They knew each other and she brought forth a son: Mary as the Immaculate Conception and Bride of the Holy Spirit

Talk at the International Conference ‘Passions and the Mystical: Between Affecting and Being Affected‘, jointly organized by the Mystical Theology Network (MTN) and the Titus Brandsma Institute associated Radboud University (TBI), in Nijmegen on 1-2 December, 2022.

This paper traces the philosophical contours of two intertwined theological data: the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception as well as Bride of the Holy Spirit. These titles are distinctively present in the franciscan tradition (e.g. in Duns Scotus and Maximilian Kolbe) and offer a systematic and developing account of Mary’s desire for, and being affected by, God.
Although her Immaculate Conception was historically defended and defined in relation to her divine motherhood and her title of Bride of the Holy Spirit is more recent and more hesitant, this paper explores whether her spousal relation to God can be argued to be the more fundamental ground for her Immaculate Conception. What is first in intention is usually last in execution, e.g. in the order of doctrinal development, and Mary as the ‘garden enclosed’ (Song of Songs) offers such a bridal reading of her relationship towards God before her maternal relationship.
Her bridehood can be understood in an aristotelian teleological potentiality as ordered towards maternity, but Scotus explicitly added a notion of ‘superabundant sufficiency’ as another form of indeterminacy that did not include the lack of potentiality. Although he did not develop this in relation to his mariology, recent writers like von Hildebrand did take up the notion of superabundancy to develop a more balanced understanding of the spousal and procreative dimension of the marital embrace. These philosophical arguments can then be applied to the initial theological data and argumentation to explore her bridal relation as preceding her maternal relation.

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