Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
Christians do not often enough ponder the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit. It has been least thought about by those involved in the charismatic renewal but that has been changing for several years. Now more and more charismatic and some other Catholics are beginning to give this relationship more attention.
The most appropriate place to begin a study of the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit, it seems to me, is in the first chapter of Luke. When Mary asked the angel how it could be that she would bear a son, since she was a virgin. The angel answered her, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow."
This short scriptural passage has a great deal of meaning and wide ranging implications for understanding God's gift to Mary as mother of the Messiah. First, Mary received the Holy Spirit, you might say she was baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Gift of the Holy Spirit was made available to her in a special and unique way. This allowed her to exercise or use this Gift according to the will of God. More precisely, the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of His power was able to move Mary to perfectly accomplish the will of the Father. The second point is that when we read, "the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow", we see in this passage a reference connecting various Old Testament and apocalyptic scriptures.
In Exodus 24, we read that the cloud covered the mountain where God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, and His glory settled on Sinai (Horeb). The cloud also covered the Tent of Meeting (Ex 40), and no one was able to enter because the glory of God filled the tabernacle. Similarly, in 1Kings 8, 10-11 when the priests had dedicated the new Temple the cloud again filled the Temple and no one was able to enter. The word "shadow" in Luke chapter 1 implies cloud and thus suggests that Mary like the Temple, tent, house or tabernacle of the Old Covenant, becomes the dwelling place of God signalling the beginning of the New Covenant. We can see from this overshadowing by God that Mary became the chosen Temple of God and that the Glory of God filled her such that Mary was able to say, "God has done great things for me, (Lk 1:49)."
A second implication of God's overshadowing of Mary is its symbolic connection to a husband overshadowing his wife to consummate the marriage. The Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary should certainly not be understood as a physical action but a spiritual act. This coupled with the implications of the scripture 1Kings 8, in which no one was able to enter the tabernacle when the cloud of God was present indicates that Mary, too, could belonged to no other person but to God alone.
The overshadowing of Mary by the Most High also reminds us of the Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1 prior to creation. In Maryís case God was creating a home for himself in the womb of Mary, a human body, Emanuel, God with us. This work of creation by God in Genesis ended with the creation of man, the first Adam. The move of the Spirit over Mary ended with the creation of the body of the New Adam, Jesus; God in flesh.
Mary being overshadowing by the Most High predates or is at least coincidental with the conception of Jesus, the God-man. In this the Holy Spirit consummates the union of Him and Mary. He becomes the spouse of Mary. Since God expects spouses to remain together until death it is reasonable for us to assume that this breathtaking relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit that produced the God-man must have continued at least through her earthly life and likely in some way even in heaven.
Once Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as a result of her "Let it be done", something more was required for Jesus to be conceived; Mary's faith. This has been mentioned already in the context of it being necessary to show that God imposed nothing on Mary but letís take another look at Maryís faith that makes her the Queen of Prophets and Miracles Workers. Her faith, in fact, is so significant from a number of perspectives that it cannot be pondered often enough. Human words themselves are inadequate to describe this truth and require the action of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the hearer in order for its profound gravity to emerge.
Let's consider the example of the prophet of God again. If he is moved by the Spirit of God he must yield to the Spirit to speak the Word of God. If he never opened his mouth no prophecy will be made. Mary's "genoito", "fiat" or "let it be done" implies active desire that God's will be done. However, more than this was required for Jesus to be conceived. This can be understood from Elizabeth's words to Mary, "Blessed is she who believed," (Lk 1:45). Mary's believing faith was so complete that, as a prophet speaks the Word of the Lord, she brought forth the Word of God from heaven to her own body and to the world. Thereby, Mary became the fruitful virgin, spouse of the Holy Spirit. As St. Louis de Montford says, the Holy Spirit Who was barren in God, that is, He did not beget another person, becomes fruitful in Mary in bringing forth the bodily incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Another example seems in order.
I viewed a video presentation of Sister Breige McKenna in which she described a rather spectacular miracle of healing that took place at her believing faith. There was a man who had cancer and was dying. He had had one kidney surgically removed, however, the other kidney was cancerous and had metastasized to
other organs. Sister Breige prayed briefly with the man over the telephone. He was not only healed of the cancer but the missing kidney was restored. This miracle would not have happened if Sister McKenna had not had active believing faith. In the same way Jesus would not have been conceived if Mary did not have the same kind of active, believing faith. In fact, Mary's faith was perfect since she conceived the Son of God, perfection Itself. She did this by means of her faith.
Let us be clear that neither does a prophet bring forth the Word of the Lord by his own power nor does a miracle worker bring forth a miracle by her own power. Likewise, Mary did not bring forth the Christ by her own power. Rather, acting in the power of the Holy Spirit each brings forth the work of God. Both God and the prophet (Mary) act together to bring forth the Word. In the same way both the miracle worker (Mary) and God brought about the miracle.
Jesus said if one were to have faith the size of a mustard seed, one could move a mountain (Mt 17:20). To bring about the incarnation of the Eternal Word of God, Mary's faith must have been more like a full grown cedar of Lebanon than a tiny mustard seed. This faith of Mary's was planted by God, nurtured and fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. It is the pivotal gift in God's plan of redemption in Mary's maternity, as noted above, in her espousement to the Holy Spirit and as we will see below, in her role as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces.
Key to Mary's relationship to the Holy Spirit is that her faith, in a sense, consummates the relationship and brings forth the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God. In the Trinity, the Father is fruitful and begets the Son and the Father and the Son are fruitful and beget the Spirit. In Mary, His spouse, by the faith which He inspired, the Holy Spirit became fruitful and begets the incarnation of the Word of God. This is a great and glorious mystery that deserves to be contemplated. It is a pearl of great price much greater than the one the merchant sold all he had to purchase (Mt 13-46). The wise follower of Jesus desires to comprehend God through this mystery.
The special presence of the Holy Spirit over Mary as described above did not cease with the conception of Jesus. Upon learning from the angel that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant with the precursor of the Messiah, John the Baptist, Mary went to visit her. At hearing Mary's greeting, her cousin, Elizabeth, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. This is reminiscent of Numbers 11, when the cloud was over the Tent of Meeting and the seventy-two elders received some of the Spirit God had given to Moses. In this case, it is Elizabeth who receives the Spirit and prophecies. It also indicates the Spirit was still overshadowing Mary like the cloud over the Tent of Meeting.
In fact, throughout the history of the Church whenever the mother of Jesus appeared and in some way spoke to the people, Lourdes (1858) and Fatima (1917), and so forth, the people were filled with the Holy Spirit. When people are filled with the Holy Spirit the first fruit is repentance, that is, a recognition of oneís sinfulness and the desire to change or reform oneís life. A good example of this is the apparition and miraculous image of Mary given in Mexico City in 1531 which, in a few years, led to the conversion of eight million aboriginal people to the Christian faith. (I will give a little history of apparition from Genesis to the present in the next section.) Just looking at the miraculous image, these people were filled with the Holy Spirit and asked for baptism. In a similar way the foetal John, within Elizabeth, also received the Spirit as he leapt for joy at the presence of the Messiah and His mother.
The sanctification of John (the Baptiser) in the Holy Spirit through the presence of Mary can be seen as the beginning of Johnís mission to bear witness to the Saviour. In her response to the impulse of the Holy Spirit to visit Elizabeth, Mary was acting as His instrument to fulfil the words of Gabriel. The angel had said to Zechariah, "and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb (Lk 1:15)". In a sense, the Holy Spirit was using Mary as His physical temple to carry out His work. In other words, Mary could be seen as the hands, feet and voice of the Holy Spirit in His sanctification of John. Since with God all things are possible the Holy Spirit could have found other means to sanctify John in the womb but Godís choice was to use Mary as His instrument. In this we can see Mary as the one totally docile to the Holy Spirit, totally at His disposal and as such an example to us all.
Mary's relationship with the Holy Spirit is evident in the faith she had that Jesus would remedy the wine problem at Cana. She was so intimately in touch with the Holy Spirit that she knew it was the hour to ask Jesus to begin his public ministry. Her words to the servants were also prophetic; inspired by the Spirit. These words witnessed in a general way to the Messianic role of Jesus when Mary said, "Do whatever He tells you."
Significantly, Luke places Mary among the disciples praying for the promised Paraclete after the ascension of Jesus; "All these joined in continuous prayer, including Mary the mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14). When we consider how seldom Mary is mentioned in the scriptures we can appreciate that her mention here in the upper room is in some way essential to the Good News. Remember, Mary was the only one of the disciples already filled with the Holy Spirit.
It seems impossible to show from scripture that Mary had as a significant, instrumental role, in the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost as she did with Elizabeth when she visited and greeted her. However, the cloud of flaming tongues that separated and came to rest on the head of each of them is also reminiscent of Mary's being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit that overshadowed Mary to bring about the incarnation of the Eternal Word of God at the annunciation was now hovering over the disciples to bring forth the birth of the Church at Pentecost. This overshadowing was more than a physical manifestation of the Spirit of God; it was co-incidental with the hearts and souls of the disciples being filled with the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth too was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.
Mary's active faith brought into flesh the Son of God at the incarnation as noted above. Mary's faith was such that she believed without wavering. So, when Jesus promised his disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit upon them (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4-5; Jn 14:26) Mary heard these words and she believed. This believing faith of Mary's, on and before Pentecost day, can be seen to be a key factor in bolstering the faith of the disciples, some of whom, doubted (Mt 28:17).
I believe, as in the case at the incarnation, that Mary's faith, love and ardent desire for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was so enticing to God the Father that He could not resist her prayers and therefore sent her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, with the greatness of His power on Pentecost day. The prayers of the disciples added to her prayers but I believe it is quite clear that her prayers were necessary and essential for the Spirit to come in the way He did.
Let us consider a point one more time. God foretold that He would fill John the Baptist with the Holy Spirit and He used Mary to bring this about. Jesus also foretold He would send the Holy Spirit on His followers Mary certainly assisted this process as she did with John the Baptist. I don't think we could say, absolutely, the Holy Spirit would not have come if Mary had not been there and praying on Pentecost in the upper room. However, it is eminently evident that she certainly facilitated His coming. In a similar way she can facilitate the coming of the Spirit into the hearts of anyone who ask for her assistance.
The faith of the disciples grew over the nine days or prayer (the first novena) between the ascension of Jesus and Pentecost Sunday. This came about as a result of the power of the Spirit, their prayer and Mary's steadfast faith. Therefore, this unwavering, solid faith of Mary, together with the growing faith of the disciples, was imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit and thus gave birth to the Church. It was as if a nation, a new people, was born in one moment (Is 66:8).
If the disciples were without faith Pentecost could not have happened because God designed that the Church would come into being through the faith of its members. Otherwise it might seem that God was imposing the Church on His people. As with the conception of Jesus requiring Mary's faith as a sign of her free will, so too, the birth of the Church required the active believing and prayerful faith of the disciples. In response to this prayer of faith of the believers the Lord granted the miracle of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost on His Church. Of course, we know that this is just what God had intended to do in His plan of redemption for the human race. In fact, even the faith his disciples displayed prior to Pentecost was a gift of God from whom all good things come.
Pentecost Sunday, like all the events in the life of Jesus and His Church, is, of course, also dependent on Mary's faith because it was through her faith that the incarnation of Jesus the Messiah was brought forth. Think about it for a moment. If she did not respond to God's call Jesus would not have been conceived, nor would all the events that followed have taken place.
I further believe Mary's faith and her presence in the upper room, as noted, were not just ancillary but necessary to bring about the events of Pentecost. However, this still remains to be defined more clearly by someone with greater wisdom and knowledge than I have. I think we should ponder on the mystery of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and ask God for enlightenment on those events and especially on Mary's role there. Nevertheless, at a very basic level we can clearly see Mary's supportive role to the disciples in the upper room because she was the mother of their Lord, Jesus, because of her prayerfulness and because of her faith.
Another interesting image that emerges from contemplating the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit sees Mary being so completely one with the Spirit that it would be impossible to separate them from each other. Mary was immersed in the Spirit as a drop of dye in the ocean and the Holy Spirit so filled her that she was truly aglow in the Spirit. Being thus lost to herself in the Spirit she was able to allow the Spirit to act through her as through His own body. In other words, there was absolutely no resistance to the Holy Spirit in Mary so that the Spirit could act fully and completely through her.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe contributed to our understanding of Mary the thought of her being so one with the Holy Spirit that to differentiate between them seemed nearly impossible. He felt the word "spouse" was too distant a term to accurately describe the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit. Their relationship, St. Maximilian suggested, was of such complete intimacy, a sharing of essences that they were indistinguishable from one another even though Mary is a finite creature and the Holy Spirit is infinitely beyond her, being the third Person of the Holy Trinity. Fr. Kolbe describes this intimacy between Mary and the Holy Spirit as beginning at and out flowing from her being the Immaculate Conception.
I think it important to point out that although the Holy Spirit had been poured out on certain individuals from Adam to Elizabeth, the full coming of the Holy Spirit, as the gift to all those born again in Christ, did not occur until the day of Pentecost. Also, as noted earlier, although the Holy Spirit is working in all people to bring them to do good it is His intention, through His messengers, to bring them to receive the fullness of the Good News. Upon hearing the Word of God people are then able to receive the outpouring of the Spirit that began at Pentecost and continues today. A person who receives the Gospel of Jesus must then accept Baptism and thereby allow and invite the power of the fullness of the Spirit to be poured into the soul as on Pentecost.
Finally, let me conclude this section on the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit by turning to some eschatological or end time references. There are a number of scriptural passages that refer to the great and terrible day of the Lord. It is often describe as an overshadowing of the world with darkness and fire, after which will come the rebirth of the people of God (e.g. Jl 12). This too is reminiscent of Mary's being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation and the overshadowing of fire on the day of Pentecost itself. I can now see clearly, Mary, herself covering the world like a mist (Sir 24:3) and her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, recreating and renewing the face of the Earth (Ps 104:30). The Holy Spirit and His Instrument Mary are working together to prepare the world for the coming triumphal reign of Jesus Christ. As a saint once said, Mary came before the First Coming and will come again in a different but most perfect way before the Second Coming.