St. Francis of Assisi and St. Louis de Montfort both
called Mary Spouse of the Holy Spirit. How old is this title for Mary? It
predates St. Francis, and some sources say it as ancient as the Fathers of the
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
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
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).”
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
Mary’s 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
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. 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. In the same vein, both God and the Virgin Mary acted together
and brought forth the Eternal Word (Jesus Christ).
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
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, recognition of one’s sinfulness and the desire to change
or reform one’s 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.
Mary’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is evident in
the faith she had that Jesus intervened in 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
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
It seems difficult 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 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.
We pray, imploring
the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, that she may ask the Holy Spirit to
fill us with its gifts and fruits. Amen.

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