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A scene of the arrival of the Holy Spirit as Mary and the Apostles are gathered together. You can feel the power just by looking at this powerful artistic depiction. Painting: Pentecost by Jean II Restout (1732). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday was the feast day of Pentecost. To those of us in the Roman Catholic Church, we celebrate the birthday of Holy Mother Church. This is one of my favorite feast days of the year because it is about the wonders of the Holy Spirit. While the Father and Jesus Christ are more apparent in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, the Holy Spirit has always been not as easy to see. According to Acts of the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin Mary was present during this most amazing event: “All these [the Apostles] were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14).

In this post, I will look at the Pentecost through Mary. After all, she has been referred to as the “spouse of the Holy Spirit” by Saint Maximilian Kolbe. The truth is that the Holy Spirit was an active force in Mary’s life before the events of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit and the Annunciation

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A scene of the Annunciation and Incarnation where Mary accepts her role in God’s plan of salvation. The Holy Spirit soars directly above her. Painting: The Annunciation by Juan de Flandres (1500). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Annunciation is one of the most sublime and interesting scenes in the life of Jesus and Mary. It was the spark that started everything. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Mary became impregnated by the Holy Spirit. “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18).

In The Gospel of Luke, we learn more about the story of Mary and how she became pregnant to begin. We learn about how she reacted. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Angel Gabriel continues: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-32). Clearly seeing the facts before her, Mary asks how it is possible since she is still a virgin and has not been with any man.

Gabriel announces: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called son of God” (Luke 1:35-36). Here, Mary declares: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

The Holy Spirit and the Visitation

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This scene depicts Mary meeting her cousin, Elizabeth. Within the painting there is another scene where Jesus is being baptized by John the Baptist with the Holy Spirit soaring above. Painting: The Visitation by Vincente Masip (1540-1545). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This is a happy event that is included in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin has finally conceived and she is now pregnant with John the Baptist. It is said in The Gospel of Luke that Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit” as she exults with Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:41-42). These words are a part of Hail Mary, an important prayer in the Catholic faith. Just as Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, so too is Mary as she sings her Magnificat, her song of Praise. Mary proclaims: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48). She tells her cousin, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49).

The Holy Spirit and Pentecost

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An artistic depiction of Mary gathered together with the religious women and the Apostles. The Holy Spirit looms above them. Source: Pentecost 39 by Waiting for the Word.

Now let us turn to Pentecost, the moment where the Holy Spirit appears to Mary and the Apostles. As stated earlier, she is with them during this most mystical and awe-inspiring event but she is no stranger to the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that “there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). What happens next is that “divided tongues, as of fire” come to rest on the heads of Mary and all of the Apostles. When the Holy Spirit comes to overshadow them as Mary was once overshadowed, they are imbued with the ability to speak to others in their own languages. Scripture states that the entire crowd was astonished and dumbfounded by the Apostles being able to speak in different languages.

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit

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An image of a stained glass window depicting the Holy Spirit. Source: Emil Frei stained glass window at Pius V Church in St. Louis, MO by Hickory Hardscrabble.

In The Epistle to the Galatians, Saint Paul writes about the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). In closing, Saint Paul offers some excellent advice: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another” (Galatians (5:25-26).

In the Hail Mary, we refer to Jesus as the “fruit of thy [Mary’s] womb.” Just as the Holy Spirit imbued Mary and the Apostles with the perfect gifts, the Holy Spirit fills us with His gifts daily. All we need to do is to seek after God and to accept these most valuable fruits.


Featured Image: Pentecost descent of the Holy Ghost as a dove (1503-1504) by Unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Sources

  1. Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible (New Revised Standard Version). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000. Print.

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