, not the Holy Spirit.
What to make of the dogma, then, that Mary "conceived of/by the Holy Spirit"? I think both Kolbe and Caldecott suggest the correct solution: the Holy Spirit was not the divine paternal force in the conception of Christ in Mary, but rather was the divine maternal force, which rendered Mary able to conceive the Father's Son, which rendered her receptive to the Father's paternity in such a way that she could enter into a real relationship of Divine Maternity with the Son. And this constituting of Mary as receptive in this manner, this taking her up into divine maternity began not at the Annunciation, but at the Immaculate Conception itself where the Father rendered her a fitting Mother through the (foreseen merits of) the Son.
This clarification, I think, provides the key for how the proper interpretation of the Family as Trinitarian should work, and for how the Holy Spirit may be envisioned as maternal within the Trinity (as a "collapsing" of Mary and the Church "into" the Holy Spirit would likewise imply.) The common objection to this notion by those holding the simplistic analogy (the one that turns the Son into the mother and the Holy Spirit into the son in a family) is that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. If the Spirit was maternal, it would be the Father + the Holy Spirit = the Son. This, however, is the great misunderstanding (and probably only further pushes the Orthodox away by the simplistic and wrong way this understanding invokes the Filioque idea).
We must remember what, in the Western tradition, the persons of the Trinity are. They are relations subsisting. The Father is really "fatherhood," is paternity subsisting, the Son is really "sonship," is filiation subsisting. I think you may be able to see now why mothers should not be conceived of as the "second person" in a family, but rather as the third. Or, rather, why motherhood is the third relation, even if the woman constituted in that relation precedes the child in time. But in the order of logical causation of the relationships, it is "father" that implies "child" first, and only then through the child is a "mother" implied.
When thought of in terms of relations, it becomes rather obvious: what is the first concept immediately implied by the word "father" or "fatherhood." It's not "mother." That's more remote. Obviously, the first thing, the thing logically implied by the very definition of "father" is "child." A father is only a father relative to a child and vice versa. If mother came second in the order of logical implication this would be incoherent (as there can be no father or mother without child!) So it is the generation of son by father, and the oppositional definition of fatherhood and sonship, which are the first two relations in a family. Then, "through the son," a third person is constituted in relationship relative to both of them (namely the mother impregnated).
I have pointed this out to my own father before. He sometimes insists that he "isn't related to" my mother (as he is to his children, or us to both of them). What he means is that they share no common ancestors, no blood, no genes, etc. However, I point out to him, while they may not have common ancestors, they do now have common descendents. Whatever else happens, they are now biologically "related" in an irretrievable sense; she can never not be the mother of his children, he can never not be the father of hers.
This is why procreation is at the heart of the Catholic conception of marriage (if only in the abstract for some couples, like the infertile, etc). Before the child (or, at least, the concept of the child in their promise of sexual exclusivity), the father and mother are just a man and a woman, not "really" related except in a voluntary way. But through a child they become truly related through and in a person. Their relationship is really constituted as generationally irrevocable (ie, there will be a "plus sign" on a family tree forever) through the child. It is the generation of a child by the father, and the establishing of the mother into relationship with both that constitutes, which truly binds up the family in Trintarian relationality.
Just as brief aside (perhaps biased by my own familial experiences) I think this point has relevance for how families should be prioritized. Many people nowadays (and it goes along with the whole incorrect version of Trinitarian analogy for families) tend to think of the love between the husband and wife as the "primary" relationship in a family, as the "foundation." However, once again, the Trinity itself should give us pause. The primary relationship in the universe is between Father and Son, the primary love is of Father for Son. I think that in any family, the love of parents for their children must be placed conceptually before the love of the husband for the wife. That love, that relationship, is not "substantial" until there is a relationship of father to child (from which the relationship of mother to both overflows).
Before a child (or at least the idea of child), they're just two people living together. The relationship of "motherhood" (which is a relation to both child and the father, mind you) is only constituted through the generation of child by the father in her. So, appealing to the Trinitarian fact that the primal relationship of the universe is not a dualistic male/female one, but the like-by-like love of Father for Son, I am inclined think families based on the love of parents for their children (and, most symbolically appropriate, of father for first-born son) are bound to be more stable than those based on the love between husband and wife.
So, does all this mean we should call the Holy Spirit "Mother"?? No. In fact, this is where the familial analogy falls short. While we could imagine a father and son coming into being in the very act of generation of latter by former, we could not really imagine this for a mother. Which is to say, "father" can be abstracted from any pre-existent man and taken just as a relational term. So can "son" especially (as no child pre-exists the act of generation). But the very notion "mother" implies a pre-existent woman "in whom" the father is generating the son, a woman who pre-exists her being constituted as "mother" through that generation.
The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, does not function like this, obviously. If there is in some sense in which the Son is conceived "in" the Holy Spirit (ala Caldecott's language) this does not mean there was any pre-existent Person (in terms of the order of logical causality) for this to happen "in." It might be more appropriate to say the Son is generated "into" the Holy Spirit, as the procession of the Holy Spirit flows from or through the generation of the Son (in the order of relations of opposition). As Caldecott says, like "the Word carried on the breath of the Spirit," the breath does not precede the word, in fact it proceeds from the speaking.
Some will find resonance with one or the other in the feminine Sophia/Wisdom who appears in the Old Testament. Though often interpreted as an image of the Second Person in His passive relation to the Father (hence the feminine), I think it might make more sense to read Sophia as the Holy Spirit; after all, Wisdom is not Word, but rather proceeds through Word, is what is conveyed by Word (and yet, at the same time, is the "conception" in the intellectual sense in which the Word is spoken). It is notable in this regard that the traditional Roman Liturgy uses all the Wisdom passages in a Marian/Ecclesiological fashion rather than a Christological one.
Either way, while the Holy Spirit is like the relationship of motherhood in some important ways, we cannot speak of the Holy Spirit as "Mother" in the sense of "maternity subsisting," because of how the analogy breaks down in this way: a mother comes before her child (even if she only becomes "mother" because of the child), whereas the Holy Spirit (in the causal order of the divine processions, at least the "eternal energetic" ones) comes only after the Son or dependent on the Son, because of how the divine persons are pure relations subsisting. Furthermore, though I have pointed out here that motherhood actually constitutes a relation to both the child and the father, we do not predicate the word "mother" to her relationship to the father; she does not become her husband's "mother" (though, perhaps, a term like "baby-mama" could, taken in two different senses, connote the relationship constituted to both the child and the father.)
We actually have no word from the natural analogy that would represent the constituting of the third relation through the second (yet without reference a pre-existent subject). Citing "impregnation" or "conception" as a relationship-constituting action referring to the event itself rather than to the fruit of that event (as Caldecott describes) comes close, as does the analogy to the Immaculate Conception (where Mary was constituted a fitting mother only first by referencing the merits of the Son) and Kolbe takes advantage of this with his suggestion of "Uncreated Immaculate Conception," but this is clearly not a proper name in the same sense that Father and Son are.
In reality, the Holy Spirit (and His corresponding spiration/procession) has no proper name like this. Aquinas explains in the Summa:
While there are two processions in God, one of these, the procession of love, has no proper name of its own, as stated above (27, 4, ad 3). Hence the relations also which follow from this procession are without a name (28, 4): for which reason the Person proceeding in that manner has not a proper name. But as some names are accommodated by the usual mode of speaking to signify the aforesaid relations, as when we use the names of procession and spiration, which in the strict sense more fittingly signify the notional acts than the relations; so to signify the divine Person, Who proceeds by way of love, this name "Holy Spirit" is by the use of scriptural speech accommodated to Him. The appropriateness of this name may be shown in two ways.
Firstly, from the fact that the person who is called "Holy Spirit" has something in common with the other Persons. For, as Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 17; v, 11), "Because the Holy Spirit is common to both, He Himself is called that properly which both are called in common. For the Father also is a spirit, and the Son is a spirit; and the Father is holy, and the Son is holy."
Secondly, from the proper signification of the name. For the name spirit in things corporeal seems to signify impulse and motion; for we call the breath and the wind by the term spirit. Now it is a property of love to move and impel the will of the lover towards the object loved. Further, holiness is attributed to whatever is ordered to God. Therefore because the divine person proceeds by way of the love whereby God is loved, that person is most properly named "The Holy Spirit."
In the name Son we understand that relation only which is of something from a principle, in regard to that principle: but in the name "Father" we understand the relation of principle; and likewise in the name of Spirit inasmuch as it implies a moving power. But to no creature does it belong to be a principle as regards a divine person; but rather the reverse. Therefore we can say "our Father," and "our Spirit"; but we cannot say "our Son."So, though clarifying the role of maternity in the familial analogy and associating the Holy Spirit with that (especially in Mary and the Church) hopefully will provide a richer and more dynamic understanding of Mariology, Pneumatology, and the Family for people, the Holy Spirit remains without a proper name. Perhaps this is fitting, however, as each of us individually (each with our own proper names) receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at baptism, are incorporated thereby into the Church and, after the pattern of the Blessed Virgin Mary are taken up into the bosom of the Trinity itself through our divinization by grace.