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For a theology of the Spirit

Mother Maria Celeste Crostarosa left behind many works. Among the most important being her Autobiography,  Dialogues, Grades of Prayer, Meditations for Advent and Christmas, the Little Spiritual Garden. The intensity in her writing reveals the anguish humanity is subjected to when the Spirit breaks it. The dazzling revelations and the clearest visions are accompanied by the suffering that comes with seeing limits and strengths. Conflict consumes, but spiritual bliss envelops the soul, rendering the whole body to participate. The carnal level is not kept out, but burned in the zeal of divine love, and brought to the sublime.

In the feminine mystical experience, and particularly with Crostarosa, you feel this enormous task of regeneration that the Holy Spirit “works” on the creaturely level, considering the body in the dynamics of transformation that drains it and at the same time gives it life, calling it to die and to rise again. It is “deified”, causing it to become “living memory” of the sacred humanity of the Word, the visible presence of his love. Equally in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the divine love of Christ becomes “substantial” food, in order to transform “man in God”. This redemptive action, maneuvered by the Holy Spirit, is what Mother Celeste called “work”: the grand gestation which shall bear healing, to save, to bring forth new life. It is the subtle work of weaving, which embodies the push that is eternally generated by the Father.

The original Crostarosian theology highlights two levels: the eternal generation of the Word, “principle without ever being initiated”, and human nature called to open to allow for fertilization. The Incarnation of the Word is thus identified as the point at which the two levels converge. The “marvelous divine operation” is materialized in Mary. “Your Lady Mary receives a divine overshadowing of clear splendor, where the three divine persons are manifested in the unity of essence, where it penetrates for a brief moment that incomprehensible and most pure act of the generation of the Word in the bosom of the Father”. Participation in the divine essence enters into the mystery of the Trinity. It reveals the intrinsic movement of love that unites the Father to the Son. The love that forever “loves” is the Holy Spirit. “Of this most blessed and eternal generation” Mary touched the fullness of the moment in which the Holy Spirit “overshadowed her, covered her, absorbed her and declared not only the work of human Redemption, but even the Unity and Trinity of the divine Persons”.Penetrating the mystery of the Incarnation, the soul in turn participates: “my soul, you see how the Holy Spirit (...), the Spirit of purest love, in one moment generates the Humanity of the Word in the womb of Mary his bride, and therein unites human nature with the eternal God”. The great theological insight of Mother Celeste is to understand that the extraordinary “work” which takes place in Mary, extends to all souls who contemplate her, because the generation of the Word is eternal. This theme is definitely present in Meister Eckhart.

Understanding that the “work” is always in motion, Mother Maria Celeste pushes the devotional level even further. She identifies the dynamic force of saving action itself in the event of the Incarnation. The Gospel message is therefore grasped in this light. The deified Mother is therefore the human nature of Mary in which divine motherhood is embodied, bringing to fruition each potential of the creative act. Silence, concealment, humility, obedience, patience and steadfastness, are the virtues of the crushed soul that preserves the gifts of God without appropriating them, allowing the “work” to act free of resistance. Therefore, Mary becomes mother and teacher of all souls. Crostarosa describes this state of total passivity (which involves the most strenuous of activity) with the image of gestation: “a child who has not come out from his mother’s womb has no power to do anything; his mother is the one who alone does everything”. And again: “O eternal sweetness, I think you are more to me than a dear mother, you love and call to me much more than a mother who carries her little child clinging to her bosom”. The Spirit produces this transformation in the state of failure in which “the internal mortification in all spiritual powers” is possible. The“work” therefore is not forceful, it is patient, over-abundant, and leaves the creature free. It is a maternal work, waiting for the conditions to ripen.

Antonella Lumini

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